August 8, 1974.
I was sixteen.
I went with a group of friends to the Allentown Fair, a large amusement park and festival in Allentown, PA. We were young and free and it was summer. All good things awaited us.
We ate hot dogs. We strolled around the fairgrounds. We rode the Scrambler and the Ferris Wheel and the Roller Coaster. We laughed a lot.
Later in the day, while my boyfriend and I were on my most favorite ride, the Paratrooper, while his most favorite song, Band on the Run, blared over the loudspeakers, a strange thing happened.
The music stopped and was replaced by a man’s voice. As we swooped and dipped and felt the gorgeous wind in our faces, the man said:
I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad.
To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the President and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home.
Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office.
President Nixon was giving his resignation speech. For us, it was a surreal juxtaposition of images and words, facts and emotions. It was unforgettable.
The ride ended. The speech ended. Our little group made its way to the concert area, because our Allentown Fair adventure wasn’t over yet.
We were going to see the great Miss Liza Minnelli perform. Liza Minnelli was at her peak in 1974 — in excellent voice — still glowing from her Oscar-winning performance in the film Cabaret — able to hold an entire audience in the palm of her extremely expressive and graceful hand — and we were there! That note she always held during the song Cabaret — the “when I gooooooooo” — she held it FOREVER. It was sublime.
And then we went home.
We had experienced: the smell of popcorn, the sound of applause, the whoosh of little cars swirling people around in circles, a woman sharing her great gift, and a man facing up to what must have been the darkest day of his life. That’s a lot for one day.
This post was inspired by my daughter, who recently asked me to name the most exciting day of my life. It was today — 34 years ago. And I think about it every time August 8th rolls around.