Eleanor Roosevelt – My Day (1942)

January 24, 1942

Washington, Friday –
Yesterday afternoon, Dr. Paul R. Jacobsen, the Director of the Colgate University Study Group, brought his ten honor juniors to tea with me, since their period of study here is ending. This year’s program has been revised to give attention simultaneously to public administration and political control, especially as related to national defense.

I always enjoy this group. They come, of course, largely from the Northeastern States, but I imagine their backgrounds are as varied as those of any other group of young people. As I looked at their faces yesterday, I realized that, in all probability, their interests were as varied. They all had had a stimulating experience here and that is what we want all young people to have in the capital of their country, it should be a stirring place.

We had another thrilling newsreel last night for some guests. I can recommend the movie: The Corsican Brothers, if you want to forget what is going on around you for a little while. Everyone listened and watched breathlessly until the very end.

The Office of Civilian Defense has called a small labor conference today, through its labor advisory committee. The conference consists of ten representatives from the American Federation of Labor, the Congress of Industrial Organizations and the Railroad Brotherhoods. I found our session this morning extremely interesting and very stimulating.

It was valuable in that it gave to all the officials and staff of the Office of Civilian Defense, suggestions of what might be accomplished, and information on conditions which exist in the field of labor participation in civilian defense.

I hope that, out of this, may come a great deal more knowledge of the standards of living and actual conditions which arise as a result of changes brought about by defense needs. On this level, I think we need to attempt to collect the knowledge which exists in the field of management, as represented by war production, and the labor interests in the government and industry. By joint action, we may be able to forestall situations which are now causing great hardship.

I could not help thinking, as we all met in the State Dining Room at the White House, that Lincoln’s portrait. looking down upon us, was a good symbol of the unity which will exist, not only in the ranks of labor itself, but in the ranks of employer and employee. If unity is important for a nation, we must realize that it can not really exist unless we can bring about unity between the groups which make up that nation.

January 26, 1942

Fort Worth, Texas , Sunday –
After presiding at the National Defense Forum of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs on Friday evening, I took a night plane for Fort Worth. I am delighted to find my daughter-in-law, Mrs. Elliott Roosevelt, and the new grandson very well, and have had a wonderful time with her and the children. I am not, however, completely neglecting my work, for I have seen a number of people on questions dealing with national defense while here.

It is a good thing to be out in the field and to find out what people are doing. After all, in the Office of Civilian Defense in Washington, I sit in a nice little ivory tower and can make a great many plans. It is out in the community, however, that people do the things which bring them a sense of confidence and ability to meet attack on every front.

I am off again tonight and hope to reach Washington in the morning by plane.

Mr. Rex Stout has sent me a delightful story, for which his sister is responsible. I am going to give it here, exactly as he has written it to me:

Jim, the young man who used to sell me eggs, dropped in last evening and I asked him how he was making out in his new job at the tool factory. ‘Fine,’ he said. In spite of the expense of the baby he and his wife were saving money every week.

I said:

Of course, you’re buying Defense Bonds with it?

He said:

No, guess I ought to, but with the baby to think of – such a responsibility, our first baby – we just feel we can’t afford it until we’ve got maybe a thousand dollars put away – then we can start buying Defense Stamps every week.

And Jim isn’t dumb by any means, he’s a very intelligent young man. I wonder how many Americans have the same understanding he had – thinking that when they buy Defense Bonds or stamps, they are giving something, making a contribution? I explained to Jim that Defense Bonds are the safest investment in the world today – the best and safest way for people like him and his wife to save money.

Someone suggested to me that Defense Bonds might well be given a new name and come to be known as Freedom Bonds, for they will not only pave the way for freedom now, but they may help us to economic freedom in the postwar period.

January 27, 1942

Washington, Monday –
I returned to Washington from Fort Worth, Texas, by plane this morning an hour late. However, I was most grateful, because late yesterday afternoon, the airline called me to say I might find myself waiting over in Nashville, Tennessee. We stopped there for some little time and I was conscious of the delay, and relieved when I finally heard the engines turning over and knew we were starting for Washington.

It was cloudy here, but there was enough ceiling to land. Travelling by airplane these days is extraordinarily interesting, because there is nearly always a quota of pilots aboard returning from having ferried planes to some place. Some of these men are doing a great many hours of flying, more hours than we would have thought constituted real safety in ordinary times.

I wonder if, in our communities, people are aware of the fact that these boys from all over the country, are dropping in and out, delivering planes or picking them up. Sometimes they have a few hours when they can sleep or see a show, or have a real meal at someone’s home. Their care doesn’t seem to me to fall quite within the range of a USO job, and yet it should be someone’s job, because most of these boys are very young and under tremendous strain. There are so many things to be done really to put this country on a wartime footing, that sometimes it seems to me quite appalling how much we have to change our thinking.

We haven’t begun yet, for instance, to camouflage our industries in the way it will someday have to be done. Still, I think I see signs in our communities of settling back in the frame of mind where we feel that nothing is actually going to happen.

This is the winter, it is harder to fly long distances. The weather is bad over certain parts of the ocean. We ought to take warning from the fact that even now submarines are doing considerable damage near our coasts, and realize that only by intensive aerial patrol can we really eliminate submarine operations.

The strain on the patrols is terrific. They are entitled to rest in pleasant surroundings, to get home at stated periods, if they have homes to go to, and they should be greeted everywhere with consideration and respect, for their job is the only thing that stands between us and the raids next spring.

In England, the Air Force boys have delightful rest camps near their regular operating units. Of course, they have worked under even greater strain because they are going into actual fighting each time they go out, but watching and waiting for a fight is quite a strain, too. Just because we have never been in this kind of war before, is no excuse for the public not to awaken to its new responsibilities.

January 28, 1942

New York, Tuesday –
In spite of rather gray looking skies, I left Washington yesterday afternoon, hoping to land in New York about 6:45. But we came down at an unfamiliar airport, and I found we were in Philadelphia and the flight was cancelled. I drove to the station and caught a train almost immediately and reached my house at 9:15, so I might just as well have taken a 5:00 train out of Washington.

I talked to some Army boys on the way over, who had just had their orders. One youngster in a sailor’s uniform sat just a few seats ahead of me. When he turned around, I felt sure he must have added a few years to his age, for he looked 14 instead of 18. They tell me that the boys coming over here from England to get their training in flying, are very young, ranging from 16 to 20. Some of our own pilots are 20 to 22. It is a curious thing to me, that older people seem so often to accept with complacency these young armies. I rebel, and yet I know an army must be young.

I have a great desire to see our fighting forces organized in the most efficient possible way, by putting each individual in the place where he will serve best, because only in that way shall we shorten the horrible period through which we are living. I want to see everyone in civilian life at the present time, doing the job he is best able to do, and doing it as well as he possibly can.

If women are able and skillful enough to go into factories, I hope they will. I hope that all men, young or old, who work in factories in defense industries, will do the most efficient job that can be done. Whatever the jobs are that people are doing, I want them done by the right people and in the best possible way, because that is the way to win this war.

Every day that goes on, means more young men in every land are dying. I am confident that our cause is just, but I want to see youth free again to fight a different kind of war, a war to find a way by which we all live more decently and happily together.

All of us know that, at the end of this war, that other war has to be fought, and we shall need youth to fight it. I hope that, in every factory today, and in every service camp, young people are discussing the kind of a world they intend to build after the fighting is over.

It may not be the kind of a world in which my generation has lived, but if it achieves the ends for which we are fighting: real freedom for every individual regardless of race, creed or color, economic freedom for every individual who is willing to put his capacities to work of some kind, then these horrible days will have obtained good results. We have to live through them and I accept the necessity, but at the same time I hope we do our share in civilian life to prepare for a different and better future world.

January 29, 1942

New York, Wednesday –
I forgot to tell you yesterday about a delightful lunch which Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Gould, the editors of the Ladies’ Home Journal, gave in Washington on Monday. They invited Mrs. Henry Wallace, Mrs. Cordell Hull, Mrs. Sumner Welles and representatives of the Latin-American Republics and a pin of beautiful design was presented to each guest. The pin combines all the flags of the Americas, making a most decorative as well as symbolic piece of jewelry. Mr. Gould hopes that this pin may become as popular an emblem of the unity of our nations as were the combination of the Allied flags in the last war. The difference is that this is made of a more permanent material which symbolizes, we hope, the more permanent nature of our understanding and cooperation.

Yesterday morning as I walked along 57th Street, I saw that Mr. Rosenberg’s Gallery is holding an exhibition of van Gogh paintings for the benefit of the Red Cross. I went in and to my surprise, found some ten or twelve paintings which I had never seen before. They belong to a period of van Gogh’s painting which was unfamiliar to me. It seemed a happier period and the painting which I liked the best, faces you at the end of the gallery and is a most beautiful vista of fields and gently rolling hills.

I spent some hours with the dentist and saw many people at the house; then attended a meeting of the Washington Bureau of the International Student Service. In the evening we went to see Cafe Crown, a charming, though not absorbing play. It depends largely on the acting for its success, and it is fortunate that Mr. Sam Jaffe and Mr. Morris Carnovsky are such dependable actors. There are innumerable laughs and that is good for the soul.

Today I am going down to Long Island to spend a few hours with my daughter-in-law, Ethel. She and the baby have moved home and I am most anxious to see how little Franklin III likes his new baby brother, who is still a stranger to his father. Little Chandler Roosevelt said a sweet thing about her new baby brother a few days ago. They were looking at him in his crib and decided that he looked sad, and Chandler looked up at her mother and said:

It must be because he has never seen his daddy, mummy.

I will be back in New York City early enough to take a train to Philadelphia where I am attending the Gimbel award dinner before flying back to Washington tonight.

January 30, 1942

Washington, Thursday –
I had a snowy day yesterday and skidded around the Long Island roads, so that I really had some moments of apprehension when my daughter-in-law, Ethel, said:

Perhaps you will be snowed in and we can keep you here.

However, I reached my departing train in ample time and was on time for my train connection in New York City and in Philadelphia.

Mr. Ellis Gimbel has given two awards this year, one to go to a Philadelphia woman, and one to be awarded on a national scope. In Philadelphia, they felt that Mrs. William Clothier had done an outstanding job for the community job for more than twenty years, as a leader in civic and charitable undertakings, overseas and in this country. She certainly richly deserves the honor. Though she accepted it modestly, stating that she was but a symbol of those who served on the State Defense Council, it is a well known fact that those who are symbols have much to do with creating the things they symbolize.

The second award is the national award and is, as a rule, given to an individual, a woman who has stood out nationally in some way. But this year it was given to a family, an outstanding American family doing a job for the nation’s defense. By good luck, the family’s name is Jones, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Jones and their four children.

So, even in their names they typify the everyday families all over this country, who in greater and lesser degree are doing the same kind of job for the victory of our nation in this war. I hope that their recognition will give a lift to many other families in this country, who, reading about them, will think:

Why, there we stand ourselves, and we are being recognized as essential to the winning of this war.

It is not just in their names that the Joneses resemble other people. To begin with, they are a farm family. The father runs a dairy farm, the mother has brought up four children and runs a big house. Still, she had time to take part in the activities in her community and is a member of the defense council. The older son is a private in the Army, the two girls and the younger brother are all actually doing things which have a bearing on the war effort. It seems to me that Mr. Gimbel has a grand idea in honoring, through the recognition of a family group, the families all over the country who are making similar efforts.

This morning I talked with Dr. John Studebaker, of the Office of Education, and with many people in his office, on the conception of the job we all must do together in civilian defense.

January 31, 1942

Washington, Friday –
Yesterday afternoon, we had a reception for the students from the Republic of Colombia, some thirty strong, who have been taking special courses for the past two months at the University of Pennsylvania. They studied medicine, law, architecture, music and engineering. Though they are slightly handicapped by the language, they told me that they felt they profited by their experience here.

I invited some of the young people from the Office of Civilian Defense, and also from the Washington Bureau of the International Student Service, to help me to entertain them. They all seemed to get on very well together.

After they had gone, Mrs. Florence Kerr came with seventeen of her regional WPA supervisors, who sat down with me for half an hour and told me a little about the efforts they are making to reorient their program so that it serves purposes of defense. They are very proud of some of their projects, where great ingenuity has been exercised in making a change.

For instance, in one place, the workers have been busy making toys. They transformed themselves into a child care center and met a great need in the community, where there was a tremendous influx of industrial workers.

In the evening, we gave a dinner in the interests of the International Student Service. Dr. William A. Neilson presided and Dr. George Shuster, President of Hunter College, Mr. Archibald MacLeish and Mr. Michael Straight spoke. All presented the need for the work and what was being done, in a most convincing manner.

The question period brought from Mr. Joseph Lash several very good examples of actual work, which illustrated points made by the speakers. As they went out, the guests left me feeling they had spent an evening which was interesting and well worthwhile.

After a morning in the Office of Civilian Defense, I returned to the White House for the lunch we give to the movie stars, who come here for the President’s birthday. It is always a very pleasant party. The group presented the President with a charming little remembrance, a small scottie, looking very jaunty, made of Copenhagen ware.

I do not know whether my husband feels any older as he celebrates his 60th birthday – he certainly does not look any older. He seems to be able to stand up under a load of work and anxiety which many a younger man would find difficult to bear.

Tonight, after the usual birthday dinner and attendance at two Birthday Balls, Miss Thompson and I take the train for Raleigh, North Carolina.

February 2, 1942

Montgomery, Ala., Sunday –
It was very pleasant yesterday morning to see Ambassador Daniels’ smiling face greeting us at the station in Raleigh, North Carolina. He seems to have inexhaustible energy, for he had been to a Birthday Ball in his own birthplace, Washington, NC, the night before until two in the morning. We found Mrs. Daniels much improved since her return home, and had a pleasant family breakfast with two of their boys, whose wives and children dropped in to see us.

At 11:00, we started to Chapel Hill, but stopped on the way at the NYA center near Durham, where State Administrator, Mr. John Lang Jr., is doing a really excellent piece of work with the North Carolina draftees, who were rejected for physical reasons. The medical setup is an example to rural areas, for here is a very unpretentious but extremely efficient small hospital, which could be duplicated in many places.

It is the type of setup which could easily become a county clinic, where rural doctors could pool their resources and send their patients, when they need medical attention for eyes, teeth and surgical care. For the yearly checkup, which doctors are emphasizing more and more for every individual, this kind of county clinic in rural areas will be invaluable.

We had a delightful luncheon at Chapel Hill with President and Mrs. Frank Graham and their guests, heard Miss Harriet Elliott, Dean of the Woman’s College at Greensboro, make an excellent talk before the delegates of the 32 colleges, who had gathered at Chapel Hill under the auspices of the Carolina Political Union and the International Student Service. for a two day conference. It was nice to find that both Miss Louise Morley, Conference Secretary of the ISS, and Miss Jane Seaver of OCD, had made real friends among so many students from various colleges, who spoke to me about them with real appreciation.

Jane Seaver and I attended one of the forum discussion groups in the afternoon. I saw an excellent civilian defense information service setup in the college library, a very good local defense council control center in the town, had tea at the Presbyterian Church parlor with a number of the delegates, dined in the college cafeteria and spoke and answered questions in the auditorium in the evening, at a meeting which Governor and Mrs. Broughton also attended.

We ended the day by a short visit at the Birthday Ball, which seemed very well attended. Then two of the boys drove us to Greensboro to take our train.

February 3, 1942

Pensacola, Fla., Monday –
Yesterday was a nice peaceful day on the train. We ate a very late breakfast, during which one or two visitors dropped in – first a gentleman who wished me to send the President his very best wishes, and then a soldier boy who was trying to console himself for a dull life. He had taken a detail of men from one place to another and thought a little chat with us might relieve the monotony. A little later on a gentleman came bursting in to tell us that there was a man on board who had a piece of shell from a torpedoed ship, and it was evident that being near a torpedo was no small experience.

We did much less work than usual, but got through the mail which I had not finished before leaving Washington. Then the hour arrived when we should have changed trains. We discovered that we were a whole hour late, due to a tree which had been found across the track. With this discovery, I realized that I would be late for my broadcast, unless I found a fast method of transfer later, so I wired ahead for a car and on arrival in Flomaton, Alabama, the stationmaster’s son took us in tow and in less time than it takes to tell it, we were started for Pensacola. I shall always be grateful to that young man for taking most of last afternoon to drive me to Pensacola. He told me that from now on Uncle Sam is working him seven days a week, as he works on aviation parts. He was an extraordinarily good driver, drove carefully but fast and I walked into the broadcasting station four minutes before time to go on the air. There was a minute more delay in starting due to connections, so while I was reading they took a few more lines out of my script but we finished exactly on time.

I really do not enjoy quite such close connections, and I suppose that from now on, in view of the fact that there are many reasons why trains and planes should be delayed and mere civilians can be removed from either one if more important people wish to travel, I had better travel less and allow more time than in the past, or else have nothing very important to do at the end of any journey.

Today is a beautiful day, but cool for this part of the world, I imagine. After a fairly early breakfast we visited Santa Rosa Island, which guards the entrance to Pensacola. With submarines playing around in so many places now, both in the Gulf and in the Atlantic, fortifications along the coast, air and sea patrols all become of much more interest than ever before.

February 4, 1942

Atlanta, Tuesday –
Our visit yesterday to Santa Rosa Island was preceded by a trip with General MacGruder around the Army post. I saw old Fort Barrancas and they showed me the two 15-inch mortars, which date back to Spanish times. They were surrendered to General Jackson in Pensacola, Fla., when Florida was ceded to the United States. All this ground is historic and was fought over during the War Between the States. When we crossed to Santa Rosa, we saw the fort which was held by Northern soldiers all through that war.

The soldiers gave me some copies of their paper, called the Barrancas Breeze, and I think it is excellent. I had an opportunity to see some of the soldiers, both on the mainland and on Santa Rosa. On the mainland they have quite a group of New England men, who must find even such chilly winter days as they have here quite warm, compared to the Northern winters to which they are accustomed.

I met with the Pensacola Civilian Defense Council at 11:00 and was very much impressed by their organization on the protective side of civilian defense. Their system of communications is well set up and they have auxiliary policemen and firemen enrolled and trained. They have appointed their air raid wardens and they are now being trained.

As usual, very little has as yet been done to find work for the volunteers in the community services. In Pensacola, the local defense council has only established a registration bureau and not a volunteer office. I gather that a great many people have been registered and are still waiting opportunities to be trained and placed in useful work. The Red Cross people told me that they had just begun their first nurses-aid course. Their training in home nursing and first aid has been going on for some time.

I was asked by some colored women if I would come to speak to them about civilian defense in one of the colored high schools, since they were anxious to do their part also. I went there at 12:00.

In the afternoon, some friends came to call at Lieut. and Mrs. Miller’s, and later we dined with Capt. and Mrs. Read, so the day was a full one.

At 7:15 this morning, we started for Atlanta, Ga., but since Georgia is on Eastern Time, it was really 8:15. We stopped for lunch at Columbus, and reached Warm Springs at 3:00. After a short time there, we drove on to Atlanta, where I am to speak tonight about civilian defense work at a meeting in the Civic Auditorium.

February 5, 1942

Atlanta, Wednesday –
The meeting last night at the Atlanta Civic Auditorium was big and I hope I succeeded in clarifying some of the things which were in the minds of certain people. One elderly lady was very much worried, because she lived in a house which had only one story and visualized incendiary bombs dropping right on her bed.

This morning I had breakfast with the heads of various women’s groups and answered a good many more questions. Georgia has a civilian defense setup which varies in certain ways from the Office of Civilian Defense pattern, but since it is all organized for the same end, I think it will be very easy to adjust.

I stopped at the Civilian Defense Volunteer Office, which is a very active place and running extremely well. I saw our regional director, Mr. Charles H. Murchinson, last evening, and he is taking hold of his new activities with great energy. Miss Judy, who represents the volunteer offices in the whole region, was here this morning and is doing a very good job.

I visited my first filter center and saw how the training was going on there. Finally, I returned to the hotel to discover that the planes are not flying through to Chicago, and we have to take a train. I hope I still shall be able to see some of the Chicago regional civilian defense people tomorrow morning at breakfast in Chicago.

Many of you will remember the very sad loss of our ferry pilots in the plane crash of the airliner somewhere near Las Vegas. The commanding officers, with a deep appreciation of what the loss of these boys meant, not only to their families, but to their country, wrote and wired to the mothers and the wives.

The answer which came from one mother has been sent to me. Since I am not giving her name, I know she will forgive my using it, because of the help it will bring to a great many other people who are suffering as she is.

Your telegram of sympathy has conveyed to me something of the dignity of my position. To feel that my country is sharing the loss of my son with me is the greatest honor I could ever hope to obtain.

Surely, I who worship a true God, will not permit the little pagan mothers of Japan to surpass me in courage, service and love of my country. You are great generals and your very greatness makes you feel the need of Divine Guidance. I am sure. May you be given keen insight and vision and wisdom for your heavy task.

Such faith and courage should help all the rest of us.

February 6, 1942

Chicago, Thursday –
I did a little work yesterday on the train and wrote a few letters which I hope may be readable. I rather doubt that they will be, because, at best, my handwriting is none too legible, and when I add the movement of a train it becomes very like the scrawl of a very uncertain fly.

At Chattanooga, Tenn., I got out and walked up and down the platform and watched with interest a lady who was also taking the air, attired in white silk slacks and a mink coat. Later on, while we were eating dinner, two young girls came into our drawing room. They were on their way from Miami, Florida, and I imagine that a good many people are returning from visits to what should have been a warmer climate. In any case, these two girls were tanned, which spoke well for the warmth of the sun, even though they insisted that the air had been chilly. They were autograph hunting and, having stalked their game, retired contentedly.

The conductor gave us an opportunity to come out of our den to see the Chickamauga Dam. We both came to this dam with the President and a tremendous crowd when it was dedicated on a very warm day. I can still remember Governor Cooper’s mother standing in the sun. Everyone, tried to find chairs for her and for me, while the ceremonies went on. The view of the dam was much better today and I was interested to see the little boats which are on 24 hour patrol duty to make sure that no harm comes to this particular source of power.

When we were not eating, working or writing, I read two issues of the Saturday Evening Post. In one of these in a good story by Clarence Buddington Kelland. I cannot help wondering why anyone, who writes such nice fiction, should want to turn his talent to facts or near-facts of the political world, but perhaps his talent for fiction is a help.

Then I read a very interesting copy of the Survey Graphic, an issue of Liberty, an issue of Time and some articles from the Free World. One of these, on the cost of life in the past few years of war, and the other on Hitler’s criminal code, made cold shivers run up and down my spine. How dare we be so wasteful of human beings? It must seem to the great power above that we are presuming mightily on His prerogatives.

Not a very active day, but on the whole a pleasant one. I was just as sleepy last night as though I had been out for a long day of exercise in the open air. Up early this morning and spent a brief time at the hotel before starting for my visit to the University of Illinois.

February 7, 1942

Arthurdale, WV, Friday –
While I was in Chicago between trains yesterday morning, I spent an hour breakfasting with our Civilian Defense Regional Director, Major Raymond J. Kelly and members of the local defense council, headed by Mayor Kelly. They are very individual in Chicago and have set up a block system, whereby an organizer is appointed who calls a meeting of the block.

Those present, elect the air raid warden, and he or she appoint his assistants. This seems a very democratic form of procedure and, for the protective services, should work out very well. Just how the volunteer community services are to work in this scheme is still a little hazy in my mind.

I was assured, however, that their district offices would be responsible for the channeling of volunteers to appropriate community services. They begged me to wait until they were functioning a little better, before making any criticism of the present setup, which they feel sure is going to prove satisfactory. I certainly hope they are right, because they are quite evidently doing a good organization job on the protective and medical services.

Two hours on the train brought us to Champaign, Ill., at 11:30. I went to a press conference, a luncheon at the University Women’s Club, followed by a question period on the work of women in defense, and then a meeting in the big gymnasium of several thousand people attending the 41st conference of Farm and Home Week. This Farm and Home Week at the University of Illinois, reminded me very much of the annual Farm and Home Week with which I am familiar at Cornell University in New York State.

The fact that they had comparatively little snow must make the attendance of farmers and their families a little easier, but on the other hand, tire-rationing must keep many people away. I was glad we had a twenty minute question period after my talk, for it showed a great interest on the part of rural people in their responsibility for the conduct of the war. Their chief trouble, of course, is the fear of a labor shortage in farm areas.

Before leaving, I spent an hour with the local defense council representing four adjacent counties as well as the cities of Champaign and Urbana. They have a civilian defense volunteer office which is functioning very well. There is evidently a great deal of interest on the part of all the representatives on the defense council, who are doing a good job.

Mrs. Helm joined us in Champaign and we had a pleasant dinner on the train. We changed trains in Chicago, and are now nearing Connellsville, Pa., from where we drive to Arthurdale.

February 9, 1942

Washington, Sunday –
Our day in Arthurdale, WV, on Friday was really very satisfactory. Our object was to be there for the giving of contracts to the people who qualified to purchase their houses and land.

We arrived in time for lunch and Mrs. Henry Morgenthau Jr., who was there all morning, had time to go over to Scott’s Run to see the community house there. She was delighted to find that the young couple directing the work now have a very busy little lending library, a well furnished kitchen used by all groups, and a charming apartment which serves as a model for all the people up and down the Run. They have worked so hard and been so earnest in their desire to help in that region, I am delighted to have this good report on what they are doing.

In the afternoon, we visited the NYA project, where boys are studying radio work, welding, sheet metal work and woodworking. We saw their infirmary and the community building, which they have done over for their own use as well as that of the community. The boys come from all parts of West Virginia and are a fine group of youngsters.

Some of them have already gone to work in one of the factories at Scott’s Run which makes radio cabinets. It seems to be flourishing and Mr. Kahn is proud of his achievements.

The inn is very attractive and I always enjoy my stay there. We had a very good dinner after the advisory committee meeting in the late afternoon, and then went over to the ceremonies. Congressman Jennings Randolph, Mr. Clarence Pickett and I, who have all been interested in the project since the beginning, said a few words of congratulation before handing out the contracts with our good wishes to the couples who were able to come up and get them. Some men are now working on the night shift and could not be there.

In one case, the son in the family had to come for the contract, because his mother was in the hospital and his father was at work. War work has brought larger incomes to many people on the project, but last year their gardens were better than ever before and we hope they will continue to take an interest in improving their land.

We took the night train back to Washington. Yesterday I shook hands with a large group of high school students before going to the Office of Civilian Defense for the rest of the morning. At lunch, I had a number of young newsboys, who had come to Washington to receive their awards from the Treasury Department, for having sold a large number of Defense Saving Stamps.

February 10, 1942

Washington, Monday –
It was perfectly wonderful on Saturday morning, when I stepped off the train, to be met at 7:00 by our eldest son, who had just flown in from the Coast on orders. I find that in war time these visits are always a surprise. They are doubly precious, not only because of their unexpectedness, but because one’s whole outlook today is sharpened to an appreciation of the need to make the most of every opportunity to be with those one loves.

My nephew, Mr. Henry Roosevelt, also was with us for a brief two days, so we had a quiet family dinner Saturday night. Yesterday, I went to see a friend in the hospital and devoted most of the afternoon catching up on mail.

I am spending today entirely at the Office of Civilian Defense, so I was happy to be able to see Mr. and Mrs. Grosvenor Allen, of Oneida, NY, at lunchtime. When old friends come to Washington, it is such a joy to see them even for a short time.

I saw by the papers that Franklin Jr. was resting comfortably in the Brooklyn Naval Hospital over the weekend. As a matter of fact, he returned home on Saturday, after being checked up at the hospital, and was ordered to report on Monday afternoon in preparation for the removal of his appendix early Tuesday morning.

I am so thankful that after the slight attacks which he had during his last period of sea duty, he is able to get off and to have this operation performed, for destroyers in winter seas are not very good places on which to be taken ill. He tells me over the telephone that the new baby is wonderful, but he is a little afraid of handling him.

We have a perfectly lovely baby spending a few days with us in the White House. She is three-and-a-half months old, the daughter of my cousins, Mr. and Mrs. W. Forbes Morgan Jr., and seemed completely engrossed in the President so long as he held her in his arms.

The Governor of New Hampshire, the Honorable Robert O. Blood, has sent me two wonderful wooden pails. They are called “Granite State Bom-Pails,” and he says:

We of New Hampshire are pleased to contribute in a small way to the national defense program by furnishing a substitute which will conserve scarce material, such as metal, using our hurricane lumber and using labor of an average of sixty years of age as is found in our pail factories. I think you will find them most satisfactory. They look ample and substantial.

February 11, 1942

New York, Tuesday –
I went last night to speak at a patriotic rally held in one of the large churches in Washington. Those present reiterated again their willingness to fight and die for the United States, and recounted the part that the colored people had played in the history of our country during every war.

I never like to have us remember only our contributions as military contributions, because there are so many things which people have given in times of peace which are just as important to the development of the country, even when these horrible days of war are upon us.

All of our racial groups have made a vast contribution to the development of the United States. Many of them have worked in our fields and have developed our agriculture. Without them the cotton fields of the South would never have been tilled and the wheat fields of the West would not have produced their abundance.

Our mines would not have been developed. Our factories would not have operated without the labor of the countless people who, once upon a time, came to these shores from Africa, Europe, the Near East and the Far East.

It is not only in these material ways that people have contributed to the development of this country. Think of what has been given by writers, painters, actors, dancers and musicians to the general culture of the nation. No country is fully civilized which cannot appreciate its artists. They make a contribution not just to the entertainment side of life, but to the educational, economic and spiritual sides.

I had a word before I left Washington this morning that Franklin Jr., came through his operation very successfully, though it was found to be most necessary. I am now on my way to New York City by plane and hope to see him this afternoon.

I was glad of the chance to see this naval hospital in Brooklyn, New York. I know the one in Washington very well, but I think it is always a satisfaction to the families of the boys in service to know that, if the boys are taken ill, care will be the best possible, like that given in any private hospital in the country.

A great deal depends on one’s surroundings when one is suffering from any illness. The cleanliness and cheerfulness of the atmosphere in the Brooklyn Naval Hospital will, I am sure, contribute to the rapid recovery of the patients.

February 12, 1942

New York, Wednesday –
You might be interested to hear a little about the boys in the Brooklyn Naval Hospital. Nearly a whole ward was filled with boys from the Normandie, who had been overcome by smoke or burned. They all seemed to be recovering, but the experience must have been a very unpleasant one.

I also had an opportunity to talk for a little while with a boy who was very seriously injured on the destroyer Kearny. He is getting well and will be able to be about again, but his remark was that he wanted to “get back at them.”

That is a wonderful spirit when your disabilities would free you from active service, but it is the kind of spirit which we may expect to find in all these young men.

As I walked through the hospital, I told the doctors that I had a particular interest in the destroyers because my boy is on one. I noticed a smile on the faces of the boys nearest me, so evidently they have a feeling, too, for destroyer duty. I imagine there is greater opportunity for contact between men and officers on a destroyer and, therefore, a greater feeling of belonging to one big family.

Franklin Jr. looked remarkably well, and I expect to find him feeling even better when I go over today. I had a very nice telegram from the head of a group of Navy mothers, who visit the hospital and try to make boys who come from a great distance feel at home.

The rest of my day was spent on private appointments, and I worked rather late on the mail.

Everyone I met seemed depressed over the news from Singapore. We have been told that we must expect reverses at the start, and yet we want victory at once. The Axis nations prepared their people for many years, physically and mentally, for this struggle. They built up huge reserves of war materials.

They laid their plans well in advance. The people who did not want war, tried to plan for a peaceful world. They conditioned their people to peace. Those who foresaw, that, whether we wanted it or not, we might be attacked, had a hard time getting a hearing. No one wanted to spend money on things which might never be needed, and for that reason our preparation had, of necessity, to be slower.

We should remember now, however, that day by day the opposition in the Pacific and in the Atlantic, in Europe, Africa and Asia, is wearing itself out far more rapidly than we are. Someday, when we have reached the full power of our production, the day of victory for those who love peace, will come. Then we shall have to remember St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans:

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

February 13, 1942

Ithaca, NY, Thursday –
I spent an hour and a half Wednesday afternoon at a regional meeting for civilian defense, called by Mrs. Oswald Lord, the regional director. Federal staff members and regional staff members met with representatives of the different states in this region. It was a very interesting meeting and I think some good suggestions came out of it. I was particularly happy to see some of the new staff of the Office of Civilian Defense in action, and to feel how well they are all carrying out their jobs.

Mr. James Landis has issued a statement in which he says what I have known to be true for a long while; that it has never been completely decided where physical fitness, as a division, should be placed. Many of the things which Mr. John Kelly is so ably doing, are things which should be done year in and year out. Perhaps, therefore, a permanent government agency is where his organization would function best.

He has done a very good job and enlisted people who can interest both old and young in keeping themselves in good condition. I think no one will question the necessity for young and old, rich and poor, in this country to be physically fit.

The next question, of course, that rises after the decision is made as to whether a division of this kind belongs in a permanent or emergency agency, is whether a dance program is part of that division. I happen to believe it is, for a great many people will dance who will not take other forms of exercise.

There is a good deal in the way of entertainment for children which can be developed as a form of exercise. But that is a question to be decided by the people in charge of the program. If dancing is to be included, I think Miss Chaney offered an extremely good program, and is capable of carrying it out because of her contacts in that field throughout the country, as well as her years of experience.

A few gentlemen in Congress have suggested that there is something not quite moral about dancing. There are good and bad people in the dancing profession, just as there are good and bad people in every walk of life. Dancing is an art and people who practice that art work hard and faithfully to perfect themselves. I think they should command our respect, just as all other good workers do.

February 14, 1942

Syracuse, NY, Friday –
One of my old friends remarked yesterday that it was a curious thing how willing we are to ask artists to contribute their time, their money and their talents for charitable and civic purposes, and yet we will not concede that they have a right to take part in a broad effort of preparation for war on a paid, or an unpaid basis. It doesn’t seem exactly a generous attitude on the part of the public, does it?

This is, of course, merely a prelude to saying that I am delighted that Mr. Melvyn Douglas is to make it possible for many people in the artistic professions, who have offered their services in the war effort, actually to do things which will contribute to the morale of the nation.

The gentlemen who spoke so harshly about him seem not to be aware of the fine work which Mr. and Mrs. Douglas have done in the migrant camps in California. I wonder how many of them can match the generosity to good causes which these two people have shown.

Sometimes I wonder whether harsh words or ignorance will not someday be paid for in bitterness of spirit. It seems to me that there is somewhere in the Bible a statement, which runs:

And now abideth, faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

I spent more than half an hour with Franklin Jr. in the hospital Wednesday morning and found him extraordinarily well. He let me read a part of his diary. Whatever else these young men may have on board ship, it can hardly be called a dull life.

I lunched with some friends on Wednesday and at 6 o’clock went down to the opening of the Carnival for Democracy, where many organizations have joined together to give information about their work. Interesting booths were put up for this purpose.

This being the annual Negro History Week, I found two booths at the Carnival, which gave information illustrative of the things which we should know about the Negro’s contribution to our nation.

Mrs. Morgenthau, Miss Thompson and I dined together and went to see and hear Porgy and Bess. I had seen it once before, but I could not resist going again. We spent a delightful evening before Mrs. Morgenthau and I started by train for Ithaca, NY, for Farm and Home Week at Cornell University.

Today we shall be in Syracuse and Schenectady, and we shall be back in New York City tonight.

February 16, 1942

New York, Sunday –
Lincoln’s Birthday is a day I always like especially to celebrate in spirit, for to me Lincoln was not only one of our great Presidents, but a very great man. It seemed very fitting to be, for that day, in Cornell at Farm and Home Week, for Lincoln was of the earth, earthy, close to the soil and his spirit was akin to that of the rural people of our nation.

I am always interested in the exhibits at Farm and Home Week and found, as usual, ingenuity and initiative displayed in various ways. The blackout room for the farm home was very well arranged, but that is one thing the farmers can feel fairly sure will not often be used by them, for it is too costly to waste a bomb on isolated farms.

The thing which appealed to me was the converted truck, equipped in a way for which any farm family could provide. They had large milk cans placed in barrels, one surrounded by excelsior, and the other surrounded by newspapers. I was told they could keep food hot in the can surrounded by newspapers for 17 hours in zero weather.

They had also arranged compartments on the fireless cooker principle, in which they could put large cans, drawers which could pull out and hold supplies, cooking and eating utensils, and a portable canned gas stove which could heat a large quantity of food. This truck could feed 150 people at an emergency meal in a very short time.

The book fair, the art exhibit by Ithaca artists, and the craftwork done primarily by women, were all interesting exhibits. I could have spent much more time seeing them than I was able to give to any one thing.

We drove to Syracuse in the afternoon, and were grateful for the clear weather. In spite of the cold, there was comparatively little snow and ice on the road.

We met with the defense council in the morning, and saw the volunteer bureau, established under the local defense council. They are getting on very well with their work and Mrs. Pennock, who heads the voluntary participation part of the civilian defense program for the state, has done a very fine job.

The same difficulties arise in every community, of course. Some volunteers do not take their duties seriously enough and fail in meeting professional standards. Some agencies are hesitant about taking on the training and placing of volunteers. By and large it seemed to me that if Syracuse and Schenectady, which I visited in the afternoon, are good examples of what is happening in the state, then we can be proud of the organization here.

The Youth Council in Schenectady is composed of a group of young people who are anxious to play their part in the life of their city. They held a most successful meeting.

I reached New York City late Friday night and kept a number of personal engagements yesterday and today.