the past is just around the corner

I have now watched all of the episodes of The Roosevelts.  And no, I'm not going to reflect on war, poverty, child labor, discrimination... Well, actually, I reflect (obsess) on one or more of those topics much of the time, but this isn't the forum for sharing my little and probably unoriginal thoughts on global problems.  Let us proceed to the individual and the personal, where I can comment as expansively or as pettily as I wish.

Even in his own time, Franklin had the reputation of being a "cad," which is the description then accorded a guy who was a rat with women. As more and more years go by, and more and more material is made public, I expect more and more details of his caddishness to emerge. Things like that just do. Eleanor, whose reputation was that of a good person or an interfering do-gooder (depending on how you voted and how you lived), had "special friendships," which were gossiped about, but it seems that even her detractors didn't seriously object to her having "special friends." And good for her!

Everything sped up as we careened past the end of one century and started rocketing towards the middle of the age of unbounded media, so I fully expect to live to see a spate of books and articles in which young women with minor careers and smug smiles trumpet their sexual triumphs with any number of more recent politicians, heads of foundations and other public figures. I'm sad for their children and grandchildren. I read an interview with a woman who worked in the JFK White House in which she seemed to think that what she was doing was serving her country. Who would have expected some of these people to brag about their exploits and get them published?

Anyway, I have now watched all seven episodes, and have decided that History Lite has its place after all. It's a good way to introduce the History Began With Moi generation to the concept of The Past.

On a more cheerful note:  Sagamore Hill is a great place - to go inside you need a reservation, and these can be difficult to arrange, especially during school field trip season. I went there on a school field trip, and again on a family trip, and I recommend it.

If you come to New York City and can't arrange to get out on Long Island to Sagamore Hill, the famous double Roosevelt House at 47-49 East 65th Street that Sara built for Franklin and Eleanor and her Own Royal Self is right around the corner from the J.Crew Collection Store on Madison Avenue at the corner of East 66th Street. The house still stands, although the inside has seen much modification.

I'm serious - when we travel,  Himself makes a list of restaurant destinations and I make lists of the historic and cultural destinations on the way to or from, or in the same towns as, the restaurants. I see no reason why this approach should not be useful for shopping. Or, conversely, for choosing which historic sites to visit.


  1. Love this! I've been thinking that too, that new people in the news think they have invented scandal when it fact much more raunchier things have happened in the past. Eleanor was reputedly a terrible cook and didn't care about food or housework which rather endears her to me.

  2. Yes, a young diplomat remembered being warned to "eat first" before attending a state dinner - the terrible food served at the White House was said to be part of her getting even with FDR.

    1. I just saw photo you have in your other blog post in a book today. Gosh she was beautiful wasn't she, generous open features. While is the White House, and like many women of her generation, she seemed eternally old

  3. It is amazing what went on behind closed doors. Now, unfortunately, it's all up in your face.

  4. Replies
    1. we did a marathon of the last 3 episodes, balanced take-out Szechuan food on our laps. We both just wanted to get through some parts, others were new and startling.

  5. I haven't seen this series but love that Eleanor hated housework. She sounds like my kind of gal. Of course being a terrible cook to get even with her husband makes her sort of a hero in my book :)

    1. hah! reply finally started working again! Blogger has been very moody of late....

      anyway, my understanding is that Eleanor gave instructions to the White House cooks that spending on food be kept low (because of the economy) and that everything be overcooked to a fare-thee-well because of germs. Not just family meals or working lunches, state dinners too! No wonder the King of England was thrilled to get a hot dog...

  6. I couldn't begin to count how many times I have walked by this home without ever knowing its history. I always try to zig-zag my way through the city and notice all the beautiful homes. Thanks for the information about this one. I will find it this weekend.

  7. I will have to look out for the series. Sounds fascinating. If he was a cad, then power to her for spoiling the cooking and taking on special friends. People can be rotten but at least they leave beautiful houses behind...


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