Are we sure Gerald Ford didn't live here?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pretty soon we’re going to say former President Gerald Ford belongs to us.

Not that he actually lived here, but he knew where to come to make good friends.

First Marc Hoffman, Rowan County’s well-known band leader and composer, reacted personally when he heard that the 38th president of the United States had died. He’d shared a memory of entertaining at the wedding of President Ford’s granddaughter.

And then the pace picked up.

Phil Kirk remembered driving then-Congressman Ford and Congressman Earl Ruth in the Salisbury area as they were campaigning together and Charlie Peacock remembered that after President Ford was elected he appointed Earl governor of American Samoa.

Next, Tim and Aleen Besmer of Rockwell not only knew Ford, but have been entrusted with his personal artifacts.

And then former Post Publisher Jimmy Hurley left everybody laughing when the Post reprinted a column he wrote in 1984 about entertaining Ford. He was ever after convinced it cost him more than a thousand dollars, considering his wife, Gerry, was so embarrassed about their shower that he used that she had a new one put in.

But that wasn’t the end.

Luther Sowers made — and presented him with — a presidential sword, and now comes the story of Hank and Petie Palmer’s party for the president.

The Lifestyles section wrote about it, and Jody, the Palmers’ oldest daughter, now married to Dr. Preston Hicks and the mother of four sons, saved it and mailed it to her parents when Ford fever surfaced.

Published on Jan. 24, 1967, it was headlined “Palmers entertain at party.”

Hank was executive vice president of the Salisbury-Rowan Chamber of Commerce at the time, and the party at their Confederate Avenue home honored Ford and Rep. James T. Broyhill of the 9th District.

“Mr. Ford was the principal speaker later at the Salisbury-Rowan Chamber of Commerce banquet at Catawba College and was introduced by Rep. Broyhill.

And Petie was amused at the way the Post reported party stories in those days.

“Arrangements of spring flowers, including pink carnations, pink rosebuds, blue irises and white pompoms, decorated the living room and den,” the story said.

Their other daughters, Janet and Joan, helped with the entertainment, the story continued, “along with 24-day-old Stuart Hicks.” The Palmers’ first grandchild, made his first social appearance and was reported to be the hit of the evening.

And, Petie added, he now lives in Atlanta and just celebrated his 40th birthday.

But she quickly went back to her memories of “Gerald, who spent most of the time at our house in my kitchen,” and occasionally she admits she thinks “that I’ve had the president of the United States in my kitchen.”

And from then on they exchanged Christmas cards for about eight to 10 years.

“He always put a little note on it,” she says. They were personal until he became vice president.

But apparently he was too busy then to write notes in Christmas cards.

“The last one we got was one of the official ones,” Petie remembers, “and I was thrilled to get it.”

It was kind of nice to have a Christmas card from a vice president who became the president of the United States.

And it doesn’t matter that it was the last one because she still has that one.

And if you’ve got a story that ties President Gerald Ford to us …

Well, maybe you’d like to tell us about it in a letter to the editor.

Contact Rose Post at 704-797-4251 or rpost@salisburypost.com.

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