Saturday, February 24, 2007

I Touched A Ford ...

What did the Texas State Fair in Dallas, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the tip of my right index finger have to do with this story?

In 1953, Ms. Edna Brooks, who for several years directed the South Park High School orchestra in Beaumont, scheduled the orchestra to play at the Cotton Bowl during the State Fair. Ms. Brooks was a very successful music teacher. She was an outstanding violinist in her own right and played for years with the Beaumont Symphony Orchestra. She completed her distinguished musical career with years of service on the music faculty at Lamar University.

Anyway, on this particular trip to the State Fair in 1953, we were slated to play two concerts. When were not in concert, we had “free time” to run around the midway and ride the rides. Great fun.

One day while we were there, word circulated that President Dwight D. Eisenhower would be making a whistle stop at the fairgrounds. This meant that the presidential train would stop and the president would make a brief speech from the train’s rear observation platform.

When time came for the president to make his appearance I was not there. Two reasons kept me from going to see the president. I was in a long line to ride one of the more exciting attractions on the midway. I did not want to lose my place in line. Also, I was just too tired to walk across the fairgrounds to where the railroad spur and the train were located. I missed seeing President Eisenhower even though he was within a relatively short distance from me. As the years passed I regretted my not making that effort to see the president.

Now fast forward to 1977. By this time I was married and had two children. We lived in Big Spring, Texas. One day, news reported that President Gerald Ford was going to give a press conference at the Big Spring airport. This meant that he would not be going into town. Rather his plane would land and he would give his speech right there on the airport tarmac.

I recalled my frustration over not going to see Eisenhower back in 1953. So this time I was determined to go out to the airport and see Gerald Ford. I did not want to pass up another opportunity to see a president of the United States in person.

Imagine my chagrin upon arriving at the airport to see hundreds of people already there waiting to see the president. I became all the more determined to see the president and to shake his hand. We were told that he would make his way along the fence line to shake hands with the crowd. So I began to twist, squirm and squeeze my way through the crowd and toward the fence. But when the president arrived, I still was about four rows deep in the crowd from the fence.

Sure enough, there came the president making his way along the fence line shaking every hand he could reach. There was no way I could possibly get any closer to the fence so I crammed my right arm through the three rows of people ahead of me until my hand was up to the fence. As President Ford passed by, he shook the tip of my index finger. He never saw me but I can say that we touched.

And now you know how determination born in Dallas by not going to see President Eisenhower at the State Fair in 1953, spurred me into action in 1977 when I went to the Big Spring airport and experienced the shaking of my index finger by President Gerald Ford.

I was satisfied.

Winston Hamby


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