There is nothing like the thrill of seeing the President of United States in your own backyard. Memories of these visits last for generations. Parents telling children and their children telling their children. Here are some of the highlights of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's visit to Central Florida.
Thousands of Central Florida residents came to see President Franklin Roosevelt in March of 1936. The President traveled to Winter Park, Florida where he was conferred the honorary degree of Doctorate of Literature at Rollins College. The First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, had previously been honored by the presentation of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan medallion. As the President read his speech from a manuscript he remarked with a smile that this service gave him the first opportunity of seeing his "better half "in cap and gown.
"At last I have attained a lifelong ambition," he said with a laugh. "At last my literary qualifications have been recognized and I am sure this is not because of the speeches I have written or the books of which I have been the author, but because at one time I was editor of my college paper."
After the chapel services at Rollins College, the President, the First Lady and their party rode with a motorcade of 15 vehicles through Winter Park and then on into Orlando. The parade through Orlando streets resulted in a crowd of close to 100,000 people, all waving enthusiastically. At the end of the parade the President and the First Lady bid each other goodbye. She had to go to Jacksonville for a speaking engagement, and the President continued on his journey to the East Coast to catch a train.
Accompanying the President was Florida's Governor Dave Sholtz. A large security force of federal, state and local police were mobilized to protect the President. Sheriff Roy F. Roberts, and Sheriff Hand of Orange County escorted the President via Cheney Avenue for the trip to Titusville.
The streets of the county were patriotically decorated for the occasion; roads were lined by school children and citizens from every section of Brevard County. Newspaper estimates reported there were some eight or ten thousand people who gave all gave lusty cheers for the President as he passed.
Local school children from the fifth grade up through the twelfth were transported to Titusville in school buses to see their Executive Chief. Reports that national guardsman in uniforms armed with rifles with bayonets were stationed in the streets of North Brevard. A student from Cocoa reported this event well. Through the eyes of this young writer, a letter to the editor was published in the Cocoa Tribune, "Flags flew from the houses in the breeze, streets were gaily decorated, and a continuous stream of cars hummed up the highway. Soldiers and policemen were everywhere on motorcycle and on foot. It was whispered that plain clothes men were all about us."
The President chuckled as he entered Titusville at a special presentation of the Mighty Haag Circus Management. Here he found a parade bearing humorous political significance which included a mule with a rider, labeled F. D.R, followed by two elephants on which sat men placarded as "Hoover, Landon, Knox, and Borah. " A donkey carried an individual who bore another placard naming him, "Al Smith, Liberty Leaguer," while yet another walked with a placard on his back which read, "Eugene Talmadge, please let me ride something. "
Finally, The President boarded his special train, and a couple of boxes of Indian River oranges were loaded for his enjoyment. The crowd cheered as the train left Titusville and headed to Port Everglades in South Florida that would take him to a naval ship. An exciting trip was planned as he would give his new Presidential yacht the Potomac its maiden voyage. The fishing trip was planned to a mysterious part of the Caribbean - the Tongue of the Atlantic.
© Copyright 2011: Ray Osborne. All rights reserved.