‘Hey, I saw the President!’

Written by on January 18, 2012 in Featured, For Seniors - No comments

When the President comes to town it is a very big deal. As most of us know, a lot of planning goes into a presidential visit and even if the president is just passing through it generates a lot of excitement—and, I am sure, a lot of anxiety for police and city officials.

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Guide photographer Tom Scilipoti got a better view of President John F. Kennedy at the Fifth Regiment Armory. Photo by Thomas Scilipoti

The President of the United States has visited my little corner of the world three times. I have a little story connected to each. Nothing super dramatic, just a little anecdote. Every now and then it comes up in conversation, and then many people jump in and tell their tale.

I remember when John F. Kennedy came on a helicopter which landed in Patterson Park. He arrived just around sundown in the late summer. There was not just one helicopter, but two. The small part of the park east of Linwood Avenue is mostly baseball diamonds, which means a lot of loose red dirt and clay.

There were a couple thousand people lined up along Linwood and Eastern avenues hoping to see the president. But during the landing the helicopters kicked up a dust storm that spread for hundreds of yards. They put the president in a convertible and all I could see was two heads, one with a hat and another without. I’m guessing one of them was JFK. The motorcade sped away on its way to the Fifth Regiment Armory. Hey, I saw JFK! Or part of him, at least.

Lyndon Johnson came in the same way and also landed in Patterson Park. I was visiting a friend who lived on Chester Street just across from McKenna Pontiac. The new cars had come in so we just had to be there and watch them unload. It was a big deal to see the new 1965 Pontiacs, it really was!

Anyway, we found out that President Johnson is in a motor parade up Eastern Avenue. I go up to the corner and stand in front of Holy Rosary School and wait. I see the big Cadillac coming and my eyes get bigger, my heart beats faster and the car stops in front of me. The president gets out, walks right up to me and shakes my hand! Then the Secret Service shoves me out of the way and I turn around and see that all of the nuns are gathered behind me. The president shook each nun’s hand. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!

In my early teens I was at Gino’s on Dundalk Avenue when the police came, blocked off the driveway and held everyone in the parking lot. Little did I know that the Steelworkers Union hall next door was hosting a rally and President Richard Nixon was the speaker. Talk about a fast convoy! I could see the main limo and I could see Nixon’s famous profile. The convoy slipped quickly under the building and that was it. I found out later that my father, a union member, was inside, and the beer was free!

by Roland Moskal
Special to the Baltimore Guide

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