Museum reflects on past presidents
LITTLETON, Vt. (AP) — Mary Boulanger, of Littleton, had been interested in learning about the story of Clint Hill, the former U.S. Secret Service agent who served under five U.S. presidents and was with Pres. John F. Kennedy the day of Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas in 1963.
Hill, who had been assigned to protect Kennedy’s wife, Jackie Kennedy, when Kennedy became president in 1960, felt anguish and guilt about the day his president died, saying he felt he could have been faster in reacting and shielding Kennedy from the bullets.
That guilt would surface in a television interview years later.
“He burst into tears on national TV,” said Boulanger.
As the nation today celebrates Presidents Day, Littleton, long a host to visiting presidents as well as the candidates hoping to succeed them, has a trove of president and candidate photos at its Littleton Area Historical Society museum.
One shows William Howard Taft, the 27th president, standing in a convertible at the square in Lisbon in 1912.
Another, a smiling Richard Nixon, making his second bid for the presidency, at Thayer’s Inn in Littleton in 1968.
And one from 1955 shows Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower during an event in Franconia Notch — with Hill, a member of his Secret Service protection, right beside him.
“I was in the Sugar Hill Sampler looking around and saw the picture,” Boulanger said Friday. “That’s how I got it.”
The photograph, said Boulanger, was hanging on the wall of the Sampler and under the possession of owner Barbara Serafini, who died in August 2018.
“She had a collection of photos of that event on the wall,” said Boulanger.
She asked Serafini for the Eisenhower photograph with Hill, which Boulanger donated to the museum, but not before she wrote detailed description of the president’s visit and about Hill, who was standing just to the left of Eisenhower.
“Nov. 22, 2013, was the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination,” wrote Boulanger. “On that date in 1963, Clinton Hill was standing on the running board of the limousine behind Kennedy’s when the shots were fired. At the sound of the first shot, Hill jumped off the running board and raced to the Kennedys’ limousine.
“As he jumped, he heard the sound of another shot and heard the impact,” she wrote. “He was almost on board their limousine at that moment, and so the contents of Kennedy’s head sprayed all over his face and torso at the same time they were sprayed all over Jacqueline Kennedy.”
The scene, captured by TV cameras, riveted a nation and remains vivid more than half a century later.
In her narrative, Boulanger described a more tranquil day, eight years earlier, when Hill and Eisenhower, known as Ike, visited Franconia Notch.
“In 1955, President Eisenhower came to Franconia Notch to be on hand for the 150th anniversary of the first sighting of the Old Man of the Mountains by white men,” she said. “That is when Larry Presby took this picture.”
Taft, Four Decades Earlier
Paul Dovholuk gave to the museum a photograph of Taft, a Republican, that was taken in the square in Lisbon on Oct. 10, 1912.
Taft was running for a second term as president, but was defeated a month later by Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
The caption reads, “William Howard Taft, president of the United States 1908 to 1912, visited Lisbon Oct. 10, 1912, and made a short address to the children at 11 o’clock. A few got the chance to shake hands with him. I — George C. Morgan — was one the lucky ones.”
Sitting beside the standing Taft was his wife, Helen, who right beside him, and a “Mrs. Boardman,” president of the Red Cross Society.
Attendance was estimated at 1,000.
Information from: The Caledonian-Record, http://www.caledonianrecord.com