MARCH 14, 1944
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Monday—I want to go back now to our first day in Puerto Rico. The flight from Jamaica took us over the islands of Haiti and Santo Domingo which looked beautiful and wild from the air. On our arrival in San Juan, I could see many changes beginning with the new airfield which was not here when I landed by Pan American in a flying boat ten years ago. The Governor and Mrs. Tugwell and the head military officials met us.
The slums along the waterfront which filled me with horror the last time were not to be seen, but I was told that they had just moved a little further away. They had not disappeared.
The housing situation is almost as bad as ever, according to the governor. Living costs have risen about 50 percent, and the head of one of the political parties told me that rice, which used to be five cents a pound, is now ten cents a pound. It is one of the things which the poor people count on as a main article of diet.
The chancellor of the university, Senor Benitez, dined with the governor and Mrs. Tugwell, and he told me the university had grown very considerably in the past ten years. He said that the government has now established a system of scholarships whereby the best scholars in the high schools are given a chance to go to the university.
A choir from the university led by the head of the music department sang in the evening at the Governor's reception and gave a very lovely program.
The governor said they had kept everything quiet about my arrival, but nevertheless everybody seemed to know I was there and the children who were out of school early made the narrow street leading to La Fortaleza seem narrower than usual.
We left our things at the governor's house, and started out almost immediately with General Shedd. He asked me to review with him a regiment of Puerto Rican troops who seemed to me to march very smartly in spite of their few weeks of training.
Then we went to the enlisted men's new recreation building. It is built right on the cliff looking across the ocean. There are some good bowling alleys, a little music room, a writing room upstairs and a big room for games with a sundeck outside, which I am sure will be filled on pleasant evenings. As I "opened" the building I was allowed to roll two balls down an alley and failed each time to hit the pins at the end. At this center, a boy was introduced to me who came from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and Private Smith was photographed with General Shedd. This will be a photograph which I imagine he will want to send home. It doesn't often happen for a private to have his picture taken with a general!
Curious coincidences are always occurring on these trips. Another young officer, when introduced to me, told me that his name was Deering and that his father is a great friend of our old friend, Major Henry S. Hooker.