JANUARY 31, 1952
PARIS, Wednesday—Last Sunday afternoon we drove to a little village called Barentin, of which a Monsieur Marie is mayor. There were ceremonies at the Town Hall and I was presented to the civic workers.
Barentin is a very small town but can boast of three textile mills. Fortunately, its mayor is also Minister of Education and Fine Arts for the whole of France and the little town has some rather exceptional opportunities for benefiting from things that are available to him.
One of the town's factories was completely destroyed by bombing in World War II, and part of the property now has been used as the site of a new very modern school. We went there to see the pre-school children enjoying their semiannual treat of chocolate and bread and butter, some sweet biscuits and tangerines.
We paraded for nearly a mile and a half through the town behind an extremely good band but I will confess that as it snowy and the streets were icy in spots. I felt relieved when our walking was at an end and I had not fallen down anywhere along the roads.
We also visited the little municipal park just below the town's hospital which has been renamed Franklin Roosevelt Square in honor of my husband. And later we stopped in front of the monument to the dead of the last two wars. Such monuments are prominent in nearly every village, town and city in France. The country lost so many men in the two World Wars—in active combat and in concentration camps in Germany—that hardly a village escaped losing some of its men. Almost two generations were wiped out in World War I and in World War II heavy inroads were made in another generation.
It takes a nation some time to recover, and it makes the ceremonies at these monuments particularly poignant because almost everyone has a personal sense of loss. And as one looks around the groups one is very apt to see a number of men who carry with them the results of wounds received in one war or another.
Our last stop was at what they call their Universite Populaire, which holds its meetings in a large Nissen hut. Monsieur Marie had invited Andre Maurois come to the town to give a talk about life and its significance and I was glad that we were able to wait to hear him.
I felt that getting up to speak after Monsieur Maurois was somewhat of an ordeal, but I gave my own little talk and then a recording of my husband's speech to the French people when our men were landing in Normandy was played. At that point I had to leave, but the audience stayed to see a documentary film on my husband's life which was produced a year or so ago in the U.S.
We reached Paris early in the evening and I felt we had spent a most interesting, moving day. But one more delightful little ceremony awaited us. I had promised to be at Montmartre that evening to attend a little ceremony that would inaugurate the rebuilding of a wall which would be essential before they could rebuild a little playroom the children of Montmartre have known as the Foyer de D'Enfants or the Children's Hearth. It really was a rather beautiful sight, lighted by torches and seeing the chilren in their unusual little uniforms. A film was shown which depicted a rather interesting historic incident in which the children of Montmartre, in opposition to a German edict, marched to the Etoile and lay flowers on the Unknown Soldier's grave.
We got home close to midnight and I confess it had been a delightful, but very long day.