You know how everyone always remembers what they were doing when certain momentous occurrences happened somewhere in the world during their lives? I’m old enough to have a few of those memories. One was on April 12, 1945, when I was seven years old, sitting on our living room floor in front of our huge wooden radio. Back then radios were great, clunky, beautiful pieces of furniture on four legs, usually topped with a huge antimacassar and lots of family photos. The innards, as seen from the back, were a conglomeration of glowing glass tubes, wires and metallic things all somehow woven into a very small numbered and lined glass window as seen from the front. That small yellow window with black numbers had brown knobs on each side so one could, by hand, adjust the sound and “change the station,” not “the channel.”

It was around 5 p.m. as I recall, and I was curled on the rug, my head close to that big old RCA radio, as Clark Kent jumped into a handy phone booth and stripped off. My imagination soared as the Great Caped One then leaped into the sky. A bird? A plane? No, Superman went flying off to stare through opaque things, deflect bullets, toss locomotives into the air and save the world.

Anyway, as our boy in blue and red was fixing to leap a couple of tall buildings in a single bound, and fly like a speeding bullet over Metropolis, reporter/journalist Lois Lane was lusting after him from a window of the Daily Planet newspaper while cub reporter/gofer Jimmy Olsen cowered in front of their boss, Editor in Chief Perry White.

And then, that radio announcer, with a somber, sad voice broke into the broadcast to announce that “President Roosevelt has died.”

No. It can’t be. He was the only president I’d ever known. He’d become president six years before I was born and I assumed he’d be president forever. Dead? Impossible.

I stood and walked toward our kitchen, pushed through the swinging door and stood looking at my parents as they chatted with a neighbor. They ignored me, so I said, “President Roosevelt is dead.” Heads turned. “What???” I said it again, my voice flat.

“There you go again young Elsie, with your apocryphal tales.” The neighbor grinned and shook her finger at me. “Elsie sweetheart, you should not say such things about our President. God will punish you if you fib like that.”

“Nope,” I answered. “Not fibbing.” I walked back into the living room so I could hear the rest of the program, but no amount of my twirling those dials could bring back to me the great flying hero of heroic rescues. Instead, everyone now seemed to be wanting to talk about “the death of President Roosevelt.”

Our heavy black Bakelite telephone began to ring. The people in the kitchen answered and then, lots of gasps and screams. The phone was dropped repeatedly but that old Bakelite stuff was pretty rugged. I stood in the middle of this small crowd of now crazy people. One of them, I was sure, would soon apologize for doubting me. Never happened.

My extremely Republican father came home from work a couple of hours later and while he didn’t exactly celebrate the president’s death, he also didn’t pull on a black arm band or look particularly somber. I thought he was smiling a bit too much, all things considered. He never did much care for FDR’s seeming concern for the poor and minorities, all religions, and people from other countries. In fact, when well-oiled with a few belts of Cutty Sark, my father would occasionally make a huge scene about the president, shouting a bit too loudly about how “that @#%@!!&* fella in the White House is bleeding us dry with all this tax stuff. Taxes? Social Security? What a joke. What idiots. Those so-called poor people don’t need taking care of. Let them work their way up from nothing the way I did.” Yes, indeed he did, if working his way up was being taken into his father’s successful NYC insurance company and being given a lucrative job for life. Whenever the first draughts of Cutty Sark had gently warmed him, good old Dad had a tendency to rev up his Abe Lincoln log cabin birth fantasy.

Oh, how he hated FDR. Our big dining room table had dozens of deep notches at the end where he often expressed his disapproval of the President by smashing his silver dinner knife repeatedly into the table’s edge. (He thoughtfully did it with the knife’s dull side.)

I never did find out how that episode of Superman ended on April 12, in 1945 at 5 PM. I’ve always wondered. Anyone out there know?

LC Van Savage is a local writer. Contact her at [email protected], or visit

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