Scott Larsen, a history buff impersonating former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, tells a crowd at the First United Methodist Church in Port Angeles on Sunday of Roosevelt’s trip to the Olympic Peninsula 80 years ago. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

FDR’s Peninsula visit commemorated with “first-hand” account

PORT ANGELES — Franklin D. Roosevelt returned to Port Angeles over the weekend, marking 80 years since his 2-week excursion to the Pacific Northwest.

Scott Larsen of New Westminster, B.C., sporting a fedora and trench coat, impersonated the four-term president and recounted his trip to the North Olympic Peninsula, offering a “first-hand” account of what it was like to visit Port Angeles, Lake Crescent and Forks in 1937.

He told a crowd at United Methodist Church of his run-ins with the press, what it was like eating dinner at the “Lake Crescent Tavern” and his thoughts on creating Olympic National Park — a controversial topic at the time.

When Roosevelt visited, the Lake Crescent Lodge was unlike what it is now. He said cabins did not have a view of the lake, despite what some might think.

He spoke at the Lake Crescent Lodge on Saturday, but said he left that detail out.

“I had to be delicate last night when I spoke there because my host likes to leave the impression I stayed in one of those,” he said.

Though Roosevelt and White House staff stayed in cottages at the Lake Crescent Tavern, the press corps stayed at the Marymere Resort, an area he said is “not like we know today.”

It was a summer resort that typically closed around Oct. 1.

“I heard about it in press reports that they slept in leaky cottages and it was so cold — it got into the 40s — that they had to sleep in their clothes,” he said. “That’s one way to handle the press and keep them at bay.”

He told the group about when a lumberjack cut the top off a 200-foot Douglas fir for Roosevelt.

“This made nationwide news,” he said, adding that the man’s parents arrived minutes late, missing the president. “They missed me by 15 minutes, but their son made nationwide news shaking my hand.”

When Larsen opened his talk up for questions, a man who was in Port Angeles when Roosevelt visited had a question that needed an answer.

“Why didn’t you wave at me?” the man asked Larsen.

Larsen replied that he had his back turned and didn’t see him.

That’s when Larsen broke character and spoke about his love for history. He said he started studying Roosevelt after a teacher “badmouthed the president.”

His love for Roosevelt grew the more he learned and now he impersonates the man in a hope that he can make people interested in history.

He was the guest speaker Sunday for History Tales, the monthly Clallam County Historical Society program in the social hall of the First United Methodist Church.

Larsen will both speak and dine at Lake Quinault Lodge, 245 S. Shore Road today. The talk begins at 1 p.m., and Larsen will eat lunch in the lodge at 2 p.m.

To follow Larsen’s trip across the Pacific Northwest, visit his Facebook page at “FDR in the PNW.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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