DECEMBER 4, 1939
WASHINGTON, Sunday—I felt yesterday as though I had been handed some extra time which just dropped out of the sky, and I can assure you I used every minute of it! Christmas presents took up the afternoon and the usual mail took up the morning.
A letter has come to me which so well describes the way in which many people have to struggle in their lives, that I use it in my column today. Of course, the letter, itself, goes into greater detail than I am able to give you here, but I think even the excerpts paint a picture which we should all remember at this season.
"My son was eleven months old when his daddy died. He is now thirteen and a half years old. He belongs to a Boy Scout troop sponsored by the church. He is assistant patrol leader and has passed second class examination. He is industrious. He has been selling magazines since he was eleven. Since last Christmas, he has paid $45 for a bike to deliver magazines. This past summer he sold papers too. He bought a radio, he buys all of his clothes and two scout suits complete, pays for his haircuts and, in fact, all his expenses except food, and he lets me have money when we run short. He went to a scout camp twice this summer and furnished his spending money.
"He is bright in school. He was seven before he could attend school, and not very regularly the first term. He is in the seventh grade now, having made two grades in one term. Of course, I am, as every mother the world over, desperately in love with my boy and girl. Only I guess it is different with us, for we are so alone. We have no one with whom to share our lives.
"I married quite young. I went to school for a while after I married and took a business course. Housing conditions have been in a deplorable state here. Residents here who have houses to rent have gone mad over the subject of rent. Just anything partly furnished and called an apartment rents and people have to pay the price demanded. The type of apartment most commonly rented to working people is a one room affair, or a one room and kitchenette. These apartments rent from $5 a week up, and you pay your own utilities.
"Whole families live like this. Cook, eat and sleep in one room, sometimes with only one window, and sharing a bath with perhaps twenty other people. Last winter we tried to exist on $45.00 a month, had $17.00 left after paying rent, for food—and my daughter has to pay transportation to and from school. School expenses seem greater than anywhere else. I pay transportation to and from work. We could not have existed if Billy had not sold magazines. The head of the news agency let him keep his check-up money and only check in twice a month.
"Mrs. Roosevelt, my boy and girl are the future citizens of our country. They have a right to live normally, happily and have health. They are, despite living conditions, bright, courteous and industrious. They are outstanding students. They deserve a chance."