Shake the hand . . .

During the course of my life I have had occasion to shake the hand of three current or past US presidents, and two who would become president later. Not that I have any special connections, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

1) Eisenhower: I grew up in western Maryland and my dad was a WW2 vet who, like many others, wore his 'Eisenhower' uniform jacket for years after he was mustered out. We used to drive around in southern Pennsylvania on weekends, where Eisenhower had a farm, and many times my dad was mistaken for Ike - got asked for his autograph more than once, and people were really confused when he signed his real name. He didn't look much like Eisenhower except they were both bald and both wore the same jacket. One time we were eating in a restaurant when the real Eisenhower came in. He and my dad greeted each other, as soldiers from that era were prone to do, and my dad asked if he would mind meeting my mom and I.

2) LBJ (twice). We went to a small church in Smithsburg, MD which was pretty close to Camp David and twice LBJ and Lady Bird stopped in for Sunday services. I was the acolyte, and on one of those occasions I passed out - not from the famous personages or anything, we just went to church before eating anything on Sunday mornings. Lady Bird was responsible for severly curtailing the operations of my favorite junkyard, which was said to be the direct cause of her 'beautify America' program.

3) Nixon - I was at a big anti-war rally in DC the summer of 69 and late at night (almost midnight) Nixon came out to the reflecting pool where some of the demonstrators - sort of the edge of the crowd that had filled the mall shoulder to shoulder early in the day - were hanging out talking and singing songs. He had four secret service guys with him who looked exceedingly nervous. We talked (he and a group of a few dozen of us) for about half an hour about the war until the word filtered out that he was there and more people started moving in, then he shook hands all around and told us he respected us for coming out and letting our voices be heard, then the minders hustled him out of there.

4) Jimmy Carter - My mom was a small town member of the North Carolina Democratic party apparatus and was invited to a campaign dinner by her buddy who was Attorney General of NC for years. I took her there (no invitation for me) and while I was waiting for her to come out Carter left and shook hands with the small crowd outside.

5) George HW Bush, in October of 1976, when he was Director of the CIA.

At the time Geo I was president I lived in WV and had an airplane that I used to fly all around that part of the country. One time I was passing over western Maryland at about 5500 feet and looked down to see two of those distinctive Marine helicopters passing perpendicular to my path and quite low, headed East. It occured to me that it was probably someone coming back from Camp David so, being a bit foolish at the time, and living in an earlier and different time, it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to give them a buzz job. I had actually turned to and started to dive when I thought better of it. I doubt they ever even knew I was there or I would surely have gotten a call from someone. In those days its likely I could have actually gotten away with it without getting shot down if I had passed under and right in line with them, but there would surely have been hell to pay later.