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Bully for Teddy! — Whitley County Historical Society brings Theodore Roosevelt to life

March 31, 2011

Post & Mail photo/Becky Hand - Indian Springs Middle School 8th graders contributed to the event with Teddy. From left, Colin Reidy, Brett Roberts, Young, Katie Doehrmann and Audrey Leonard. Teachers Kelse Harris and Amy Shearer accompanied the students.

The Whitley County Historical Society has brought such noteworthy historical figures as President Lincoln and Jefferson Davis back from the past, and they have done it again, in the person of former President Theodore Roosevelt.
Wednesday evening’s meeting concluded with reenactor Gib Young doing a portrayal of Teddy complete with top hat and pince-nez glasses perched on his nose.
Chuck Jones introduced Roosevelt giving an idea about the time that he lived, specifically the year 1915.
Long narrow skirts were the fashion of the day for women, rising no higher than eight inches from the ground.
Charlie Chaplin was making his debut in comedy and Billy Sunday was rising as a preacher.
A Model T Ford cost an outrageous $350 and Coca-Cola was introducing its new contoured bottle.
In this year the U.S. Coast Guard would be created and the first Trans-Atlantic telephone call would be made.
Enter Teddy Roosevelt, who ascended to the presidency after the assassination of President McKinley.
Roosevelt (Gib Young) welcomed the crowd saying he had heard the Whitley County Historical Society was “filled with hard but fair people.”
He wished to inform the audience about his family’s roots leaving out the politics for the evening, but couldn’t resist a few jabs at the Senators in Washington who had been giving him grief.
He spoke of his days in the White House, suggesting that the U.S. people should elect a president with young children every 20 years or so for the energy and exuberance they provided.
He said the White House days were “wonderful” and called his tenure there an “American zoo.” This was not only a description of the feeling of the place but a literal truth.
His family residing there included his wife Edith and six children. They also brought or acquired while there, five dogs, two cats, a macaw, a parrot, a hen named Baron Von Speckles, which laid eggs about the mansion, rats, mice, several snakes, including one his daughter Alice carried in her purse to bring out during what she termed boring gatherings, a lion, and a hyena among other creatures, some of which were sent to a zoo for safekeeping.
A pony, a beloved pet of son Archie, was brought through the freight elevator and up to the second-floor bedroom of Archie by his siblings Ethel and Quinton when he was sick. He was thrilled, but Roosevelt said the White House staff was “not happy about the calling card (the pony) left in the freight elevator.”
Another fiasco occurred when the Roosevelt boys and their friends, fondly dubbed “The White House Gang” by Roosevelt discovered about two feet of snow above the portico to the White House.
The gang climbed out a second-story window to the portico roof and molded some large snowballs. When the White House security police would step out from under the roof, the boys would get his attention and as he looked up, he would see the snowball coming down on his head.
Roosevelt said he could not withstand rebellion in the White House and so instructed the police to retaliate with snowballs.
“I joined in, too,” he said.
Indian Spring Middle School eighth graders were present at the meeting and were ready when the floor was opened for questions for the president.
Audrey Leonard asked what Roosevelt felt was his greatest accomplishment during his terms as president. He responded with “The Panama Canal and the Great White Fleet.”
Katie Doehrmann asked how he felt about being thrust into the presidency overnight after McKinley died.
“I dealt with it as a man should. I was ready.”
Brett Roberts inquired as to what most inspired him to run for president and Roosevelt responded that “the people liked Teddy.”
Colin Reidy asked what happened in Panama and Roosevelt gave what he called his short answer, “I let the Senate debate and I took Panama.”
A home-schooler who came dressed in a Rough Rider outfit and hat carrying a Teddy Bear asked what Roosevelt felt was his most important quote.
He said one of his favorites was “Good to the last drop” but that it was not important except to Maxwell House coffee makers.
He also mentioned “My hat is in the ring,” “I’m as fit as a bull moose,” and that he gave the Panama hat its name.
“I liked the Teddy Bear,” he said. “I got a lot of mileage out of that.”
He concluded the evening stating “Thomas Riley Marshall would have made a better President than Woodrow Wilson.”
After the meeting he stayed to let the audience pose with him for pictures.
The next event to be given by by the Historical Society is the 150th anniversary celebration of the first enlistments for the Civil War to be April 16 at the courthouse square in Columbia City. The event will include speeches, a Civil War doctor, singing group, Navy personnel among others.
Watch The Post & Mail for more information.

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