Silver Spring, Maryland, where I live, has a number of ties to the 37th President. A half-mile north of my house, two teenagers lived on Harvey Road in the 1950s and early 1960s, the best of friends. One was future Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein; the other, future Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Bernstein (who once won a Howdy Doody lookalike contest in those days, or, anyway, there are supposed to be old newspaper clippings to prove it). Champion accordionist Merv Conn, who lives a few hundred yards away from me, once gave Tricia and Julie Nixon lessons on the instrument. Goldie Hawn, another native, gyrated in a bikini and body paint on the same Laugh-In episode in which Richard Nixon intoned, “Sock it….to me?”
Now, it turns out that another onetime resident had a memorable encounter with RN. Let Jerry McCoy’s column in this month’s Silver Spring Voice (not online, alas) pose a hypothetical:
Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joseph Biden Jr., phones her husband’s Secret Service detail five days after the inauguration and asks for a driver to come to Number One Observatory Circle to pick up her husband. A lone driver arrives. Vice President Biden tells the driver that he’ll not need his services because he wants to take the car out on his own, but that he’ll be happy to first drive the agent back to his home.
Sounds a little improbable, no? But McCoy informs us that something like it did happen, long ago, in a Washington far, far away:
[A] January 27, 1953 Washington Post article […] documented the event. Two days earlier Mrs. Nixon had placed a call on Sunday morning to Paul F. Gardiner, a chauffeur with the Airport Transport Limousine Service[….] The Packard Motor Car Company had contracted with Airport Transport for the services of a driver to take Nixon around Washington during the inaugural events in a new Packard. Nixon was to have use of the car for a month, but it was returned to the company shortly after the inauguration.
Mrs. Nixon, calling from their D.C. home at 4801 Tilden Street NW, asked Gardiner, living in the Glenview section of Silver Spring, to “bring the Nixon car into town” [….]
Once Gardiner arrived at the Vice President’s home, Nixon insisted on driving him the eight and a half miles back to his house. “So I got in the back seat,” Gardiner explained, “and he took me all the way out to Silver Spring.”
The vision of a sitting Vice President of the United States, and especially of Richard M. Nixon, driving alone through downtown Silver Spring, is quite amazing….
At the end of the column, Jerry McCoy requests additional information about Paul F. Gardiner, who was born in 1907 and died in 1988; his email is sshistory @yahoo.com, if any of my readers have more to tell him about this memorable winter’s day.