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Roosevelt Family on the Island
FDR and his family spent summer vacations on their beloved Campobello Island over a period of fifty-six years.
A Family Summer Retreat
Young Franklin Roosevelt’s parents were among those who summered at Campobello’s hotels and who purchased land and built a cottage. With his parents, he spent many enjoyable summers on this small Canadian island in the Bay of Fundy. His parents, and later he, his wife Eleanor, and their children were attracted to Campobello Island for the ample opportunities for outdoor recreation.
As a young father, FDR found that his family enjoyed Campobello and it became customary to spend July, August, and part of September there. Over the summers, the energetic, athletic father taught his children sailing and many other pastimes he had learned there during his childhood. Campobello became as much a part of the lives of his family as it had been of his.
Although FDR's growing political responsibilities and health problems eventually limited his visits to Campobello, his love of the island and his long associations with its people left a lasting impression. After he became President, FDR returned to his summer home for three brief visits: in 1933, 1936, and 1939. Eleanor returned with the children and two of her friends in the summer of 1925 and again in 1933, 35 and 36.
"When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on." - Franklin D. Roosevelt
Sailing was the most important part of the Campobello summer. The Roosevelts enjoyed both day-sailing, often picnicking on nearby islands, and cruising, taking three and four day trips around Passamaquoddy Bay, up to St. Andrews, or along the Maine coast.
An excerpt from FDR's July 29, 1907-letter to his mother describes one of their trips. "We left in the Half Moon at 10:30 ... had to use the engine and went far up into South Bay between the Islands and landed for lunch... we did some canoeing before returning at three, getting home at five."
Outdoor activities on shore included golfing, picnicking, swimming, bicycling, playing tennis, hiking and spotting birds and sea life from the pathways or along the shore. When the children were young, they generally had lessons in the morning and spent the afternoon playing games, horseback riding, and "messing around" in boats. As the children grew older, Franklin organized hiking expeditions along the cliffs and thrilled the children with games of hare-and-hounds and paper chases.
As evenings could be cool and days foggy, indoor activities played an important role in the summer routine. FDR spent time working on his stamp collection; Eleanor knitted, wrote letters and read. In the evenings, she regularly read aloud to the children and guests. There was dancing at the club house and occasional evening parties for the children, such as hay rides and taffy pulls.