Question: Did Eleanor Roosevelt come to Fresno to dedicate the Roosevelt High School auditorium in the 1950s?
-- Mary Vaux, Fresno
Answer: Eleanor Roosevelt made at least six visits to Fresno between 1938 and 1960, as First Lady and after her husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, died in 1945. During those trips Roosevelt toured migrant labor camps on the Valley’s west side and delivered speeches, but she did not dedicate the new auditorium at Theodore Roosevelt High School, named for the 26th U.S. president and FDR’s fifth cousin.
Margaret Robinson, president of the Fresno City Board of Education, gave the dedication speech during ceremonies on Sept. 22, 1954. Robinson told students, faculty and local officials that the new auditorium “represents years of rich opportunity for all of you and opens the way to countless happy and worthwhile experiences for the student body and the community.”
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Robinson gave a symbolic key to the auditorium to Roosevelt High Principal Robert Miner and praised the architects and builders “who brought this fine dream to a reality.” Today the auditorium is listed on Fresno’s Local Register of Historic Resources, along with five other buildings on the Roosevelt campus.
Roosevelt was in Fresno about two months later, on Nov. 11, 1954, to give a speech at the Memorial Auditorium in downtown Fresno. She told a crowd of about 1,900 that the United States should do more to provide cultural, moral and spiritual leadership in the world. After her talk, which was sponsored by the Fresno County Democratic Women’s Club, Roosevelt was the guest of honor at a reception at the California Hotel.
Roosevelt also traveled to other spots in the Valley. She visited Hanford in 1941 and made at least two trips to Yosemite National Park. Her last visit to Fresno was in January 1960. Her “My Day” columns for Jan. 13 and Jan. 15, 1960, are datelined Fresno, but don’t mention any activities in town.
Roosevelt died on Nov. 7, 1962, in New York City.
Q: When I worked for Xerox in Fresno I was involved in creating the Cottage Door in the 1970s, a store where items made by senior citizens were sold, but I cannot recall where it was located. Where was it?
-- Jim Hood, Palm Coast, Fla.
A: A Nov. 10, 1974, story by longtime Fresno Bee staff writer Gene Rose about the creation of the Cottage Door said, “When employees of the Fresno office of the Xerox Corp. decide to get involved in community problems, there’s no copying them.”
A company representative said the goal was to give low-income seniors a creative outlet and a way to make money.
A committee of Xerox employees, representatives of the Older Americans Organization and a local business planned the renovation of a storefront at 245 N. Fulton St. Improvements were paid for with a company grant.
The committee found seniors to stock the store with handmade quilts, macramé, hand-painted china plates, knitted and crocheted items, children’s sweaters and toys, stained glass, sculptures and other handicrafts.
The Cottage Door opened in early December 1974. Xerox employees provided business advice and suggestions on how to market the craft items.
Within two years local artists also began selling their works at the store. Proceeds from item sales went to the individual artists and seniors.
By 1981, the store had relocated to a former carriage house behind a former home at 237 N. Fulton St. that had been converted to businesses. The new owner of the property raised the rent and by 1986 the Cottage Door had relocated to 1028 N. Fulton St. No listings for the store were found in Fresno Bee archives after that date.
More about: After an item about high school track athletes who carried the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympic torch through the Valley appeared on July 26, John Friesen of Reedley wrote to share his experience as one of the runners. Friesen, who attended Immanuel High School in Reedley, carried the torch in a different leg of the run than the athletes named in the column.
“My recollection is that those of us who were going to carry the torch were chosen by our high school track coach. We were invited to a banquet the night before at the Tulare High School auditorium,” Friesen wrote. “At the banquet we met Bob Mathias and heard him speak. The actor Keenan Wynn was also in attendance. He and Mathias were starring in the television series ‘Troubleshooters’ in the 1959-60 season.
“The next day we skipped school and each carried the torch for one mile. We started in Tulare and I think the torch stayed in Kingsburg or Fresno for the night,” Friesen wrote. “It was fun to remember that experience.”
Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Paula Lloyd, c/o The Fresno Bee Newsroom, 1626 E St., Fresno CA 93786. Please include your name, city of residence and a phone number.