Wednesday, May 21, 2014

1334 President Roosevelt Walking Up a Ramp

That sounds like a title of something, doesn’t it?  Maybe a painting in a museum or a short, grainy, black and white movie?

Well, it’s a movie alright.  And it’s pretty short.  Eight seconds.

President Roosevelt had polio and could not move his legs.  When you saw him standing it was only because he was wearing iron leg braces.  Mostly you saw him seated.

Jimmy DeShong of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was a major league baseball player and a shutter bug. Played for the Philadelphia Athletics, the New York Yankees and the Washington Senators.  He had just gotten a new eight millimeter camera and had it with him at the All Star Game in Washington. Pretty high tech for 1937. Talk about a Kodak Moment.

So Jimmy was shooting home movies instead of warming up in the bullpen and here comes President Roosevelt in an open car.  Jimmy rolls film.  A fellow passenger, probably his son James, helps the president out of the car and Roosevelt, his arm still being held, appears to walk up a ramp to his seat.

Roosevelt couldn’t move his legs.  But he learned a kind of hip toss that allowed him to swing them.  

Jimmy’s descendents just donated that film to the Pennsylvania State Museum. Note, donated. Not sold, lent, rented but donated.

People knew the President couldn’t walk on his own. But they didn’t think much about it.  It didn’t come up often.  And when it did, the secret service confiscated the camera.

The Evil Media cooperated with FDR’s wishes and kept its collective eyes closed.

Somehow, none of the palace guard noticed Jimmy’s camera.  Either that or he outran them, which is something most major leaguers could do then without performance-enhancing substances or stratospheric paydays.

But now we see Roosevelt as we’ve never seen him before.

And it changes our perspective.  He doesn’t look feeble by any stretch of the imagination.  But he does look vulnerable, which is not the impression anyone got when thinking about him, looking at film or photographs or hearing him speak.

In today’s climate, the affliction would get all the attention.  There would be debate about his ability to lead from a wheelchair.  It would be a campaign issue. As a country, we couldn’t afford that in 1937.  We had a depression to end and a war to win.

We can’t afford that kind of mental clutter now, either.  But that doesn’t stop us from lining up to dish it out or scoop it up.


--Finally, a way to solve the football problem, go the way of Governor’s Stadium at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, northwest of Nashville, where a 40 foot sinkhole has opened in the endzone.  Step two, open the thing up to the size of a football field and fill it with the walls of the stadium, then cover it over with grass and turn it into a park.  But, alas, they’re working to fix it and figure the work will be done before the start of the football season.


-Peay is pronounced “pea.”

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2014

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