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January 30 is not a date that will “Life in Infamy,” but it is a very important day in history. It’s the day Franklin Roosevelt was born. It made me harken back to the last vacation we took prior to the Covid-19 outbreak. There is always at least one pleasant surprise when you take a vacation and ours was Hyde Park. Don’t get me wrong, I loved hunting lighthouses along the coastline of Maine and visiting the JFK library in Boston but I knew I would enjoy those. Hyde Park far exceeded my expectations because I mistakenly didn’t have any.
It started as we congregated outside waiting for our tour to begin. The guide off-handedly revealed we were standing right outside the small office where Franklin Roosevelt told Winston Churchill that America had the atomic bomb. I nudged my way over to look in through the window. It was a very small room that contained a very big secret. I couldn’t get enough. When I looked up the group was already entering the house. I had to play catch up.
Once inside the house looked every bit it’s age. FDR was born in 1882. He became President in 1933 while the nation was in the throughs of the Great Depression. He moved from New York back to his mother’s house at Hyde Park after being diagnosed with polio August 10, 1921. This would prove to be the first major test of his life. When you walk in the guide takes you to the left into his office. You see the desk where he worked and the chair he would sit in to greet guests. He would often tell them he was tired and asked that they forgive him for not getting up. He even went so far as to ask his help to place some dirt around his shoes to make it look as though he had just returned from a walk.
Standing in that room you think about the weight on his shoulders from the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor and of course World War II.
His hand controlled car was in the basement. Don’t take a picture. We made that mistake. They get real unhappy about that. He had two phones next to his bed. The one on the wall was the hotline. I can only imagine the conversations that were had there.
Back outside the thing I remember the most about the entire tour was when the guide stopped at the Rose Garden and told us to turn around and look at the house. He said during FDR’s recuperation period until he ran for Governor in New York in 1928 he would literally crawl from the house to the garden and back in order to strengthen his arms. I couldn’t help but think the fortitude that he needed to get America through the Depression and WWII may have been forged along this path. Maybe that is why Americans believed him when he said “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” He literally crawled his way to the White House. He knew what it took to get back up and our only four term President showed Americans what it took to do the same.
I loved Hyde Park. Believe it or not, I would love to go back.