NOVEMBER 16, 1945
NEW YORK, Thursday—The other evening I went to Public School 41, which is in my neighborhood, at Greenwich Avenue and 10th Street. They have been conducting a series of forums on human relations in the community, and this was the fifth. They had talked of the influence of the school and the church and of the scientific aspects of our similarities and differences, and they were trying to decide what were the first steps that could be taken to improve this neighborhood.
As so often happens, the chief concern was over the children of the community. One gentleman got up and remarked with some bitterness that the difficulty was that children were second-class citizens. They couldn't ask for the use of empty lots as playgrounds, because the neighbors objected. In addition, too many landlords will have none of you if you have children in the family, and these are difficult times for tenants.
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One of the first things on which agreement seemed to be unanimous was that recreation was needed for the children of this area. Even the outdoor playgrounds that are available are not doing as good a job as they could do, because there is no one there to guide and inspire constructive activity. It was pointed out that school children do not want to be too closely supervised in their free time. A tactful councellor, however, could do a great deal to increase the usefulness of playgrounds.
This service was available in the days when the WPA could be counted on to contribute the salaries to the city. But one of the first cuts made after elimination of the WPA was in these recreation employees. Where parents raised too much of a fuss over this, some employees were restored, and in a few areas in the city they still function. But this is not true in our area, where, of course, there is also not nearly enough available space for play out of doors. In addition, recreation for older children is practically non-existent.
There have been a number of incidents in the parks where groups of boys from other neighborhoods have treated the local children pretty roughly. It is not just a racial and religious question, but a rivalry between privileged and under-privileged. I am sure that the solution is not in more policemen, but in more recreational advisers, more boys clubs offering planned activities, and more outdoor play space.
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Yesterday morning I took part in a radio program during which we heard Paul Manning, a war correspondent who was present at the surrender in both Rennes and Tokyo Bay. He told a most moving story of the way our men went into battle on one occasion, when he was standing by to observe and broadcast. Afterward I paid a brief visit to Paul Manship's studio and was delighted to see a memorial of my husband which he has done.