The Roosevelts, January 1945
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This is a portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and their then 13 grandchildren, on FDR's fourth Inauguration Day, 20 January 1945.
I am in a jacket, short pants and tie, front and center, music box in hands, looking a little gloomy ("When can I get out of these fancy duds?").
Back row left to right: Eleanor Roosevelt, Curtis Roosevelt "Buzzie" Boettiger (my brother, kneeling, in his military school uniform), Anna Eleanor ("Sistie") Boettiger (my sister), William Donner Roosevelt, Ruth Chandler Roosevelt, David Boynton Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), Franklin D. Roosevelt III (Frank) standing at FDR's left.
On the floor: Christopher Roosevelt, Anne Sturgis "Nina" Roosevelt with her brother Haven Clark Roosevelt in back of her, John Roosevelt Boettiger (me), Elliott (Tony) Roosevelt, Jr, Kate Roosevelt and Kate's sister, Sara Delano Roosevelt, on the stool.
Those of my cousins I knew or know best were and/or are Frank, Nina, Haven and Tony. Bouncing over the woods roads on the family land in Hyde Park was a joy.
We are all among the predominately Democratic Roosevelts whose family home is in Hyde Park, New York (now a National Historic Site). There is, of course a second branch of the family, known generally as the Oyster Bay Roosevelts, predominantly Republican, whose most prominent member is my great-great uncle (my grandmother's uncle), Theodore Roosevelt.
Those among us in the Hyde Park clan often gathered for Christmases, summers and other holidays at Springwood, the Hyde Park home. Lots of good kid company. The only downside is that when indoors the smaller kids like me were often sequestered on the 3rd floor with our nannies. Main upside of the downside: we could make a lot more noise without running afoul of the grownups. In winter when it snowed, we enjoyed great sledding on the steep slope in back of the house leading down toward the Hudson River.
After my grandfather's death in 1945, we met more often at Val-Kill, the home my grandfather designed for my grandmother on the estate. She wrote, “Val-Kill is where I used to find myself and grow. At Val-Kill I emerged as an individual.” When she died in 1962, there was an interim of 18 years in which we seldom gathered, only occasionally and in small numbers. In 1980, feeling the family connectedness depleted, I began to organize family reunions at Hyde Park, which we held every four years − the presidential term, natch − for some time. Fairly recently, a not unreasonable decision was made to turn those reunions into joint Hyde Park and Oyster Bay family occasions. I have nothing against these blood-related Republicans, but that made family reunions of unwieldy size, with too many people who didn't know one another. Still, the family perseveres.
The Roosevelts are Dutch in origin, emingrating from Oud-Vossemeer in Zeeland, which my wife and I visited in 2006. Claes Maartenszen van Rosenvelt and his wife Jannetje, the immigrant ancestors of the Roosevelt family, arrived in Niew Amsterdam (present day New York City) some time between 1638 and 1649.
My last name, Boettiger (a name reflecting my great-grandfather's childhood in Bavaria; in German it would be spelled Böttiger), comes from my mother's marriage to John Boettiger, my father, a talented newspaper reporter turned publisher of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. I was born in Swedish Hospital, Seattle, in 1939. My grandmother held my mother's hand during the delivery. We lived, in my early childhood, in a home on Mercer Island in Lake Washington, close to Seattle. Mercer Island was in those days a relatively rural setting. Readers of Reckonings wishing more context may find it in my biography of my parents' marriage, A Love in Shadow (New York: W.W. Norton, 1978). In the photo below, the lawn rolled down to the lake shore and our boathouse. My parents had a small cabin cruiser named by my father Newshawk.
Mercer Island home