It had been warm and bright in the morning. By mid-afternoon clouds hung in the blue sky, and their shadows lay on San Francisco. Outside the Opera House, where the modern world was about to begin its second quest of planned peace, a police lieutenant saw that rain was coming, felt the first drops, and said: "Boy, oh boy, this is it." Soon police horses glistened in the rain. The flags, half-staffed for Franklin Roosevelt, nodded damply downward. From the pavements, warmed by the recent sun, wisps of steam rose and vanished.
The Parade. Grey Navy buses, taxis, Army cars, private limousines delivered the nobodies and the somebodies. A remarkably small crowd, no more than 600 in all, stood placidly behind the police ropes. Shipbuilder Henry J. Kaiser, mildly astonishing in a new, statesmanlike Homburg, and Mrs. Kaiser stomped up the narrow isle of faces, and into the Opera House. Then came Commander and Mrs. Harold Stassen (with a pink rose corsage) ; Senator Vandenberg, smiling largely at the populace; Canada's Mackenzie King, prudently armed with an umbrella; Bidault of France, bareheaded as always and skipping smartly from car to door way; Lord Halifax, almost unnoticed in the flashy Arabians' wake; Anthony Eden, acknowledging handclaps and squeals with a wave, a smile. Noting them, and many others, the crowd stirred and incessantly asked: "Where are the Russians?"
Molotov came at last (see below), in due course took his allotted red plush seat in the hall, and with all the others surveyed the stage.
It was something to see. Broadway Designer Jo Mielziner had spent a wad of State Department money on its four golden, velour columns (for the Four Freedoms), its blue backdrop, the semicircle of 46 United Nations flags, the floodlighting. The effect was just about rightnot dull, not gaudy.
A band had been stationed backstage to entertain the galleries while the delegates were arriving. Conditioned to The Star-Spangled Banner, hundreds rose when the first bars sounded. It was a false alarm. For reasons unknown, the band successively played Lover, Come Back to Me; Stout-Hear ted Men; Wanting You. When the band got to The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise, the galleries were giggling.
The Flesh. As the delegates filed in, past a tapestry once presented to Poland's great King Stanislas by Louis XV of
France, the music and the laughter ceased. Among the people in the galleries, watching the delegates settle into their orchestra seats, a thought took all but tangible form. Some of the more perceptive journalists sensed and reported it:
Why, that's just a crowd down there, a crowd of men and a few women.
There, in the red plush seats, was Dumbarton Oaks and all the hope that may be in it. There, in the eminent flesh, were all the big words and the cloudy labels: General Assembly, Security Council, Court of International Justice, trusteeships, multilateral and unilateral, collective security.
At 4:30 o'clock, on the afternoon of April 25, Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius Jr. struck his gavel three times on the podium and said: "The first plenary session of the United Nations Conference on World Organization is hereby convened."