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On Rin Tin Tin, Roosevelt and frog legs

POSTED: April 19, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Presidential assassinations, and attempted assassinations, burn deep into Americans' memories.
One attempted assassination had it been successful surely would have altered the history of the country more than any other.

Yet few people remember that Franklin D. Roosevelt was the target of an assassin even before he took office for his first term as president of the United States. A former Gainesville man, James W. Galloway, is credited among others who subdued the gunman.

Roosevelt won his first of four terms in November 1932 and is revered by many today as pulling the country out of the Great Depression and getting them through World War II. But he almost didn't make it to the inauguration, which in those days didn't occur until March.

Roosevelt had been on vacation in Miami, Fla., and was being driven in an open car through the city's streets on Feb. 15, 1933, a little more than two weeks before his scheduled inauguration. Grandstands had been set up along the route to allow people to view and cheer their next president.

Among the crowds was Joe Zangara, a small Italian who said he would have killed the outgoing president, Herbert Hoover, had he had the chance. But he hated all presidents, and took out his fury on President-elect Roosevelt.

With a .32 caliber handgun he had just bought at a pawn shop for $8, Zangara stood atop a chair 35 feet away as Roosevelt's car paused in the parade and began firing toward him. He wounded several people, including Chicago Mayor Tony Cermak, but missed Roosevelt.

Galloway was the first to wrest the gun away from the shooter. He and several others then piled on top of Zangara until police could handcuff and carry him away, shackling him to the top of an automobile. The crowd threw things at him as the car sped away.

Roosevelt had aides put Mayor Cermak into his car and rushed him to the hospital. He died March 3, 1933, a day before the president's inauguration.

Meanwhile, Zangara already had been sentenced to 84 years in prison for wounding Cermak and others. Justice was swifter in those days. After Cermak died, Zangara immediately received the death sentence and was executed less than three weeks later.

Galloway, son of former Gainesville Midland Railroad conductor Fox Galloway, had moved from Gainesville to Miami to get into the real estate business.

• • •

A German shepherd dog, Rin Tin Tin, and his descendants became movie and television stars in the United States. One of his sons once guarded the Brenau College campus in Gainesville.
The original Rin Tin Tin is said to have been rescued as a puppy from a bombed-out kennel in France during World War I. Cpl. Lee Duncan brought him to the United States, trained him and finally got him into the movies. A series of successful Rin Tin Tin movies rescued Warner Brothers from the brink of bankruptcy.

Offspring of Rin Tin Tin appeared in later movies and television shows. Rin Tin Tin III helped train other dogs for service in World War II.

Dr. B.B. Chandler of Gainesville acquired Jim, one of Rin Tin Tin's sons, in the 1930s. The dog made the rounds with Brenau's night watchman, visited Gainesville's police station and would even carry his master's medical bag.

• • •

Had a Gillsville farmer's experiment been successful, Hall County might have become the frog leg capital of the world instead of the broiler capital.

Mayor Frank Martin started a frog farm during the Great Depression. It was to be a "gig-your-own" venture, sort of like "pick-your-own" blueberry or strawberry farms. He would open up his farm for frog-gigging excursions, and participants would take home their catches for a frog leg supper. His project was on bottomland he owned, and cattle would graze the higher ground.

The Gainesville News wrote at the time, "The cattle, after grazing all day on succulent grasses and clovers, will be furnished music by the croaking frogs as they rest under the moon ... "

The cows, however, apparently were easier to corral than frogs, and people's taste preferred beef to frog legs. The poultry boom blossomed, people turned more to chicken legs, and most of the frogs happily escaped their date with the frying pan.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle N.E., Gainesville. His column appears Sundays and on gainesvilletimes.com. First published Feb. 16, 2008.



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