I was a chauffeur for the Roosevelts (Part 2 of 2)

Published 11:24 am Monday, August 14, 2017

Several weeks ago I wrote part one of this experience which generated the most positive comments of any article I have written. It was preceded by an article titled “What if Hillary had won” resulting in the most negative comments. I am taking the safe route and concluding my articles about the Roosevelts. However I will soon address the negative comments; did I hear ugh?

One of the responses I received came from Dana who is the “caretaker” for the “Highlands Mansion and Gardens” in Fort Washington, PA where I was the chauffeur. She lives there with her husband and 2 young children and maintains a Facebook page for the mansion and does tours.

One of the surprises that she reported was that Caroline Sidney Sinkler, Mrs Roosevelt’s niece, was related to Teddy Roosevelt as was Nicholas Guy Roosevelt as a 3rd cousin.

Speaking of Mr Roosevelt he was very reserved with me which is certainly understandable given my station in life in 1959 versus his. Further he had no children and was an engineer.

He came from money as evidenced by graduating from St Paul’s School, a college prep school in Concord NH, that today cost over $57,000 a year and then graduating from Princeton University.

Mr Roosevelt would often take his blue English Ford Cortina (I chauffeured a very plain grey Oldsmobile) to the Ambler railroad station which was only about 2 miles away. There he’d take the train to downtown Philadelphia to work despite being over 75. He was a civil engineer and spent most of his career with Day & Zimmerman a Philadelphia based engineering company that has grown to over 23,000 employees and over $2B in annual revenues. There he rose through the ranks and became President.

He was an impeccable dresser and as his shoe shine boy I helped make that happen.

One of the side benefits of working for the Roosevelts was that they had a pool which was a great place to take a date. It was down the sloping lawn from the mansion but hidden. You need to picture us parking at the southeast end of the driveway and navigating in pitch dark through the pasture where the cow left a bunch of cow pies; best I recall all navigations were successful.

The Roosevelts stayed at the Highlands from early spring until early fall. During the other months of the year they stayed at Gippy Plantation in Monks Corner, SC a 1000 acre estate. Among other things they produced “Golden Guernsey” dairy products and had an entirely separate staff from those at Highlands.

Several years ago Shirley and I visited Gippy which unlike Highlands has not been well preserved. We did talk with several people who knew the Roosevelts and they spoke highly of them. As an aside Gippy was in the movie “The Lords of Discipline.”

Mrs Roosevelt donated the Highlands to the state of Pennsylvania. Unfortunately there was time between her death and when the state took over that all of the furnishings were somehow sold by someone; “Dum— de-Dum-Dum.” Btw for those of you younger than 60 that was the theme song from the Dragnet radio and TV series; a police drama. For those of you over 70 btw is an acronym for by the way.

About five years ago we visited the Highlands and recommend a tour if you are in the area.

As you can see from these two articles Mr and Mrs Roosevelt had interesting backgrounds. However I lacked savoir faire; there’s that French that Mrs Roosevelt thought I knew as she gave me a french newspaper each day. This meant I really did not know how to have intelligent conversations with them.

How they met, their thoughts on income inequality, whether they were conservatives or liberals and why, etc would have been informative. Nonetheless it was a wonderful experience for two summers.