Barbara Pierce Bush, 92, died April 17, 2018. The wife of President George H. W. Bush (41) and President George W. Bush (43), she was only the second women in history to hold the distinction of being a former First Lady and First mother. The first had been Abigail Adams in 1800.
A trip to Los Angeles in December, 2017 brought an opportunity for my second visit to the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, 40 miles east of Los Angeles. The library is perched on a hill that overlooks the valley and provides a magnificent view of the surrounding landscape. The library’s location makes it a bit of a journey to get to but it is definitely worth it.
A bronze statue of Ronald Reagan, our 40th President, greets you as you enter the lobby area.
Entering the museum, you meet both Ron and Nancy with a short film about their careers.
With a variety of artifacts, documents, film clips and other materials, visitors move through the major events of Reagan’s life. You can explore his film career, his two terms as the president of the screen actor’s guild (SAG), his political career as a two-time Governor of California and his two terms as President. The display on the day Reagan was shot on March 30, 1981 soon after his presidency began is a moment by moment account of the horrific day and includes his suit, x-ray taken of his injuries and the weapon used by John Hinckley, Jr.
Reagan was the first President who was divorced. He and actress Jane Wyman married in 1940 and divorced in 1949. He wed Nancy in 1952.
Nancy was the light of his life. Her attention to detail is shown throughout the library.
The re-creation of Reagan’s western themed Oval office is warm and welcoming and has the ever present container of his favorite treat, Jelly Beans. Later in the exhibit you can view a portrait of Reagan’s made of jelly beans.
Nancy is well represented through a beautiful display of her gowns she wore to numerous occasions during her eight years in the White House.
The Air Force One pavilion dominates the Library and houses the Boeing 737 that carried seven presidents around the world during his time as president ending with Reagan. Marine One is also on display as well as the limousine that served him. The plane is positioned as if it could takeoff over the Valley. You can tour both the plane and helicopter and have your photograph taken as a souvenir. I was struck at how small the plane was compared to the 747 that the President flies in today.
Toward the end of tour, there is an exhibit that replays Reagan’s national address after the Challenger explosion. The 911 display brings back memories of that horrific day. A piece of a girder from the twin towers is exhibited and you can touch a piece of history that is forever emblazoned upon our collective memory.
Reagan’s passing from Alzheimer’s on June 5, 2004 was a slow death for this larger than life personality.
Nancy followed her beloved Ronnie in death on March 6, 2016. They were laid to rest next to one another forever together looking out over the mountains of California.
In the courtyard there is a piece of the Berlin Wall. It immediately brings to mind, Reagan’s speech, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” at the Brandenberg gate in 1987. The Soviet Union would fall three years after he left the presidency in 1991.
The Library’s holdings include over 60 million pages of documents, over 1.6 million photographs, a half million feet of motion picture film, tens of thousands of audio and video tape, and over 40,000 artifacts.
The Library and museum is definitely worth the drive.
A four a.m. wake up call on a rainy Friday morning and a six-fifteen boarding time made for early flight to LA. My arrival at LAX was on time at nine a.m. which gave me ample time to unwind and await my friend’s arrival. I made my way to the Westin hotel on Century Blvd. for some breakfast. By eleven, I crossed the street to collect the rental car. Then it was off to the LAX cell phone lot. My friend’s call came quickly and we were off toward Long Beach.
We had made arrangements to see the lobby exhibit of Carpenters memorabilia at the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center at the University of California at Long Beach. Jackie, our tour guide, revealed the hermetically sealed display cases which contain the treasured items of the Carpenters career.
Karen’s drum kit and Richard’s original electric piano are the largest items in the displays. The multitude of Carpenters gold records received during their time as recording artists adorn a glass case.
Prominently displayed is the Battle of the Bands trophy, which Richard won beginning his quest for a music career. It was not long after winning this award that Richard and Karen began performing. The exhibit is small but the space is magnificent. If you have time, see a show.
After a brief ride around the campus of USC at Long Beach we found the Best Western Golden Sails hotel. It was a simple accommodation with a large room and a good rate.
That evening we had an invitation to attend the Queen Mary 50th anniversary celebration that evening. The City of Long Beach purchased The Queen Mary ocean liner in 1967 and it came to its berth in Long Beach Harbor on December 9, 1967. The liner’s final voyage crossed the world to reach its new home. A flotilla of commercial and private boats welcomed the Great Lady to her new home.
We were given an excellent historical tour of the ship by tour guide, Kelly. She was well versed and provided us with a terrific overview of the ship.
After the walking tour, it was time for the ribbon cutting of the new exhibit Their Finest Hours housed onboard the Queen Mary. Jeanne Churchill, the great granddaughter of Winston Churchill, cut the ribbon for the exhibit. This exhibit is akin to the Churchill war rooms in London. This also coincided with the release of the film, The Darkest Hour, which recounted Churchill’s rise to power as Prime Minister in England.
Tired and hungry from our flights, we had a very tasty dinner at Chelsea Chowder House on board ship with a table that overlooked the Long Beach Harbor. After dinner we attended a reception on fantail for the Churchill Society and the opening of Churchill exhibit and the 50th Anniversary of the Queen Mary arriving in Long Beach.
We slept in the next morning and after a light but tasty breakfast at the hotel we set off to Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove.
There we were provided with an informative tour of the renovation of great church by Docent, Rick Yurosko. The church was built by Robert Schuler for his evangelical flock in 1980. It is now owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Orange in Garden Grove. At present, it is undergoing an massive renovation. The organ is being returned to Italy for restoration. It is slated to reopen in 2019. The structure itself is magnificent and unique with its eleven thousand windows.
We ventured to Rutabargors in Tustin for lunch with a mutual friend. The restaurant is an eclectic spot with a large and appetizing menu. After our catch up lunch, we were off to the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda.
The library also houses the birthplace of the Richard Nixon the 36th President.
Entering the library, you walk through the crises that faced Nixon on his election in 1968. Watergate is thoroughly discussed and visitors will appreciate the long timeline of the scandal. Nixon’s Oval office has been recreated for visitors to enjoy and is thankfully free from recording devices.
Friday night traffic in LA is always frustrating but we soon checked into our hotel near LAX. An In and Out Burger not far from the hotel provided a quick and yummy dinner of burgers and fries.
After our simple dinner, we ventured to The Proud Bird Restaurant for an adult beverage. The Proud Bird is an ironic restaurant/bar located next to LAX and houses several static aircraft displays and a current exhibit on the Tuskegee Airmen. For additional information on the Tuskgee Airmen, see my posting regarding FLY.
It was another early night because Sunday we were off to the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley.
A bronze statue of President Reagan greets you at the door to the Library.
The library was hosting a large Titanic exhibit which included costumes and set pieces from the 20th anniversary of the James Cameron 1997 film, Titanic. There are many interesting artifacts in the exhibit to discover.
On Wednesday’s each month Mobile’s history museum presents free hour long historical talks by individuals and authors on a wide range of subjects.
March 14-Daryn Glassbrook, Ph.D. -People’s Drug Store
Daryn Glassbrook, PhD., Executive Director of the Mobile Medical Museum presented a brief history of People’s Drug Store as well as a overview of the history that the medical profession as played in Mobile.
People’s Drug established between 1900 and 1906 by Thomas N. Harris, M.D. and was the first drug store in Mobile for African Americans and was located at 500 Dauphin Street Thomas Derrick was the African American druggist from 1903-1906. A.N. Johnson, a black businessman, bought People’s from Harris and sold it in 1907.
Glassbrook detailed the history of several of the important African American physicians and businessmen who have been important to the practice of medicine in Mobile. Robert A. Boyd was the first African American doctor to practice in Mobile. Many of the black physicians in the era attended Howard University or Meharry College for their medical training.
The Medical College of Alabama was founded in 1859 by Dr. Josiah Clark in Mobile at 500 St. Anthony Street. The college was for whites only and also had a pharmacy school.
In 1895, twelve African American physicians formed the American Medical Association of Colored Physicians which became the National Medical Association. Robert Fulton Boyd was the first president of the NMA. While the American Medical Association initially tried to exclude NMA members, it later discouraged racial discrimination but it was not until the height of the civil rights movement that the AMA would take issue with its policy racial exclusion
The Mobile Medical Museum provides the community with the rich history of the medicine in Mobile. Tours of the museum are available on request.
March 28-Julie Williams, Ph.D and a Rare Titanic Family
Dr. Williams delighted her audience with a thrilling family story of her great uncle, Albert Caldwell, his wife, Sylvia and infant son, Alden, all who survived the sinking of the Titanic.
Dressed as Sylvia Caldwell and through her elaborate retelling of Albert and Sylvia’s treasured story, Julie recounts their journeys to Bangkok, throughout Europe and their epic encounter with the “unsinkable” Titanic.
Be sure and check out her future speaking engagements or find her book on Amazon. It’s an intriguing read about a stunning moment in history.
Located beside the Arkansas River, the Clinton Presidential library building was designed as bridge to the future. Many locals think it looks more like a double wide trailer but it is an impressive site as you approach the structure from downtown Little Rock. Built in a poor section of town that contained numerous dilapidated warehouses, the building of the library contributed to the rejuvenation of Little Rock.
William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States has born in Hope, Arkansas and was raised primarily by his grandparents while his mother studied nursing after the death of Clinton’s father. He stated in his biography that he knew at an early age, he would be good at public service and he pursued it. Meeting President Kennedy in 1963 further spurred his interest in public service.
He attended Georgetown University and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. He received his law degree from Yale in 1973 where he met Hillary Rodham. They married in 1975 and he became a law professor at the University of Arkansas.
Clinton was elected to the House of Representatives from Arkansas in 1974 and was elected as Arkansas’ Attorney General in 1976. He would serve two terms as the youngest Governor of Arkansas in 1979 and 1982. In 1993, he was elected President and served two terms until 2001.
Guests can begin their library tour in the Orientation Theater where they will view a 15 minute Clinton narrated overview of his life and presidential terms. A guided library tour, given at regular intervals daily, is the way to get the most out of your visit. The docent led tour provides you with more information than you can amass by reading about each artifact. Hank Klein, a retired banker and volunteer, was our tour guide for the hour-long journey. The three levels of the library are easily accessible by escalator or elevator. Security, ticket sales and gift shop are located on the first floor. The tour begins on the second floor with an overview of the construction and history of the area.
Clinton’s School of Public Service is housed adjacent to the library in the old railroad annex. Clinton did not want the building demolished so it was repurposed for the Masters program that is available through the University of Arkansas.
In the cabinet room you are invited to take a seat at the 23 foot table which was reproduced for the library by the same Buffalo, New York firm that constructed the table for the Nixon administration. Each chair is labeled for a cabinet position. The room contains portraits of two former presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and George Washington. Visitors then continue into the left wing of the library to view the eight year timeline of Clinton’s Presidency. On display are boxes of letters to the President and the Presidential appointment books. Visitors learn that Clinton was the last President to have a balanced budget. The last time that had been accomplished was in 1969 under President Nixon. Clinton was also the second President to be impeached, although he did not leave the office. Andrew Johnson had been the first in 1868.
Artifacts, personal items and a replica of the Oval Office are housed on the third floor. You can see a selection of Bill’s saxophones and the presidential china.
The centerpiece of the area is the Chihuly sculpture.
In the Oval office, you can have your picture taken behind a replica of the Resolute desk.
The library was dedicated in 2004 and welcomes traveling exhibits regularly. The archives houses 80 million pages which is the largest archival collection of the Presidents.
The library pays unique homage to a Southern President who today continues his role as a public service.