|Dowdell's Knob in Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park. This was FDR's favorite picnic spot in Georgia.|
Photo by Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GDNR).
Tourism Attractions: Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation,
Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park
Location: Warm Springs, Georgia
Photos: Click to enlarge
Long before he became the iconic president that we read about in history today, Franklin D. Roosevelt was a New York senator who had just been crippled with a devastating disease: polio. The disease was so debilitating that he knew his dreams of becoming president someday might never be realized. Would anyone vote for a candidate with a disability? Then this New Yorker heard about a peaceful place down South called Warm Springs, Georgia, where the therapeutic natural springs there had made a dramatic difference in a polio victim’s recuperation.
“Well, if that don’t beat all,” said Daddy.
I asked him what it was like to actually talk to President Roosevelt.
“Meeting Franklin Roosevelt was like meeting your next-door neighbor. That’s what he called us. ‘Hi ya, neighbor,’ he would say when he drove up to people’s houses or saw folks in town. He loved to talk about farming and trees and horses and fishing.”
After we toured Georgia Hall, Mr. Botts wanted to show us the rest of Warm Springs. So he talked to a man in a bow tie at the desk in the lobby of Georgia Hall. “Ed, could you call for the trailer?”
|The historic quad at the campus of the Roosevelt|
Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation
|Polio patients receive warm water therapy at the|
Georgia Warm Springs Foundation. Photo by RWSIR
The bus took us to some other swimming pools and we got out and walked around. A man was crawling to the pool. “See that gentleman?” asked Mr. Botts. “Before he was president, when he had more time to spend here, that could have been Franklin Roosevelt. At Warm Springs he was a polio like everyone else. If he needed to get somewhere and crawling was the easiest way, then that’s what he’d do.”
|Camp Dream at the Roosevelt Warm Springs|
Institute for Rehabilitation.
All the way back to Papaw and Mamaw’s house I kept hearing him say that line. You really should come. Even the tires on Papaw’s car were singing those words. You really should come . . .
--Excerpted from COMFORT Copyright © 2009 by Joyce Moyer Hostetter. All rights reserved.
Sometimes the support of friends is the only thing that makes life bearable. My short time as a cripple was nothing compared with the hardships that so many young children, men, and women endured for the rest of their lives in the days before the polio vaccine was developed. The novel Comfort is a story about how the joy of friendship can overcome even the emotional devastation of a crippling disease like polio. Although a fictional character, Ann Fay represents the real experiences of thousands of young children in the first half of the 20th century.
There are many connections between the novel Comfort and the movie Warm Springs, although both were independent projects. The real life historical character of Fred Botts in the novel is portrayed as a younger man in the movie. The movie, set in the twenties, was partially filmed in the McCarthy Cottage, where Roosevelt lived before building the Little White House. The historic pools that first drew Roosevelt to Warm Springs became a central part of the rehabilitation institute.
The movie shows how Roosevelt traveled from a place of cold darkness to a place of warm light. This was not just a physical journey but a journey within his soul to a place many still call the Spirit of Warm Springs. He didn't want his work with the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation to just benefit the people he knew in life; he wanted the foundation to have a positive impact on many generations to come. The novel Comfort is the fulfillment of that dream after his passing, told through the spiritual journey of Ann Fay. The Spirit of Warm Springs continues to live on in places like Camp Dream, a beautiful outdoor recreation program for children with disabilities.
Today, the institute is a living memorial by serving as a rehabilitation hospital and an innovative vocational center for those with severe disabilities. Readers of the novel can tour the historic quad and buildings where Ann Fay found her place in life again and learned to walk. Georgia Hall, where she and her friends played games and sang songs, is now a beautiful exhibit with many period photographs from the storied institution’s incredible history. The public can go on guided tours of the historic area, which was designed to feel more like a pretty college campus than a cold medical facility.
|FDR's Ford on display at the Little White House.|
FDR converted this car with hands-only controls.
Photo by GDNR
|A rental cabin in the beautiful Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park.|
Photo by GDNR
http://www.americanhistory.si.edu/polio/- Whatever Happened to Polio? – A Smithsonian Institution online exhibit about polio, the epidemics, and vaccines.
http://www.disabilityisnatural.com/ - The Disability is Natural website provides insight and resources for understanding how alike we all are and how disabilities do not define the individual.