I was an odd child. I readily admit that. I could deny it, of course. My parents are dead, and they were the ones who remembered my childhood best–better even than I do. My older brother would remember, too–he remembers everything. But, he’s far too classy to regale the world with tales of my odd behavior.
One odd thing was that I liked Richard Nixon. I did. I was only 6 when he was elected President, and 11 when he resigned. My Dad despised him, even though Dad voted for him. Dad said Nixon was “the kind of man who would do anything. Anything. You can tell by looking at him.” Nevertheless, I liked Nixon. Maybe that’s why.
As I said, I was an odd little feller. I spent a lot of time concerned about things that 1st graders ignored. The Vietnam War, for instance. I would watch the news and be horrified. We needed to win the war. It worried me.
I worried about the POWs. One year in our Christmas parade in Loyall, Santa gave out POW/MIA badges. I got a bunch of them. As aside, Santa actually threw them from the back of a fire truck. If they hit your head, they hurt like hell, but it was worth it.
I also paid a lot of attention to politics. Again, odd. In 1972, I knew George McGovern was pretty much a Communist and that Nixon would beat him. I didn’t like Communists. I knew they were bad. I used to worry about Communists, too. They could be anywhere. Everywhere.
Democrats used to have a telethon to raise money (quaint, huh?). I watched the telethon. I picked up the phone and called in. I told them I would give $10 if Hubert Humphrey said my name on TV. He did. I then told my parents they owed Hubert Humphrey $10. My narcissistic desire to hear my name notwithstanding, I supported Nixon.
Of course, Nixon won. He was going to end the war. I liked that. I imagined some sort of Hiroshima-type finale. After all, this was Nixon. Before we could get to that, though, we had Watergate. You either know what Watergate is or you don’t. I’m not going to explain. If you don’t know what it is, just know that it’s the reason that all political scandals now end in GATE.
As you can imagine, I was heavily into Watergate. I watched the Senate hearings. Read about it in the paper. John Dean, Howard Hunt, Gordon Liddy, et al., rivaled my baseball heroes for my time. I learned about the CREEP, the Dirty Tricks Squad, Rosemary Woods, Martha Mitchell and on and on. One thing I knew for sure, Nixon was neck-deep in it. It would tug your heart-strings if I told you that it broke my heart. It didn’t. It was Nixon. It was to be expected.
As another aside, I could do a killer Nixon impression and Sam Earvin, too. Really spot on for an 11-year-old. I had been perfecting my Nixon since I was 6, so it should have been good. I could also draw a picture of Nixon. Understand, now, I am not artistic, but I practiced until I could draw a pretty fair likeness.
I wrote Nixon a letter, kind of a “keep your chin up” missive. I imagined him reading it to Pat after dinner. Little did I know that he was so odd himself that he greeted Pat at dinner with “Hi. How are you doing?” I doubt they sat around reading fan mail. I got a letter back from some staffer thanking me for the letter. I’m sure it helped. I’d like to think it did.
It was around the time of Watergate that my school was selling posters for a fundraiser. Some kids bought posters of singers or athletes. I bought this one:
By this time, my parents were thoroughly disgusted by Nixon, but Dad liked the poster. He thought it was funny. My Papaw loved Nixon and the poster.
Once, when we were visiting my grandparents in Salt Lake City, we went to hear Nixon give a speech. Papaw was part of the security detail at Temple Square. He stood right behind Nixon during the speech. I was impressed.
I watched Nixon announce his resignation and his sad parting speech the next day. His upper lip poured sweat. He called his mother a saint. It was sad. I felt bad for him, even though I sensed that he had brought it on himself.
I moved on from old Tricky Dick. I’ve never really cared much for politicians since. Mind you, I’m not disillusioned. Nixon was what I thought he was. That probably says more about me than it does him.
Nixon’s first public appearance after his resignation was actually close to my home in Harlan County, Kentucky. He came to the dedication of a library–or something–in Leslie County. I thought about going over there, but I was a teenager then. Other things to do, I suppose. Dad said he wouldn’t walk across the street to see Nixon.
I kind of liked seeing Nixon become something of an elder statesman in his old age. Oh, I’m sure he would have still done something tricky if he had a chance. At least I’d like to think he would have.