Friday, October 30, 2015


       We arrived at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on a Saturday morning. This was our first visit to a Presidential Library. Fortunately, we allowed a lot of time for the visit. We didn't realize the magnitude of the place and the amount of information that was available. Exhibits combined fascinating artifacts, historical documents, photographs, films, and dozens of interactive displays that made for a pleasant day of history.

      The tradition of Presidential Libraries began with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was the first to raise private funds to build a library that opened in 1941. It was later given to the U.S. government for operation through the National Archives. Prior to this time, Presidential papers and records were often lost, destroyed, or sold for profit. There are currently 13 presidential libraries located throughout the U.S., each one offering a special place for all to learn about democracy and our nation—without regard to political considerations.

      The Reagan Library, located 45 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, in Simi Valley, CA, is perched on a mountaintop with sweeping views of surrounding mountains and valleys. We entered the grounds on a curving tree-lined mile-long drive with colorful banners with pictures honoring all U.S. Presidents along the way. The library is surrounded by a hundred-acre landscape that includes a full scale replica of the White House Rose Garden, President Reagan's grave site, and a 9 ½ foot-tall, piece of the Berlin Wall that weighs over 6,000 lbs. There are benches and picnic tables—all can be enjoyed without paying the entrance fee that is required for the the library and museum.

      The 100,000 square-foot Reagan Museum consists of 24 galleries including a full-scale reproduction of the Oval Office as it appeared during the Reagan Presidency—inclusive of a painting of his hero, President Andrew Jackson, bronze saddles, a jar of jelly beans and plaque, sitting on his desk, that reads: “It CAN by done.”

      On display throughout the museum are hundreds of gifts President and Mrs. Reagan received from world leaders, visiting dignitaries and others. There are lovely photos of these visits, and I especially enjoyed looking at the interesting clothing and styles of the time. There were displays of dresses worn by Nancy Reagan in one of the galleries that was devoted entirely to the First Lady.

      Air Force One, that served seven U.S. Presidents and carried Ronald Reagan more than 660,000 miles, is on display and available for boarding. The press, who had to pay their own fare, rode in the rear of the aircraft—the President enjoyed comfortable seating and working arrangements in the front section. Also, located in the Pavilion is the Ronald Reagan Pub which contains original contents from a pub that was named in his honor in Ballyporeen, Ireland—his ancestral homeland. The President would often say “John Kennedy got an airport, Lyndon Johnson got a space center, but I got a pub named after me.” The pub also served as a good place for our much needed coffee break.
      Ronald Reagan wrote his thoughts and observations in his personal diary virtually every day during his eight years as president. The Reagan diaries are on display and they can be viewed digitally by date. Throughout all the galleries one can find his personal notes, including love notes to Nancy. He was referred to as the great communicator and famous for his many quotations.

       Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico, IL in 1911. His family moved around the midwest until they finally settled in Dixon, IL when Ronald was seven years old. He served as the 40th president of the from January 20, 1981 to January 20, 1989. He suffered from Alzheimer's disease during his last years of life and died in 2004 at the age of 93.

      “I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.”             Announcement of Alzheimer's Diagnosis
                                                                                                       November 5, 1994




Thursday, October 1, 2015



It's 5:30 a.m. at the San Diego International Airport; I still have an hour to wait for my early morning flight. I happen to notice the West Gallery near my gate. I decide to enter the peaceful glassed-in room to find out more about the artwork on the walls. They are original works by Peruvian-born Guillermo Acevedo, who has received honors for his work in illustrating and documenting San Diego's neighborhoods and landmarks. I then sit on a gallery bench to enjoy a five-minute historical video about Balboa Park.

This is my initial introduction to the over 30 displays throughout the airport celebrating the 100th anniversary of the San DiegoPanama-California Exposition that opened in Balboa Park in January 1915. It seems fitting that this airport, with thousands of visitors passing through every day, would participate in a celebration of an event that attracted 3.8 million people from all over the world—long before jet planes were on the drawing board.

This is a time when a small town of 38,000 manages to convert a city park in a desert into an oasis of lush gardens and exquisitely designed buildings of Spanish Colonial Revival and related architecture. The Panama Canal is complete, and San Diego is the first American port-of-call on the Pacific Coast. A group of San Diego citizens decide this is worthy of an exhibition that will place San Diego on the map for its architecture, landscape, and quality of life. It is done in style and lead by local architect Bertrand Goodhue and others who had the courage to follow their dreams, despite the doubters.

When I return to the airport a week later, and with time to wait before Ron can pick me up, I decide to look around for some of the other displays. It's mid-day on a Wednesday and the airport is relatively quiet. I find a Starbuck's for coffee and then the search begins to find works of art by local artists, reproductions of historical photographs and postcards, murals, and other artifacts from the 1915 Balboa Park Exposition. Immediately, I notice some great colorful banners honoring the Exposition along the corridor leading to the gates.

I pick up one of the brochures, Balboa Park & the City, that are available throughout the airport. This is my guide to the Contemporary Perspectives portion of the exhibit featuring ten local artists and organizations. I am intrigued by a location in the airport called Sunset Cove where two of the works can be found. I manage to find it, and now I know that it is the name for the new circular section overlooking the airport in Terminal 2. This is home to a food court with the Bubbles wine bar in the center that offers $22 glasses of champagne. I stop at the Red Mango kiosk to make my own yogurt sundae with fresh fruit. I pay by the ounce and the bill is $4.11—it is just what I want and not a bad price for airport food. I also enjoy local photographer Lee Sie's dramatic images of Balboa Park and San Diego cityscapes that are on display at the entry.

Next, I discover numerous displays of antique lighting fixtures secured in showcases that are copies of original 1935 chandeliers designed by Richard Requa and constructed from compressed paper for the House of Hospitality in Balboa Park. The new creations are done by Gibson & Gibson Antique Lighting.

If you are traveling through airport Terminal 2 with children, don't miss the impressive floor to ceiling wall panels of artwork from the 2013 children's picture book, The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins and illustrated by Jill McElmurry. (Lucky Mila is getting this one for Xmas.) The book tells the story of horticulturist KateSessions' life and ambitions to turn the dusty hills of Balboa Park into a garden worthy of the 1915 Exposition. Sessions, who is referred to as the “Mother of Balboa Park,” made a deal with the city in 1892 to lease 30 acres of land for her nursery with a promise to plant 100 trees a year in Balboa Park and 300 trees in other parts of San Diego.

An impressive bronze statue of Kate Sessions (1857-1940) stands near the Sixth Avenue entrance to the park; it is often adorned with flowers placed in her memory by those passing by.


Directly above the baggage carousels are mannequins adorned in elegant vintage clothing. The dresses and suits are on loan from the Old Globe Theater's costume collection for production set between 1900 and 1920. They are a sharp contrast to the casual wear we see at the airport today and a reminder of how the world has changed.

I then notice some display cases with old memorabilia near the Terminal 2 baggage area that include an official daily program, advertising signs, books, and jewelry from the event.

Outside the Terminal 1, there is a large official Seal from the Exposition that depicts a ship going through the Panama Canal. It's a beautiful design. However, my favorites are the large murals of actual scenes from the event showing the ornate Spanish architecture and lush gardens—many still standing today. This quote is posted on the wall next to the murals:

     It is so beautiful that I wish to make an earnest plea...I hope that
     not only will you keep these buildings running for another year
     but you will keep these buildings of rare phenomenal taste and
     beauty permanently.              -Theodore Roosevelt, 1915

PAGE FROM THE TREE LADY: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever