Poking around the basement in my mom’s house I unearthed a framed black and white portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The picture had been in a stack with other effects from one set of grandparents or the other. Certain this pic would probably end up in a dumpster, I packed it in my suitcase and brought it home. Our 32nd President is on display among other WWII pieces I’ve collected over the years.
What was it about Roosevelt, and his times, that earned him wall space during the Depression and war years of the United States? Today the idea of commemorating a political leader with a wall display seems laughable.
So again, why did my grandparents include FDR in their home decor?
Admiration may be one reason. FDR appeared bigger than life. The man seemed to have it all, looks, money, and a pedigree that stemmed back to the early Dutch Patroons in America. His distant cousin, who also acted as his uncle-in-law, Theodore Roosevelt, still loomed large in American memory. That Franklin Roosevelt wished to serve his countrymen in a time of economic collapse felt assuring.
The laissez faire policies of previous administrations made common widespread fraud, especially on Wall Street.The 1920’s had been a heady time of speculation on the Dow, with banks making reckless loans on high risk investments. When the party came to a screeching halt in October of 1929, the sitting Republican President, Herbert Hoover, shouldered all the blame.
That fact raises another strength of President Roosevelt.The public trusted him. While autocracies generated “cults of personality,” Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler, this candidate earned his place promising America a “New Deal.” He assured the country they had not failed, the system had forsaken them, and as their new President he meant to correct those abuses.
The choice to hang Roosevelt’s portrait came from genuine respect. The people elected FDR because he meant to serve America.
This President brought energy and purpose to the Executive Branch reaching Americans personally in their daily lives. New Deal legislation quickly translated into action with legions of new programs all designed to get folks working again. The public felt a connection to the White House that perhaps hadn’t existed before that time. Mail arrived in a vast volume, most requesting a “hand up,” not a hand out. The correspondence frequently mentioned that any financial help would be repaid. Repaid.
FDR brought electric light to rural America, and chatted with the folks via the radio in his Fireside Chats. Bridges, schools, and other large engineering projects connected the nation as never before. It’s a sure thing your town or city still bears an imprint of FDR’s time in office.
So it is with gratitude that I have placed Franklin Delano Roosevelt on my wall. After all, it’s a family tradition.
Gail Chumbley is the author of the two-part memoir, “River of January,” and “River of January: Figure Eight.” Both titles are available on Kindle. Chumbley has also authored two historical plays: “Clay” on the life of Senator Henry Clay, and “Wolf By The Ears,” concerning the evolution of racism and slavery in America.
Nothing short of brilliant, Dale Olson could expound on almost any topic. His knowledge of sports, history, and literature rendered him as a true Renaissance man. He also loved the Simpsons.
Dale Curtis Olson joined the planet on February 10, 1954.
Born and raised in Spokane he attended public schools and graduated from Joel E. Ferris in 1972. A graduate of the University of Washington in History and Political Science, he pursued jobs that carried him around the globe. With positions from Antarctica and to Johnson Island, Dale found the world his finishing school. He did not simply tour destinations, Dale relished them, as food for his soul.
His children were his books, and those surrounded him. Still news of his grandnephews and niece arrived welcome to his home.
Throughout Dale’s long trials with illness he persevered, aided in large part by our brother David. Our gratitude is heartfelt.
Dale was predeceased by our father, David E. Olson, and survived by our mother, Rita Olson. Also his sister Gail Chumbley(Chad) of Garden Valley, Idaho, brothers Stephen (Elizabeth), and David Olson of Spokane. He is remembered by all his nieces and nephews residing from Spokane to Portland, to Salt Lake City.
We will have no service, and in lieu of flowers donations to American Battlefield Trust, https://www.battlefields.org are suggested.
Oh to live on Sugar Mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons
You can’t be twenty on Sugar Mountain
Though you’re thank that you are leaving there too soon.
— Read on chumbleg.blog/2022/02/10/riverside-1973/
Before the 1974 Expo in my hometown of Spokane, Washington, the city’s downtown area was divided by social class. Riverside Avenue ran east to west, crossed by an arterial called Division, that ran north to south. That intersection literally cut the area in half. West of Division the downtown looked like the shopping scene in “A Christmas Story.” Magical tableaus filled each department store window, creating an elegant still-life to allure shoppers. To the east of Division sat run down bars, a rescue mission, and adult-only theaters dotting the grim sidewalks of despair. Consumerism connected both worlds.
In my senior year of high school, I worked at an ice cream shop situated smack dab on the dividing line. Attempting to capture the “good old days” ragtime music looped endlessly in the shop, and we all wore white dresses, and plastic skimmer hats. The clientele largely represented the reality of Riverside. Affluent shoppers, and business owners rolled in for lunch during the day, and the dispossessed wandered in at night.
The lunch rush is where the shop made money, and all waitresses were on the floor. Each day I left my high school around 11:00am arriving about 30 minutes before the onslaught. By noon we rushed table to table, chatting with the regulars, and earning pretty healthy tips.
Weekends were different, unpredictable, and the Saturday night shift catered to a different world. After dark, homeless men asked for water, while others scrounged up change to buy a cup of soup. Heartbreaking.
A late spring night in particular, stands out in my memory. Warm, with a light breeze, the shop felt like summer, leaving me restless, and anxious for graduation. The glass door facing Riverside opened, and a clutch of young women poured in, chatting and giggling like school girls. Sex workers all.
Preparing for their night, these girls crowded around the ice cream freezer, more like teenagers than high risk ladies of the night. The group was close, sharing a camaraderie that spoke of strong ties.
In the middle of the party towered a long, bronze, African-American woman. God, she was gorgeous, honestly runway material. Fascinated I watched her among her peers, laughing with the rest, while she gracefully perused the glass covered ice cream selections.
Honestly, this beauty could out Grace Jones, Grace Jones.
The starkness of her night’s work vaguely crossed my mind, but I was in the moment. Oblivious, unapologetic, she and her friends had no shit’s to give.
Weeks later I graduated, and at the end of summer headed off to college. The memory of that lithe beauty and her friends faded. The following summer, when I returned to Spokane, the face of downtown had been completely transformed. The railroad tracks, the bums, the skin flicks, and the girls had all vanished. The exciting facelift for Expo ‘74 displaced the rundown skid row of my childhood.
It’s now that I’m retired that that ice creamery, and the beautiful girl again live in my memory. I know now that I had choices, I had support, and a college education. But those residents of east Riverside, those belles of the street? It is impossible to know how life played out for them. Surely these people of the night were displaced, migrating where rail tracks, and sex workers could ply their trade, out of site, and away from the gentry.
I hope life turned out better than it probably did for these marginalized folk. But that warm spring night still holds a magical quality; one of beauty and of bleakness. A grim reality of a life I never lead.
Gail Chumbley is the author of the two-part memoir “River of January,” and “River of January: Figure Eight. She has authored two plays, “Clay,” about the life of Senator Henry Clay, and “Wolf By The Ears,” a narrative of slavery in America.
David Edward Olson came into the world at a difficult time. Depression plagued the US economy, and tyrants emerged overseas. Born on June 15, 1932 the child grew to manhood in rural Wadena County, Minnesota., In defiance of hard times, young David was a happy, shiny spirit; always a welcome visitor to the many homes of his extended family.
In 1950 the 18-year-old followed his friends into the Minnesota National Guard, which was soon nationalized for duty in the Korean War. A whiz with automobiles, David drove trucks for Uncle Sam, fulfilling his military duty by 1952. While away his parents relocated to Spokane, Washington, and David followed them west.
It was in Spokane, on a blind date, that David met the woman who would change his life, Rita Tucker. Hired on at Kaiser Aluminum in Mead, David and Rita soon married, bought a house and began their family. Coming of age in post war America, the couple embodied American prosperity, enjoying new cars, vacationing via the brand new interstate system, loading up the kids for drive-in movies, and Sunday afternoons cruising the countryside.
With his children and friends Dave loved to hunt, fish, and cut wood in the forests around Spokane. It was at Cocolalla Lake that Dave taught his, and everybody else’s kids how to play. He spent hours swimming, boating, and pulling skiers across that pristine little lake. Those were the best times.
After retiring from Kaiser, Dave turned his kindness to service for others in the community. For fifteen plus years he volunteered for the Spokesman Review’s Christmas Bureau. Additionally Dave gave his time to the Catholic Charities Food Bank, Meals On Wheels, delivering bakery goods to the Union Gospel, and transporting those in need to medical appointments.
Every morning for the last twenty years Dave was a regular with his dog-walking companions at Lincoln Park. Leading first his little buddy Toivo, then Padfoot the Pug, Dave met other dog lovers who became his dearest friends through his declining years. And the highlight of his week was Thursday dinner with the Post Office bunch.
David was preceded in death by his parents Kurtz and Mabel Olson, and his sister Marie. He is survived by his wife, Rita, his sister Susan, sons Dale, Stephen (Betsy), and David of Spokane, and his daughter, Gail Chumbley (Chad) of Garden Valley, Idaho. David loved his many grandchildren, and great grandchildren; his pride and joy.
Gail Chumbley is the author of the two-part memoir, “River of January,” and “River of January: Figure Eight.” Both titles are available on Kindle.