Wednesday, October 13, 2010


It has been sometime since I have composed a blog here or on Multiply. It is easy on Facebook, to share what someone else has written, with only my comment to introduce it: I can no longer take the easy way out. A blogger named Ramona has inspired me to speak again of my experience and knowledge of the 20th century, having lived through 73 of it as child, wife, mother, student and finally worker. Early on, perhaps as early as ten, I knew my father was wrong for hating FDR..regardless of his hate, we had three radios in 1937 and I listened to the Fireside Chats each Sunday night after a pot-roast dinner. The radio was our link to the world, and we all listened. I knew that we had come to California from Indiana, though I did not remember the trip: in 1930 I was three years old. I knew that we had lived with my father's brother and his family and that my father had sold his Masonic ring to help with expenses, and I remember when he got his first job in California with the San Francisco Police Department as a patrolman at the Tanforan Race Track on the edge of San Bruno.
These are just vague memories but apparently when some happening was important to my family it left an impression.
Perhaps because my father had joined the Army in 1898 during the Spanish American war and spent more or less the next nineteen years in one or another branch of the U.S. Services, and when he married and left the Army had worked eleven years as a policeman in Indianapolis, he was a died-in-the-wool conservative, and remained that way for the rest of his life. Of his six children five were Democrats: all of the girls. Our only brother became a Republican.
That is the background in which I was nurtured in my early years, and despite the views of my parents I adored Franklin D. Roosevelt and hear his voice in my memory to this day. A patrician in the old sense, descendant of the Dutch settlers, he nevertheless understood the trials and needs of the working class, and like the Rockefellers and Carnegies he believed in the European concept of noblesse oblige. What an idea! That those who had succeeded and become wealthy either by activity or inheritance, owed a debt to the working people whose work had contributed to their success. FDR grew up on an estate in New York with all of the things money could buy to make his life easier. After leaving Harvard and attending Columbia Law School, he left before completing his studies there and passed the New York Bar. Under Woodrow Wilson he was Secretary of the Navy having chosen public service as his career. He was a two term Governor of New York He did not need money so could not be his uncle, Teddy Roosevelt who inspired him, he knew that life should be better for the working classes in a rich country. He was a Liberal Democrat and the legislation that he pushed through the Congress has changed the lives of Americans for the 75 years since they were enacted. Let us not forget what was signed into law during his thirteen years in office.

1. Social Security, which gave people who worked hard but were too poor to save for retirement security in their old age.
2. Unemployment insurance paid for with the contributions of the employer which gave a small stipend to a worker who had lost a job through no fault of his or her own.
These are the two programs that have had the most important and lasting benefit to the working class. There were many other programs that he enacted in his first hundred days that kept the people who had lost jobs because of the severe market and banking class including the Works Progress Administration that used Federal funds to emply workers in infrastructure projects and other fields that made life better for Americans. We had a neighbor, a widow, who worked iMn San Francisco in a garment factory being paid by the WPA sewing clothing for children.
My personal knowledge of the WPA was when my father was laid off by the San Francisco Police Department (he was 60 years old, but had not worked long enough to retire) and went to work in the construction of the San Francisco Airport, which is built on a land fill, setting dynamite charges in a rock quarry in the hills above Millbrae. Though my family had increasingly benefited from the policies of FDR, he never acknowledged that fact. I did and still am a FDR Liberal intending to remind people of what the real intent of Conservative leaders and contributors is: to roll back all of the programs and legislation still in place from the New Deal.

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