Editor’s Note: Imagine Nashua: Then & Now is a weekly photo column by Don Himsel. Each week, he will feature an old photo within a more recent photo, along with the story behind it.
It was August 1971. President Richard Nixon made a brief stop in Nashua before heading to Minot Island, Maine, for a little respite. Apparently he had a lot on his mind.
According to a White House log, Nixon and his entourage landed at Grenier Field (now Manchester/Boston Regional Airport) at 2 p.m. He was met by then Gov. Walter Peterson, Jr., Mayor Stanton, their wives and others, including Cynthia Frink, Central High School valedictorian. Nixon received the keys to the city of Manchester from Stanton.
The president was heading to the Greenbriar Nursing Home.
Philip Forrest remembers the day. He was there at Exit 6 on the F.E. Everett Turnpike in Nashua. He still lives in town.
“We were in the car because we were going to go shopping,” Forrest told me. “Like always, they stop traffic for what seems like an hour before the person’s car and procession goes through,” he said.
Philip had his Argus C3 and was ready. “When he came up through, I took the picture,” he said.
Writer Doug Cornell wrote in his Associated Press story, “Nixon stood up in a car and waved a lot during the trip. In front of the City Hall in Nashua on his way to the nursing home, the President stopped his motorcade to greet some of the thousands who had turned out to greet him. He addressed the crowd over a loudspeaker while standing in his limousine.”
“He said he was telling the Democratic mayor, Dennis Sullivan, that he had been to Nashua on political visits on other occasions. He said he appreciated the warm welcome he received from the city of 60,000 and said he was seeing Nashua for the first time in daylight.” Cornell wrote.
Nixon is quoted as saying, “It’s a beautiful city, the streets are clean, it’s upbeat. I like Nashua.”
“When he saw the crowd, he joked, ‘I thought you were expecting Greg Landry or someone like that,’” Cornell wrote. Landry, from Nashua, played for the National Football League and at the time was with the Detroit Lions.
Nixon made it to the Greenbriar visit around 3:30 and stayed until about 4:45. While there, he had his tour, made some remarks and called Prescott Bush on the phone at his Kennebunkport, Maine, home.
While he was in the state, newspaperman William Loeb, publisher of the Manchester Union Leader, took a shot at the president in an editorial.
Published reports of the editorial stated the “proposed visit to Communist China and the change in policy toward Red China to be immoral, indecent, insane and fraught with danger for the survival of the United States.”
According to a United Press International story, Union Leader photographer Chris Goudas spoke with Nixon.
“Tell Bill I always appreciate his outspoken editorials,” he told him.
Goudas asked, “Did you see the one today?”
Nixon replied, “Yes, he really took us on.”
Nixon didn’t let it get to him. At least publicly. “‘He’s a personal friend of mine,’ Nixon commented on Loeb. ‘I want him to write exactly what he feels. But in the end I think that he will judge (what) I have done is best for peace in the long run and also best for the United States,’” according to Cornell’s story.
Nixon and his entourage flew from Grenier Field to Bangor, Maine, and eventually made the helicopter trip to Minot Island, landing about 6:30 p.m. Preparation was extensive, but some of the locals were nonplussed.
An Associated Press story at the time quoted a local who said, “Well, we’ve had important people here for years. John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy were here and we didn’t make any great thing about it.”
While in Maine, he watched movies (“Fistful of Dollars” was shown the first night). He dined with his son-in-law David Eisenhower and others. He took a boat ride. Perhaps getting as much rest in as possible before bringing on what was to be known as Nixon Shock later that year – removing the country from the gold standard and away from the system developed during the war years at the Bretton Woods Conference, back in New Hampshire in 1944.
Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590 or DHimsel@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Don on Twitter @Telegraph_DonH.