Francis (Frank) Nixon bought a kit and built a dream house for his family. That house still exists. It’s on the grounds of the 5 Compass Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, and still on its original site. The only thing that has been done to make it safer for a steady stream of visitors is to lift and place it on a concrete foundation. The furniture is original thanks to the foresight of a Nixon family member. A model of the house inside the Library/Museum is worth seeking out to get another glimpse into the early life of a future President.
The doctor who delivered Richard Nixon in 1913 arrived by horse and buggy. Nixon claimed that it was at the family table in the living/dining room that he learned to debate. 3 of the 5 musical instruments he played are on display as are the National Geographic magazines he doted on long before he became a serious world traveler. He once said, “Sometimes at night I was awakened by the whistle of a train, and then I dreamed of the far-off places I wanted to visit someday.”
A short walk from the white house is the Sikorsky helicopter that often took Nixon to and from The White House. Now on loan from The Marines, this helicopter served 4 Presidents between 1961 until 1976. After being mothballed and forgotten, it was found in Rhode Island at March AFB and moved to the Nixon LIbrary.
Nixon’s first job was buying fruits and vegetables for his father’s store. While in high school, he would get up at 4 am and drive into LA where he would negotiate price and buy produce. Back in Whittier, he would wash, sort, and arrange it before leaving for school at 8 am. He graduated 3rd in his Duke Law School class, took a job in Whittier California’s oldest law firm, and made partner within a year. While at Duke, his typical breakfast was a Milky Way candy bar to save money.
I learned a lot of this in the new exhibit at this Presidential Library to celebrate the Richard Nixon Centennial, 1913-2013. Signs for it call him PATRIOT, PRESIDENT, PEACEMAKER. When I asked when this humanizing display will end, I was told sometime in 2014, The date has not yet been determined and I hope it becomes permanent.
While he was President, Richard Nixon brought troop levels in Vietnam down from 475,0000 to 24,000 and ended the war. He was re-elected in 1972 in a true landslide with the opposition carrying only Minnesota. He went to China, shook some hands, and ended 25 years of non-communication and scary confrontation. He negotiated the SALT Treaty that limited nuclear weapons, saved Israel from defeat in a 1973 War, and managed to make the voluntary desegregation of Southern schools happen. Nixon started the EPA and the DEA. Because of Watergate, he became the only President in American history, so far, to voluntarily leave office.
ps. We were lucky enough to visit on the day that Richard Nixon’s brother Edward was there to sign his book. It was delightful to meet him. In person he looked a lot like his presidential brother.