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WASHINGTON, Friday—I arrived back in Washington yesterday morning and plunged into a vortex of inauguration preparations. I went to meet some grandchildren I had not seen for a long time, but their train was late and so I went back to the White House to talk with Mrs. Nesbitt,1 the housekeeper, and to change my morning appointments in order to meet the children at a later hour. But the train got later and later and finally I had to send Mrs. John Roosevelt2 to meet the children, since I had a luncheon engagement. I came back to find the grandchildren still at lunch with "grandpa," so all was well.

Some of the grandchildren had not seen each other since they were too young to remember, and some of them have never met before, and it is amusing to watch the whole group learn to get on together. It is a little, however, like organizing a school and a hotel combined. I think the household staff and the ushers and the housekeeper deserve all the credit that we can give them for the way in which they meet these periods of great activity even in wartime.

Few people know anything about what getting out the invitations and checking lists for an occasion like this means to the clerical staff and the secretaries in the White House. They work early and late. The telephones ring incessantly, adding names, making changes in addresses, or asking for duplicates where tickets have been lost. It is rather rare that the reward earned by the secretaries, at least, is anything but impatience and misunderstanding and, in some cases, real irritation over the telephone or by letter!


Yesterday afternoon Dr. F. D. Patterson,3 president of Tuskegee Institute, came to tell me how happy they are over the progress which has been accomplished by joint fund raising for the Negro colleges. I hope that in the coming year they will be even more successful than the last.

At 4:15 we all gathered in the diplomatic reception room for the broadcast which annually starts off the infantile paralysis campaign for funds. Mary Pickford,4 who was to have been here, was ill, much to our regret, so Basil O'Connor5 took her place. Mrs. Helen Gahagan Douglas6 also spoke. But the real star of the occasion was little Margaret O'Brien.7 She is a sweet little girl and my grandchildren sat spellbound on the floor watching her broadcast. Afterward, all of them went up into the dining room to see what they could find that was good to eat on the table. Then little Miss O'Brien was whisked off to look at the dogs, and I think they would have gladly added her to their family circle!

E. R.

Copyright, 1945, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.

Footnotes & Resources

  1. Victoria Henrietta Kugler Nesbitt, 1874-1963, White House housekeeper 1933-1946
  2. Anne Clark Roosevelt, 1916-1973, First wife of the Roosevelts' youngest son, John Roosevelt (1938-1965)
  3. Frederick D. (Frederick Douglass) Patterson, 1901-1988, President of Tuskegee Institute
  4. Mary Pickford, 1892-1979, Popular silent screen-era film star and one of the founders of United Artists Movie Studio
  5. Basil O'Connor, 1892-1972, FDR's former law partner, president of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis-March of Dimes drive against poliomyelitis
  6. Rep. Helen Gahagan Douglas (D-CA), 1900-1980, Actress, politician, elected to U.S. House of Representatives in 1944
  7. Margaret O'Brien, 1937-?, Child film actress

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