Dad wrote his second letter in the Don Dwyer Life Story Project on May 10, 1994. This one is all about Richard Milhaus Nixon. Or at least it was supposed to be. Somehow Dad manages to throw in some space for Cal football and Major League Baseball! I started my list of questions by bringing up an old family story about some connection between Aunt Alice and Pat Nixon and then I asked him what he thought of Nixon’s Senatorial campaign of 1950 against Helen Gahagan Douglas. For Question # 3 I asked him if he remembered the Checkers Speech that took place during the Presidential campaign of 1952 and then I asked him about the Eisenhower years followed by the 1960 Presidential campaign when Nixon ran against Kennedy. Question # 6 deals with My Dad’s Boat and his simple solution for getting rid of all of the problems in his life. Finally, I asked him what he thought of the Nixon presidency and asked him if he had any particular thoughts about the Watergate Affair. Here’s his reply:
Notes on Dad’s 1994 Letter # 02
Dad’s foreword: Dad mentions that rainy day in February 1969 when my lovely bride and I were wed. Here’s a picture of my folks on that day. Richard M. Nixon became our 37th President a few weeks before our big day.
Q # 1 — The Pat Nixon – Aunt Alice story. I heard this story of some connection between Aunt Alice and Pat Nixon many times over the years but never got the story straight. I probably first heard the story from Teen and Evelyn and maybe from Alice herself but I probably wasn’t listening too well.
Q # 2 — Nixon’s 1950 campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas for US Senator.
Nixon ran successfully for Congress in 1946 and again in 1948. In 1950 he ran for US Senator and I guess that’s when Dad first heard of him.
Q # 3 — The famous Checkers Speech:
Six weeks before the 1952 presidential election the word got out that Nixon had received more than $18,000 from supporters. Things didn’t look good for Dick. Ike was thinking of dumping him. Then the RNC decided to pay for him to go on TV and tell his story. In what would become known as the Checkers Speech Nixon insinuated that the Democratic ticket of Stevenson / Sparkman was corrupt and full of Communists and their wives wore mink coats while Pat wore a simple cloth coat. He also mentioned that a Texas supporter sent him a black and white cocker spaniel that his six-year old daughter Tricia fell in love with and she named him Checkers and they were not going to give him back! Letters and telegrams flooded in and Nixon’s career was saved.
The half-hour speech received the most television viewers ever up to that time but over the years the speech has dropped in value in the world of popular opinion. It is even used as an example for the definition of the term “logical fallacies” (see here).
There is an excellent description of the speech in the Wikipedia article here:
Here is a video clip of the entire speech: (29 minutes, 46 seconds):
Here is a short version (the first 3 minutes and 44 seconds):
Q # 4 — The Eisenhower Nixon years (1952-60). Dad grumbled a lot during this time but I guess Eisenhower took the brunt of his criticism, not Nixon. He also didn’t care much for the people who ran the Mint during the Republican administration (see the first three names listed in Q # 5).
Q # 5 — the 1960 campaign against JFK.
Ross P. Buell was the superintendent of the SF Mint from 1953-54.
Arthur Carmichael was superintendent of the SF Mint from 1955-61 after Buell resigned.
William H. Brett was the Director of the US Mint from 1954-61 (Buell and Carmichael reported to Brett).
Other directors / superintendents of note during my Dad’s career with the Mint: Brett was preceded by Nellie Tayloe Ross who was director from 1933 to 1953 and Dad’s boss from 1944 to 53. They got along very well. Brett was succeeded by Eva Adams (1961-69) in the Kennedy-Johnson years. Eva wrote a nice letter to Dad on his retirement in 1970. I’ll publish it someday. Mary Brooks served under Nixon and Ford from 1969 until 1977. Gerald Haggerty was a good friend of Dad and my Uncle Fran. Peter Haggerty, Gerald’s father, was superintendent of the SF Mint from 1933-45. in 1935 he hired my Dad.
Q # 6 — Dad’s Boat. I believe that it was during the 1960 Presidential campaign when Dad first brought up his idea of a boat being pulled out to sea to be used for target practice. And Nixon was the first honorary passenger in his boat. Over the years many others joined Nixon, especially some of his cronies when he was President. But I really don’t remember him talking too much about the Stanford or Rams football teams. As I recall, the two athletes who were most often suggested to join Nixon on that boat were Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco.
Rickey Henderson had an illustrious 25 year Major League career (1979-2003), including 4 tenures with the Oakland A’s (79-84, 89-93, 94-95, 98). He also played for the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Padres. Rickey was the greatest base-stealer of all time and he loved to tell everybody how great he was. In fact he often talked about himself in the third person, which really irked Dad.
Jose Canseco‘s baseball career began in 1985 and ended in 2001. He played for the As from 1985 to 92 and again in 1997 and he led the majors in HRs in 1988 and 91. Canseco’s antics off the field made headlines. Everyone knew that Jose and his teammate Mark McGuire took drugs to enhance their performances but no one did anything about it. In 2005 Canseco published a book called Juiced in which he named all the players he knew who also took drugs.
Tommy LaSorda was the manager of the Dodgers from 1976-96. Giants fans would boo him on sight. Tommy loved it!
Don Drysdale was a star pitcher for the Brooklyn / LA Dodgers from 1956 to 1969 (they also had Sandy Koufax for most of that time). He was especially effective against the Giants but he had one flaw: he couldn’t get Willie McCovey out! See
Big Willie’s Private War with Cousin Don by Robert Creamer in the July 1, 1963 edition of Sports Illustrated here.
Q # 7 — What did Dad think of Nixon as president?
Dad retired in 1970. Nixon became president in 1969. So he only had to work for a little over a year when Nixon was president.
Civil Service job: Dad received a political appointment in 1944 but after nine years in the department he was actually most qualified for the job. In 1953 the Republican administration made the position of Chief Assayer a professional Civil Service (non-political) job. I believe the assistant assayer was already a Civil Service position.
If the Chief Assayer position was changed earlier from political to Civil Service then Dad would not have had to resign when Eisenhower became president.
Watergate: I asked Dad what he thought of the whole Watergate Affair but all I got was this list of names — four famous athletes and two famous figures from his days at Cal.
Vic Bottari (1935-37), was the captain of the famous 1937 “thunder team,” the last Cal football team to win the national championship. The team finished off their sensational year with a 13 – 0 victory over Alabama in the Rose Bowl. Bottari scored both touchdowns and was awarded the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Sam Chapman also was a football star from 1935 to 37 but he also played baseball and he chose baseball over football for his career, which was mostly with the Philadelphia Athletics.
Juan Marichal was the Giants ace pitcher throughout the 1960s and a fan favorite. Known as The Dominican Dandy, some of his post-game interviews with Lon Simmons were more entertaining than the game itself!
Dad followed faithfully all the San Francisco athletes who made it to the Big Leagues including Paul Waner. The greatest of all of these athletes was Joe DiMaggio. I’m not sure why Dad singled out Waner when the guy he talked about the most was Joltin’ Joe.
Paul Waner’s nickname was Big Poison. He played for the Seals from 1923 – 25. He played in the Majors from 1926 to 45, mostly for the Pittsburgh Pirates. His little brother Lloyd was called Little Poison. For a few years Little Poison played center field for Pittsburgh when Big Poison played right.
Other San Francisco players included Frankie Crosetti (Seals from 1928-31, NY Yankee player from 1932-48, NY Yankee 3rd base coach from 1946 to 68), Tony Lazzeri, Charlie Silvera (an SI grad), Joe Cronin and Lefty O’Doul who played for the Seals and many big league teams including the NY Giants but is most famous for being the Seals legendary manager from 1935 to 51. O’Doul is credited for bringing baseball to Japan before and after the war. The uniforms of the Tokyo Giants, an organization that was born shortly after O’Doul’s Japan tour in 1935, look identical to O’Doul’s favorite New York Giants!
Ira B Cross, known as “The Doc,” was professor of Economics at Cal from 1919 to 1951. He was renowned as an expert on labor and social reform and banking. When he finally retired he also became a world expert on irises and chrysanthemums. Dad majored in Economics at Cal.
Robert Gordon Sproul was president of Cal from 1930 to 52 and the UC System from 1952 to 58. He built UC into one of the world’s leading institutions. He was known for his booming voice, his phenomenal memory and his deep attention to detail. In a 1930 speech to the Commonwealth Club of California he said “Students are getting a gold brick if they go for education to a school where there are no great teachers.” He once refused a raise in pay because it would give him a higher salary than the state’s governor and that didn’t make any sense to him.
Dad wrote his next letter a week later on May 18, 1994 and I will upload it for all to see a week from now. It’s all about his sister Elise. Stay tuned.