Saturday, July 14, 2018

FDR Visits Mare Island, 1938

   Eighty years ago today, on July 14, 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Vallejo and Mare Island. It was Roosevelt's first visit as President, though he had visited in 1914 and 1920, when he was still Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Roosevelt's visit was part of a two-week whirlwind tour of West Coast military installations.
Roosevelt's motorcade crosses the causeway to Mare Island
   Roosevelt arrived by train in Crockett and traveled by car through Vallejo, where the streets were lined with thousands of well-wishers. During his visit to Mare Island, the President was accompanied by Congressman Frank Buck of Vacaville, California Governor Frank Merriam, and Senator William Gibbs McAdoo. Interestingly, the Vallejo Times Herald made scant mention of Governor Merriam, who was a Republican. The newspaper, and most of Vallejo, were staunchly Democratic at that time.
    Congressman Buck relayed Roosevelt's impressions of his visit in an interview with the Times Herald: "The President was visibly impressed with the reception given him at Vallejo and Mare Island and expressed keen pleasure and amazement at the growth of the yard that he has not visited since 1920" Congressman Buck said.
Roosevelt's car stopped at Alden Park on Mare Island. Congressman Frank Buck is seated to Roosevelt's left. Governor Frank Merriam and Senator William Gibbs McAdoo are in the seat behind Roosevelt.
    "He rated the causeway as a big improvement, remarking on the difference over the old wooden piling."
   "During the drive through the yard to the Administration Building President Roosevelt said that he recognized faces of several men hw had known as leadingmen and masters on former visits to Mare Island."
   "When we entered Vallejo the President was impressed with the growth of the city and wanted to know if 'this is really the city limits of Vallejo.' When I informed him that it was he pointed out that it has grown considerably since he last visited here."
   "The President told me," Buck said, "that he deeply appreciates the reception by Vallejoans and was glad that he had followed the suggestion for a visit to Mare Island and Vallejo."
    "Times-Herald publisher (and future state senator) Luther Gibson also accompanied the presidential party. "Yesterday I enjoyed the greatest experience of my entire lifetime," Gibson said. "It was one I will always remember; one I never dreamed would be mine. To be part of the caravan that escorted the President of the United States through Vallejo and Mare Island and on to Treasure Island and San Francisco - all this I never believed would happen to me."
   "Vallejo did great credit to herself," Gibson continued. "The great masses of our people lining our streets, cheering and waving American flags, surely convinced our President that we are solidly behind him in his efforts to make our country a better place to live in."
   "It was a great thrill to be in his caravan, with Congressman Buck and the other Vallejo representatives. To actually ride for many miles with the President, see the many crowded streets and cheering throngs, was an inspiring experience."
   Roosevelt would make one more visit to Mare Island in 1942.
FDR shares a smile with shipyard commander  RADM David Worth Bagley and an unidentified woman.