Friday, February 06, 2015

In Honor of President Ronald Reagan's 104th Birthday

As we mark President Ronald Reagan's 104th birthday on February 6, I'm transported back to a day during the fall of 1990. At that time I had the unique opportunity to spend much of a day with him as he visited his boyhood home in Dixon, Illinois. This turned out to be the last time he would visit there.
The original video is now housed at the Reagan Presidential Library in California. The following pictures were shot off of my TV screen from a VHS copy of the original material so the quality is diminished.

Along with the rest of the video crew, we were given Secret Service clearance for the day and shadowed him where ever he went.
We began at the river where, as a lifeguard, he saved many lives. There he skipped stones on the river and talked about his experiences.
We walked up to the thirdfloor gym where he had played basketball. Mr. Reagan took a few shots from the free-throw line.

We covered him with video cameras as crowds pushed toward him and made the Secret Service people nervous. For most of the day I was never more than inches or a few feet from one of the greatest men I believe this country has ever had as its leader.
A group of schoolchildren recited the Pledge of Allegiance as he stood out in front of the house. He went to the garage in the back of the house and then on to the statute of himself.
Mr. Reagan spoke to a full house that had gathered in the high school gym. There he was presented with a letter jacket. He proceeded to the football field and threw passes to some of the team.

The most unique experience came when we traveled to the actual house. There we set up for the only video interview that he gave that day. I was able to ask him a number of personal questions about growing up in that house.

After the interview, President Reagan was kind enough to send me a personal letter of thanks.


Author Peggy Blann Phifer said...

How thrilling that must have been, Max. Clearly a memory to cherish.

BK said...

WOW! Hard to believe he would be 104 now! Time flies.

And what a great time you must've had. Clearly, it still ranks as an outstanding memory for you. Thanks for sharing it.

Brenda Jackson

max said...

It was a pretty special day, Peg. Thank you.

max said...

We did have a great time, BK. Thanks.

lmbartelt said...

This is great! I grew up in Dixon, IL and was a middle-schooler, I think, that day that Reagan visited his hometown. And then I was working as a reporter for the local newspaper when he died, so I was immersed in the local coverage of his death.

I'm curious: how did you come to be part of the video crew that day? Thanks for taking me down memory lane, and I know those places you mentioned well!

max said...

Thank you lmbartelt. Because we live in Rockford, and our video facilities are here, we were chosen to do the day of production.