A few days ago, Letty and I felt very important stepping off the presidential helicopter and on to the soil where the 37th President was born.
We are in Yorba Linda, California, the site of Richard Nixon's childhood home.
The helicopter seats 16 and was used by Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon (who flew 180+ trips) and Ford. His most famous flight lifted him from the south lawn of the White House after he resigned from the Presidency on August 9, 1974.
Letty and I arrived early to the Nixon Library, and we were the only ones on the helicopter tour. The turquoise carpet caught my eye. It certainly didn't look very presidential. The seats were gold tweed.
"Gold and turquoise were very popular back in those days," said our guide. Unfortunately she wouldn't let me take a picture. The helicopter is called "Army One". It's actually a Sikorsky YH3A "Sea King".
Nixon's 1 and 1/2 story home was built by his father. He sold citrus fruit as a living and owned 8.2 acres. A large pepper tree, planted by his father in 1913, still stands loyally, like an old friend, near the door.
Letty sits near the back door where young Richard and his brothers ran out to play among the citrus trees. All four boys slept in the room on the second floor—two in a bed. The stair case is narrow with no handrails. I saw a photo of how the house actually looked many years ago. There was no rich green grass, and there were no flower lined pathways. Just dusty brown dirt. Nixon once said, "We were poor, but we didn't know it." To see the inside of the house click here
It's furnished with Nixon's parents original furnishings, including the quilt and the blanket on the bed where Nixon was born. (note: a fifth brother was born later at a different location--5 boys in all, however 2 passed away at a young age.) The family moved to the neighboring city of Whittier in 1922. The home passed through a series of owners until 1959 when it was officially designated an historic site.
He is buried next to his wife Pat, in a quiet spot surrounded by colorful flowers.
A beautiful reflection pool stretches across the grounds.
I stand near the house, and look across the reflection pool, toward the museum where we jouneyed through Nixon's triumphs and struggles. Although Nixon's memory is tarnished by the events leading up to his resignation, he made great strides in reaching out to China and the Soviet Union. I came away feeling he wasn't that much different from you or I. We are all placed in specific places for certain reasons. Whether it's the job of "President" or (fill in the blank), each of us have opportunities to affect our world for good.