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Source: October 1980 Volume 18 Number 4, Pages 119–122

When a Presidential Candidate Campaigned in Paoli

Bob Goshorn

Page 119

"Let's all gather together to welcome Mr. Nixon on his way to becoming the next president of the United States," it was suggested in one of the flyers. "The Richard Nixons are coming to Chester County," it was announced in another. "Come one, come all and greet the Nixons at the Paoli Shopping Center, Rte. 202 and Rte. 30, Paoli."

Saturday, September 21, 1968, was a lovely bright fall day. By a little after eleven o'clock in the morning, more than 10,000 people had jammed the parking lot at the Shopping Center, overflowing to the other side of the Lincoln Highway, waiting to greet the Republican candidate for president and his wife, Pat.

The nominee, travelling in a motorcade through the Philadelphia suburban area, was scheduled to arrive in Paoli at about 11:30, stopping there long enough to deliver what had been advertised as "a major address". In the meantime, the Conestoga High School band had entertained the crowd. Pat Crawford, the local candidate to succeed Bill Ashton in the Pennsylvania State Assembly, led the croud in the singing of "God Bless Anerica".

Other state and local candidates were also much in evidence. On a temporary platform, set up at the west end of the parking lot, were places reserved for State Senator John Ware and the county's four representatives in the State Assembly, Ashton, Benjamin Reynolds, Timothy Slack, and John Stauffer.

Page 120

United Citizens for Nixon/Agnew — John Eisenhower, Chairman

Page 121

Co-chairmen for the arrangements for the rally were Dick Schulze (later to represent the area for two terms in the State Assembly before being elected in 1974 to represent the District in the U.S. Congress) and Bill Lamb. Also on hand to assist were members of the area's Young Republicans, Teen-Age Republicans, and other Republican organizations.

There were also a few small "protest" groups in the crowd, but when their pictures were taken by police officer Lt. Robert Bittner, they quickly dispersed and disappeared. To maintain order during the proceedings, Tredyffrin Police Chief Captain Robert Gilroy had thirty of his force on duty, augmented by a dozen men from the county sheriff's office, seven State troopers from the State Police barracks at Exton, and thirty or so Secret Service men. A helicopter also watched from overhead, and no untoward incident was reported.

To escort the candidate to the platform were 110 "Nixon Girls", mostly teen-agers, wearing red, white and blue paper Nixon dresses and skimmer straw hats with "NIXON" on the hatband.

As Lamb was leading the crowd in a Nixon cheer — "Give me an 'N'! Give me an 'I'! Give me an 'X'! — the motorcade appeared. Accompanying Nixon were his wife Pat, wearing a beige-blond short dress; area Congressman Robert Watkins; Richard Schweiker, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate; John Eisenhower; and James Drury, of "The Virginian", Three busloads of reporters and cameramen were also a part of the entourage.

As the candidate approached the platform, the band "thundered". A shower of red, white and blue balloons was released and floated over the crowd. NIXON-AGNEW" posters and. placards were raised to greet the candidate.

"It's a great day for Republican voters," Nixon noted as he opened his remarks. "Who are you?" he asked, "Why are you here? You're the people who haven't been breaking the law. You pay your taxes. You're not hotheads and radicals!"

The candidate then spoke for about fifteen minutes on the issues of the campaign: the need to negotiate for peace and rebuild "respect for America" in "a new internationalism"; the need to "re-establish respect for law" and curb "soaring crime" which was increasing at a rate nine times the population growth, adding, "We can do it!" "America can't afford four years more of what we're getting in Washington," he told the cheering crowd, and the "reckless spending policies" that have generated sharp increases in the cost of living.

It was described in the Wayne Suburban as a "powerful and engaging presence".

Page 122

After pausing for a few additional photographs and handshakes, Nixon and the group continued the motorcade on Route 202 to King of Prussia "on his way to becoming the next president of the United States".

This was not the first time that a candidate for president had campaigned in Paoli. Eight years earlier Nixon had also included in his campaign tour a stop at the Paoli Shopping Center — a stop, incidentally, to which he referred in his remarks — in his unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1960.

It too was a sunny, although somewhat more brisk, fall day, October 22d, 1960. The candidate on this occasion was welcomed to Paoli by Mrs. Franklin B. Wildman, chairman of the Valley Forge Council of Republican Women, who also presented a package of "various mementoes of Paoli and the Valley Forge area and their historic significance", along with a corsage of roses to Mrs. Nixon.

About 8,000 people were on hand to greet the candidate, who at that time was also the vice-president of the United States. On this visit, the Paoli Fire Company's 750-gallon Mack pumper, parked on the shoulder of the Lincoln Highway at the northwest corner of the parking lot of the Shopping Center, was used as the speaker's platform. "I've had many firsts," the Vice-President observed, "but this is the first time I've spoken from a fire truck!" On Nixon's right was the U.S, flag that had flown in Moscow during his recent, and celebrated, trip to Russia.

Delivered in a "homey, conversational" style, his remarks were brief, the party being on a close time schedule, but were nonetheless, according to the press, "well received".

(Two days later, incidentally, Bobby Kennedy, later to be the Attorney General in his brother's cabinet, campaigned in Berwyn on behalf of his brother John, the Democrat nominee for president. He spoke from the hood of a car, on a rainy night.)

Paoli was also visited by the Republican candidate for president in 1952. On the morning of October 27, 1952 the tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad at the Paoli station were lined with people, among them pupils from the Paoli School, as the "Eisenhower Special" came through. Although the train did not stop, both "Bee" and Mamie Eisenhower appeared on the rear platform of the Special's observation car to wave to the cheering spectators. (One observer commented that it was the shortest campaign speech he had ever heard!)

Thus not once, but on several occasions, has a candidate for president included this area in his itinerary and campaigned in Paoli.


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