JULY 8, 1944
HYDE PARK, Friday—Yesterday we took Mr. and Mrs. Albert Lasker, Mr. Paul Robeson and Judge Hubert Delaney, over to the Wiltwyck School. I do not think I shall soon forget the expressions on the faces of those little boys who left their painting under the trees and gathered around Mr. Robeson. He told them a story, and sang bits from the "Ballad for America" and other favorite records of his, which they have in the school, so they were able to join in. Not a child there will forget this day, which to them certainly was a red letter occasion.
The holidays have set in, so half of the boys at a time sleep out in tents on the camping ground. You cross a swiftly running brook, and you are hidden by trees from the world. When I was a child, I always wanted to follow a brook to its source. Perhaps those boys dream about that too.
There was a young artist from Woodstock teaching the boys painting, and some of the councilors were instructing in other crafts, woodworking, modelling in clay, and carving. Every boy wanted to show me his work, and some of the carving, as well as the painting, seemed to me to show extraordinary talent. The little boy whom the artist-instructor said had marked talent in painting, seems to have it also in carving. Mrs. Henry Morgenthau, Jr., who was with us, picked out his piece of carving after looking at his painting, which shows that the same kind of ability and spirit was shown in both pieces of work.
Dr. Cooper, who is in charge of the school, said: "I hope he finds an interest and a way to express himself through the medium of art because otherwise he might grow up to be a real menace to society." These little boys present interesting problems, and each time I see them, I seem to see a change for the better.
One little boy, whose life at home had been very difficult, and would have every reason, I imagine, not to feel very kindly towards his family, showed me a very good piece of carpentry work and told me that he had made something else to send home.
Children are forgiving, but in work of this kind, with delinquent children, between the ages of seven and fourteen, it is almost as important to cure the ills of the parents as it is to cure the children. Wiltwyck School has an office in New York City, and while the children are cared for in the school at Esopus, the welfare workers in New York City try to explain to the parents what brought about their difficulties, and help them to overcome these difficulties in the future.