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Shades of the past...again!

The Spirit of Tehachapi

 

July 18, 2020

Pat Gracey

I seem to be stuck in the past. Some, the long past and some just my past. It's so interesting to me, anyway. Besides some good things happened that will be lost if they're not told. Actually, the world would not stop turning if all was forgotten, but I recall reading some U.S. History books in high school that would have been more interesting had they brought in a few side details instead of "just the facts."

Later on, I was really rankled when one of my children's high school history books (1970s publication) merely stated that Patrick Henry had made a speech to the Virginia Legislature objecting to the taxes being levied on the colonists by King George III of England. Patrick Henry was probably kind of a hot head, but we used to thrill to those fateful words when, in grammar school, the teacher discussed them saying that he had stated, in so many words, "...give me liberty, or give me death!" Not such a "milk toasty" statement as was written in the text. In the same book it stated that Nathan Hale was hanged as a traitor by the British and would you believe it did not say that his last words were, "I regret that I have but one life to give for my country." Last words of a brave patriot omitted. History has already happened; why must people try to rewrite it or eradicate it completely?

I am re-reading an autobiography that Eleanor Roosevelt penned throughout a span of years and is now compiled into one volume. I remember her husband, Franklin Roosevelt, our 32nd president and some memories that may or may not survive history.

Shades of F.D.R.

I was four years old in Nov., 1932 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President having defeated the incumbent, Herbert Hoover. Being a mere four, I was not politically astute in much of anything except that we had a new president. My brother, four years my elder, had told me that George Washington was the first President of the United States. That confused me a bit so I kept calling our new president George Washington instead of President Franklin Roosevelt. I was corrected by the same brother.

It was common knowledge that in 1921, at age 39, Franklin Roosevelt was stricken with Infantile Paralysis (Polio or Poliomyelitis) and was unable to walk by himself. He could stand with two canes and if he had support on either side and could simulate walking for a few steps. It was a courtesy of the press that they never photographed him being lifted to or from his wheel chair. They always complied.

He had been a very robust, athletic person but the disease left him with swimming as his only exercise. The Children of America sent their dimes to Washington to build their new President a swimming pool at the White House. This was the beginning of The March of Dimes. Roosevelt used the pool as did President Harry Truman, President John Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson. I don't recall if President Eisenhower used it. I was saddened when President Nixon had it torn out to make a press room.

In 1944, in the midst of World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt had returned from a trip to the Aleutian Islands. It was reported that his dog, Fala, had been on the trip with him but somehow had been left behind. During that election year when he was to run for his unprecedented fourth term against Thomas Dewey, the opposition saw to it that the press made the most of an unfounded bit of information that the President had ordered a Navy destroyer to bring the dog home. Roosevelt was an accomplished speaker and, according to his wife, Eleanor, had a photographic memory. He could speak for long periods of time without notes.

When he came on the news reel at the BeeKay Theatre (this was 1944 – no TVs yet) he spoke in a good natured manner about himself, his wife, and his family being accustomed to public criticism. Then he said something to the effect, "...but when you start on my little dog.... well, Fala doesn't like it!" Laughter followed in the theater. Nothing more was heard about it. I heard those words about 75 years ago and there may be some words that are not direct quotes. He smiled as he said it. I wonder if he did order the destroyer to bring Fala home. Perhaps the destroyer was going in that direction anyway. Eleanor Roosevelt said it was completely untrue and was just a made up story by the opposition. Quite a story, anyway.

No one screamed impeachment though; we were trying to win a war that covered two fronts.

President Roosevelt was to die the next year on April 12, 1945. I was 16 but soon to be 17. The only President that people of that age ever remembered. I heard my parents speak of agencies of the United States that helped pull the nation together during the Depression years. The three letter system has stayed with us through the years. If we can just remember what they stand for. I know what SSA stands for myself and my friends. Some others like the CCC, the WPA, the FHA and the FCC come to mind. They, and many more, all helped a struggling country. There was a CCC Camp near Keene.

Roosevelt had the World War I "veterans" bonus paid. The story of that could fill many pages. My Dad received his and I don't know the amount but I know that $75 of it purchased a piano for the family. My father's friends chastised him for wasting money on foolish items when he could have saved it to buy food for the family during the Depression. My good old Daddy said his family would never lack for food but he may never get $75 together again to buy a piano. The piano still sits in my parents old home and my niece still plays it. It was a good buy.

One memory triggers off another. I guess we can all remember our past and look forward to the future.

 
 

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