Yesterday was a good day. I got another draft of my story done, Auntie Bridgett made some very nifty art, and we got to take the bus downtown to spend time with Theodore Roosevelt.
Well, sort of. We went to the First Congregational Church to watch Joe Wiegand do his amazingly funny, historic and touching portrayal of our 26th president. We saw the show last October and enjoyed it very much. It was presented by the Oregon Historical Society and sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank, and admission was free! Just like last year, the church was full.
Even before the show began, Mr. Wiegand was circulating in the crowd, shaking hands and chatting with friends old and new. I summoned my nerve and went over to ask for a photo, and we had a lovely conversation about wrestling with brothers and expanding one’s horizons. Mr. Wiegand, in his Teddy persona, has a way of making everyone feel like the most interesting person he has ever met.
In his introduction, Carey Timchik of The Oregon Historical Society let us know that this was Mr. Wiegand’s fifth performance of the day. He has been touring schools, libraries, and historical societies all over the state, sharing his love of Teddy and our history with kids. Mr. Timchik also told us the Wells Fargo Bank was the first bank to do business with Chinese Americans here in Portland, back in the early 20th century, when all the other banks shut them out.
Mr.Wiegand shared familiar stories of Teddy’s life; of being a sickly boy who had to build his body up by boxing and exercise, of raising his rowdy bunch of children in the White House, of losing his son Quentin in World War I.
He told us that last year, he (Mr. Wiegand) traveled to France with a young man who was portraying Theodore’s son Quentin. They visited Chamery, the small town where the real Quentin’s plane was shot down and Quentin died in 1918. That small town has re-named their elementary school from Ecole Premiere to Ecole Quentin Roosevelt, to remember the young American who died fighting for French freedom. This was so touching, we all choked up a bit.
But my favorite story of the evening came in response to a question. “What did you and John Muir talk about in your three day tour of The Yosemite in 1903?”
“If you must know, there around the campfire, John Muir scolded me about my love of hunting,” admitted Teddy. “Mr. President, he said, when will you get over this childish need to shoot everything?” The two men, though both conservationists, had very different ideas about what wilderness was for. Mr. Roosevelt wanted it used for the greatest good for the most people, and Mr. Muir wanted it protected from any touch of man. This is a debate that we are still having.
When Mr. Wiegand had finished his talk, Mr. Timchik came out and raffled off an enormous Teddy Bear, earning a $500 donation to the Society. There was laughter, applause, smiles all around, and off we went. The evening was still warm enough to be comfortable in just light jackets while we waited for the bus home.