Public Service and Politics > Candidate Nixon visits Seattle in Sept. 1968
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, September25, 1968
Barnum and Bailey would have loved it; Mike Todd couldn't have improved on it and Cecil B. DeMille wouldn't have dared.
Because yesterday's huge welcome and demonstration for Richard M. Nixon in University Plaza was just about the biggest thing to hit downtown Seattle since the tumultuous Bond Sale Rally days of World War II when the site was known as Victory Square and played host to big crowds and the nation's famous almost every day.
The Republican Party's nominee for the presidency of the United States drew an estimated 5,000 persons to the square which topped this year's airport turnouts for all the other candidates: McCarthy, 1,000; Kennedy, 500; Rockefeller, 400; arid rivalled the late Senator Kennedy's 8,000 student turnout at a University of Washington speech.
The pre-show fun was almost as exciting as the moment of truth when the man of the hour arrived amidst the wildest music this side of Chicago and the ascent of hundreds of helium-filled balloons which rose from the back of the improvised flatbed truck stage set up in the drive-in entrance of the Olympic Hotel.
Behind the scenery, the Ace Novelty Company's Jimmy Duncan may have hoped that the cheers were for the all-night effort of inflating the thousand or so mini gas bags, but out front the acclain was obviously just for the benefit of the man from the Miami convention now on the national stump.
It's a little hard to pick out the most exciting thing that happened in so short a space of time but if the cheers are still reverberating this morning in the Plaza, some were reserved far the 100 or more sweet things, ages 14 to 17, who set to music the GOP slogan of 1968: "Nixon's the One!" and set a swinging tone to the block party.
I looked around this scene and felt a little tense when I noticed the "delegates" from the peace and freedom party who kept their word and turned out for a "counter demonstration" in opposition to Mr. Nixon. Although they tried to interrupt, no real trouble developed and the right of dissent was again victorious, if slightly discordant.
I heard a heckler here and there and even spotted a few from "the loyal opposition" who were there to make notes and maybe even purloin a few ideas.
But overall, it was a great show which is why the crowd came as early as 3 o'clock and stayed long after the hoopla officially subsided at 6 p.m.
The afternoon's action started at Boeing Field where some 200 greeters — in marked contrast to the mob downtown — stood in the sunshine to greet the candidate and his entourage of 150 aides, national, press, VIP's and sundry. It took three Boeing 727's to bring the party to town.
Mrs. Gordon Clinton looked charming as she presented a bouquet of roses to Mrs. Nixon and everyone was all smiles and full of cheer including Governor Evans, State Nixon chairman Gordon Clinton and the GOP top cats — Ken Rogs-tad, Mrs. Gwen Anderson, Bob Timm and W. Walter Williams, former U.S. undersecretary of commerce.
I took the press bus into town to listen to the usual gripes about the schedule, the laundry, the competition, but mainly to listen to expert impressions of the progress of the campaign.
The "press blitzkreig" alighted from the busses at 4th and University a little goggle-eyed at the crowd and started to run wildly for the slightly over-loaded press section, while the VIP's made a hasty swing up a side aisle.
On the main platform, they had just finished introducing the state candidates and Slade Gorton, Art Fletcher, Lud Kramer, Johnny O'Brien. Jack Metcalf and company were waving to their fans along with the sole Hollywood celebrity who turned out for the doings, James (The Virginian) Drury. Gale (My 1 Little Margie) Storm missed her plane and we missed her.
The music then went to a frantic beat — calculated to keep all the doctors, dentists, nurses and patients in the nearby Cobb and Stimpson buildings on tranquilizers for the rest of the week. Gene Boscacci's orchestra was never louder as the bigmoment neared. The Chinese Community Girls' Drill Team and the Los Senoritas drill team forgot their earlier aplomb and were all jumping up and down to be the first to see the man.
Master of Ceremonies Jack Link was bunny-hopping all over Ward Wren's stage and Chet Gibson was frowning over what the vibrations were doing to his sound system.
Then it happened! Pandemonium as the man and his wife got out of their car and walked past a bevy of pretty girls to the platform to the wildest happiest welcome we've seen in some time. It was noisier than Times Square on New Year's Eve, chilled only by the noise of a car backfire at the crucial moment of the grand entrance.
We'll leave the speech to the political pundits and restrict ourselves now to the behind-the-scenes story because you don't build a situation like this without a near-perfect blending of pros and amateurs.
Scores of local experts were enlisted in the all-out effort to make the Seattle show outstanding. And, amazingly, all worked quite well together during the week of intense advance preparations.
Handbills were ordered and thousands distributed by young folk on downtown streets and in office buildings; hundreds of invitations went out in the mail to the faithful and friends; newspapers, radio and television advertisements were ordered; a publicity campaign was mounted and a telephone campaign to turn out "the workers" was set up by volunteers.
Party Leaders like C. Montgomery Johnson, Rogstad, Mrs. Anderson, Timm, Al Howell and aides Herb Stevens, Lynn Clark and Paul Peterson, all pitched in to do a monumental job.
Mrs. Jean Richardson organized the parade talent from her Seafair call book. A tight budget was devised and contributions sought to underwrite the expense.
It was a little seeing the whole national campaign being staged in miniature on your doorstep. Even political campaign specialist Bob McGee of California was impressed with the near-perfect mixture of amateurs and pros.
A sign-painters' volunteer corps was created; transportation and baggage problems were solved. VIP feelings were soothed.
There was a "staff committee" to help the host Olympic Hotel to plan out the 100 or so rooms on several floors.
And there was even a "maritime committee" made up of Lynn Campbell's Harbor Tour boatmen and Bob Neidermeier's Northwest Hydrofoil crew to help work out the details of today's waterborne trip to the Lockheed Shipyard, where Jim McCurdy and Bob Miller were working out their own program for the distinguished sightseer.
There was a volunteer press committee headed by Bud Parsons and Mary Beth Davies and aided by Stephanie Slater, Sharon Beach and Clive Wienker, who supervised the credentials and arrangements for the Northwest press, some 200 strong, who bussed from airport to plaza with their national colleagues.
Way behind the scenes were the U.S. Secret Service headed by project man Bill McComb and area office chief Elmer Moore, working with countless other security men from local agencies to protect the visitors from the infamous trageies [sic] which shall always mark Dallas and Los Angeles.
So, the mystery of Nixon's growing ability to attract crowds is no secret at all — the man has great personal drawing power which he meshes with a strong organization — a cadre of men who blend "know how" and "can learn" with determination and confidence.
Yesterday's welcome in Seattle was a political advance man's dream come true — worth every penny of expense, every ounce of sweat and every missed hour of sleep.
And, like curbstone observers Mel Anderson and Bill Sears agreed — "it'll be a hard act to follow, Mr. H. . . . . "
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