English muffins are a proper toast for Ford

Published 11:12 am Tuesday, February 6, 2007

By Staff
GRAND RAPIDS – Feb. 2 I made the frigid hike across the river to tip a beer at the spot Gerald R. Ford's casket stood on the news Jan. 2.
I've always wanted to visit his museum and to see the Oval Office replica (though it's so '70s it looks like a Brady Bunch set), and I finally made it on one of the worst weekends ever, weatherwise.
It was hard to imagine the throngs in the pictures because it was all but deserted this wintry night.
Instead of a Bud Light, I should have toasted an English muffin.
Remember how the press corps was so fascinated by the idea of a president making his own breakfast that it covered a display of his technique in the White House kitchen in September 1974?
I've done a lot of reading about Ford recently in Bob Greene's "Fraternity," and then here I am adding to my knowledge with his favorites: breakfast, orange juice, melon, English muffins, tea with lemon; meal, pot roast and red cabbage; dessert, butter pecan ice cream; hobby, stamp collecting; hymn, the Navy's "Eternal Father Strong to Save"; music, jazz and swing; sports figure, Al Kaline; hero, Dwight D. Eisenhower; and most unforgettable moment, noon, Aug. 9, 1974 (when Richard Nixon resigned, just as the Eby family arrived in Cherokee Village, Ark., on vacation).
One of the more unusual artifacts of the museum (along with the style of tape recorder) is the White House switchboard deluged with protest calls when Ford pardoned Nixon.
The Grand Rapids Press published a 56-page commemorative edition on Ford, the day after he died in California Dec. 26 at age 93.
Each of us who attended the luncheon with Gov. Jennifer Granholm received a copy of the $1.75 keepsake edition on our chair.
"He saved the nation" for leading the country out of Watergate, is the main headline.
My college roommate waited something like four hours to file past the casket of our 38th president. Steven Ford came out and talked to him, so Mike ended up being interviewed by the Detroit Free Press.
Within an hour of the announcement of his death, residents came bearing lit candles, draped flags and placed flowers at a makeshift shrine.
They're now inside under glass, making it seem like the funeral just ended.
I learned that Ford and President Ronald Reagan were here together in September 1984 when the museum at 303 Pearl St. NW was dedicated.
I saw all his Eagle Scout memorabilia and a Look magazine I used to have with John and Yoko on the cover, but in my haste to cruise through the museum, I didn't see a WIN (Whip Inflation Now) button. I'm sure there's one there somewhere.
I also didn't see a photo of him welcoming George Harrison to the White House, but there was that famous 1975 New York Daily News front page "Ford to city: drop dead," when he vetoed a Big Apple bailout package.
It was also fun to see the Cabinet room and all the bicentennial kitsch.
Ford, Michigan's only president, wasn't born here, but in Nebraska.
He lived in no less than eight homes in the Grand Rapids area. He came to Grand Rapids in 1913 with his mother, Dorothy King. His parents separated shortly after his birth. He didn't become Jerry Ford until his mother married Gerald Ford Sr., who owned a paint and varnish business. He was the man Ford considered his father.
I learned that "Saturday Night Live" comedian Chevy Chase, whose pratfalls gave the athletic Ford an undeserved reputation for clumsiness, actually came to the museum in September 1986 for a "Humor and the Presidency" symposium.
In the promotional photo, Ford pretends to trip Chase at the top of a stairway.
It's nice to see the decent man who said, "I am a Ford, not a Lincoln," finally get his due.