October 27, 1960
Del Rio, Texas
It's fun being almost 8 years old! Sometimes the needle on my excitometer slams against that little black pin way over on the right hand side. (That's like the side I throw and eat with. Left is the other side).
Today is one of those days!
I've been seeing red, white and blue banners for days now, and today is the day that HE comes to town--THE PRESIDENT of the United States. I, Yes I, am going to go see him-----iiiinnnn Person!
Of course, I have no idea what a President is, but the parents and older brother and sister seem so very excited. So, naturally, I gotta be excited too , but----- I can't let them know that I don't understand what the heck's going on.
Breakfast is bacon, fried eggs (topped with Mama's "hot sauce" of course) and a big glass of ice cold milk to wash it all down.
Of course, I drink coffee just like my dad, but only at Mama's house when my mom isn't watchin’. Mama puts a lot of milk and sugar in it, and I do love it!
Wait, wait, wait! Back to the story. Let’s go see that President guy!
My dad must know him. Calls him just, "Ike"--which is exactly like "Yikes!" -- except totally different.
So, Downtown we head, and I look out the right window as we top the overpass. Yep! She's still there! Hold it! She's NOT there! Sleeping Lady, who we always see in the far distance--way over in Mexico--has disappeared behind a curtain of cold, damp mist. Welcome to Del Rio--Where it NEVER rains, right? Ha!
And now we’re headed down the back side of the overpass after Not seeing a single train--Dang it! Then, we make a sweeping right turn that feels like the race track I saw in Santonio.
Now the church (where they have macaroni shells in a box, and we sometimes get to glue 'em on colored construction paper during Sunday School, and where I also sneak one or two and eat 'em.)
Parking in the back lot is a breeze, and we walk around to the front steps.
"Hurry!" I hear, "He's almost here!"
Up the steps and through the double doors we go, and I can finally take this stupid hat with the floppy ears off my head. It never rains inside the church.
A bunch of grownups are already here, and they've cranked out those funny windows that you can't see through. So, we grab a spot.
What’s this? I'm standing here looking at what?--a wall! I can't see a darned thing, and I hear excited voices saying things--strange things. They don't talk like this usually. Seems like these particular people always talk about that God stuff--which I love--but it's somehow all different today.
Suddenly, my dad grabs me and rockets me upward! Finally I can see the rainy street!
He says, "There he is! That's the President!"
And I’m thrilled to see a huge white car with no top, and in the back seat is the whitest, baldest man I've ever seen. He has a huge smile, and he's looking our direction! Wow! This is so amazing, and I vow NEVER to forget it.
From above and to my left, I hear a big kid yell, "Hey Ike!", and I see Ike respond with an even bigger smile. Big kids really know how to do stuff. I don't understand why I was born to be a little kid and they were all born to be big. It's just not fair. Not fair at all.
Anyway, as fast as he arrived, he's gone. They say he's headed to Mexico to see another President, and I wonder if they'll like each other. I have lots of Mexican friends, and they're so nice to me. Plus, when Pappy fixes sick people, he speaks Mexican too.
The excitement begins to go away, and somebody jams my stupid hat back on my head. I hate it because it messes up my hair. Oh well. They never ask ME what I want.
We walk out of the church and see that there are no more Presidents--just lots of regular people all heading here and there.
So, I finally ask Daddy--where Butch and Linda can't hear me--"Why do you like the President so much?" And he says, "Billy I helped get him elected. He's a good man!"
I'm stunned! I finally understand why I didn't get a whippin’ for plugging that wire in that electricity thing! Gettin’ “elected,” just like I did that day, must be a good thing or Daddy wouldn't have helped Ike do it. And that Ike! He likes doin Stuff too! I think I like THIS President!
Well, we walk half way back to the car, with Butch and Linda skipping ahead and our mom at home with our 3-1/2 year old little brother, Sterling; and Daddy stops. He kneels down in front of me and says this:
"Billy, I want you to someday tell all your friends that voting for the President of the United States is a sacred honor. It’s the second most important right granted to us under our Constitution. Promise me you'll tell them."
- Present Day -
I did promise my dad that day, and I just honored that vow by telling you what he said.
Please do pray, consider the stakes, and go vote! It's your sacred right AND your vital duty.
May God Bless America--Always!
Our little hometown, Del Rio, Texas was host to three separate U.S. presidents during my lifetime there. I saw two of them in person, President’s Eisenhower and Nixon. In fact, I was just five or six feet away from President Nixon when he stood up through the open roof of his big black limousine. We were high up on the roadway that traverses Amistad Dam from end to end, and the President’s motorcade was in the process of taking him to the middle of the dam for the dedication ceremonies with his counterpart, the President of Mexico.
President Johnson also came to town, but my family and I were out of town that day, and our only connection to his visit was my father’s interaction with the U.S. Secret Service. Several days before the presidential visit, they inspected and sealed the windows of his office on the fourth floor of the Del Rio National Bank Building. It overlooked the parade route, and this wasn’t long after the tragedy in Dallas where President Kennedy’s life was suddenly ended by an assassin’s bullet.
All of these great men came to town in association with the construction of nearby Amistad Dam and Reservoir – a massive international project that created a six-mile long dam which holds back the waters of the fourth largest man-made lake in the United States.
Most little towns never get to host anyone nearly as important as presidents of the United States. So, I guess we had more than our share, and it all started with Ike’s visit that rainy Thursday morning in 1960.
William Richard Meredith