Presidential visits

By Colin Foster

February 15, 2014

By Melanie Yingst

For all presidential hopefuls, shaking hands and kissing babies is the winning ticket, but here in Miami County, it’s all about the beef — K’s style.

From state representatives to senators, the road to the White House for Miami County voters is all wrapped up in wax paper with pickle and a side of fries.

On March 13, 2012, former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum visited K’s Hamburger shop in downtown Troy … a few months later, on June 17, 2012, Mitt Romney stopped by the favorite local burger joint — joining a long list of politicians that have made a campaign stop in Troy.

According to the Local History Library historian Patrick Kennedy, the first presidential candidate to visit was Cincinnati-native President William Howard Taft on May 20, 1912 where he spoke on the Square. Kennedy’s great-grandfather Brooks Johnson attended the speech on the square.

“My great-grandfather was the clerk of courts in Miami County and in those days, there were no tickets, you just lined up,” Kennedy said.

Today, Kennedy possesses two black and white photographs depicting the large crowd gathered on the square, including those who climbed telephone poles to get a better look at Taft in 1912. Kennedy said presidents on the Republican ticket have always stopped in Miami County.

“Republicans have always had that leaning,” Kennedy said.

The last Democratic party candidate that campaigned in Miami County was William Jennings Bryan against President William McKinley.

Democrat William Jennings Bryan made a stop in Troy and spoke from the platform of a train at the depot on East Main Street.

According to Kennedy, Jennings Bryan saw that he was speaking to a mostly oppositional crowd and later commented they would have to do some “missionary work” here.

Bryan returned in 1907 in his third and final attempt to win the White House. He was scheduled to speak at the Opera House (bad weather) or on the Public Square (good weather), but opted to stay on the train.

“Perhaps, he remembered his 1896 visit,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said Troy is popular with Republican candidates because of its “Heartland of America” feel and its own unique political tradition.

“Going to K’s somehow became a campaign tradition that got passed along,” Kennedy said.

“A Whistle Stop to Remember”

Although he has been retired from the force for 14 years, former city of Troy police chief Charles Frank clearly recalls President Ronald Reagan rolling through Troy by train on Oct. 12, 1984.

“We’ve seen our share of political ‘big wigs’ if you will,” Frank said.

Frank said the department called Reagan’s stop the “slow down and wave. ”

Frank shared how the Secret Service began meeting with him prior to his stop to offer full security detail during Reagan’s 15 minute visit aboard the Ferdinand Magellan, the same train Truman used during his campaign almost 40 years before.

“There were a few sniper teams, one was on top of the Salvation Army building, one on top of the Hobart Cabinet building on Clay St. and each had a Troy police officer escort,” Frank said.

The city of Troy also had a member of the Secret Service, John Rodriguez, who was assigned to help Frank with the security lock down of the city.

“A week prior, I probably spent more time with Rodriguez than my family,” Frank said.

Rodriguez helped secure the platform viewing area for students and community members to see President Reagan as he rode by.

“Every foot of train track from Dayton to Lima was under watch by police detail,” Frank said.

Frank said the city of Troy had help from local police officers including West Milton and from the Miami County Sheriff’s Office.

Only a few minor incidents occurred prior to Reagan’s visit but they were immediately addressed, such as a man who climbed a piece of equipment with binoculars — twice.

“He sure didn’t do that again,” Frank said.

“It really was a huge undertaking for us,” Frank said. “But it was an honor that we were visited by the president of the United States.”

Frank said he felt like a huge weight was lifted from his shoulders when Reagan’s train left the city limits.

“Dallas was in the back of my mind,” Frank said in reference of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas. “When they crossed Water Street, I had an overwhelming sense of relief when I saw that he was out of my jurisdiction.”

Yet Frank said he was able to see President Reagan during his stop in Troy while standing along the tracks observing the crowds.

“I got a real good view of President Reagan,” Frank said.

Frank said pulling off a presidential visit was “a neat experience” and one the city police department used for other famous visitors.

“We’ve had a lot of high-profile visitors throughout the years,” Frank said.

One of Frank’s favorite stories was when vice president George H.W. Bush’s visit was announced right before Frank was to leave for a law enforcement conference.

“I was getting ready to leave and as I walked by, I stopped and talked to (now deceased) Charlie Price and said, ‘Oh yeah, by the way, Vice President Bush is coming,’” Frank said with a laugh. “I hadn’t heard that many curse words since I had left the Army.”

Other Past Presidential Visits to Troy

The following information was provided by Patrick Kennedy, historian and library from the Troy Local History Library.

• May 20, 1912 – William Howard Taft visited Troy during the campaign of 1912 and spoke on the Public Square. He is believed to be the first visiting president to come to Troy.

• Mid-1930s – Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s steam engine train makes a brief stop to refill the water tank. It was during the early hours of the morning and the president was not seen. A small crowd gathered to see the train.

• Oct. 11, 1948 – President Harry Truman makes a very brief stop in Troy on his campaign to be re-elected. President Truman did not speak, but waved and smiled at the crowd from the platform of the train near the Union St. crossing of the B & O railroad line. The train used in the tour is the Ferdinand Magellan. It is estimated several hundred people came out to see the president.

• Oct. 31, 1952 – President Truman visited Troy for the second time when he campaigned for Adlai Stevenson. Arriving about 12:15 p.m., President Truman gives a short speech from the trains back platform on why Trojans should vote for Stevenson, even making reference to Hobart Manufacturing. With this visit, it is believed that President Truman is the only sitting president to visit Troy twice during his administration.

• Oct. 12, 1984 – President Ronald Reagan makes a stop during a re-election tour aboard the Ferdinand Magellan. A crowd of 7,000 well-wishers attended the “Whistle Stop” in Troy where Reagan smiled and waved from the back of the train.

• August 2004 – President George W. Bush visited Troy during his campaign for four more years in the White House. He held a rally and gave a speech in downtown at the Public Square. As far as can be ascertained at this time, he is only the second president to give a speech on the Public Square.

Future Presidents in Troy:

• July 1, 1837 – War of 1812 hero William Henry Harrison came to Troy to open the Miami-Erie Canal through the area. Although he was not actively campaigning (he had lost the 1836 election for the presidency). He would run and win the office in 1840 as the Whig candidate. The future president spoke at the Episcopal Church (now the family abuse shelter) and is believed to be the only president (past, future or sitting) to have spent a night in Troy.

• August 1887 – Congressman William McKinley visited Troy and spoke at the Opera House during a political tour. McKinley went on to win the 1896 and 1900 elections for the presidency.

• Oct. 21, 1988 – George H.W. Bush, vice president, made a campaign stop at Hobart Arena and gave a 20-minute speech to the crowd gathered there. President Reagan had served two terms and George H.W. Bush was seeking the presidency.

Vice presidents on the campaign trail in Troy

• 1992 – Vice President Dan Quayle made a stop in Troy during the effort to win four more years as George H.W. Bush’s vice president. Records show that he is the only sitting vice president who campaigned in Troy to be re-elected as vice president.

Some who have campaigned here, but did not win

• October 1896 and October 27, 1907 — Democrat William Jennings Bryan campaigning against William McKinley (1896) made a stop in Troy and spoke from the platform of a train at the depot on East Main Street. He saw that he was speaking to a mostly oppositional crowd and later commented they would have to do some “missionary work” here. Bryan returned in 1907 in his third and final attempt to win the White House. He was scheduled to speak at the Opera House (bad weather) or on the Public Square (good weather), but opted to stay on the train.

• 1996 – Republican running mates Senators Bob Dole and Jack Kemp visited Troy in their bid to win the offices of president and vice president. They lost to President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

• 2004 – In an effort to “hit” some of the same territory as his opponent, Senator John Kerry stopped in Troy for a visit. He lost to President G.W. Bush.

• Oct. 23, 2008 – Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin stopped in Troy and spoke to a crowd at Hobart Arena during the campaign tour. Palin and presidential candidate John McCain lost to Barack Obama and Joseph Biden.

— Staff Writer Colin Foster contributed to this report