Happy President’s Day! In recognition of President’s Day, let’s take a look at some of the presidents who visited Ventura County during their time in office.
While visiting San Buenaventura Mission, the president expressed a desire to go up in the bell tower; so he went up and rang the old wooden bells. At the Plaza School he spoke to an audience of five thousand for 16 minutes although his advisors warned him three times that he was running behind schedule. It was planned and approved that the Pacific Squadron of our Navy would be at Ventura to participate in the welcome to the president, but at the last minute a problem of logistics made it impossible for the warships to appear.
The next three presidential visits are not authenticated. It has been stated that Woodrow Wilson once waved to the crowd from the back of a train, and that Franklin Delano Roosevelt went through under wartime secrecy conditions. Harry Truman is supposed to have spoken at Santa Barbara from the back of a train; if so, that train must have passed through Ventura.
President John F. Kennedy came on June 7, 1963. He arrived in a Marine Corps helicopter at Point Mugu. The gates were opened for this occasion and thousands came to greet their president. He spoke briefly through a microphone that was too low for him, and shook hands with those he could. After 22 minutes Kennedy left in the presidential jet. The Star-Free Press “Magazine” on the following day had a souvenir with pages of pictures that relate to the visit.
President Richard M. Nixon landed at Point Mugu on March 21, 1969 for a helicopter inspection of the flood damage and of the offshore oil leak. He gave a greeting to the marines who were present, then took off after a stop of 17 minutes. The public was not admitted to Point Mugu for this occasion because of the brevity of the visit.
Two of the three presidents who came to our county were assassinated a short time later: McKinley after four months and Kennedy after five months. In this connection, the guarding of these presidents was commented on in the newspapers at the time. The accounts of McKinley’s visit seemed to stress the careful guarding being given to him. Of Kennedy’s, one account said, “Secret service agents formed a human chain around the president as he walked into the throng shaking hands with anyone who could get to him.”
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