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Virginia Tolles

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Member Since: Aug, 2006

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A Celebrity Encounter
by Virginia Tolles   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, August 06, 2007
Posted: Monday, August 06, 2007

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A fellow blogger and her respondent recalled seeing Elvis in person and how it was one of their favorite memories. I'm not a big Elvis fan, myself, but I do have two equally fond memories.

Today, I will tell you about my fondest memory: meeting President Ford. He was campaigning in the 1976 election and went to Jackson, Mississippi.

My father-in-law and I drove down for the occasion. We arrived early and made our way to the area where Air Force One would park. It was July and hot! We wanted to buy Coca Colas from a vending machine in a nearby hangar, but the Secret Service had set up there and wouldn't let us come in. When the heat became unbearable, we walked over to the terminal and got something cold to drink.

We got back at just the right time, for the crowd was queueing up alongside the tarmac. Very soon afterwards, SAM 27000 (the backup Boeing 707) set down and taxied over to where we all stood. I was surprised to learn that the undercarriage was light blue; somehow, I had imagined it to be white or silver. I still remember feeling a bit let down, for it wasn't a particularly pretty shade of blue.

The President debarked and made his way across the front row of well wishers. Of course, I was on the front row! And I shook his hand. Oh, I was beaming! I was so excited! He was cordial but did not share my excitement. Somehow, I could not let go of his thumb. He reached with his other hand to shake other hands, while I continued to hold onto his thumb. To this day, I find myself wondering why the Secret Service didn't step forward to inform me that, no, I could not keep the President's thumb as a souvenir!

I still admire President Ford and his family for all that they gave this country after the tragedies of Vietnam and Watergate. One of their then-teenage children managed to elude the Secret Service in order to have a "normal" date. They ripped and snorted through Camp David on their snowmobiles. Mrs. Ford shared her experience with cancer and her addiction to prescribed medications and let us know that we could face our problems head-on.

Even though President Nixon was guilty, President Ford pardoned him and the draft dodgers in order to help restore peace in the country. He was the first president to come out and insist that something be done about the deficit spending wrought by the obsolete recovery programs of the Great Depression. He backed up that insistence by vetoing 61 spending bills.

The family, in short, were a breath of much needed fresh air.

And, so, I am most grateful that President Gerald Rudolph Ford is the one president with whom I have shaken thumbs.

Web Site: Tales Along the Way Home

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