JULY 21, 1959
HYDE PARK—I was extremely grateful when last Saturday dawned without a cloud in the sky, for it was on that day I had arranged the annual picnic here for the boys of the Wiltwyck School.
I used to divide the boys into two groups, giving one picnic for each. But a few years ago the school director told me that the boys in the second group went through agonies of fear that something would prevent their picnic, and he begged me to have all of them at the same time.
These little boy s come to a picnic to eat, but the school wisely interests them in nature study, so they find it fascinating coming to this place where a strea runs slowly at the food of the lawn and there is a big boggy area.
One little boy came dashing over to me with four white eggs in his hands and wanted to know if they were snake eggs or turtle eggs. I had absolutely no idea, so I directed him to Charles Curnan, who was presiding over the cooking of hot dogs at the moment, and I hoped he would know what the eggs were. He told the youngster firmly that they were turtle eggs. Whereupon the little boy asked, "How can I plant them again when I go back to school so that we will have turtles?" Again I was unable to answer and could only trust that someone else would know more than I did about turtle eggs!
It seemed to me that the Wiltwyck staff had the boys under wonderful control and had learned to line them up for food better than ever before. We always have three long tables, with someone behind every dish ladling out the various edibles. First come the plates, napkins and spoons, then hot dogs and relish. Then two salads and baked beans and, finally, containers of milk and coffee for grownups.
I always allow four hot dogs apiece for the children and only two apiece for the grownups, and I have very few left. In fact, this is one picnic in which there are few left-overs. Two helpings of ice cream and two cupcakes also allowed, but I think some of the boys get even more.
This year, after the full meal, I read to the children Kipling's "The Butterfly That Stamped," and they loved it, asking me if it was really true. Then all got their lollypops and went off to the library, concluding a day which I think was a great success.
The poor children have such a desire to be individually recognized that they always ask if I remember their names. I always say that I remember their faces, but it is impossible to remember all their names. One little boy came back four times to tell me his name so that I would not forget it, and many of them said, "Please come over and see us soon, Mrs. Roosevelt."
How much children want identity! And how much they want to be loved is one thing Wiltwyck has taught me. With our own children, we take it for granted that they will be loved, but here are children to whom love is a very precious and necessary thing.
I was interested to find this year that nearly the whole supply line for the picnic was manned by the younger members of my own family. I think they could have dispensed with us older people and have run it themselves. I was very proud of my granddaughter, Sally Roosevelt, and all of her helpers.