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Big Chuck

August 26, 2013

My brush with a future president

President Obama came to town!

Well, almost. Kind of.

There was much hullabaloo surrounding President Obama’s recent visit to Binghamton. A lot of veteran pols were scratching their heads as to the last time a sitting president or a candidate came to town.

Some can remember when Sen. Robert Kennedy came and created quite a stir. And certainly Hillary Clinton stopped by for a chicken half at Brooks’ House of Bar-B-Q once. Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt both made appearances in Oneonta, but that was long ago.

Still, to meet any U.S. president of any party is cause for celebration and excitement. And I have seen my share.

Over my 25-year career at WDOS radio, I attended every major national political convention for four election cycles. So in those travels I got to meet Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, both Bushes, Bill Clinton and others. Of course when I say “met,” I mean that fleeting adrenaline kind of buzz you get when you are face-to-face with a president or presidential candidate at a public gathering, a rope line or a red carpet. No, I did not have a beer with these guys. But it was exciting shaking all of their hands.

But one occasion stands alone in my memory.

It was Friday, July 18, 1980, and I was living in Houston. I was working for a courier company and I got the call to go and deliver a package to the Galleria, Houston’s sprawling Oz-like enclosed shopping complex (with an ice skating rink inside it!). My usual parking space was blocked off. “EVENT. NO PARKING,” the signs said.

I parked several blocks away and hoofed it in. The mall was wall-to-wall people. A presidential candidate was coming to give a speech. Hundreds of red, white and blue balloons were strung up over the ice skating rink. Streamers waved and Loretta Lynn was singing from the podium to warm up the crowd. Funny, I didn’t even know who Loretta Lynn was in those days.

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