Sunday, November 25, 2007

Warm Springs (copy)

We saw the billboards as we entered the state of Georgia. The signs, whetting our appetites as we neared, featured a beautiful white house with Greek columns. The slogan may have read, “Come See FDR’s Little White House.” I’m not quite sure since I was seven years old at the time, and heading to a family vacation at Callaway Gardens, Georgia.

Brother and I understandably discarded our connect-the-dots game, as I envisioned red carpets, and he pictured huge body guards. Three billboards later, we began to beg and plea for the excursion as we neared Atlanta. Just on the other side of the city, where skyscrapers had distracted our thoughts, we caught another billboard, and our parents sighed.

We were practically standing in our seats as we pulled into the “Little White House” parking lot. We bounded to the gate, but were dismayed as the parents caught sight of the prices and herded us back to the car. Tickets were too high, we were told. Fortunately, our father caved after seeing our long faces, and we headed back to the house.

After the grand tour our dad was eager to hear if all the fuss was worth it. He asked my nine-year-old brother what he thought of the excursion. To all of our surprises he exclaimed, “Little White Rip-Off!”

I remembered this family joke during the reading of Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR’s Polio Haven by Susan Richards Shreve. In Shreve’s memoir she retraced her two years spent at Franklin Roosevelt’s polio retreat, Warm Springs, in 1952.

Upon entering the polio restoration facility, the doctors met with new patients to determine if any “traces” were left in his/her muscles. With traces came hope, for the doctors could operate and move muscles with traces to ones that no longer had capabilities. These operations were done in prepubescent children before bones and muscles had a chance to finally develop.

Author Shreve was a determined little girl. She contracted the virus before she was one year old and able to walk, unlike most of the children in the hospital who contracted the disease later in life. Her whole eleven-year-old outlook remained positive as she pictured herself walking away from the facility totally cured.

This memoir is an eye opener to the mysteries surrounding polio patients and their struggles. I’m sure if one takes the time to read this engrossing book full of history, humor, and honesty, they will not feel “ripped-off.”
Note: Warm Springs, Georgia Number 4 Armchair Travelers Reading Challenge