PRIMARILY PRESIDENTIAL DESTINATIONS: FDR AND WARM SPRINGS IN GEORGIA
Welcome to this series on Presidential Destinations. Last week we delved into the rich history of FDR’s birthplace and life-long home, but there is another residence you must explore to understand FDR – Warm Springs.
FDR’s Impact on History
Trying to convey the impact of FDR on American and World History is not within the scope of this blog, but it is a huge legacy. The countless books, TV shows and movies devoted to the subject demonstrate how curious people are about him. One of the most highly acclaimed endeavors of this sort was the made-for-TV movie, Warm Springs. I remember watching it with great interest, but unlike many people it was not my first encounter with Warm Springs.
Family Visits to Warm Springs
My family lived in Georgia during most of my elementary years and Georgia is a long way from Texas, which we all called home. Whenever we could, we’d make the long drive to visit our Texan roots, because hopping on a plane for travel was a phenomena of the future. Sure there were planes, but middle class families like ours never even considered them as a possible means of transportation. But it was two long days of driving to get to Texas and two long days back to Georgia, so unless my Dad could get off for two weeks and we could afford the trip, we had to make do with vacations close by.
This meant that we swam on Myrtle and Edisto Beaches in South Carolina, shopped in Macon and Atlanta, escaped to Callaway Gardens and visited important historical sites in Georgia. One of the historical sites we visited while I was in first or second grade was Warm Springs. History didn’t mean as much to me then as it does now, so what I remember most from that trip was the overpowering peace I felt strolling through the pines with my mom, dad and sister. It seems I can remember Mother trying to impress on me the importance of the man who came there to recover his health and also some lessons about not being handicapped by whatever befalls you, but all that was a long time ago.
However, once I’d been introduced to Warm Springs, like our Thirty-second president, I found reasons to return. Perhaps the trip to Warm Springs I remember best came in my late twenties. We’d returned to Texas when I was eleven, but I was in Atlanta for a convention. I used the convention as an excuse to visit favorite places in Georgia, so Warm Springs was on my list. History was very important to me by that time and I remember solemnly considering all the historical matter available in the park. I saw the car Roosevelt traveled in to hide his polio. I studied pictures of his servants and read tributes written by them. I walked through modest buildings which were hard to connect with an illustrious name like Roosevelt, even before I’d seen Springwood. It was interesting, but I found nothing that re-ignited the warm spot in my heart.
Then I walked away from the historical displays and into the pines again. I was immediately transported to that peaceful happy time with my family. I like to think that I shared that feeling of happiness and peace with FDR. The therapeutic remedies of the natural springs could not cure his polio, though they did offer him some relief, but I think Warm Springs offered more than physical relief. There were plenty of cottages he could rent, if all he needed was a dip in the springs, but while he was still Governor of New York, before he became president, he built a home at Warm Springs.
They called Springwood the Summer White House, but Warm Springs was the Little White House. The Summer White House was where FDR entertained the world, but I think the Little White House re-energized his soul. Many of FDR’s best ideas are purported to have originated in Warm Springs. He actually died at Warm Springs. Perhaps his soul didn’t want to leave that quiet place again.
More in Georgia
Though Texas will always be home, there’s a warm place in my heart for Georgia. It is a beautiful state with a lot to see. Visiting Atlanta requires several days if you want to see it properly, but if you get to Atlanta, save a few of those days to travel southeast of the big city. Callaway Gardens will take your breath away – especially in the spring, when the azaleas are blooming and you don’t want to miss the Little White House.
Why do you think FDR worked so hard to hide his polio from the American people? Could a modern day president hide anything that important? Would the media cooperate with the cover-up? Do you think FDR was right or should he have opened up and shared his story with the world?