Two years ago Palisades historian Alice Gerard was contacted by the writer Steve Hauk, who had discovered an interesting bit of Palisades history and wanted more information. He had found an application for a pistol permit signed by the writer John Steinbeck in 1942. The following article is based on Hauk’s discovery.

In the spring of 1942, John Steinbeck was living in Palisades, renting a house called the “House in the Woods” located on Woods Road. By this time he was the author of Tortilla Flat, Of Mice and Men and of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Grapes of Wrath.

On May 12, 1942, Steinbeck applied for a New York State license to carry a concealed weapon. The permit was for two Colt revolvers. Character witnesses on the application included the actor Burgess Meredith, the artist Henry Varnum Poor, a veterinarian named Morris Siegel, and a “housewife & property owner” named Sally Bates Lorenz.

Steinbeck stated that he needed the guns for self-protection. At the time he was living alone at the House in the Woods, he was 40 years old, six feet tall and weighed 190 pounds, apparently well able to take care of himself in a fight. But besides his work as a writer, he was employed by the U.S. Government, holding a part-time job with the Coordinator of Information in Manhattan, which eventually was merged into what would become the CIA. Perhaps there were threats associated with this job, at least in his mind.

His character witnesses were friends and Rockland County neighbors. The artist Henry Varnum Poor, who lived in New City in 1942 but eventually moved to South Mountain Road, later painted a picture of Steinbeck with his second wife Gwen and their son Thom. The actor Burgess Meredith had starred as George in the 1939 film version of Of Mice and Men.

Although Meredith had briefly rented in Palisades, by 1942 he was living in Pomona, where he remained for many years. We have no information about Morris Siegel, the Nyack veterinarian.

Although she identified herself as a housewife, Sally Bates Lorenz had acted in several Broadway plays and could have legitimately called herself an actress. Sally Bates first rented in Snedens Landing but a few years after her marriage to Pare Lorentz in 1931, the couple built a house on Corbett Lane. Pare Lorenz was a documentary filmmaker, creator of award-winning The River and The Plow that Broke the Plains. After Sally’s divorce from Lorenz, she married Calvin Tomkins and lived here for the rest of her life.