Ronald Reagan was certainly an interesting choice to elect as our nation’s 40th President. Never before had America sent a former-Hollywood actor to the highest office in the land – when we elected Reagan for two consecutive terms from 1981-1989. Politics of course wasn’t completely new to him as he had served as President of the Screen Actors Guild and later two terms as California’s Governor. Having grown up during the 1980’s, I feel that he is as much a part of the American tapestry of that era as Michael Jackson.
Most notable during Reagan’s administration was his sweeping economic policy known as ‘Reaganomics’ which helped to recover the economy, pave the way for the wealth of the 90’s, and arguably contribute the current recession of the late 2000’s. His talks with the Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbechev led to the treaty that effectively ended the Cold War, and eventually saw the lowering of the Berlin Wall during his successor George Bush’s term. Reagan was the oldest President ever to take office and the only one who had ever been divorced. I learned much about Reagan’s life and administration from the spoken version of his autobiography Ronald Reagan: An American Life.
The following are the major sites relevant to Ronald Reagan’s life which I have visited…
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 – Ronald Reagan Birthplace and other sites in Tampico, Illinois – President Reagan was born on February 6, 1911 in a small apartment above a bakery just down the street from a dry goods store owned by H.C. Pitney at which his father Jack was working at the time.
Although they actually lived in three places in Tampico, the only Reagan home that is opened to the public is the birth apartment, which has been restored back to its appearance just after the turn of the century. Interestingly the bakery below it was purchased by the First National Bank in 1919. This bank has also been restored to the era, and although the Reagans and the bank only co-existed in Tampico for one year, the family did most certainly bank here.
Carolyn and I had our own private tour by docent Joan Johnson, who did an excellent job of showing us the place. President Reagan himself did eventually make his way back to Tampico in his adulthood and added a few stories about the place, namely a window that he recalls climbing through that led into an adjoining apartment where another young boy lived. During his 1992 visit, Reagan climbed through the window once again.
Entrance to the town of Tampico, which a 1980 People Magazine article referred to as “Plainer Than Plains”, which irritated some of the residents
Prominent Reagan mural on the side of the Pitney store where Jack Reagan worked
The apartment above the bank, which was a bakery at the time, was where President Reagan came into the world
The room in which Ronnie was born…
…presented by me for your satisfaction
The rather spacious parlor
The dining room, and stairwell leading up from the street
The window that toddler Ronnie Reagan used to climb through… and did again in 1992. And now me.
When young Ronnie was just three months old, the family relocated from the apartment to another house in Tampico on Glassburn Street, and the family remained her until the end of 1914. This house is privately owned.
The Reagan house on Glassburn where the Reagans lived during Ronnie Reagan’s formative years
When Ronnie was almost four years old, the Pitney store was sold and Jack Reagan was forced to look for work elsewhere, so he packed up his family and moved to Chicago, Galesburg, and then Monmouth over the next few years. Jack Reagan was eventually called by Pitney to come back and work for him when he re-acquired his store. For the next two years they lived in the apartment directly above the Pitney store until 1920.
Vintage photos of H.C. Pitney Dry Goods where Jack Reagan was employeed from 1906 until December of 1920, with a few years break in between
The Pitney store today. Directly above the store was where the Reagans lived upon their return to Tampico
Also noteworthy in the town is the Ronald Reagan Park in which young Ronnie and his brother used to play, which contains a statue of young Ronnie. Since his mother was Protestant and his father was Catholic, the Reagans would attend two different churches in Tampico, both of which are still standing. Typically Neil would attend with his father, and Ronnie would attend with his mother Belle.
Ronald Reagan Park. Any park can call themselves that, but he actually played in this one.
Historical sign located in the park
Ronald Reagan later recalled that he and his brother Neil would play on a cannon that was located in the park
Reagan’s mother’s place of worship, the Church of Christ
Reagan’s father’s preferred place of worship, Saint Mary Catholic Church
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 – Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home and other sites in Dixon, Illinois – The Reagans moved to Dixon in late 1920 when Ronald Reagan was nearing ten years of age. Even though the house had three bedrooms, Ronnie and his brother Neil shared a room so that the third bedroom could be used as a workroom for their mother.
There is a slight bit of controversy about this being labeled as the ‘boyhood home’ of Reagan. Although Reagan has attached many of his boyhood memories to this house, his brother Neil disputes that this house was any more significant than any of the other houses in which they lived in Dixon considering they were only in this one for a little over two years until. In any case, it happens to be the only one still standing.
Our tour started with a small museum and a video about Ronald Reagan’s life in Dixon, before we moved over to the house with our young enthusiastic female tour guide. One of the highlights of the tour was the tale about President Reagan’s visit to the home in 1984, at which time he recalled how he used to hide his pennies under a loose tile by fireplace. The tile was still loose and he took the opportunity to ‘hide’ some more pennies, which are now on display.
Ronald Reagan’s modest boyhood home in Dixon, Illinois
Plaque outside the home
The bedroom of Ronald and Neil
Photo of President Reagan hiding his pennies, along with the actual pennies
The loose tile with some non-authentic pennies
Reagan statue outside the Reagan home
Also in Dixon one can see the grade school that Ronald Reagan attended, he former South Central Grammar School, which has now been converted to history center. You can also find the church in which he was baptized, and the Reagan equestrian statue, but the most obscure of all is a plaque honoring Reagan’s tenure as a lifeguard at Lowell Park, which is located along the Rock River that he used to oversee and reportedly saved 77 lives from.
Reagan’s grade school is now the Northwest Territory Historic Center, which includes one of his re-created school rooms and a Reagan History room. Unfortunately we did not have time to go into the building… since what you can’t see is that I was illegally parked.
The First Christian Church in Dixon where Ronald Reagan was baptized at the age of eleven
The Reagan equestrian statue located in Dixon’s Heritage Crossing Riverfront Plaza adjacent to the Rock River
Plaque commemorating Ronald Reagan’s employment as a lifeguard from 1926-1932 at Lowell Park, situated by Rock River
Close-up of the plaque
Saturday, October 1, 2005 / Monday, January 14, 2013 – The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library –The Reagan Library is located in Simi Valley, California, and I visited with my friend Bob during my 2005 trip to California. It was a quite interesting library with lots of great displays including a temporary exhibit featuring actors’ costumes from a variety of western films. It was interesting that throughout the entire museum, there was only one photo of Reagan’s first wife Jane Wyman. They also had the original booth from the restaurant that Ronnie proposed to Nancy.
I’m in this picture if you look hard enough
The booth from Chasens where the Ronnie proposed to Nancy
Outside, I also posed for a photo with a piece of the Berlin Wall. In the gift shop, I purchased the obligatory book about the Presidents that I tend to buy at every Presidential Library, a book about the states, a magnet, and a book written and signed by Reagan’s adopted son Michael.
I’m harder to find than Waldo, stuck behind the Berlin Wall
I returned to the museum, once again with Bob, on Monday, January 14, 2013. Since it had been so long since I had been there, and I wanted to get a larger collection of photos to add to the ones I had already taken, we browsed the museum itself for more than 90 minutes. Bob and I watched the introductory movie and I watched some additional film footage in the “General Electric Theater” exhibit involving Reagan’s evolution as the ‘Great Communicator’, which was shown amongst the other displays and exhibits highlighting Reagan’s life, career,entry into politics, Presidency, and post-Presidency.
A return to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in 2013, with a similar pose as seen above from 2005
The Ronald Reagan Library or bust!
The Berlin Wall segment has changed much, but I have. In between photos with this chunk of wall, I’ve been to the location of the actual Berlin Wall.
I don’t mean to come between Ron and Nancy but…
This Holy Bible belonged to Reagan’s mother Noelle and was used in both of the President’s inaugurations
Costumes and lobby cards from Ronald Reagan’s acting days
A curio: the only photo in the whole museum of Reagan’s first wife, actress Jane Wyman. It can be seen in the photo above as well.
Simulating Reagan’s inaugural speech, with former President Jimmy Carter and future President George H.W. Bush in attendance
The suit that Ronald Reagan was wearing on the day of his assassination attempt on March 30, 1981. It was cut from his body as doctors searched for wounds. The bullet hole and traces of blood can still be seen on it.
Notes that Reagan wrote to his doctor after he awoke in the hospital following his assassination attempt
The standard reproduction of the Oval Office, decorated to imitate how it looked when Reagan was in office
Just 20 days after my first visit to the Library, President and Mrs. George W. Bush joined Nancy Reagan in a ribbon-cutting for the new Air Force One Pavilion. This housed the “27000” Boeing 707 that served as Air Force One from 1973-2001, flying Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, H.W. Bush, Clinton, and W. Bush – with Ronald Reagan logging the most miles. In addition the Pavilion now houses a Marine One helicopter that was active from the Johnson, Nixon, and Ford administrations. Also in the Pavilion was one of President Reagan’s limousines constructed by the Secret Service.
The 27000 Air Force One, which transported seven United States Presidents
President Reagan’s 1984 Cadillac, which first transported him during a celebration of his 73rd birthday in his hometown of Dixon, Illinois
Riding horseback alongside Dutch
In addition to the great amount of time we spent in the museum, we spent an additional hour browsing the temporary exhibit Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives. You can check out the impressive displays that were in this exhibit here.
Busts of Ronald Reagan and Walt Disney, two great American heroes, at the entrance to the Disney Archives exhibit
A parting shot with another statue of Ronald Wilson Reagan
And a fond farewell to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 – Ronald Reagan Bel Air home – Although we were able to see very little other than the gate outside (and the garbage cans), Bob and I swung by the current residence of First Lady Nancy Reagan and former residence of President Ronald Reagan. This was the home in which Reagan passed away in 2004, the victim of Alzheimer’s. The Reagans acquired this mansion located at 668 St. Cloud Road in the Bel Air area of Los Angeles, California. The original address was 666, but Nancy insisted that it be changed.
Outside the Reagans’ Bel Air home in California. Because of that white security camera, I opted not to scale the fence
Saturday, October 1, 2005 / Monday, January 14, 2013 – Ronald Reagan Grave – The President’s grave is located in a very scenic area outside the museum with a beautiful view overlooking an uninhabited valley range. Reagan had passed away the year prior to my Reagan Library visit.
I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph and there is a purpose and worth to each and every life…President Reagan’s final resting place
The view from his gravesite
Ronald Reagan and me in 2005
My 2013 visit to the Reagan Presidential Libary also naturally saw my second visit to his grave, and since I was largely unsatisfied with my picture with his marker, I decided I needed an updated one.
Another overview of the grave monument
Ronald Reagan’s marker
Another shot of his scenic view – in 2013
Ronald Reagan and me in 2013
Presidential Autographs from the Reagans – Although I do not have any autographs of President Reagan himself (the one that I thought that I had on a letter to me from December 1983 turned out to be an autopen, much to my chagrin), I did acquire a legitimate autograph of First Lady Nancy Reagan through the mail in mid-1999.
In addition, I purchased the book In the Words of Ronald Reagan by his adopted son Michael at the Reagan Library (mentioned above), which had been signed on a bookplate by him. My friend Bob also attended a book signing by Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis, where she signed her book The Long Goodbye, detailing her relationship with her father.
Other Reagan-related autographs in my collection include Reagan’s first wife Jane Wyman (seen here) and his Press Secretary James Brady (seen here), who took a bullet in his head during the assassination attempt on the President in 1981.
Continue to the next President…
Return to Saturday 2005 in California…
Return to Tuesday 2009 in California…
Return to Monday 2013 in California…