Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Day Memories

Election Day Memories
(This post is an edited and updated post of an original post I wrote in November of 2008)

Well, the big day is finally here. I hope you all get out there and vote. I have been thinking a lot about our family and its involvement in politics.  

My earliest memory of things political involves a visit to see President Harry S. Truman when he came to Colorado Springs by train in October of 1952.  He was actually on a Whistle Stop Campaign for Adlai Stevenson.  The photo below was taken in Colorado Springs, Colorado on that very day when I had the exciting opportunity to view the first President of the United States that I remember.  I was only seven years old when I had this introduction to political campaigning.

My parents took us to the train depot that day and stressed how we were not only fortunate to see the former president, but also they wanted us to see history in the making.  My father always brought us up with a rich appreciation for history.  He also taught to take very seriously our responsibility to be informed voters who used our voice by participating in the political process.

My paternal grandparents,  Avery and Elva French were staunch Democrats.  (They are shown in this photo from 1971.)  They always, as far as I know, voted the straight Democratic ticket, and they were very involved in local Democratic politics.  Grandma French was an active member of the Jane Jefferson Club of Colorado Springs.

We all turned out for that day in 1952 to see Harry S. Truman come into town.  I was surrounded by my parents, my siblings, my grandparents, my aunt and uncle and my cousins.  We all loved Harry.  I remember being hoisted up on my father's shoulders so I could see the President.  I still remember the excitement I felt that day.  The memory has stayed with me with great clarity these sixty years later.

Those days, politics seemed kinder and gentler.  Even so, I remember hearing tales from my grandmother of back room deals that were brokered in the game of politics.  Such things always angered her. Politics has never been a game for the faint of heart, but I find the nastiness and dishonesty or half truths that we hear today during a political campaign especially upsetting.  I also am sickened by the money that is spent on campaigns.  I think it is immoral for either party to spend the billions they do on campaigns. I will be grateful to have the current campaign behind us after tomorrow.  I do wonder if we will really hear the end of it after November 6 though.

In 2008, Jim and I went to see then candidate Barack Obama when he came through Pueblo during his campaign.  It was a very exciting day for us.  I try not to be political in this blog, but you will probably guess who my candidate was and is by the photo I am including.  I guess you could say our Democratic roots run deep.  Jim's father was a loyal supporter of Harry S. Truman, just as my grandparents were.

Another Election Day Memory

I haven't always been registered as a Democrat.  I have always had a more moderate view of politics as an adult, and for many years, I registered as an Independent.  When I was a young wife and mother who stayed at home and did not work, I did a few odd jobs to earn money. One job I had, involved working as an election judge. The precinct where we lived in Utah was Democratic. They needed Democratic election judges, so I changed my affiliation to Democratic from Independent. The first election I worked was not a presidential. It was in the early 70's and the home where we voted was in a very poor part of Ogden, Utah. The woman who had the election in her home had done so for years. She was the mother of at least 12 if not 13 children, and she must have weighed about 250 pounds. She was in her late 50's, about 5' tall, and had stark white hair. I thought she was fascinating. During the day, she told us stories about elections and raising all of her many children. She reminded me of the Old Woman Who Lived in A Shoe. This house was tiny! It had three bedrooms, a living room, a bathroom and a kitchen. It was crammed full of furniture, books, papers, junk, and people. This is where our precinct voted! Mind you, she worked hard to keep her home as a polling place because she made extra money for holding the election in her home and by working as a judge.

The other judges and I brought food for the day. There were crock pots of great chili, veggies, chips, cookies and etc. I met some great ladies working as the other judges,  and I met many interesting people who came to vote. Of course, as folks left from voting, the other judges told me all the gossip and life histories of these folks. I just wish I would have recorded the events in a journal.

Times were very different in those days.  The polling places were held in homes, not always in schools or other public places.  There was no early voting.  This year my husband and I voted by mail.  That did not happen in the 70's.
Election Day 1976

In November of 1976, on the two hundredth anniversary of our country's founding, I hosted the presidential election in my home. I finally reached my goal of earning $50 for working an election.  I made $25 for hosting the polling place and another $25 for working.  The polling place had to change in our precinct that year, and my home was selected. Our home was a bi-level, so there were complaints by those who came to vote about the site being moved from where it had been for years, and about the stairs they had to climb.

On the day before the election, my husband and I had moved much of the furniture out of the living room so that the tables for voter check-in could be set up there. Voters then could either vote in booths in the kitchen, or the booths in the basement family room, which also had been emptied of furniture.

I remember that our neighbor was one of the judges. Her ex-husband and son travel around the neighborhood with a speaker system in their truck exhorting people to get out and vote. Julie was just a baby at the time, and Amy was a toddler.

Jimmy Carter won the election. My folks were for him.  I have a letter from them to prove it.  I was not for Carter.  So, as you can see, I have not always voted the Democratic ticket.

In 1976, I used the extra money from working the election to help buy the Christmas presents that you can see in the photo of Julie on Christmas morning in 1976. This was after much of the money had to spent on cleaning the carpets. Do you have any idea how dirty gold carpet gets after a presidential election is held in your home???

I don't remember working as an election judge again after that year. Perhaps, I worked one day in North Ogden. I don't remember,but I have memories of voting in North Ogden, Utah in the home up the street during the year that Reagan was elected. We already knew he would probably be president when we voted in the evening.

This year, history will again be made in this election. Please vote. Record your memories of why you voted the way you did.  I think your children and grandchildren will be interested someday in reading about your views.  More importantly, your commitment to voting and being a part of the political process is a teaching moment.  It is not a responsibility to be taken lightly.


Buschy said...

Thank you for your post. I love hearing the history of our family. I recently read Truman by David McCollugh it was a great book and would definitely recommend it. Mom had mentioned that Grandpa and Grandma had taken her on a trip through Kansas City where they drove by Truman's house. She said she remembered seeing him pull out of his driveway.

sallylwess said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Jim & I actually listened to Truman on CD while we were driving to Grand Junction this spring. We enjoyed it so much. We found ourselves wishing we still had Harry walking among us. He was a treasure.

Have you read John Adams by McCollugh? That is an excellent read. John Adams, and Abigal, were both amazing people. Jon & I were able to visit John Adams homes in Quincy, MA this summer. Both Jon & Monty live within 20 minutes of Quincy.

Our family began its history in this country in Salem, MA 100 years before the founding of the U.S. Jon & I also visited Salem, but I didn't get out to Marblehead which is where the family actually came ashore. From Salem, the family eventually went to Rhode Island and then to Ohio.

I've heard that story about the family seeing Truman before. That must have been so exciting.

Linda said...

A lovely post, Sally. I enjoyed reading your memories and seeing your great photos.

Grandmother said...

This is such a good idea to record reasons for voting for the future family. This is such an important election. May the citizens choose wisely! Good luck in your new home.

Linda P. said...

I loved reading your memories of election days.

mary said...

I enjoyed your memories of early elections. I had no idea that they were held in homes. My family has deep Democratic roots. My father was involved in the political scene here in Kansas City. The "notorious" Tom Pendergast was viewed by my family as a great supporter of the working poor and was a pall bearer at my great grandfather's funeral. I remember, as a junior in high school, my father sitting up all night until the Kennedy/Nixon results had been announced. My cousin married a man who later became a Democratic governor of Missouri. So, I feel I am on pins and needles today because so much is at stake for the common good. I am disheartened, when I visit my son in Texas, and see the terrible racist anti Obama signs. I m going to try to be hopeful today! Mary

Barb said...

Like you, Bob & I voted early. However I'm babysitting Sam today so my D-I-L can go to vote. I asked her why she doesn't just do mail-in, and she said she just loves going to the polling place, being part of the process, and getting her "I voted" sticker. I liked seeing your old photos, Sally. My Mom was a staunch supporter of Harry Truman.

Dee said...

Dear Sally, thanks so much for sharing your memories of past elections. All of us, I believe, have these memories and they come back to us on important days like today--when we are making important decisions for the future.

I supported Candidate Obama in 2008 and I continue to support him, although I deplore the politics of the past few months. I so wish there were a viable third party for which I might vote. A party that put the long-range good of our country and its citizens ahead of the immediate need to get elected. Peace.

Sandi said...

Wonderful memories you have, Sally! I never knew that people voted in homes, either! I grew up voting in either local schools or churches. My first time voting was in 1972, and my polling place was my high school. I thought that was pretty cool!

I have always been independent, refusing to join either "side", although most years I have voted democrat.

While our state is mail-in, I still hand deliver my ballot at the elementary school where I work. I proudly wear my "I voted" sticker all day. When my children were young, I always took them with me to vote. And, they have always voted since they were of age. We mailed Jessica her ballot a few weeks ago, and she mailed it back from Australia last week, just so I could deliver it today. Kailyn also sent her ballot home for me to deliver. I guess it's a tradition!

Maggie May said...

That little baby!!!!! What a mess! But what fun!

Although I don't know that much about USA politics, I am glad Obama got in again. He seems to have the best all round support.
Your election was big in the British news. Well I guess our economy depends on yours, really.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Kay said...

I loved this post, Sally. You're motivating me to write down my feelings about this election. I am so relieved President Obama won, but I do have one friend who is quite unhappy... angry even.

He's told me why and I have to shake my head. I can't understand how he can tell me these things, but this is what he believes. I suppose there are others who feel this way too. It just makes me sad, but I'm glad our country allows us all to voice our feelings and vote accordingly.

I voted early with an absentee ballot which was so very convenient. I wouldn't have missed this for the world.

Mage said...

What a wonderful essay. Thank you for this. And too, congratulations on finally getting into your new home. It's going to be wonderful.

Cape Cod Kitty said...


troutbirder said...

Most fascinating memories of politics, Sally. My father, the banker, was a staunch Reputlican so I came by my yellow dog Democrat status through hard work. And yes, in their own fields Harry Truman and David McCullough were among the very best...:)

becca said...

wow what a great post I love hearing about the past and your photos are wonderful

Linda Myers said...

We vote by mail in Washington State. I kind of miss walking down the street to cast my ballot in the elementary school library.