FEBRUARY 10, 1943
NEW YORK, Tuesday—Yesterday, in Camden, Maine, was a beautiful day. There was a blue sky and sparkling water and snow lying under the New England pine trees, with here and there a white birch trunk glistening amid the dark green.
The building of wooden ships was almost a lost art. A few were built in the last war, but the men who built them had disappeared into other trades and the present need had to ferret them out. You find your master builders sixty years of age and more, and how they love their work! One does not expect barges to be very beautiful, but this one in Camden, Maine's, shipyard had such good lines she was really graceful.
We went through a double ceremony. First, a small ship was launched, which Mrs. Helen S. Price, of Bath, Me., sponsored. She smashed her bottle easily and gracefully and then we proceeded across to the other platform, where I was to sponsor the barge.
I looked with interest at the workmen and women clustered around. Here were people learning a new-old trade. Not all of them were from Maine, for one man said to me: "Do you remember, Mrs. Roosevelt, when I drove you in a cab from the Algonquin Hotel in New York City?" All of them are fired with the desire to build well. There is a creative satisfaction in seeing a ship grow.
Finally, the word came that the moment had arrived and I smashed my bottle successfully, but not very gracefully, for I was simply bathed in its contents. Governor and Mrs. Sewall were present. The Governor was kind enough to hand me his large sized handkerchief, with which I finally mopped my face dry and found I was not really as drenched as I had at first supposed.
There are three young partners in this shipbuilding venture; Mr. Cary Bok of Philadelphia, and two men from Boston, Mr. Richard Lyman and Mr. Clinton Lunt. They are working long hours and the enthusiasm they put into their work communicates itself to the men and women working with them.
These Maine towns are, of course, completely changed by the war. They may have had summer tourists in the past, but now they have boarders the year round. There are no vacant rooms in the hotels or clubs which are near the shipyards. Some of the workers drive fifty to sixty miles to work, and the same distance home in the evening. Each car is crowded to the limit to save gas and rubber, but the work has to go on.
The Penobscot Indians, who build the lifeboats for these wooden ships, were on hand to take me into their tribe and to sing a song for my safety on far trails. They presented me with a wonderful sweet grass basket and a beaded headband. The Chamber of Commerce chose some children in the town to give me some blankets, which are made in a textile mill in Camden, and an old sailor made a model of the barge. I know my husband will claim it for the library at Hyde Park.
We came through to New York City last night and shall proceed to Washington today.