I grew up in a rural Tennessee farming community where everybody I knew was a Democrat. Anybody other than a Democrat would have been considered an outsider. Herbert Hoover was president when I was born in 1929. I do not remember him, as I was three when his term ended. I learned later that he was a Republican businessman who became known for distributing food to starving residents of Belgium and northern France during WWI. He was blamed, perhaps unfairly, for causing the Great Depression of the 1930’s. The stock market crashed and the depression began the day I was born, October 28, 1929. Men were jumping out of high rise windows after losing all their wealth.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, governor of New York, defeated Herbert Hoover in 1932 in a landslide election to become president and inherit the economic crisis. FDR initiated the “New Deal” which gave birth to Social Security, and other social programs such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, Works Progress Administration (affectionately known as We Piddle Around) and the Civilian Conservation Corps. He led us through the Great Depression of the 1930’s and most of WWII in the early to mid-1940’s. Roosevelt won four consecutive presidential elections and died during his fourth term. The presidential two-term limit law was enacted two years after FDR’s death. I was fifteen when FDR died in 1945, and he was the only president I had ever known.
FDR was so successful in hiding his paralysis from polio that I was not aware of his inability to stand without help. Back then, there was no television, only radio and newspapers. Most photos of him showed him sitting, smiling and waving, from an open car. Sometimes we saw him in newsreels when we went to the movies in towns twenty miles away from our farm, but he was always seated. A train transported his body north from Warm Springs, GA, where he had established a therapy center for polio victims. His death seemed tragic to me. He had represented strong and stable leadership and comforted us with his Saturday night “fireside chats” which we listened to from our battery powered radio.
Vice President Harry Truman assumed the presidency when FDR died. He struggled with the moral decision whether to use the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan which ended WWII. In 1948 when Truman ran for another term, I was an eighteen-year-old junior in college. I was not old enough to vote because voting age was 21 at that time. Truman was a haberdasher (that’s when I learned that word) from Missouri. He was jaunty and strode around very erect and spent a lot of time at his second home in Key West. I had great respect for Truman, and was glad he won. The Chicago Tribune made news by proclaiming erroneously the morning after the election DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN. During the Truman years I graduated from Murray State College and started teaching first grade at Eglin AFB in Florida because my sister, Imogene, and her husband lived there and I could live with them. Their eleven year old son, Martin, and I shared a bedroom.
The first time I voted was in 1952, for Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower. He had been a five-star general and Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during WWII when my brother Dale was killed there. Many people wore the “I LIKE IKE” button. I was newly married and was strongly influenced by my military husband, Capt. H. H. Macurdy, but I remember feeling more akin to Ike’s Democratic opponent, the progressive intellectual, Adlai Stevenson.
While the Eisenhower family occupied the White House, I saw Mac off to the Korean War, lived with a family friend in Green Mountain Falls, CO and worked for the Colorado Interstate Gas Company in Colorado Springs. I also traveled to Japan on The Gateway City (a cargo/passenger ship), lived in a barracks and taught kindergarten in a poorly heated Quonset hut on Itazuke AFB in Japan. I remember a lot of news about Eisenhower, the Cold War with Russia, and Stalin’s death while I was in Japan. On our way back to the States, Eric was conceived in a barracks in Hawaii. I gave birth to two baby boys, Eric in 1955 and Casey in 1956, at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital in Pennsylvania. Then we moved to Paine Field near Seattle for two years. Eisenhower was finishing his eighth year as president when we moved to Spain in the summer of 1960.
In the 1960 November election I strongly supported Democrat John F. Kennedy, as opposed to Republican Richard Nixon. First Lady Jackie Bouvier Kennedy and JFK created the seemingly idyllic atmosphere of “Camelot” at the White House. We were in Spain during his three years in office. While there, Kennedy led us safely through the Cuban missile crisis. The rumor, which thankfully remained just a rumor, circulated that all military dependents would have to evacuate back to the states, as Russians might engage our American F-102’s at our base near Madrid.
JFK was assassinated in November 1963 just as we were getting back from Spain and settling into a rental house on Lake Waubesa near Madison, WI. Vice President Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office on Air Force One in Dallas, TX standing with Jackie in her bloodstained pink suit beside the coffin containing Kennedy’s slain body. We had been without TV for three years in Spain, and much time was spent watching the drama of Kennedy’s funeral procession.
When Democrat Lyndon Johnson ran for a second term, I voted for him against Republican Barry Goldwater. President Johnson was not polished, but was skilled at working with congress and getting things done. He initiated The Great Society which was designed to eliminate poverty and racial division. Johnson signed the Medicare bill in 1965, the year our daughter, Clea, was born in Madison, WI. Mac made the decision to leave the USAF after 24 years of service and we moved to Siesta Key in Sarasota, FL when Clea was one.
In Sarasota, retired from the Air Force, Mac was very much involved in the Bradenton Yacht Club sailing crowd. I remember preparing a wok dinner for three couples, all Bradenton doctors and their wives with whom we sailed. Over my stir-fry, they were discussing politics when I became aware they were all, including Mac, voting for Nixon. I was voting for Democrat Hubert Humphrey. Nixon won that, and then another election, but he was forced to resign in disgrace over the Watergate scandal.
An Arkansas ferry boat memory places Nixon’s resignation in the summer of 1974. Mac, our nine year old Clea, and I had traveled west in our Dodge van camper for six weeks, putting our canoe in whatever body of water we found as far west as Wyoming. On our way back, we were crossing a river in Arkansas on a ferry when all the car radios on the ferry were left on at high volume and tuned to a news station announcing the authorities were closing in on Nixon’s cover-up of the Watergate break-in. A few days later, August 7, 1974 he announced that he would resign. His wife, Pat Nixon, stood beside him looking absolutely miserable. Vice President Gerald Ford, assumed the presidency.
In 1976, still in Sarasota, I voted for Carter vs. Gerald Ford. Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer from Georgia, was a favorite of mine and remains so to this day. Both he and his wife, Rosalynn, are actively working for the greater good doing humanitarian work around the world. For the thirty-seven years since being voted out of office, Carter has continued his good work, much of it in Africa.
In 1980, Republican Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter. On Reagan’s inauguration day, Iran released 52 American hostages who had been held for 444 days. Rebelling Iranian students had taken over the American Embassy in protest on November 4, 1979 and captured and blindfolded the Americans. I never understood Reagan’s popularity, as I was annoyed by Nancy having so much control and her sickening, ever-present, adoring gaze at her “Ronnie”. I think she adored the power that she wielded in her marriage.
George H. W. Bush was never a favorite of mine. In 1988, I voted for Democrat Michael Dukakis, instead, knowing he was a weak candidate with no chance of winning. By then, Mac and I were living separately, I in Gainesville, FL, and Mac in a travel trailer headquartered near his parents in Fernandina Beach, FL. We saw each other frequently and cooperated on caring for his aging parents, Harold and Agie Macurdy. Our daughter, Clea, had graduated from UF by now and together, she and I converted Mac from Republican to Democrat.
Bill Clinton had personal flaws, but when he talked, I listened. What he had to say was always informative and interesting to me. In spite of his being impeached and acquitted for having sex with an intern and lying about it, he was an effective president and our country thrived economically during his time in office. He knew how to govern effectively.
In 2000, George W. Bush “won” over Al Gore or at least that is what was decided by the Supreme Court. Florida had trouble counting its votes and a ballot flaw known as “hanging chads” was in the news. On 9/11/2001, hijacked planes were flown into the World Trade Towers. I saw that on a TV in Shands Eye Clinic waiting room and watched in horror as the towers came down! About the same time, my sister Imogene died and my granddaughter, Anna Rose, was born. Dubya, “W”, as Bush #43 was known, was somewhat of an embarrassment for mangling the English language. He invaded Iraq based on the misinformation that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. In 2004, he defeated Democrat John Kerry and served a second term. His negative legacy is the unpopular Iraq war and the financial crisis of 2008.
In 2008, I was worried about war in Iraq and chose McCain over Obama due to McCain’s military know-how. It was good that McCain didn’t win, as I had no respect for his twit running mate, Sarah Palin, of Alaska. During the next four years, I learned to appreciate, trust, and approve of Obama and enthusiastically cast my vote for his second term. I miss the quiet dignity, decency, and thoughtfulness of Obama. He has class, and I crave the stability, security and pride I felt with him as our leader.
I will end here, as Donald Trump’s name does not belong in this list of men I consider to be my presidents. I cannot accept Trump. He does not measure up in class, decency, or honor. Like the majority of voters (48.2% vs. 46.1%), I voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton and wish she had become our first woman president, but Vladimir Putin and the Electoral College both worked against us. Now, I watch world news in dismay and worry that our country is not in good hands.
2 thoughts on “MY PRESIDENTS”
What a great history lesson. Love the personal observations and the melding of world events with them. Nice job!
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Pattie, I’m starting at the beginning and enjoyed every word of this one. We have daughters the same age and share many philosophies. And as we found out today, both of us are Scorpios.