President Ronald Reagan's Campaign Stop in Parkersburg

Parkersburg News October 30, 1984

Parkersburg Hails Reagan

By Chuck Poliafico
Of The News Staff

A chanting, flag-waving and screaming Parkersburg audience cheered President Reagan Monday afternoon as he focused on his opponent's tax plan and the nuclear war issue, adding humor to his speech.

"If he is to keep all the promises he has made during this campaign, he will have to raise taxes by the equivalent of $1,890 for every household in the United States," Reagan said of his Democrat rival Walter Mondale in a 29-minute speech before a crowd of about 3,500 at the Parkersburg High School fieldhouse.

"That's more than $150 a month," Reagan said. "It's like having a second mortgage, a Mondale mortgage.

"His basic plan has two parts, one raise your taxes; the second, raise them again," he said. "Well, I've got news for him, the American people don't want tax increases and they're not going to get this tax increase."

Reagan said Mondale's tax plan would bring this country's recovery to a roaring halt.

"One of the key, most significant things in the recovery we're having was the tax cut," the president said.

Reagan said during his final debate with Mondale, Oct. 21 in Kansas City, Mo., his opponent told the country to trust him.

"The last time we trusted the administration in which he was a part, they took five - you can count them - five different economic plans and nearly tripled inflation," Reagan said. "By contrast we trusted the people - you - and with just one economic program we cut inflation by two-thirds."

Reagan said if Mondale's campaign program was a television show it would be, "Let's Make a Deal."

"We would trade your prosperity with his surprise behind the curtain," he said.

"If his campaign was a Broadway show it would be called, 'Promises, Promises.' If his administration were a novel or a book you would have to read it from back to front to get a happy ending," he said.

Reagan said the Mondale administration would see every day as tax day, April 15.

"We see an America in which every day is Independance [sic] Day, the fourth of July.

"Seriously, we want to lower your taxes and everybody's taxes so your families will be stronger and America will be strong," Reagan said. "And I'm proud to say during these last four years, not one square inch of territory in the world has been lost to Communism."

Reagan said his administration has created six million new jobs in 21 months and has seen 900,000 new businesses incorporated within the past 18 months, despite Mondale's predictions of an anemic recovery. It was his only reference to employment with the jobless rate in West Virginia the highest in the nation.

Reagan criticized Mondale for opposing the space shuttle and all the advanced technology it could offer.

"We were right to take command of the ship, stop it's [sic] aimless drift and get moving again," he said. "And we were right when we stopped sending out SOS and started saying U.S.A."

Reagan also criticized his opponent for not standing up and condemning the Sandinistans' pride, responsible for "persecuting the general believers in democracy," and blamed his opponent for failing to repudiate Jesse Jackson when he visited Cuba and praised Communist dictator Fidel Castro.

Reagan also talked about his earlier days when he was a Democrat.

"But in those days, Democratic leaders weren't the members of the 'blame the America first' crowd," he said. "I know that across this country there are millions of good, patriotic Democrats who have found in their hearts they can no longer follow the leadership of that party today. We're asking you to come and walk with us down the path of hope and opportunity. We need you and you are certainly welcome."

The crowd almost immediately went into a "four more years" chant in which Reagan responded, "You talked me into it."

Reagan also spoke about nuclear weapons and the younger generation.

"A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought," he said. "Yes a nuclear freeze makes strength, if it follows negotiations that reduce the weapons in the world down to a verifiable and equal level on both sides."

Reagan said that a week ago Sunday he was not able to finish his closing remarks at the debate.

"So I'm gonna say it here," he said. "You, the young people of this country, let me say that you and the future are what this election is all about."

"Your generation is something special. Your idealism, your love of country are unsurpassed," he said.

Many in the crowd were high school seniors. Before his formal speech, the president individually recognized the high schools of PHS, Parkersburg South and Williamstown.

Reagan also endorses state Republicans such as gubernatorial candidate Arch A. Moore Jr. senatorial candidate John Raese and congressional candidate Jim Altmeyer.

"There are two great American sports taking place this fall, politics and football," he said.

Reagan also asked the crowd, "How 'bout them 'Eers?"

At the conclusion of his speech, Reagan was presented a West Virginia University cap by Mountaineer mascot Mark A. Boggs of Roane County. Boggs was dressed in a buckskin outfit.

Reagan concluded his speech by telling his audience he wanted their vote and support.

"I want it; to keep on the job we started four years ago with that new beginning. I want it more than anything I've ever wanted," he said.

"I know it sends my opponent up the wall but you ain't seen nothin' yet."

Chants, Cheers Abound

By Ron Lewis
Of the News Staff

By the time President Ronald Reagan took the stage Monday, anticipation was at a fever pitch among the 3,500 occupants of the PHS fieldhouse.

Reagan was introduced to the boisterous, flag-waving crowd at 4:26 p.m. - nearly 8 1/2 hours after Clyde Gault of Parkersburg became the first person in line to see the California Republican, and about 2 1/2 hours after the first spectators entered the fieldhouse.

The festivities in the fieldhouse began at 2:35 p.m. with Republican West Virginia attorney general candidate John McCuskey urging the crowd to "give President Reagan the clear message that West Virginians are on the way back."

Enthusiasm swelled as The Parkland Place Rhythm Band, a local senior citizens' group; Country Junction, a bluegrass band from Pleasants County, and the Parkersburg High School band entertained the audience prior to the president's arrival.

The crowd gave a rousing, standing ovation to Country Junction for its rendition of "Country Roads."

By 3:15 p.m., the fieldhouse was packed.

At 3:51 p.m., McCuskey, the emcee, told the jubilant audience that the president had landed and was en route to the fieldhouse.

The crowd came to its feet at 4:19 p.m. when an aide put the presidential seal on the podium.

At 4:23 p.m., McCuskey introduced the dignitaries who shared the platform with Reagan, Parkersburg Mayor Pat S. Pappas, senatorial candidate John Raese, gubernatorial candidate Arch Moore, congressional candidate Jimm Altmeyer, Priscilla Haden, Reagan's state campaign chairwoman, and Sen. Paul Laxalt, Reagan's national campaign chairman.

McCuskey had earlier introduced Priscilla Humphreys, national Republican Committee member, and congressional candidates Cleve Benedict, Peggy Miller and Jess Shumate.

At 4:29 p.m. the band began playing "Hail To The Chief," and Reagan, wearing a brown suit and tie, came on stage to a two-minute standing ovation.

The crowd, which cheered after nearly every sentence, gave Reagan at least five standing ovations during his 29 minute speech.

The first came when Reagan saluted the West Virginia University football team by saying "How 'bout them 'Eers."

At least some of the crowd stood and cheered Reagan when he expressed his support of Raese, said "West Virginia is worth fighting for," and said not one inch of territory had been lost in the past four years to Communists.

Reagan got perhaps his biggest ovation when he said he would work for a peaceful, free world in which young people's dreams could come true.

Reagan was interrupted twice by chants of "Four more years, four more years," and once by "U.S.A., U.S.A."

There was no heckling during the speech but one person was seen holding up a sign saying "Friend of Youth? Who Cut Student Loans?"

The president concluded his speech at 4:58 p.m. Before leaving the stage, he was presented a WVU cap by Mountaineer mascot Mark Boggs.

Reagan exited the stage as the PHS band played the WVU fight song and the crowd shouted "Reagan, Reagan."

Most of the people in the fieldhouse had signs and small American flags, which were passed out inside the fieldhouse.

Ken Nowell, coordinator of the Raese campaign in Wood County, said the county Republicans made 3,500 to 4,000 signs for distribution at the fieldhouse.

County Republicans also made some 20 banners and hung them in the fieldhouse.

The banners said such things as "President Reagan Bringing America Back," Power to the Prez," Go Ronnie Go," and "Reagan The All American."

Some people brought their own signs to the event. One said, "This UMW Member Backs President Reagan."

A large blue gold and white sign behind the podium said "Wild, Wonderful West Virginia Welcomes President Ronald Reagan."

Streets Come Alive As Caravan Passes

By Andrea Novel
Of The News Staff

Chants of "four more years" and "we want Mondale" echoed in the streets as 10,000 to 15,000 Reagan and non-Reagan supporters turned out to catch a glimpse of the president Monday afternoon.

Decked in red, white and blue, sporting Reagan-Bush, Altmeyer and Raese signs, Republicans and Reagan supporters abounded. Some even came from Huntington, Charleston and Wheeling to hear the president speak on his first visit to West Virginia.

The crowds began lining both sides of Dudley Avenue at 11 a.m., hoping to get a good view of the president's motorcade as it traveled from the airport to the Parkersburg High School fieldhouse. Children waving American flags sat on the curbs or the shoulders of their parents, while others held signs endorsing various Republican candidates.

By 3:30 p.m., an air of silence passed over the crowd, with the approaching presidential appearance. The silence was permeated only by the exchange of barbs between groups of Reagan and Mondale supporters. This exchange was silenced with the appearance of the Parkersburg South High School band, which led the motorcade.

As the motorcade approached, the crowd burst into cheers, waving flags and signs and calling support to the president who waved from the backseat of his limousine.

Edith Busch and her granddaughters began their trip from Ritchie County at 5 a.m. to see the president. "Parkersburg ought to be honored that he's here," said Mrs Busch, who saw her "number one candidate" in Marietta in 1980. "I wouldn't miss it for anything!"

"It's a chance of a lifetime," said Marilyn Clegg, an [sic] supporter of Reagan. She recalled seeing John F. Kennedy as a child and her brother getting to shake hands with the then presidential candidate at City Park. Bringing her four children with her, she wanted them to have a chance to see the president of the United States.

Meanwhile, about 400 Mondale fans gathered to show their support for the democratic presidential candidate. Holding Mondale-Ferraro signs and exchanging barbs with Reagan supporters, Mondale advocates chanted, "we want Mondale."

Members of organized labor groups and the Democratic party represented the "other side" of the election. "There is another side," said Joe Chapman, a Mondale supporter.

"I think it's great the president is coming to Parkersburg but it's also a great tradition to be able to express your views," Chapman said. The Washington steelworker said he likes the man, but dislikes his policies. "I respect the office of the president of the United States, but am showing displeasure with his policies."

Although the polls show Reagan ahead as the presidential favorite, Chapman said they can't be depended upon. The labor union members remember PATCO, and if the workers of this country get out and vote, Reagan will lose, Chapman predicted.

One Parkersburg man said he couldn't believe the president was coming to his small town of Parkersburg. A resident of Parkersburg for 35 years, he said it's the first president he's ever seen, although he did see Kennedy and Nixon as presidential candidates.

"It's a good day," he said, noting the turnout and the smiles on the faces of the crowd. "It's just a joyous time, this doesn't happen often." Awaiting the president's arrival since 2 p.m., the man took a day off work to see the president.

He didn't try to get tickets for Reagan's speech because he preferred being out among the crowd and seeing all the people. "If I had gotten tickets, I would never have seen all this," he said in reference to the crowds lining the street.

Some 2,000 ticket holders turned away from the doors of the PHS fieldhouse, weren't as caught up in the festivities on the streets. The doors were closed at 3:20 by the fire marshal because the building had already been filled to its capacity. A line, which began forming at the PHS fieldhouse doors at 9:30 a.m. wound its way around the school's horseshoe and extended past the IOOF cemetery.

"I paid $10 for this ticket," said one man who got his ticket from a high school student.

"We couldn't get in," said a Raese worker from Wheeling. "Somebody must have run off a couple of thousand extras."

However some didn't seem to mind being left outside. "I'm proud there were this many people here," said a member of the Women's Republican Club and the Republican party from Charleston. Supporting every Republican candidate, she said Reagan's visit builds up enthusiasm for the other Republican candidates.

Although left outside the doors, many remained to listen to Reagan's address, which was broadcast over loudspeakers to the crowd. And others remained to get one more look at the president as he was whisked back to the airport.

Spectators Give 'Gipper' Top Ratings

By Chuck Poliafico and Ron Lewis
Of The News Staff

There were few disappointments voiced inside the Parkersburg High School fieldhouse Monday afternoon after 3,500 spectators listened to an enthusiastic President Reagan in a 29-minute speech.

"I think it was the greatest speech I've heard him make," Earl Wolfe of Ravenswood said. "What he said is what most people believe. I think it's going to get him a lot of votes."

"For four years I was neither a Democrat or a Republican," Lewis Reckline of Parkersburg said. "But after listening to Reagan's speech, there is nobody I would vote for except him.

"He is for young people, and I am only 23," Reckline said. "I liked what he said, he made a lot of sense."

One Ripley man, who first saw a president in person about 64 years ago, said he was impressed with Reagan, the second president he has seen.

"It was the most enthusiastic crowd I've been in all my life," Dr. Delmer Somerville said, adding the day was very special for him.

Somerville said he saw Warren G. Harding in 1920 in the back of a train in Ravenswood. Harding was campaigning for the presidency at the time.

While several elderly residents gathered at the Reagan-Bush rally, the majority of those who attended were of the younger generation.

Seniors from all Wood County high schools were invited to attend the rally at the Parkersburg High School fieldhouse.

Dr. William Staats, superintendent of the public schools, said the schools were given 1,190 tickets for students at PHS, Parkersburg South High School, Williamstown High School and Sumner School.

Jerry Kelly, PHS student body president, said he had mixed feelings about Reagan's speech.

"For the job he was here to do, I felt he did a good job," Kelly said, in reference to the president's campaigning for himself and state Republican candidates.

"Obviously, Mr. Reagan's a good speaker," Kelly said. "He did a good job of captivating his audience by mentioning the area football teams.

"But there were some things that didn't sound real to me. It doesn't seem he's ever showed that much concern for West Virginia before."

Another PHS student seemed more impressed with the speech.

"It was great," said Mark Fleming. "President Reagan is a very enthusiastic president."

Several area residents were also impressed with Reagan and the rally.

"It was worth every bit of it, every sleepless night," said Mimi Howard, who volunteered many hours to prepare for the Reagan-Bush rally.

"I thought the president sounded knowledgeable and the crowd really seemed to enjoy him," Ms. Howard said.

Marge Buchanan of Parkersburg, another volunteer in the preparation for the president's arrival, said she thought the rally was just great.

"It has been an experience of a lifetime," Mrs. Buchanan said of the rally and her volunteer work in the White House press room located at the Parkersburg Holiday Inn.

"It is something I will never forget," she added.

Sherie Carney, a Vienna resident, said she also was impressed by the rally.

"I think this is the most exciting thing that has happened to the state since 1960, when Kennedy visited," she said.

While the rally was filled with many Wood County residents, there were also participants who traveled a bit to see the president.

Lee Paull came from Wheeling with a group of supporters for the congressional candidacy of Jim Altmeyer to hear the president's speech.

"I thought it was great," he said. "He stands for everything I do, and that's life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The young people seemed to be very receptive to him today."

John White, a resident of Man, W. Va., said his long trip to Parkersburg for the speech was not in vain.

"We're real pleased with him," White said, minutes after the speech. "We're glad to see him come into the state."

White said Reagan will do well in the southern part of the state, a traditional Democratic stronghold.

"His chances should be good," he said. "If he just breaks even down there, he'll be doing real well."

But those who were probably the happiest with the Reagan-Bush rally were those county and state Republican candidates.

One of the most interested observers of Monday's affairs was Jim Altmeyer, Republican candidate for Congress from West Virginia's first district.

During his speech, Reagan urged spectators to vote for Altmeyer and other state Republican candidates.

"I think it's going to have a very positive impact on my campaign," Altmeyer said of Reagan's visit. "it shows that Jim Altmeyer can talk with the president."

Altmeyer said Reagan's decision to come to the first congressional district indicated Reagan's interest in his race with Democrat incumbent Alan Mollohan.

"I think it will have a positive effect," said John McCuskey. McCuskey is a Republican candidate for West Virginia attorney general.

"Reagan's speech inspired me. I thought it went real well," McCuskey said.

Steve Greiner, a Republican candidate for Wood County sheriff, said he, too, was enthusiastic about Reagan's visit to Parkersburg.

"I think the president's visit will help all Republican candidates," Greiner said.

Airport Discovers Job's Easy

By Jeff Gallatin
Of The News Staff

President Reagan's arrival at the Wood County Airport Monday afternoon left workers at the facility happy, but some of the public who arrived to catch a glimpse of the chief executive went away dissatisfied.

Reagan's visit aided the airport, Dick Allen, airport manager, said:

"It was very exciting and a challenge to get ready for the president coming in," Allen said.

One of the challenges was seeing if the airport could handle the landing of Air Force One (the president's jet). A U.S. Air Force C-141 Cargo aircraft, which is larger than Air Force One, landed at the airport Sunday to test the runway.

"It showed some people what we can do at the airport," Allen said. "It showed a lot of people we can handle a jet the size of Air Force One on our runway.

"We can handle that large an aircraft after it gets on the ground, too. Our people take care of the work involved after the flight.

Air Force One touched down at 3:40 p.m. with no apparent problems.

Allen said despite warnings to the public not to come to the airport to see Reagan, he though thousands might come out.

After Reagan's arrival, Allen said between 200 and 300 people had gathered outside to see the president.

"I wish that we had the opportunity to make it (the president's airport arrival) a little more public," Allen said before Reagan arrived.

He said the schedule was designed so tight that there was little chance for the president to be able to meet with anybody before going to the Parkersburg High School fieldhouse for the rally.

Reagan got off Air Force One at 3:47 p.m. and left the airport for PHS in a motorcade with about 30 cars at 3:50 p.m. When he stepped off the jet, Reagan was accompanied by GOP gubernatorial candidate Arch A. Moore Jr. and U.S. Senate candidate John Raese.

He exchanged greetings with several area officials and candidates, including Parkersburg Mayor Pat S. Pappas, First District GOP congressional candidate Jim Altmeyer and others before leaving.

Several member of the crowd who did not get to see the president expressed disappointment.

"He at least could have driven by the crowd and waved," Barbara Semple of Marietta said. "It was very disappointing since we came out here for it."

Another woman who brought her three children to see Reagan said she was unhappy.

It[']s my youngest's birthday, so I brought her out here for it," she said. "I'm still a Reagan supporter but I think it's kind of a raw deal that he didn't go by the people on the outside."

Another man said he realized that the crowd wasn't sought, but he came anyway.

"I though he might come over and wave or something," he said. "He usually does well with people, but I'll tell you, he disappointed an awful lot of folks who came out today."

Other people at the airport were just happy for the chance to be near the big event.

Fritz McCray, a parking lot attendant at the airport for eight years, said he was just glad the president came to Parkersburg.

"He's our president, it's good for the area that he chose to come here for whatever the reasons," McCray said.

The parking lot probably had two or three times the normal amount of cars in it because of Reagan's arrival, he said.

McCray did take note of the security preparations surrounding the visit.

"I saw two fellows come out on Route 2, near where I live, and just start taking pictures and checking around," McCray said. "It's kind of scary that they have to do that. It makes you worry about the president."

Two area models who escorted members of the national news media to their buses for their trip to PHS were also glad to take part.

Charlaina J. Furbee and Sallie Wayne, who model for Carolyn Glore, said they were asked by Mark Hatfield Jr. of the White House Press Office to help.

Miss Furbee said she had butterflies in her stomach about the event but was glad to be taking part.

Both women agreed it was good for the area and that it could help their careers, too. Miss Furbee said she would like to continue modeling. Miss Wayne said she plans to go to Virginia Tech and major in chemical engineering after finishing work at Parkersburg Community College.

The airport workers in general did an outstanding job, Allen said.

"They've put in a lot of work," Allen said.

He added that the airport didn't have too many problems because of the visit.

"We've had the added security and a few flight delays today, but it hasn't been too bad," Allen said.

The visit did not cost the airport much money, Allen said.

"We had to pay some supervisors a little overtime for preparation work but that was about it," Allen said. "We probably had under $100 for other expenses because of this."

Allen added that after this visit, he is confident the airport could easily handle any similar visits by notable people in the future.

From Letter to Handshake, Scout's Dream Comes True

By Jeff Gallatin
Of the News Staff

A dream came true for a Williamstown boy, his mother and 11 fellow area cub scouts Monday when they met President Ronald Reagan at the Wood County Airport before he returned to Washington, D.C. aboard Air Force One.

"It's been quite an experience, both for the boys and for myself," Cathy Sweeney, the mother of scout Matthew Sweeney, said Monday evening.

Mrs. Sweeney, 91 Greenwood Drive, Williamstown, said meeting the president has "put her on cloud nine."

The president stopped before boarding Air Force One, shook each boy's hand, autographed their Cub Scout ties while speaking with them and also spoke with Mrs. Sweeney before leaving.

"I'm so proud of all the boys," she said. "They were very good at the airport, and it was an exciting car ride home too."

Mrs. Sweeney's son Matthew, 9, began the process last Wednesday when he wrote a letter and sent a telegram to the White House asking Reagan to visit his fourth grade class at Williamstown Elementary School when he came to Parkersburg.

He then told the school principal and class teacher what he had done. Both officials told him he had done well and asked that they be kept posted on any progress.

Mrs. Sweeney said that several phone calls came to their home and that finally, at 6:30 p.m. Saturday they got confirmation that Mat[t]hew and his Cub Scout friends could come to the airport.

She said the Cub Scouts got involved because Matthew wanted to have friends with him if he got to meet the president.

"They're a great bunch of kids and very close with each other too," Mrs. Sweeney said. "The parents and kids got together and we decided what to do."

The scouts took several gifts that they hoped to give to President Reagan at the airport. Due to the tightness of the president's schedule he didn't meet the scouts when he first arrived.

Instead the gifts were taken aboard Air Force One before the president returned from the rally at Parkersburg High School and met the scouts.

Mrs. Sweeney said she was told that the taking of the gifts was not standard procedure. The gifts included: a Reagan No. 84 Williamstown High School Football Jersey; an engraved plate; a West Virginia coal bit, an Indian headdress the scouts made for their leader, and a glass elephant symbolizing the Republican party.

Mrs. Sweeney said they weren't unhappy when they didn't meet Reagan when he first got off the jet.

"We were just happy to be that close to the president and watch him," she said.

She said all the other scouts parents have gone wild and are ecstatic over the turn of events.

Besides her son, the other scouts include Nathan Cummins, brothers Aaron and Adam Armstrong, twin brothers Pat and Matt Jones, Jason Vaughan, Chad Campbell, Paul Swinler, Andy Hoffman, Chuckie Stephens and John Auch.

Cummins represented Vienna scouts while the rest were from Williamstown and represented Den 6 of Troop 299.

The scouts also got a tour of one of the national press planes and each received a packet with information about Air Force One from the president's jet.

Mrs. Sweeney said she didn't think any of the boys would ever forget the experience.

She said several of the boys were saying that they were not going to wash their hands again just so they could keep the feel of the president's handshake.

Mrs. Sweeney said she has been contacted by at least 15 members of the news media and she was filmed on national TV with the scouts by all the networks.

She also added her own thoughts as a mother.

"When we got home Matthew reached up and gave me the biggest hug and kiss he's given me," she said. "Lots of little boys won't do that. That made it all worth it."

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