GATLINBURG, Tennessee, Monday—We reached Natural Bridge on Saturday at about 7 p.m. after a most glorious drive through the Shenandoah Park. The Skyline Drive is really very beautiful. Having started late—at a quarter of 1, to be exact—we didn’t stop until nearly 3 o’clock, when we pulled out at one of the parking places with a glorious view down into a ravine and drank hot coffee. We had brought orange juice also, but our hands were so cold that we couldn’t unscrew the top. We’ve learned, however, to accept such vicissitudes with calm, and we were grateful that it happened to be the coffee which we were able to unscrew! With my usual optimism, I thought that Spring began in April, but it really was mid-Winter—beautiful, clear blue sky and cold as Greenland.
After dinner we wandered down to see the illumination and pageant. The lighting is beautiful, and gives it all a mysterious, almost prehistoric aspect. This morning after breakfast we walked down along the stream again, under the Bridge, and thought it just as impressive as it was last night. It is extraordinary to think what years it has taken of slowly dripping water to break through that stone wall, and the old arbor vitae trees, said to be over a thousand years old, were a tremendous surprise to me, for I didn’t know they ever lived that long.
Sunday’s drive began at 10:30, and, until we came in view of the Great Smokies, the scenery was not as impressive as it was yesterday. We were stopped once by a constable, who had a telegram that had evidently been following us since early morning. Miss Hickok was driving, and I cheered her by saying that, while I had no idea what she had done, I was sure we were going to be arrested, so she had the laugh on me when it turned out to be nothing more than a telegram urging me to stop at Greenville, Andrew Johnson’s birthplace. Unfortunately we had not allowed enough time for any stops along the road, and so I had to decline.
We reached Gatlinburg at about 7:30, and we are both enchanted with the hotel, in which the furniture is all made by local craftsmen. The rooms are panelled. The curtains are woven in the local craft shop. And, though it is too dark for me to be sure tonight, I have a feeling that we are going to look out tomorrow morning on a panorama of mountain tops.
The last thing we saw tonight, as we drove in, was the deep blue of the mountain sides in contrast with the white snow and the white clouds floating above, which looked almost like mountain peaks themselves. Mountains have a beauty and a calm which should have a soothing effect on the most worried of little human souls.
We’re off in the morning to Cades Cove, and I have to file this before I go, because the nearest telegraph office is in Knoxville, and I feel that, if I wait until I return in the afternoon, it might not get in in time.E.R.
Only eight more days … Funny how even the dearest face will fade away in time. Most clearly I remember your eyes, with a kind of teasing smile in them, and the feeling of that soft spot just north-east of the corner of your mouth against my lips… .
Hick my dearest—
I cannot go to bed tonight without a word to you. I felt a little as though a part of me was leaving tonight. you have grown so much to be a part of my life that it is empty without you, even though I’m busy every minute.
[details of day deleted]
Oh! darling. I hope on the whole you will be happier for my friendship. I felt I had brought you so much discomfort and hardship today & almost more heartache than you could bear & I don’t want to make you unhappy—All my love I shall be saying to you over thought waves in a few minutes.
Good night my dear one
Angels guard thee
God protect thee
My love enfold thee
All the night through
ER” —March 5, 1933
Written on the first evening after FDR’s inauguration.
The rest of the way through the city was uneventful, but it always seems to me a rather bewildering place. We reached Westbrook, and Miss Lape and Miss Read took us for a swim in the Sound. The beach near them is sandy and clean. so we enjoyed the first dip we have had this summer in salt water.
In a little while, however, people began to look at us rather curiously, and we realized that it was probably time to go home. As we drove away one lady waved her hand at me and before long I imagine every one up and down the beach would have been finding out how badly I swim!” —My Day column, August 27th, 1936
…Australia is an underdeveloped country & I doubt if many people at home have any idea of transportation difficulties. The terrain in which those boys fight is also unfamiliar to us & unbelievably difficult. I do camps, hospitals, Red [Cross] services day & evening & see men who have either been in to New Guiney & come out with a shadow on their faces but a grim hatred of the Japs or few men going in to something they knew nothing about or are ill prepared for unless they have special training at home. There have been, of course in each big city some official entertainments but I only have one of those still left to do. At dinner tomorrow night in Brisbane given by Mrs. MacArthur. I’ve only done 2 radio talks which I prepared, one in New Zealand & one in Australia. There have been several ‘few words’ daily to my varied audiences. I begin to think the job has been a good one as far as these countries are concerned but for our own men I know F. should have insisted that I go to New Guinea & Guadalcanal or not sent me.
I have lots of information for the Red [Cross]. George Durno has felt responsible for me & I think he is satisfied. He has been very kind & nice. I didn’t take the trip for pleasure & I haven’t enjoyed it, but I am very well & it hasn’t been at all tiring.
My love to you dear. I think of you & your love for travel & wonder if you would have enjoyed it.
Well, the trip is nearly half over. The people here are kind & they like F.D.R. & our marines have won all their hearts, so they are very nice to me. I make so many speeches daily that I shall soon be talked out but George Durno is a help telling me what goes well & the reverse as he watches & overhears remarks in the crowd.
These boys break your heart, but they’re so young & so tired. Malaria is almost as bad as bullets. They are hardly out of the hospitals before they are at Red Cross Clubs & dances & they laugh at everything. I take my hat off to this young generation & I hope we don’t let them down. I’ve talked to every kind of group from Maories to hospital patients, high ranking officers & the people of New Zealand.Much Love,
The Trumans have just been to lunch and nearly all that I can do is done. The upstairs looks desolate and I will be glad to leave tomorrow. It is empty and without purpose to be here now.
I’ve asked Helen and Mary Norton to come in on their way to Congress and say goodbye tomorrow and the Cabinet comes at 11. At 3 the top secretaries Steve, Dr. Mac. etc. At 3:30 office forces, at 4:30 household garage etc., at 5:30 I leave for the 6 p.m. train and so endeth a period. Franklin’s death ended a period in history and now in its wake for lots of us who lived in his shadow periods come and we have to start again under our own momentum and wonder what we can achieve. I hope you and I will be working together but as I don’t intend to take on anything new till all the business of the Estate is over, you may be at new work before I am.
I may be a bit weary when we get home tomorrow but I’m so glad you will be at the apartment. Tommy will probably be more weary than I am!Much love dear, E.R.
All day I’ve thought of you & another birthday I will be with you, & yet tonite you sounded so far away & formal. Oh! I want to put my arms around you. I ache to hold you close. Your ring is a great comfort to me. I look at it and think she does love me, or I wouldn’t be wearing it.” —March 7th, 1933
Dearest Hick, I wish too you could live in the country if you really want to do that but I think you would soon e very weary of doing no work outside a narrow circle.
Today has seen a quiet day in which my only official engagement was a lunch with the Cabinet wives & they are as dull as ours!
Cambridge [University] yesterday was interesting & my first introduction into industrial billeting. The beautiful Colleges seem on the whole to be little hurt.
Our most vivid impression I think is what a blackout of an entire city really means.
You get a curious feeling over here that nothing but people count.
A world of love,
I had my first long drive through the countryside yesterday. I had spent Wednesday night with Miss Esther Lape at her home in Westbrook, Connecticut, and in the evening we stood on an upstairs porch and saw the full moon shine on the fields, with the background of Long Island Sound in the distance. It is interesting how places retain the spirit of the people who have lived in them. This house and the woods, and the view, all speak to me of Miss Elizabeth Read, who lived there and loved it. One can almost feel her presence as one remembers the joy she had in the beauties of nature.
That is one of the reasons why I like to go there. Miss Read was a rare personality, with great ability and marked integrity. I loved and admired her very much. Now, in a world with so many problems, it is good to be reminded of the way in which she would have approached many of the complicated questions we have to think through today.” —My Day column, September 22nd, 1945