Election 1940: Thousands Hail Roosevelt On Pittsburgh Defense (10-11-40)

The Pittsburgh Press (October 11, 1940)


Chief Executive Also Dedicates Housing Project – Visit Includes Downtown Parade

By Kermit McFarland

President Roosevelt today climaxed a hasty inspection of two of the principal national defense mills in the district by dedicating the new $12,800,000 Terrace Village housing project on the Hill.

He then rode down 5th Avenue and up Liberty en route to his train while jammed downtown streets gave him a rousing ovation.

Mr. Roosevelt told the thousands who gathered about a high embankment at the housing project that he was on a trip to “educate” himself, not only yo view national defense preparations but also to “look over projects that have a great deal top do with national defense.”

The President’s route from East Liberty to Homestead, thence to the Hill and to the downtown Pennsylvania Station, was lined with people, most of whom cheered and waved flags as his auto caravan proceeded.

Mr. Roosevelt sat in his car as he delivered his brief address and presented a key to the one hundred thousandth family to occupy a federal housing project. The amplifiers failed and the crowd couldn’t hear much of what he said.

The spectators stood on tip-toe to watch the key presentation.

When the presentation was completed, Mr. Roosevelt put on his hat and the caravan was off to the railroad station by way of 5th Avenue and Liberty Ave., Downtown.

Appears Confident

During his whirlwind, three-hour auto tour of the Pittsburgh district, the President appeared in high spirits, gay and laughing and exuding the typical Rooseveltian air.

After a look at flood control projects in Johnstown, Mr. Roosevelt’s special train of 12 cars chugged into the East Liberty station of the Pennsylvania Railroad about 11:15 a.m.

Spectators were kept from the yards, so only about 100 persons, most of them police, were on hand as the Chief Executive left the train.

He paused a moment on the rear platform, flashed a smile, and said, “Hi-yah, boys.” A smattering of applause was his reply.

Roars from Sidewalks

But when the motorcade moved into Penn. Ave., where the crowd was waiting, the progress of the procession could be noted by the roar from the sidewalks.

Riding with the President in his car were Mayor Scully and U.S. Senator Joseph F. Guffey, Mr. Roosevelt chatted with them animatedly.

KDKA, WCAE and WJAS will broadcast President Roosevelt’s national defense address, to be made at Dayton, Ohio, at 9:00 tomorrow night.

Swissvale Shouts for Willkie

The crowds along Penn. Ave. covered the sidewalks on both sides of the street. But at Swissvale the crowd thinned out somewhat and there were a few shouts of “Yeah, Willkie.”

On his tour eight days ago over much of the same territory, Wendell L. Willkie likewise had been met with some hostile crowds.

At points where the crowds were largest the President waved his light felt hat.

In Rankin, where police said the biggest crowd in the history of the borough turned out, the streets were covered with streamers and two bands played. Ropes held the crowd back at the Rankin Bridge.

The motorcade paused briefly on the Rankin Bridge, while Mr. Roosevelt peered up and down the river at the plants lining the banks.

21 Minutes in Munhall Mill

At the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Co. plant in Munhall, the President spent 21 minutes looking at armor plate being formed. He entered the gate at 12:01 p.m. and left at 12:22 p.m.

In preparation for the demonstration workmen this morning had “softened up” the ingot so that the forging – a highly colorful process – could be accomplished quickly.

As the President’s car moved through the works huge signs attached to materials told what they were. Thus there were signs reading “Cold Ingots,” “Armor Plate,” etc.

On the individual sheaths of armor plate were signs reading, “These plates are being made for ____” and then followed the name of the battleship for which the material was being forged.

The signs showed that the plates were being manufactured for the USS Alabama, Juneau, Iowa, Indiana, Atlanta and New Jersey.

Workmen Surround Car

Workmen were roped off the pathway through which the President’s car was passed, but as the machine was about to leave the plant about 1,000 of the workers broke through and surrounded the car. The President smiled and tipped his hat.

Mr. Roosevelt spent only 16 minutes in the Mesta Machine Co. plant at West Homestead, where tiered platforms had been erected to allow all three shifts – about 34,000 employees – to assemble to see the President. The entourage entered the plant at 12:33 p.m. and departed at 12:49 p.m.

Boy Scouts snapped to attention as Mr. Roosevelt’s auto rolled into the mill. Lorenz Iversen, president of Mesta, rode with the President on the trip through the mill to explain the various processes.

A pause was made in the factory while Clinton O’Stell, a machinist on behalf of the workmen presented Mr. Roosevelt with a miniature steel rolling mill which the Mesta employees had made for him.

Watches Mesta Forgings

Before he left the Mesta plant, Mr. Roosevelt watched a big forging going through an automatic machine.

Eight Secret Servicemen surrounded the President’s car at all times.

The forgings the President saw at Mesta mostly were being made for the Charleston naval ordinance plant of the U.S. Navy.

On the South Side, a bouquet of flowers was thrown into the street ahead of Mr. Roosevelt’s car.

South Side children chanted, “Roosevelt, Roosevelt.”

“Don’t forget Willkie there, kid,” shouted a J&L mill worker to the press car.

Signs Greet Roosevelt

“South Side’s for the New Deal,” said a banner across Carson Street. Another sign read: “Give us Roosevelt. Don’t take away our sunshine.”

Crowds lined Carson Street the entire route. On East Carson Street, a sheet hung from a bedroom window with this lettering: “We want Roosevelt.”

At the same time last week, the sheet said “Boo Willkie.”

“America needs Roosevelt” signs lined Carson Street.

“The South Side’s for you, Mr. Roosevelt” said another Carson Street sign. Still another, “South Side is for you, champ.”

J&L whistles signaled the president’s passage.

From the South Side, the President crossed the Monongahela River by the 10th St. Bridge, and went to the Hill District by way of the Armstrong Tubes.

Thousands were on hand to see him at Terrace Village, Pittsburgh housing project but the crowd got no closer than about a quarter mile to his machine.

Welcomed By Scully

The President was welcomed by Mayor Scully who declared that:

In our mills he has seen what Pittsburgh will do under his wise and energetic leadership to defend our country against armed aggression. Here at Terrace Village the President and all of us may see what Pittsburgh again in conjunction with his energetic and humane national leadership is doing to build a stout defense against another enemy, the savages of poverty.

Mr. Roosevelt was introduced by Councilman George E. Evans, chairman of the Pittsburgh Housing Authority.

’Democracy at Work’

The President asserted that the housing project represented “another phase of democracy at work.”

We have here a representation of intelligence and sympathetic co-operation between the federal government and the local agencies of government.

Not only the Pittsburgh district is richer, he declared:

…but every other section of the Union is richer for having antiquated, squalid shacks replaced by these bright decent houses.

And in conducting his brief speech, Mr. Roosevelt said:

As long as they know that their government is sympathetically working to protect their jobs and to better their homes, we will be confident that, if the need arises, the people themselves will wholeheartedly join in the defense of their democracy.

Mr. Roosevelt then turned over the key, representing the hundred thousandth unit in the nation’s housing projects, to Mr. and Mrs. Lester Churchfield and their three small children.

Asks About Children

The President’s conversation with the Churchfields was extremely informal.

He first inquired about the ages of the children, and each child was pointed out to him by name. Then the President said:

I’m in a quandary whom to give this key to.

Mr. Churchfield, a 26-year-old steel worker, replied:

Give it to the Mrs!

"Oh, That’s Lovely"

He did so, and Mrs. Churchfield huskily remarked:

Oh, that’s lovely. We’ll keep it as long as we live.

The little key-giving tableau was repeated three times for the benefit of cameramen.

During this time, Mr. Roosevelt asked the Pittsburgh couple how much rent they would have to pay. They told him $22 a month.

Finally, the President said:

Well, I’ve got to run and catch a train.

And his auto moved away.

Wylie Ave. Packed

Nowhere along his tour did Mr. Roosevelt receive a more unanimous ovation than in the Hill District, through which he next passed.

Wylie Ave. was packed solidly – and everybody yelled. The downtown street, were jammed, too. Ropes kept back the throngs.

Telephone books were torn into bits to give the President a paper shower. Some ticker tape and confetti also were cast at the procession.

In 5th Ave., near Grant St. occurred the only mishap of the parade.

A county motorcycle patrolman struck a flag pole, which had been knocked over by the crowd, and was spilled from his machine. He also upset two other motorcyclists near the President’s machine.

Cheers Drown Boos

There were a few boos in the downtown section, but heavy cheering soon drowned them out.

At the Pennsylvania Station, the President’s auto was driven into the train shed, and Mr. Roosevelt lost little time in getting aboard.

As he stood on the rear platform waiting of the train to pull out he was swarmed by most of the county and city Democratic officeholders, anxious to shake his hand.

The train departed at 2:01 p.m.

Planes Banned Over Motorcade

During the President’s three-hour visit, E. A. Goff, Civil Aeronautics Inspector for this district, was notified by the Secret Service to warn all planes that flying over the motorcade was not permitted.

All along the route, too, more than 1,300 officers of all kinds took the most elaborate precautions to guard against any mishap to the Presidential party.

Inasmuch as there was no school today in Pittsburgh or Allegheny County because of a teachers’ institute, an extraordinary outpouring of children witnessed the presidential procession.

The crowd was also augmented by some 9,000 city and county employees who were given a half-holiday to welcome the Chief Executive.

The President began his Pennsylvania inspection trip by glimpsing the five miles of flood control walls built by the federal government on both banks on the Conemaugh River – which twice had ravaged Johnstown with frightful floods.

The train traveled up the river at only 10 miles an hour so the President could look over the bare walls now guarding a low-running stream which appealed as harmless as a meadow creek.

Along this same river, as the President’s train steamed in and out of Johnstown, Mr. Roosevelt could see industrious evidence of national defense preparations.

Steel Plants Stretch 8 Miles

For eight miles along the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks stretches the giant plants of the Bethlehem Steel Co., now employing 16,000 men.

Not all of this activity was concerned with national defense preparations, but the Bethlehem plants have tremendous orders from the federal government.

As Mr. Roosevelt viewed the $8 million Conemaugh channel flood walls, two engineers, Lieut. Col. L. D. Worsham (U.S. Army district manager) and A. L. Hertz (supervising engineer on the project), along with Johnstown’s modest Democratic mayor, John A. Conway, explained the details and benefits.

Four years ago, when Mr. Roosevelt was conducting his second-term campaign, he came to Johnstown and specifically promised to take a personal interest in relieving this city of its flood danger.

The virtually completed flood walls the President was viewing today represent a fulfillment of that promise.

At Johnstown, a squad of the leading powers in the current Democratic organization of Pennsylvania boarded the train for the “non-political” ride into Pittsburgh.

Old Foes Together

Senator Guffey arrived in Johnstown late last night motoring here with Democratic National Committeeman David L. Lawrence, his bitterest foe in the feud which has split the Democratic Party the last three years.

State Chairman Meredith Meyers and Mr. Guffey’s campaign manager, Philadelphia City Treasurer Luther A. Harr, also boarded the train.

Mr. Harr declined to comment directly on possible political fruits of the President’s current tour. However, he did say this:

I think Western Pennsylvania will go for Mr. Roosevelt in a large way whether he came into this section or not. But I think it is right that he should make these trips to arouse public interest in the national defense program.

Pick Up Bigwigs

The train stopped at Johnstown’s station only long enough to pick up the Democratic bigwigs and the Johnstown delegation.

At Seward, eight miles up the river, another brief stop was scheduled to allow the Johnstown officials to drop off the train.

This route of the President’s train was the most heavily-guarded of any similar route in Pennsylvania since the King and Queen of England crossed the state, en route from Buffalo to Washington a year and a half ago.

Route Heavily Guarded

State Police, Pennsylvania Railroad Police and local police supplemented the guard, all working under orders from the Secret Service.

At Johnstown, the entire station platform was cleared of all except officials invited aboard the train and the Johnstown High School band.

Barred by police regulations which prohibited crowds on the station platform, only sparse crowds lined the streets alongside the station for a far-away glimpse of Mr. Roosevelt’s train.

The band was lined up in formation 15 minutes before the train was due.

Required to Show Passes

All officials admitted to the station platform were required to show passes signed by the mayor to officers at two different posts.

Police Chief Harry F. Klink had 60 of his force and the entire fire department on duty at Johnstown station.

The high school band played “God Bless America” as the train pulled to a stop.

The mayor’s attractive wife and his three sons were first on the station platform to await the President’s arrival.

Workmen at the Bethlehem Steel plant perched on cranes and other vantage points to see the Presidential special.

The President was seated on the rear platform in a chair as the train stopped at the Johnstown station. He waved and smiled at the band and the few stragglers from the crowd who could see him.

All along the Bethlehem mill property there were people standing to watch the train pass. In the backyards of the mill workers’ homes stood women and children, eagerly scanning every window of the train as it rolled easily by. Some of the women were in house coats, others leaned out upper story windows.

President’s View Blocked

Children sat on parents’ shoulders or perched on fences. Engine crews clambered atop their cabs. When the train reached the channel project, it slowed down to 10 miles an hour.

A long freight train unexpectedly blocked the President’s view of the first section of the river walls.

At one point, a crowd of 25 or 30 congregated along the tracks with a sign “Democratic Committee Welcomes the President.”

On the highway across the Conemaugh River, several cars slowly drove along, keeping pace with the Presidential train.

At a bend in the channel project, a newly pained sign read: “Johnstown Channel Improvement Flood Control Project, U.S. Army Engineers.”

And then, painted at the bottom, it said, “Thanks, Mr. Roosevelt.”

A slight mist raised from the river as the train passed, but the sun was shining through the haze.

Sign Thanks President

In the Johnstown delegation which boarded the train for a short ride along the flood walls were several Republicans, County Commissioner John Thomas Jr., and City Council men Clyde Snook and Fred Brosius.

Nearly 200 police were stationed along the route from Altoona to Pittsburgh, not counting heavy deputations on hand at each stop.

Every mile of the Pennsylvania Railroad right-of-way was under guard. Police were posted at each bridge and along every overhead embankment.

Pilot Engine Precedes Train

No train was permitted on an adjoining track and all trains two tracks removed from the line on which the Presidential special moved were under orders to slow down as the Roosevelt train passed.

Every inch of the track had been inspected prior to the arrival of the Roosevelt train and a plot engine preceded the Presidential special.

Agents of the U.S. Secret Service were in complete charge of the train, all stops and all arrangements for the trip.

The Johnstown delegation was invited by Mayor Conway, who also was accompanied by these Democrats: Common Pleas Judge John H. McCann, County Commissioners Eddie McCloskey (former mayor and state boxing commissioner) and Frank Holleran and former Sheriff Michael Boyle.

In his speedy trip up the Conemaugh River, President Roosevelt passed through Cambria County, which four years ago gave him a majority of 22,000. Dopesters again predict he will carry the county, although they forecast a reduced majority.


Here is the text of President Roosevelt’s address dedicating Terrace Village, U.S. Housing project on Ruch Hill, today:

Mr. Mayor, Mr. Evans, my good friends of Pittsburgh. I have come here today very informally on what is essentially a trip to educate myself, to learn about what’s happening for national defense in this s=country and in this section, and at the same time

I go back over more than a quarter of a century to the first study in this country of any importance that was made in relation to the problem of better housing. It was done, here in Pittsburgh, over a quarter of a century ago and it seems to me from that time on, we have been learning steadily all over the nation more about the need of better housing for our citizens.

It has taken initiative, and at last we are getting examples like this. In this particular work of the U.S. Housing Authority, this, I think, represents the one hundredth housing dwelling unit. A hundred thousand homes just built through this one agency – say, there are five people to the family – well that’s 500,000 Americans. That’s not very much of 130 million.

And, therefore, we know that this work is only started. Still half a million people represent a pretty sizable crowd and in other methods, other forms of building houses in this country, we have added, in addition to those 500,000 units, we have taken care of nearly two million more people who have been given better homes.

That represents another phase of democracy at work. We have here a representation of intelligence and sympathetic co-operation between the federal government and the local agencies of government.

The federal government through Congress, provided initial funds with which these buildings were built. The homes were conceived and constructed under the direction of the Housing Authority of Pittsburgh and may I say that they are a monument to the vision and the perseverance of the leaders in this housing movement in Pittsburgh.

Not only this section, but every other section of the Union, is richer for having antiquated, squalid shacks replaced by these bright decent houses.

You know everything wears out in time for it gets obsolete and it is a mighty difficult thing for us to ask all the population to live in obsolete or worn-out houses that were built 75 or 100 years ago. The jobs and the homes of most of the people in our country constitute a part of their stake in the nation.

As long as they know that their government is sympathetically working to protect their jobs and to better their homes, we will be confident that, if the need arises, the people themselves will wholeheartedly join in the defense of their democracy.

And so I regard these housing projects everywhere as a part of the program of defense. You are doing a grand job – do more of it – and speed it up.