Sunday, September 21, 2014

Roosevelt Season

Now that there is so much talk about the Roosevelts, I want to share my time with Franklin D. Roosevelt. I have mentioned before that I was lucky enough to get a post-graduate scholarship to Warm Springs Foundation in Warm Springs, Georgia. I had been there a week or ten days when one lunch time in the big dining room where all ambulatory patients, nurses, physical therapists, doctors and aides ate together, I noticed a strange young man sitting at the table next to ours. The next day, I sat at lunch with another physical therapist and found the same man was siting very close to where we were sitting again.

I asked everyone if they knew who that handsome man was. They said he's probably Secret Service.

"Are you an American citizen, Svensson?" someone asked.

"Not yet," I replied.

"Ah ha! that's it."

I liked to walk barefoot in the forest around Warm Springs and I kept thinking that poor man must have to follow me. So I made all sorts of strange moves and followed different paths. That didn't last very long because I became so busy learning new things.

One day we heard that the President was coming for a weekend. Everything was spruced up: windows washed, gardens raked and the two pools cleaned. Young male patients were told they could not wear their bathing suits when having a treatment they had to wear the outfits all the regular patients had to wear.

The day when the President arrived, he went to his cottage -- though his house was much bigger than the house we lived in. Suddenly, we found out he was coming to dinner at our place in our huge dining room.

He was driven in a convertible Ford with FDR license plates. He walked in, looking very tall and very proud, but when he got to his table with his two secrets service men or two sons who had the duty to help for the day, he had a lot of struggle with his braces when he sat down.

Normally he was helped down and up by his sons or secret service people by them grabbling him under his arms. It was does so quickly and gracefully that people weren't aware that he was having any trouble.

After he sat down, he gave a speech to the patients:

  • Be patient
  • Work hard
  • Do more than people expect of you

He wished everyone good luck.

Then it was time for us to leave and we left in a long, long, long line, snaking between the tables. Patients lying on their stomachs on a gurney were attended by a nurse or an orderly. Everyone got to go in front of the President of the United States of America and get a hand shake and few words of encouragement.

Then my turn came. He told me he was sorry about the investigations before I arrived here. Before coming to Warm Springs, I was in Tennessee and my departure date kept changing because my clearance kept being delayed until I was checked out to be an innocent Swedish immigrant. Then he asked about my home town in Sweden and did my family come also? And all that took about 1 1/2 minutes.

That was a hard day for him because there were so many people there.