Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Memories of meeting FDR

I just got an email from my aunt who was born in 1926. She just remembered the time she met President Franklin Delano Roosevelt about 1939 or 1940. She lived in Des Moines, Iowa at this time. Her father had worked for Wallace's Farmer magazine in the 1920s and when Henry A. Wallace became Secretary of Agriculture during FDR's first 2 terms my grandfather went to work for the Department of Agriculture. His job required him to travel all over the country so the family remained in Iowa and he would rent a room when he was in Washington. My aunt's story:

This evening, [my husband] told me he was talking to a woman in the hall who was telling him about the time she shook Harry Truman's hand. And I said that the first president's hand I had shaken was FDR. And suddenly I remembered about that occasion. When I graduated from 8th grade, my father told me that because I had top honors in the county among the 8th grade graduates, he would take me with him to Washington the next time he had to go there for a week or two. that next time was that fall, October, I believe. He drove instead of taking the train, and in Washington we stayed with a Quaker family that rented rooms. In those days, Washington was smaller, safer, and less complicated, so I could spend the day walking or taking a taxi (they were much cheaper!) to all the things I wanted to see. One day I met him for lunch at the Dept. of Agriculture cafeteria, and then we went over to H. A. Wallace's office (he was secretary of agriculture then) because my father thought he would want to see me while I was there. It happened that H. A. was getting ready to go to a cabinet meeting. He took me with him and introduced me to the president before the meeting started. I don't remember any security upon entering, but perhaps there was some, but no one checked on me or asked me anything. Then I walked out of the White House and the White House grounds and went to the Smithsonian. The casual security sort of blows my mind when I think of it. We just walked in, but, of course, I was with someone who was known. I don't believe serious security started until the Second World War started.

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