APRIL 11, 1949
HYDE PARK, Sunday—The wife of an air force officer asked me a question the other day which confronted me with a considerable problem. Her husband had been stationed overseas for a time but is now back in this country with her and their children. She had felt it would be wonderful to come home and be settled. After a short 18 months, however, her husband was transferred from his first post to the city of Washington.
"What organizations," she asked me, "have recreational centers which would most quickly give my two sons the feeling that they are making friends, are established again with plenty to do, and will help them to get the most out of their stay in the Capitol city?"
She explained that as the boys grew older this roving life became more difficult. No provisions seemed to be made to help children adjust in the larger cities. Everyone in a big city was busy with his own affairs, and she felt there must be other families like her own where the children needed contacts and planned activities.
What organizations would you have named? Despite the wealth of organizations and activities that exist in our country, I found difficulty in answering the question. I said the obvious thing was to join the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts, to take part in school activities, to visit the museums, picture galleries and the different branches of our government.
But then I realized that to do this would require adult companionship. A man and woman moving to a new place are always more than busy—the man in mastering his job and making the necessary new contacts, the woman in getting her house in order, remaking and fitting curtains, finding the best places to market and getting people to help her with her work—for she must be able to leave home occasionally either with her husband or with her children.
In places like Washington, which is full of interests and where there is a constantly shifting population, there should be some special agency, either run by the government or subsidized by the government and run by a private agency. Regular trips should be undertaken, with a qualified leader to explain all the sights. Efforts should be made to bring together children with the same tastes and interests, thereby helping them quickly to make new friends. This service should be offered to schools and parents. Schools are apt to plan for regular athletic exercise, which is vitally necessary, but the plans made for sightseeing and outside cultural activities are never quite as well managed.
Even older children need assistance. In the city of the District of Columbia, for example, there are many young people in the various universities who remain unaware of the wealth of interest there is in the district. I think of one thing in particular that no person should miss seeing—the Adams Memorial in Rock Creek cemetery. It is a beautiful and inspiring statue which, once visited, will draw you to it again and again. There must be many other things that young people miss, because no one takes them or tells them where to look. There should be some sort of provision made to take them, in fairly small groups, to see some of the less well-known beauties of our national capital.