Franklin D. Roosevelt

Remarks Before the Roosevelt Home Club. Hyde Park, New York.

August 27, 1938

You Look just the way you did a year ago. You have not changed at all. After being away for a couple of months it is amazing to Come back here and find so little change. There is Spratty [Mayor Spratt], who won't admit it out loud but still hungering to be President. There is John E. Mack, still claiming to be a farmer. There is the old Board of Supervisors, still playing politics. There is old Doc Bowen still running for Congress. And there are the nine school districts in the town of Hyde Park—which haven't got together yet. So it feels entirely natural to be back.

Moses [Mr. Smith] of course had to refer to the fishing trip, because I told him I had to have a subject to talk about; and I told him on the peril of his life not to mention this year the Hyde Park Post Office. (Laughter) We are going to get a new Post Office but the only way we shall get it quickly is to buy more postage stamps. Jim Farley told me that, and he is in the business. Actually it is a fact. As we get new post offices in the United States, we try to put them in those places that have the largest volume of business, those places that do not have Government buildings in them. That is why Rhinebeck had theirs allotted last year, and Wappingers is getting one this year. I hope that Hyde Park will rate one within the next couple of years.

Now, to go back to fishing. You do not always need a hook to catch a fish. I got a 100-pound sailfish without a hook. It shows that the plea of Spratty [Mayor Spratt] that he did not have a fishing rod does not mean a thing. As a matter of fact, it was an interesting story. I have eleven men in the same boat and a moving picture camera and two other cameras to prove the story.

Way down at a place called Cocos Island, about five hundred miles west of the Panama Canal, we were out fishing, trolling for sailfish. One of them took my line which was out about two hundred feet beyond the boat with a hook and feather on the end. He jumped in the air and, apparently, while he was on the end, another sailfish came along and got his beak all snarled up in the line. The fish that got caught on the hook got away, but the fish that got caught on his nose was hauled in.

As a matter of fact, there had been so much discussion on previous trips, about the size and weight and length and species of fish, that this year I took a full-fledged scientist with me from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, Dr. Waldo Schmitt, who was such a success that we decided to change the Smithsonian to "Schmittsonian." (Laughter)

When we started from San Diego out on the West Coast, we ran down the Coast to Lower California which, as you know, belongs to Mexico. In talking to Dr. Schmitt that first day, I said: "Is there any particular thing or animal that you would like to find?" He said: "Oh, yes, I am writing a monograph, I have been on it two years, and the one thing I am searching for in these waters of Mexico and the islands of the Pacific—I want to find a burrowing shrimp."

"Well," I said, "Dr. Schmitt, why leave Washington? Washington is overrun with them. I know that after five years." (Laughter)

However, he not only found a burrowing shrimp on an island called Socorro, two or three hundred miles of[ the coast of Mexico, but it also turned out to be a new species of burrowing shrimp, so we called it the Schmitty Shrimp.

Then we went down to the Galapagos Islands. You have read stories of German baronesses going down there and committing murders and finally being murdered. We supposed that going down on the Equator the weather would be warm. Actually, we nearly froze to death because down there, about five hundred miles from the coast of Ecuador, there is a cold current called the Humboldt Current, which is just the opposite of our warm Gulf Stream on the Atlantic Coast. That Humboldt Current comes up from the Antarctic regions and passes through the Galapagos Islands, bounces off them and disappears in the middle of the Pacific. The result was that we had to sleep under blankets every night.

However, it was a grand cruise, a real holiday, and notable for the fact that during the entire trip we, in the party, wrote our own newspaper stories. That is why they were so good. (Laughter) We included a great deal of fine historical and-what is the word?—piscatorial information which the press had never printed before.

Then, on the way back, of course we stopped at Panama and I had a chance to see the greatest, to my mind far and away, the greatest, engineering work in the world. I was very lucky because in 1912 when I was in the State Senate, at the close of the session I went down to Panama before they let the water into the Canal. On that trip I saw the famous Cut through the mountain, and from the top of it, the trains, great huge trains of dump cars, locomotives, steam shovels, looked like gnats in the middle of this great Cut. Today, of course, the water is in it, and you get no idea of the labor that it took to build that Canal.

Incidentally, I was very happy to note that the American defenses of the Canal had improved very much since I was there three years before. We are getting airplanes, and submarines, and anti-aircraft guns, and various other things, to try to make reasonably certain that in case of war—which we are all trying to avoid in every possible way—we shall still be able to maintain the link of the Panama Canal between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Then when I got back to the Continental part of the United States, I went down to my old stamping ground in Georgia and again heard of what they call "politics." And I have been hearing about it ever since. That is one reason why that little foundation up there on top of the hill, that John Mack referred to, is gradually evolving into a house, the object being to have some place in the United States where they won't talk politics.

Incidentally, I got an admission out of the Mayor. He was looking at those stone walls, permanent walls, going up, and he said, in a sort of reminiscent way, "You know that is the only building that I have inspected in all these years that had not been partly paid for by the Federal Government." However, as we all know, the contribution that the Federal Government is making through the W.P.A. and the P.W.A. is not only putting people to work, but it is helping every community in the United States to get things which they otherwise could not afford to have. It is true in the greatest city of the Nation, New York, and it is true in the greatest county of the Nation, Dutchess.

And right along that line—let me see, there are about five weeks to go—I hope very much that we taxpayers in Hyde Park are going to be saved about $300,000. If we do not decide to save that $300,000 within the next five weeks, by agreeing on some plan to take care of the four or five hundred school children in these districts for whom we have not adequate facilities-if we do not do it in the next five weeks—we shall be just out of pocket $300,000 as taxpayers; and, eventually, we taxpayers in the town of Hyde Park shall have to put up the whole $300,000. That is a very simple situation.

If the people in this township were made to realize that there are nine school districts affecting 2400 or 2500 children for whom we need accommodations, I am sure that the democratic processes will so work in the next five weeks, that we shall be able to get a school project for the township and save about $300,000 for our own pockets. Now that, I take it, is just what you and I would call common sense. I believe that the people the people who run the school districts and the voters who have , to pass on the proposition—will vote somehow to save us that money.

That, perhaps, is the old Dutch coming out in me or maybe it is the old Scotch Irish coming out in me; but, anyway, I think most people in this town agree that we have to do something to give the children of this town, from almost every part of the town, better educational facilities.

One thing I am glad of is that, from now until after election day, I expect to spend the greater part of my time here in Hyde Park. Of course I shall make occasional trips to Washington to see that the Government continues as it ought to continue, but I shall spend the rest of the time back here where we live.

It is fine to see you again. I greatly appreciate and all the family appreciates these meetings of the Club at Moses Smith's and, as it has been well said, I hope they will continue for many, many years to come.

I might add to the suggestion that has been made about the "Heaven" across the river, that I am very confident that the people. in that heaven in Ulster County will be good neighbors to us in Dutchess County.

And so I echo the hope that all of us, without exception, will be back here again in the summer of 1939.

I might add one thing with respect to the Mayor of New York [Mayor LaGuardia] and his wife: I hope that some day they buy a farm in Dutchess County and become neighbors of ours, too.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Remarks Before the Roosevelt Home Club. Hyde Park, New York. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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