This entry is a no-no. Everyone knows that you don’t talk politics in a blog on Richmond history but this is not exactly about the politics but about the events and personalities surrounding the politics. You’ll see what I mean. So, for a few minutes, suspend your disapproval (should you be a Romney fan) and read this for what it is…a glimpse into people’s desire to be near, support and encourage our American President, be it 1931 or 2012.

Yorktown celebrated its 150th anniversary in October 1931 and President Hoover was there. My great-grandfather and his family were there, too and if Harry was there, Harry took pictures. As usual, the story required detective work to learn the real story. The envelopes stuffed with pictures labeled Yorktown Sesqui-Centennial with pictures of crowds of people seemed interesting but not thrilling. Some photos were of an enormous field with a parade of cars in the distance. Big deal. Harry’s detailed explanation of lens choice, exposure time and so forth was again, nothing new. Until I read the last sentence: “President Hoover’s car came in from the left”. So that’s why he took those pictures. Who knew?

Fast forward from 1931 to 2012 when my daughter Anne sent an email about the President visiting the Carillon. She couldn’t go but tickets were available online. At 5:00 AM, I started ordering tickets. My mom, of course, was first. My son Patrick and his wife and my daughter Molly went but my story is about Mom and me and the Pres. OK, we didn’t get to touch him or meet him but we were there and that’s what this is all about.

We got to the Carillon before 7:00 AM, stood in line until 9:20 when they started letting people in. We could see the podium and there were about 8-10 people in front of us. Cool. This is so cool. After standing until 1:00 PM, people behind us pressing in so that we couldn’t raise our hands to our hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance, it wasn’t quite as cool. But when President Obama came striding across the stage in front of us, it was COOL BEYOND WORDS. I mean, REALLY COOL. My 86 year old Mom and I saw the President of the United States. UP CLOSE.

Now, it’s true that my efforts to get a commemorative pin from the dedication of the Carillon into President Obama’s hands weren’t successful.  It would have been neat if he mentioned that he had a pin from the October 1932 dedication given to him by a member of a family who was here.  I tried really hard but after days of calling people and grabbing Secret Service guys at the event, the pin and note explaining its history remained in my purse OK, that effort didn’t work. Instead, I can show you that pin and the one my family saved from the October 1931 Yorktown event. Here you go…

Yorktown 150th celebration and Carillon dedication pins.

“The Richmond Light Infantry Blues as honor guard for President Hoover. They stood in double line from the gate at our side to the President’s tent…” -Harris Stilson note

“At the left you see one side of the horse-shoe wooden stadium but you do not see half of it.It seated more than 3500 people and it was estimated there were nearly 100,000 on the grounds.” -Harris Stilson’s photo note

Mary Elizabeth Rountrey (Mom) either praying her water bottle isn’t empty or bending her knees, the only movable body part in the crush.

“President Hoover’s car came in from the left.” -Harris Stilson photo note

President Obama, Richmond Carillon October 2012

I can’t speak for Harry Stilson and family but Patrick, Holly, Molly, Mom and I thought it was worth it. Worth getting up at 5:00 AM, trudging long blocks in the pre-dawn darkness, standing in line for hours, cold, then hot, then just tired beyond description. Worth being jabbed in the kidney by a woman behind you, worth claustrophobia, worth it all. We were all in it together and we were there.

We stood right about here.  However, this picture is from 1932.

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