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My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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ROME.—I neglected to mention in my column yesterday that I had a visit at the hotel in Montpellier from Mrs. Caroline Dudley Delteil. She married a French writer many years ago and they live on a farm and grow grapes just outside of Montpellier. She has not forgotten, however, that she came from Chicago and she still has fond memories of my husband's uncle, Mr. Frederick A. Delano, and of the fact that she went to school with his daughters. She remembers Mrs. Lawrence Houghteling and her son, Jim, who lunched with her during the war when he was serving with the U.S. Army in Southern France.

I learned from Mrs. Delteil that the whole countryside in her area is suffering because there is an overproduction of the vin ordinaire. The grapes for this wine grow there. Some wine also is now coming into France from Algiers. Prices for labor and for food, in fact, for everything, have gone up in France and the price for wine has gone down. For this reason, Mrs. Delteil said, in the whole area people are suffering.

The land in the Montpellier region is not rich soil. For that reason Cambous was chosen for the Jewish refugees children's camp. The soil and climate conditions are much similar to those in parts of Israel.

The children have to carry their own water in the camp. This is looked upon as a good thing because if they go to live in the Negev water may be scarce and they may have to carry it there. Twice a week in winter the youngsters have to take hot showers and the showers are in the same building as the kitchen where, of course, there is running water. In summer they have cold showers every day because the heat there is similar to what they will experience in Israel.

To make anything grow the children must take infinite trouble, and that is good preparation, too, for Israel. The mountains are forbidding. Outcroppings of rock are everywhere and stones look almost more plentiful than dirt except in the little valleys.

To illustrate some of the fears and superstitions these children come with, let me tell you the story of one little boy who arrived a week ago with his brother. He told us there were nine children in the family but six had died, and his mother said that she would lose all the children if they stayed with her, so he and his brother had been sent away. He had a watch on his wrist that his father had given him as a parting gift and he said he would keep it carefully. One little brother, aged 7, was left behind, and quite simply this little boy said: "He stayed with my mother to die."

One little girl there, we were told, is 18 years old, but physically and mentally her development is that of a child of twelve. She has been sent to Switzerland in the hope that she will grow. She is getting special care and special food, but so far she is still at the age of twelve and very envious of her sister who is normally developed. She feels so inferior that she has asked not to be sent to Israel at the same time.

After we left Cambous we stopped for a little time in Nimes and Avignon, two of the old French cities which I had not seen for many, many years.

We drove in late to Marseilles and I met the deputy mayor and his wife, who were very kind and hospitable, and also our American consul general and his wife, Mrs. Wharton, were equally warm in their hospitality.

Mrs. Lash and I, however, had both wanted to eat bouillabaisse and walk along the docks for a little way even though it was late at night. Our young days were very far apart but we seem to have done somewhat the same things, though she is some 25 years younger. I was a little shocked when I remembered that the last time I had eaten bouillabaisse in a restaurant in Marseilles I had been 16 years old. It does not seem so long ago!

(Distributed by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Rome (Italy) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, March 17, 1955

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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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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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.