My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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WASHINGTON, Monday—When I look back on my visit to Galapagos, I know why every man there calls it "The Rock." To a geologist, I'm sure it would furnish several years of absorbing work, but to men establishing gun positions and defenses, building airfields and trying to find level space for a recreation field, it must be one of the most discouraging spots in the world. It is as though the earth had spewed forth rocks of every size and shape and, as one man said: "You remove one rock, only to find two more underneath."

In between the rocks, there is deep-red dust, which permeates everything. A few cactus plants grow and also a few trees, which are easily blown over because they have no earth to root in.

All the water is either distilled from salt water or is brought in on a tank ship from another island. On the whole island, there are just two places with running water. Otherwise, tin basins or helmets are used for washing, and the regular setup that men have at the front for showers is the order of the day. No luxurious living there!

One boy in the dispensary, Corporal Edward Schwing, (who was born of American parents but lived 18 of his 22 years in France, where his father still remains) had spent much time putting up very good battle maps (covering every front) with colored pins showing the various activities. He told me that many boys came in to watch the pins change!

Galapagos is one of those places where "going native" would be very easy. For that reason, during the day, men at work may wear as few clothes as they choose but, for evening inspection, every man must be in uniform. The Navy bars "whites" because they cannot be kept clean.

One of the most attractive places on the island is the Bluejackets Club, which the men have created themselves. Every bit of furniture and every decoration is their own handiwork. On the door of the club hangs a sign which reads: "Bluejackets Club-Women Invited." The joke is that there are no women there! American women in Ecuador have sent a few things like curtains and Ecuadorian straw mats to various service clubs on the island, but every day room and post exchange represents much work by the men themselves.

Commander Huffman has some pets—two goats, Blackie and Ruth, each with a painted green and red horn. And, in a little enclosure outside, are two prehistoric-looking iguanas. He was disappointed because I found these native pets interesting but not attractive!

The American man's sense of humor was evident everywhere. They had held a competition at the Navy base for the naming and the general appearance of the various quarters. The doctors' quarters were labelled "Rock's Docs." That won the prize. There are outposts where small groups of men are stationed from three to six months and then brought back to the rock, but some of them get no more change than that, because men with their particular skills are evidently scarce in the services and are needed there.

You have to be deeply convinced that your job is an essential one in order to keep your balance and cheerfulness in these surroundings. I think perhaps it takes more fortitude and character to stand the loneliness and hardship of this kind of service without much excitement than the more active kind of service, though many women at home are probably happier with the knowledge that their men are not being sniped at by the enemy.

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, April 4, 1944

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.