Election Day and the months leading up to it were major events in our home when I was growing up. My father railed against Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Democrats and supported the Republican candidates with great enthusiasm and lots of backup facts and figures. He was a strong supporter of Wendell Wilkie and of Tom Dewey. I can’t say as a child I liked their looks any better than I did President Roosevelt’s, but if my father said they were worthwhile, I had no argument.
I don’t recall if we had a lot of coverage of election news in the classroom or if I got all of my information from my father, but I was always very much aware of the people, if not the issues. I awoke on the morning after Election Day with much excitement, assuming each time that my father’s party had won – but it never did. We sat at the wooden table in the big kitchen on Court Street, bowls of oatmeal in front of us, and listened to the results on the radio with despair. The year that Wilkie lost to Roosevelt, I went down the stairs from our third floor apartment to the back alley that led to Central Parkway and then to Raschig School. I was completely disheartened that Wilkie had lost and suddenly I looked down and saw a discarded Wilkie campaign button on the street. I picked it up, ready to pin it on my dress and wear it to school when my mother called down and told me to “put that thing down”. She was probably as concerned about my picking up something from that dirty alley as she was about the political implications.
My father was just as much opposed to Harry S. Truman but in later years found that there was much in President Truman that he admired. He never did acknowledge any merit to President Roosevelt, though.
In 1952, I was the new bride of a sailor and living in Portsmouth, Virginia. Although I was too young to vote, I was fascinated with the race between Adlai Stevenson and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
I just assumed my father was still a staunch Republican, but didn’t realize that he had lost all interest in politics. My letters home to my mother and sister were filled with enthusiasm over the race and requests for my “I Like Ike” button to be mailed to me. My mother kept those letters all those years and they’re a good record of my feelings at the time.
In my letter written the day after Eisenhower’s election, I said that my radio was acting up and I wasn’t able to get the early morning results. I’m sure I got them after I got to work where I was not only the sole “Yankee” in the place but also a Republican surrounded by deep south Democrats. I had Frank take my picture with my “I Like Ike” button on my lapel.
Eisenhower did win the election and I sent a letter home with sketches of Frank, the Democrat, being very sad and of me, who backed the winner, being very happy.
By the next year, 1953, I was 21 years old and able to vote. I haven’t missed an election since that time and with the passing years have bounced back and forth between political parties. At this point, I consider myself an Independent.
I realized as the years went by that my father was neither Republican nor Democrat. He was for the underdog, no matter what the party affiliation was, so his candidate never won.