Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Floating White House”

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Floating White House”
Oakland, California
Roosevelt’s WPA Battles Catastrophic
Floods and Fires
By Edward I. Bloom
It should be remembered that the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a program of FDR’s New Deal, was not a make-work program for the chronically
unemployed, as some of its critics claimed. In fact, the program was conceived
and implemented to provide work on badly needed projects for many communities throughout the country, thereby pumping money into the local economy and
providing employment for those unable to find work. Additionally, it provided an
in-place workforce to respond to emergency needs including those caused by the
Great Flood of the Ohio Valley in 1937, and the long-standing underground coal
fire in eastern Ohio.
In March of 1937, early spring floods followed an unusually heavy rainfall and
snow melt, causing massive flooding from New England to the Ohio River, and
ultimately leaving more than 500 people dead and nearly one million homeless
in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Illinois. Along with the Army Corp of Engineers
continued on page 3
Potomac Association
President Carla Betts,
and Red and White
Fleet CEO Thomas
Escher “tie” the ribbon
for the new partnership.
Fall Edition
Eleanor Roosevelt & Child Care
Making the case for working
mothers during the war years
by Paulette Langguth . . . . . . . 2
Marti’s Musings…
A Scrimshaw Sailor . . . . . . . 3
Notes from the Archives…
FDR Visits the Port of Oakland
“Found” photos and a rare look
at FDR’s review of the US Fleet
by Hank Laney, Curator . . . . 4
WWII Day of Remembrance
The Potomac sails back into history to honor America’s Greatest
by Brad Bunnin. . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Friends of the Potomac
The most important page in this
issue. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7
2010 Cruise Schedule
Still lots to choose from before
the season ends – come cruising
with us now! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Special Offer
Discount coupon for Potomac
cruises. Offer good through
November 11, 2010
“Mr. President”
holds a conference
aboard the Potomac
with delegates from
the Event and Travel
Visit the USS Potomac on
Events and Cruises
Student Tours
Private Charters
Become a Friend of the Potomac
Eleanor Roosevelt and Child Care:
Finding Friends in Private Industry
Eleanor met with Henry Kaiser and his son, Edgar, while
visiting the Kaiser Company Shipyard in Portland, Oregon
(where women made up 60 percent of the work force). Under the leadership of Edgar Kaiser, plans were put in place
to construct a spectacular child care center, complete with
the newest play equipment, the most sophisticated teaching
devices, a cafeteria staffed by nutritionists, and an infirmary
staffed by nurses and doctors. The Swan Island Center was a
Head Start program a quarter of a century ahead of its time.
In its first year of operation it served nearly two thousand
children, and its success stimulated war plants and shipyards
nationwide to provide child care. It was estimated that each
child care center serving forty mothers made possible eight
thousand productive worker hours monthly. Locally, the
Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, CA had 14 child care sites
during the war years. When the shipyards closed and federal
funding for child care dried up, there were still many women
who wanted or needed to continue working. The Richmond
community lobbied the federal and state government to continue the funding. California became one of only a few states
that continued to support child care after the war.
By Paulette Langguth
In 1942, President Roosevelt, at Eleanor’s urging, approved
the first government-sponsored child care center under the
Community Facilities Act. This Act provided local aid to
war-impacted communities for schools, hospitals, water and
sewers, and recreational facilities. Six additional centers
were funded in Connecticut, Texas, and North Carolina, but
the total number of children covered was only 105,000 when
there were an estimated two million who needed care.
In 1943, the absentee rate for women working in war industries soared,
greatly affecting production. Never
one to be content working quietly behind the scenes, and being a long-time
advocate for women working outside
the home, Eleanor Roosevelt set out to
bring about changes that would result
in benefits for the thousands of women
working to support their country, their armed forces, and
their families. To identify issues affecting working women,
Eleanor traveled across the country from Portland, Maine,
to Portland, Oregon, conducting interviews in shipyards
and plants. She found that the demands of traveling miles
to get to work, holding down a full-time job, and providing
care for children, was overwhelming the workers. Women
reported that they often had to miss day shifts in order to
purchase groceries - if they waited to shop at the end of the
day, the shelves were nearly empty and the stores ready to
close. Following her interviews, Eleanor proposed a number of creative solutions such as staggering the opening and
closing times of the factories, keeping banks and department
stores open at night, encouraging butchers to hold back part
of their meat supply until 6 PM, and asking war plants to
hire personal shoppers for the women to take their orders
in the morning, and have the filled grocery bags waiting at
the door at the end of the shift. In addition, her fact-finding
established that:
Though the needs of
working mothers were
never fully met, nearly
$50 million would be
spent on child care before the war came to
an end, $3 million for
construction of new
centers and $47 million
for operating expenses.
By the summer of l945,
Day Care at Kaiser Industries
more than a million and
a half children would be in child care programs.
*While the United States government was actively recruiting women workers during WWII, there were segments of
society strongly opposed to married women being employed
outside the home. In 1943, The Catholic World published
an editorial that stated, “Women who maintain jobs outside
their homes… weaken family life, endanger their own marital happiness, rob themselves of man’s protective capabilities, and by consequence, decrease the number of children.”
New York’s Mayor LaGuardia argued, “The worst mother is
better than the best institution.” And the Minneapolis Chief
of Welfare, John O. Louis, proclaimed, “The child should
be cared for by its own mother, and only in those instances
where inadequacies of physical surrounding or mental and
moral environment make it absolutely necessary should the
child be placed outside the home.”
• More than three million women had entered the work force for the first time between 1940 and 1942
• Three million more were expected to enter the
workforce before the war was over
• 75 percent of these women were married
• 60 percent were over the age of 35
• More than 33 percent had children under the age of 14
Armed with this impressive data, Eleanor stepped up her
campaign for child care. She was convinced, and rightly so,
that without adequate child care programs children would be
at risk and face the very real dangers of neglect.*
Sources: No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin
WPA Battles continued from page 1
and the National Guard, the WPA was an immediately available resource used to fill
sandbags along levees and provide food and emergency shelter for the flood refugees.
The WPA bypassed bureaucratic regulations that bogged down the railroads by renting
trucks to ship needed surplus commodities, food, and clothing to the flood areas. WPA
carpenters assembled lumber in the streets and hastily built fleets of rafts, avoiding
more red tape while waiting for the Coast Guard to bring small vessels to the flooded
areas. Over 200,000 WPA workers were used during the cleanup, from West Virginia to
Tennessee, to build sanitary privies over sewer manholes, construct wooden catwalks
to bring in emergency supplies, clean refuse from city streets, haul away garbage, and
set up field kitchens. In addition, WPA sewing rooms provided needed clothing to those
who had lost everything.
The underground coal fires in southeastern Ohio, primarily around New Straitsville,
had been raging for more than fifty years, and probably started at the time of a labor
dispute in the 1880’s. All efforts to put out these coal fires had failed. The WPA was
engaged to assist in the effort, and on October 10, 1936, digging on the first of three large open trenches was started. The
plan was to excavate coal ahead of the fire and then to fill the trench with a non-flammable mixture of clay, mud, and rock,
creating the equivalent of a firebreak.
Each trench was 25 feet wide and ranging in length from 525 feet to a mile-and-a-half. WPA workers followed the earthmoving machines, removing by hand all flammable materials left behind, and delivered any usable coal to families on relief.
In the spring of 1937, work on the trenches was completed, and by April the first of the coal fires approaching the smallest
of these open trenches was finally stopped. The firebreak created by the two larger trenches had successfully put out all the
remaining coal fires by January of 1940.
Today, as we follow the cleanup for the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill, it is valuable to recall an earlier period when the WPA
was used to address major disasters.
Source: American Made, the Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR
Put the Nation to Work – Nick Taylor
Link to - FDR “chit” to Harry Hopkins about Works Program, July 6, 1938
Link to Grace Tully Archives –
Link to previous article on the WPA by Edward I. Bloom
MARTI’S MUSINGS…Remembering a true Scrimshaw Sailor
Recently, I was most saddened to hear of the passing of long-time volunteer and friend of
the Potomac, Bruce Waygood. Bruce was a one-of-a-kind personality with a heart as big as
the Pacific. Ask Bruce to find something ship related on the waterfront, and the word “cumshaw” comes readily to mind. He was truly one of the funniest, dearest, and most talented
of the Potomac’s incredible volunteers. He will be sorely missed and fondly remembered.
Our own “Mr. President,” Dr. Kurt Lauridsen, sums it up: “Thank you for sharing this very
sad news. I recall a section in Reader’s Digest when I was a kid called The Most Unforgettable Character I Have Ever Met. Surely Bruce would qualify for that section. He was certainly an outsized personality.”
“Very much a great sailor, he was equally talented with salty language. He could produce a great and grumbling facade that
would scare anyone off, and yet, he was an extraordinarily humane man with a deep belief in the goodness of the ordinary
person. I heard that salty talk more than once when he saw an injustice to the common man. He introduced me to the Jeremiah O’Brien and Admiral Tom Patterson, and thus gave me many enjoyable trips aboard that ship. I once had the privilege
of touring his warehouse on the docks. What an amazing collection of ‘things.’ I thought it best not to ask where it all came
from. But I still have a ship’s wheel in my den thanks to that visit.”
“I will miss him.”
waterfront. Waiting for him at the
Port was the USS
he would board to
review the fleet. It
was most impressive and had been
gathering in the
Bay for hours. All
Navy Band playing as FDR arrives
was halted and ferry routes changed. The ships, consisting of 8 battleships, 9
heavy cruisers, 35 destroyers, 5 light cruisers, 7 submarines,
and 1 carrier with 5 auxiliary vessels, stretched in four rows
from the Bay Bridge to Hunter’s Point.
By Hank Laney, Curator
FDR Visits Port of Oakland
Few people know about the President’s historic visit to the Bay Area on July 14, 1938, and his
boarding the cruiser USS Houston at Oakland for a review of
the US Battle Fleet in the San Francisco Bay.
After arriving in Crockett by train, FDR joined a 25-car
cavalcade that traveled rapidly through Vallejo, San Rafael,
and on to San Francisco. His only stop
at this point was
at the Mare Island
Naval Shipyard. As
the President’s car
crossed the Golden
Gate Bridge a huge
“welcome” banner
hung from the south
tower. There was a
daylight fireworks
display and a 21gun salute from the
FDR crosses Golden Gate Bridge into SF
As the President boarded the USS Houston, more than 30
ships boomed a simultaneous 21-gun salute. The cruiser
then left the dock
for a two-hour review. Individual
salutes were given
as the Houston
the rows of ships
in review. Another mass salute
marked the President’s departure FDR arriving at gangway to USS Houston
from the Houston.
In all, 672 guns were fired for multiple salutes such as never
heard before in the Bay Area.
Tens of thousands waited along the parade route down Van
Ness Avenue, while another 50,000 cheered the President in
his bunting-draped car when he arrived at the Civic Center.
The crowd’s enthusiasm was marked by banners, cheers and
yells, and all along the route FDR responded with his famous
grin and a great deal of exuberant hat waving. Some 1,000
luncheon guests awaited his arrival on Treasure Island. Since
his motorcade was running late, the Secret Service agents ordered that lunch not be served until the President was seated.
At the luncheon, the President gave a broadcast speech that
emphasized his hope for a permanent international peace,
and a reduction in world armament. “We stand to meet
them,” he said, “and encourage them in any efforts they may
make toward a definite reduction in world armament.” As
he appealed for world armament reduction, the President
promised that the Mare Island Navy Yard would have a $20
million cruiser contract. At the same time, FDR pointed out
that the US outlay for armaments was still far less than those
of other powers.
At 10 PM, the President left the cruiser and went by car to
the Oakland Mole where his train was waiting. He traveled
that night to Yosemite, touring the park the next day. Leaving Yosemite, the President traveled by train to San Diego
where the USS Houston was waiting to take him through the
Panama Canal.
I first learned about this visit when I came across an unmarked envelope in our archives containing a number of
dated snapshots of his arrival at Oakland. Some notes on
the back of the photos indicated that they were of FDR’s
arrival at the USS Houston. I had not heard of this before.
Intrigued, I went to the library and printed microfiche copies
of the Bay Area newspapers for that day. The coverage was
spectacular and told the whole story. Not only was the visit
historic for the Port of Oakland, but how would the President
have known it would eventually be the home for his beloved
USS Potomac.
He then traveled to the Port of Oakland, where 2,000 Boy
Scouts lined the route along Maritime Street and the Oakland
Neither we, nor any nation, will accept disarmament while
neighbor nations arm to the teeth.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (Radio Address, October 26, 1938)
Additional photos,
National Day of Remembrance on the Bay
By Brad Bunnin
Just last month, Congress named the second Sunday in August a National Day of Remembrance for World War II. On V-J
Day, August 14, 1945, the day World War II ended, I was six years old, certainly old enough to have a childish but pretty
good idea of what the last four years meant to our country and the world.
Now, on V-J Day 2010, I’m… a lot older (you can do the math!), and I have a much better idea of what this day means.
On this day, aboard the USS Potomac’s Remembrance Cruise, we were mindful of both victory and loss. On this day, we
remembered those who came to be called the Greatest Generation.
Our beloved Potomac and its Navy crew
served well before and during the war,
whether to provide a place of respite for
President Roosevelt, or as a means of
transport (and subterfuge—a stand-in Secret Service agent donned the President’s
clothes and dropped a fishing line over
the fantail after the President left the Potomac for his crucial meeting with Winston
Churchill). Upon our entry into the war, the
Navy re-commissioned the Potomac as a
sonar test ship as part of its coastal defense.
The ship honored many significant figures of the time on this Day of Remembrance
with the presence of the late President Roosevelt, portrayed in his inimitable fashion
with grin, boat cloak, and cigarette holder atilt by Kurt Lauridsen; President Harry S.
Truman, who presided over the war’s conclusion at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, portrayed by Brad Bunnin; Edith Shain,
America’s most famous nurse, caught in a sailor’s embrace in Times Square by Life photographer Alfred Eisenstadt, and
portrayed in her Red Cross nurse’s uniform by Dr. Elaine Ashby; the kissing Navy man, never before positively identified,
and enthusiastically represented by Larry Farrell; and, a Red Cross volunteer, one
of thousands who eased the lives and lifted
the morale of our soldiers, sailors, flyers, the
Coast Guard, and merchant mariners, played
by Gary Maxey.
Our historical cast wore authentic garb and
displayed authentic feelings about the solemn
yet joyous day the war came to its end. The
Potomac’s 80 passengers joined in the celebration, sharing stories and moments of silence
as the ship sailed back into history. As usual,
many of the ship’s guests responded to our historical characters as if they were the real thing.
Bill Hodges, whose narration while underway gave depth and purpose to the
day, and whose Walter Winchell interview with the Presidents completed a
Click Poster to link to photo story by
remarkable day, deserves special thanks!
Potomac EMT volunteer, Lee Ditlefsen
History Cruises
Special History Cruises
1st and 3rd Thursday
2nd and 4th Saturday
May thru October
10:30AM ~ 12:30PM
$45.00 Adults, $40.00 Seniors
$25.00 Under 12
Groups of 20 or more: $35.00 each
October 23 ~ Three Bridges of the Bay
November 4 ~ Characters of the Bay
10:30AM ~ 1:30PM includes lunch
$65.00 Adults, $60.00 Seniors
Children under 12 are free
November 11 ~ Veterans Day (2 Cruises)
10:30AM and 1:30PM
Dockside Tours
Fall Music Series
Blue Grass and Bach on Board
Wednesday, Friday & Sunday
Year Round ~ 11:00AM to 3:00PM
$10.00 Adults, $8.00 Seniors
October 7 ~ 49 Special
October 21 ~ Kathy Kallik
$27.50 per person, 7:30 to 9:30 PM
Go to Potomac Discount Offer
For information or reservations go to or call 510-627-1215
The Potomac Association
No part of this publication may be
reproduced without the written permission
of the publisher.
Board of Governors and Staff
Michael Roosevelt, Chairman
Carla Betts, President
Tom Morehouse, 1st Vice President
Art Haskell, CFO
Jean Gaskill, Secretary
Trivia Question
What was the name of FDR’s railroad car?
The Magellan
540 Water Street
P.O. Box 2064 Oakland, CA 94604
Telephone: 510-627-1215
The Potomac Currents is published
by the Association for the Preservation
of the Presidential Yacht, Potomac, Inc.
Editor: Virginia Rapp
Layout and Design: David McGraw
Editorial Board: Marti Burchell, Ed Bloom,
Rich Knowles, Les Marks, Hank Laney,
Brad Bunnin and David McGraw
Electronic Distribution: Karen Lyberger
Webmaster: Tom Howard
Walter Abernathy, Rick Anderson,
Mary Bergan, Joe Brennan, David Connolly,
Curtis Davies,Virginia Furth,
Judy Goff-Roveda, Al Groh,
Hal Marsh, James McCloud,
Denny McLeod, Ron Paredes, Jeff Sturm,
Kirk Rowlands, Richard Zampa
Marti Burchell, Executive Director
Craig Newton, Ship Keeper
The USS Potomac Association acknowledges the following individuals and organizations
for their generous donations.
Kieretsu Forum
Port of Oakland
Ken & Carla Betts
Joe Brennan & Jan Tiura
Jean & Barbara Gaskill
Dale Hansen
Stanley Jacobsen &
Emmy Werner
Denny & Ruth McLeod
Waterfront Plaza Hotel
Y. H. Soda Foundation
Walter Abernathy
Rick Anderson
CA Field Iron Workers Admin
Dr Jacob Deegan
Willis Deming
William & Marsha Dillon
Virginia Furth
Dale Hansen
Arthur Haskell
Tom Howard*
Kurt Lauridsen
Matson Navigation
Judy Goff-Roveda
Dan Strohl
John Tuttle & Doug Drummond
Richard Zampa – District Council of Ironworkers
Mary Bergan
Don & Cathy DeCoss
James & Rebecca Eisen
Tom & Carol Morehouse
Kirk Rowlands
John & Clem Underhill
Beverly Voelker
Gilbert Williams & Anne
David Lee Woods &
Phyllis D Chambers
Pat & Barbi Carson
Ronald Casassa
Art & Ardeth Dreshfeld
Les & Elaine Dropkin
Olaf Elander
Norman & Edna Eltringham
Pete Geffen
Albert Groth
Martine Habib
Nancy Kickertz
Bill & Mollie Kinney
ABC Security Service
Gail & Bruce Adair*
Glenn Aitkens
Carol Anderson
Ron & Judy Arrants
Bruce Baur
Gene Bell
Miriam Bloomberg
James Bolen
Donald Bonney
John & Susan Bradley
Roland Brandel
Brad Bunnin*
Marti Burchell
Windy & Jerry Butler
Vern & Alice Carrier
Ted & Lynda Chenoweth
Dave Connally
Fred Cunningham
Charles & Jacqueline Del
Al Dessayer
Lee Ditlefsen
Robert Eakin & Avis Hendley
Thomas Escher*
Arthur Fatum*
Dorothy & Julie Filice
Vickie Gregg
Bonnie & Earl Hamlin
Mavourneen Harshman
Leroy & Marlene Hintzman
Capt Walter Jaffee
Ramon Aguilar
Sally Beck & David Brossard
Richard Black
Ted Brown
Carol Campbell
Steven Colman
Angelique & Yann
Gus Dorough
Susan LaMay
Georgia Edlund
Elizabeth Hannon
Heinold’s First & Last Chance
Howard Herman
Michael Hogan
Esther Jennings
Colleen Kelly-Prola
Rich Knowles & Merlyn
Jack Lapidos
James McCloud
David & Myrna McGraw
Angeline Papestafan
Stuart & Vallyn Proffitt
Virginia Rapp
Michael Roosevelt
Gordon Seligson
Deborah Tharp
Marvin Jensen
Carol Johnston
John & Donna Kaehms
Charley Kearns & Frank Ching
Lawrence Kellogg Jr
Kenneth & Margo Kingsbury
John Klip
Neal & Nancy Lambly
Daniel Lamey
Jack Lapidos
Lawrence & Emily Lohr
Patricia MacLean
John McCredie
Thomas Murray
Jim O’Connor
Herbert Ploch
Art & Carrell Rankin
Virginia Rapp
Joseph & Bonnie Reid
Mitch Salzman
Jon & Fran Siler
Jerry & Lovene Silsdorf
Elaine Stanley
Ruby Tilley
Lee Velde
Wanda Viviano
Beverly Voelker
Cynthia Weiss
John & Marilyn Welland
Mary Whitehead
Ruth Ann Yager
Susan LaMay*
Sandra Lundgren
Lucy John
Ronald Louis
Arthur Mark*
Robert Matz
Brian McDonald
William Memmer
Dawn Muller
Cathy O’Brien
William Peeters
Herbert Ploch
Brenda Price
Harold Rice*
Maurice Robichaud
Kathy Szumiloski
Robert Woodruff
Tom Bernitt
James Flander
Mike Gregory
Dave Connolly
Al Groh
Richard Zampa
Since January 2010, union organizations throughout the San Fransisco Bay Area have contributed more than
$8,000 specifically to support the Educational Cruises. See full list.
*Contributor to the Potomac IPO – Ship Shares Program
Note: Questions or comments about the above listing may be referred to Gordon Seligson, email:
[email protected] or write to the Friends of the Potomac, P.O. Box 2064, Oakland, CA 94604.