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History Lesson

“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith”

…. from FDR’s unfinished Jefferson speech

After enjoying Callaway for much of the day, S ( who had come down for ATL for the weekend) suggested we find out how close Warm Springs was to our location. I had no idea it was so close. So, spur of the moment, off we went.

It’s fair to say I know of Warm Springs and the FDR history having seen the the PBS documentary but little did I realize how interesting the afternoon would be.

As for Warm Springs… “they flocked to the waters for health……. “

It was the late former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who first gave national recognition to Warm Springs when, in 1924, he visited the town’s naturally heated mineral springs as treatment for his polio related paralysis.

He first came to Warm Springs in 1924 hoping to find a cure for the infantile paralysis (polio) that had struck him in 1921. Swimming in the 88-degree, buoyant spring waters brought him no miracle cure, but it did bring improvement.

He also spent many hours outside – one of his favorite spots was on top of Pine Mountain with its stunning views of the countryside below – FDR loved to have picnics on Dowdell Knob – a lifesize statue of FDR is located on the site now.

Roosevelt was so enchanted with Warm Springs that he built the only home he ever owned here – a modest, six room cottage called the Little White House which served as a relaxing, comfortable haven for him during his regular visits to Warm Springs.

Finished in 1932, the wooden building features a four-columned central temple form portico. The slightly off-center entrance hall cuts through the combination living room dining room and opens into Eleanor Roosevelt’s bedroom on the left and into a narrow side hall on the right. The living room/dining room is glassed-in on the west side with high windows flanking French doors that open onto a sundeck. Roosevelt enjoyed the serenity of the sundeck’s view overlooking a heavily wooded ravine. And, it was here he is believed to have developed his New Deal policies that would affect the entire nation, here where he relaxed and socialized and here where he died on April 12, 1945 while posing for the “Unfinished Portrait”.

Today it’s a museum that showcases many exhibits, including FDR’s 1938 Ford convertible with hand controls, his Fireside Chats playing over a 1930s radio, his stagecoach and a theater.

But walking through the museum, I was struck by the fact that it was not only telling FDR’s historical achievements, but it was also telling a story about a remarkable man overcoming polio.

It was a disease that had also struck my Dad – another remarkable man ☺ – in 1955.

Like the pictures of the President on display in which he was smiling, I remembered the images of my Dad as a young man, new husband and soon to be a father—smiling!! It was a sobering memory—a generation had had to deal with so much and yet I never thought of my Dad as handicapped – just Dad –and always smiling!

I have since learned the fight against polio had been waged for years.

FDR took a leadership role in the battle…from MSNBC…

For decades, thousands of Americans contracted polio and were often paralyzed or killed by this incurable disease. Roosevelt, sick himself with the disease, announced in late 1937 the establishment of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP), in which he had a major role as the main supporter. NFIP focused on raising money for polio research and taking care of those affected by the disease.
Roosevelt, who contracted polio at age of 39, was extremely dedicated to making the fight against this disease a national cause. He even used his own birthday to increase donations for the cause by organizing charitable birthday balls.
The movement accelerated when Eddie Cantor, a famous entertainer of the ’30s and an important supporter of the cause, made a radio announcement. He asked the nation to send money to the White House in a “March of Dimes” to fight polio and support the NFIP. At the time, he was referring to the very popular newsreel feature of the day, “The March of Time.” Quickly, millions of dimes flooded to the Oval Office. In 1945, the foundation raised $18.9 million. As a result of this huge success, the NFIP changed its name to the well known campaign, the “March of Dimes.”

In 1955, Jonas Salk created the vaccine that all but eradicated polio in most of the world by the 1960s.

Unfortunately, the vaccine came too late for my Dad and so many others but the horrible disease was finally on its way out.

When news of the vaccine’s success was made public on April 12, 1955, Salk was hailed as a “miracle worker”, and the day “almost became a national holiday.” His sole focus had been to develop a safe and effective vaccine as rapidly as possible, with no interest in personal profit. When he was asked in a televised interview whoowned the patent to the vaccine, Salk replied: “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

It turned out to be an afternoon full of rich history and memories –thanks S for suggesting it!!

This was a stop I didn’t plan on but it turned out to be a stop on the journey that may turn out to be one of the more remarkable stops along the way.

Thanks Dad for everything – I know I wouldn’t be here but for your strength and wisdom.

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