June 15, 2004
An interesting story from the October 28, 1985 edition of the Howard Phillips Issues and Strategy Bulletin: “This past summer I received a fascinating piece of correspondence from a long-time supporter of The Conservative Caucus, George Birdsall. Let me share part of it with you:
“ ‘When I graduated from the eighth grade, farm children took their final examinations in their home school. The papers were sent to the County Superintendent and he selected the one with the highest grades to be valedictorian at a large ceremony in the County Seat. The day I graduated (1911) the auditorium was full and about fifty graduates were on stage.
“The program had to wait about half an hour because the superintendent had to go after the valedictorian. When she arrived in her everyday clothes to make her speech, the superintendent introduced her and explained that someone in her family was having a baby and no one had time to take her to her graduation. Toward the end of the program the superintendent made this announcement: “Well, the baby is born, it’s a boy, and his name is Ronald Wilson Reagan, the valedictorian’s cousin.” …
“The valedictorian was Mary Ann Reagan. She lived on a farm near the village of Galt, Illinois, Whiteside County, Hopkins Township. Her uncle and family lived in an apartment over a store in Tampico, Ill. about 12 miles from Galt. They kept in touch by telephone. When the baby was born Mary Ann and her family went to her uncle’s place in Tampico to help with the birth of the baby. The graduation ceremony was in Morrison, the County seat about 12 miles from Galt in the opposite direction. There were very few cars in 1911.
“It was held early that year because farmers are too busy in May to go to a graduation. Five years after the graduation nine farmers organized a milk route. Every ninth day it was my turn to drive a two-horse wagon with about thirty 10-gallon cans of milk to the condensing factory in Sterling. On the way home I would stop at a little store in Galt for groceries. I was in love with the girl across the road from the store and when she saw me tie my horses to the hitching post she would come over to talk to me. One day she brought a little boy along and said, “I want you to meet little Ronny Reagan.” I said “Hi Ronny”. Kathryn said “Tell George what you are going to be when you grow up.” Ronny said, “President of the United States”. I said, “Fine. When you get big you run for President and I will vote for you”. Kathryn Bowman said, “There you have one vote already. Just keep on being nice to everybody and when you get big everybody will vote for you. Kathryn also had said “Tell George how old you are”. He held up five fingers and said “Five.” I said, “I remember when you were born.” ’ ”
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