One Reporter’s Foray Into National Politics

By  John Derby
Times Publisher
February 18, 2016

Hearing that Brian Raymond, an Atwater city councilman, and Andy Krotik, a local Realtor, went back to Ohio and met with another friend, Atwater-native Paul Caton, to get involved in the presidential race reminds us of the time we went to the National Convention.
Ronald Reagan was running for office and the convention was being held in Kansas City. We had no money and we had a family to feed, so we did not believe we could afford to attend, however, someone offered their van for the trip if we could cover all the other expenses.
Without a solid plan on how we could attend the big convention, we applied for reporting and photographing credentials.
When the day arrived, we found ourself heading east, sleeping in the van at night, and driving to Kansas City during the day. We never tired of eating bologna sandwiches in those days, and we didn’t even drink beer to cut down on the food bill.
We forget what the price of gas was in those days, maybe $1 a gallon. We brought our guitar for entertainment, and our tennis racket for exercise, and we were good to go.
When we arrived in Kansas City we needed a place to stay and we parked the van on the top floor of the convention center. Now try that today and see how long the security police will allow you to stay in your van.
We spent the entire convention sleeping in our van, no one seemed to take second notice.
Now in the convention itself, our credentials passed muster.
The Times was a small weekly newspaper so they could not discriminate. Why shouldn’t our readers have a first hand account?
We were fortunate to be issued a photographer pass, because as a writer the security police would not allow us on the main floor. However as a photographer, we had full run of the entire convention.
The television boys took up most of the prime space, right in front of the stage. That meant if one wanted to get a close-up picture of the candidates, he or she had to find another way.
After the first day at the convention we were exhausted and went straight to bed early, however, the second day we were looking for some conversation and went to a local bar where most of the press members hung out.
Everybody seemed to be having trouble getting up close shots of the candidates. The next day the field of candidates was being narrowed down, and I still didn’t have a picture of Barry Goldwater.
He was scheduled to be on the speaker stand at 11 a.m. the next morning. It might be my last chance, I thought at the time.
All the candidates used a tunnel to get to the speaker stand and there were a lot of press waiting for Goldwater just before 11 a.m.
We were outnumbered once again by the T.V. guys, and as Goldwater came down the tunnel, the secret service was making way for him pushing all the press aside.
There was a ladder leaning against the wall of the tunnel that must have been used by a worker. We grabbed the ladder and stuck it right under a light fixture in the center of the tunnel. Then we climbed the ladder and looked like we were changing the light bulb.
The secret service passed right by, followed by Goldwater, but not before we pulled out our camera, and got our one close-up shot.
When the flash went off the secret service grabbed the ladder, and sent us flying, but we had our picture, and that was what mattered.
We flashed our press pass and one agent pushed us out of the way.
Goldwater and all the other candidates were featured in the Times the following week.

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