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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Monday, March 19, 2012

The First President I Remember!

Oh, yesterday was cloudy and windy today was pouring rain, cold and windy. Took few pictures since the countryside was not much different than we'd already seen here in Kansas and it was almost impossible to see out the windshield, never mind the side windows. Because of the weather, too, we opted to use the Interstate, something we avoid as much as possible.

Our only goal today was to visit the Dwight D Eisenhower boyhood home and museum, library and gravesite. I was 10 when Ike was elected the first time and I don't think I really remember that campaign though I have vague memories of Truman as President. By the time I was riding the city buses to high school on the upper Eastside Ike was running for reelection and the overhead brackets held campaign posters for him. I remember using my finger to write I LIKE Ike in the condensation on the bus window. I liked him and Mamie--they were very grandparent like and they had the cutest grandchildren, especially dreamy David who eventually married Nixon's daughter, Julie.

Later, after he more or less was retired from public life I remember the white fence that seperated his farm from the Battlefield in Gettysburg and that sometimes the flag would be flying indicating his being in residence. Almost royal!  LOL

His boyhood home is tiny. Three rooms downstairs and three upstairs. Six boys!  And he married a vivacious girl from Denver who was one of four girls.  The museum was incredibly detailed. Spent hours and skipped some things because it was just so much. Disappointingly, the focus, even in the house, was on his life from West Point forward. Unlike Plains,Georgia from which you departed with a real feeling for the formative years of Jimmy Carter. Most of what the museum covers is the part of his life we all know already. I did buy two books, however. One about the Eisenhower legacy which talks of his parents and his brothers as well as him as he grew in Abilene, Ks. The second is written by him--Tales I Tell My Friends.  Looking forward to reading them both.

I was quite taken by one of his quotes: " If all Americans want is security, they can go to prison."  I loved the letter he sent to Irving Berlin just prior to his death in Walter Reed Hospital. He told Berlin that he listened to his music in the hospital as background music during his recovery and that he'd listened to it all his life. He thanked him for writing such beautiful music. Send his regards and Mamie's. Said there was no need for a reply. He died several weeks later.

The gifts he received from Heads of State are so incredibly beautiful and priceless. Some of the countries don't exist anymore, others, like Iran are politically entirely different than they were. I could not help wondering what he thought of such ostentation in some cases and what he did with the gifts--he surely didn't use them and he seemed too self-effacing to have displayed them. Also, it occured to me that many of the people in those countries were suffering terribly while such large sums of money were spent on gifts just to solidify or indicate solidarity in friendship.

As I listened to the interview that Barbara Walters held with Mamie,  week before she died, I perked up when Walters asked if Mamie ever worried about Ike when he was overseas. Mamie said of course she worried.  But Walters said I don't mean for his safety, but rather that there might be someone else. How cruel--for it seems that there was someone else --Kay Summersby, his secretary and driver, has been said to have been his mistress. I'm sure Mamie knew and that this line of questioning hurt her. But the military wife that she was--with dignity she replied--No, never.

As we left the Museum the rain just poured and so we did not cross the quad to the little chapel in which he is buried. I hope we'll come back and say a prayer there some day--he was an old fashioned man who was wise and kind and loved by members of both parties. I wonder if we'll ever see that kind of bipartisan respect and admiration again.

We journeyed on into Junction City and the brand new Comfort Inn and Suites where we are on the Penthouse floor and ordered Domino's Pizza in so we would not go out in the rain and wind again. As I close I hear the lonely wail of a train at a nearby crossing. I wish we still had trains at home.

Not sure about tomorrow--there is a Calvary Museum and Custer House, as well as an Oz Museum. We'll see what the weather brings as we move ever Eastward and North toward home. For now, got to go--Dancing with the Stars is starting tonight. The only reality show I can stand.  Bye!

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