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January 20, 1974 - Image 3

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1974-01-20

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marty porter
tony schwartz
contributing editors:
laura berman
howie brick



books-page four
profiles-page four
the mayor-page five
looking back-page six

Number 13 Page Three

January 20, 1974







A hero
By Martin Porter1
A CLOUD COATED sky hangs like a
quilt over downtown Grand Rap-
ids. Cold air rushes aimlessly through
the wide open plazas that separate
streamlined, steel -. glass buildings.
Yet, for some reason this well ordered
and intricately designed scene evokes
more of a sterile image than a clean
and proper one. This is the new Grand
Once a town of humble Dutch
craftsmen who made themselves and
their city rich on the furniture they
produced, the new Grand Rapids is a
town of strict-Calvinist Republicans
who seem obsessed with their town's
distinction as the second largest city
in the state.
Grand Rapids is one of those cities
that was uprooted and thrust forward
by the tidal wave of twentieth cen-
tury industry. In an effort to keep up t
with the times, the town encouraged j
mass production factories, which t
brought in unskilled labor, people
who today stamp out ten rear axles
for every chair that they make.c

there were new buildings everywhere
... but I realized one thing very
quick -'- they were the same bunch of
conservative bastards that they al-
ways were."
The hitchhiker speaks with author-
ity, adding in a warm, cautious voice,
"When you see him, just remember
that everyone in the audience loves
his ass . . . they love him because he
is everything they ever wanted to be."
I let him off in front of the new
Grand Rapids City Hall and head for
South Middle High School where the
events of "Jerry Ford Day" will be-
IF THERE WERE railroad tracks
running through the middle of
Grand Rapids, South Middle High
School would be on the other side.
The school stands stubbornly
against the drab, desolate backdrop
of worn, shingled homes, a burned
out grocery store and barren trash
filled lots. This is the other half of
Grand Rapids, the side that somehow
missed out on all the renovation and
improvements which flooded the city
during the late sixties industrial

s home
shed his padding and headed East
for Yale law school.
There was nothing to stop Ford
when he returned home to Grand
Rapids and was elected to Congress
from the 5th Congressional District
in 1948. Then with chapters still re-
maining in his success story, Ford be-
came Minority Leader of, the House
of Representatives. Finally on Dec. 6,
that blonde - haired All - American
from Grand Rapids was chosen to re-
place Spiro Agnew as the Vice Presi-
dent of the United States.
Today, with all due pride and hu-
mility, the hero returns to where the
legacy began.
give the auditorium of South
Middle High School a nauseating aura
as the stage fills up with various dig-
nitaries. The entire school has some-
how been stuffed into one room.
The school choir and band join in
singing "Hail to the Victors," the
University of Michigan fight song.
Jerry Ford, looking healthy and
strong, struts out on stage in a con-
servative brown tweed suit. Betty

Today with all due pride and humility, the hero returns to where the
legacy began.

Jerry Ford: A man wh
ball field glory.
The new Grand Rapids is a city of
the future, a city that is striving for
prominence and distinction, a city
that has gotten a sudden leap closer
to this goal ever since a hometown
boy by the name of Gerald R. Ford
becamne the 40th Vice President of the
United States.
The American Dream is alive and
well and the people back home just
call him 'Jerry'.
- So it is easy to see why the city
fathers have gone to so much trouble
to honor Jerry Ford on his first visit
home since assuming his new office.
The face of the brand new City Hall
is covered with big bold red letters
spelling, "Jerry our Vice President
comes home." S t o r e windows
throughout town echo the same mes-
sage. The city has tucked in all the
rough edges. and rolled out its best,
trying to appear worthy of such an
illustrious citizen.
'THOSE FUCKIN' Hollanders will
probably have orgasms in their
pants when they see him," the hitch-
hiker exclaims as we drive through
the early morning streets of Grand
I had picked him up on route 23
outside of Ann Arbor earlier that
morning. He had just undergone
treatment at a local Veterans hospi-
f e, - - nr 7r~fe x f-r-l rhia a 17

ho is frozen in the American dream world of foot-

cial trouble in a public school this
side of Detroit, are too jaded by the
realities of life to swallbw Ford's ver-
sion of the American Dream. But
downtown, in the new Grand Rapids
-where the buildings sparkle with an
inspiring gleem-Jerry Ford strikes a
more responsive chord.
torium, a concrete cube - like
mausoleum, is the site of the Vice
Presidential Laymen's Prayer Lun-
cheon. While 1500 tight-collared city
fathers choke down a meal of roast
beef, peas, scalloped potatoes and ap-
ple pie, three or four minor-league
Billy Grahams talk about their good
buddy Jerry Ford.
The rattle of plates and the clang
of silverware echoes throughout the
auditorium. Only Grand Rapids' fin-
est citizens have been invited to this
function. It is a combination religious
and athleticfoccasion and the speak-
ers range from a local minister to
Norm Evans, a member of the world
champion Miami Dolphins. A hush
comes over the audience as a long
time friend of the Fords' makes the
introductory speech.
"Ever since I knew Jerry Ford, I
have known him never to turn any-
one down, he has never forgotten
where he came from-the days when
he needed help, the days when he
fought his way to victory on the foot-
ball field and in the classroom. Gen-
tlemen I give you Gerald R. Ford,
Vice President of the United States."
A thunderous applause fills the hall
as Ford gets up from the dais and
takes the podium. Ford, solemn and
reverent, looks out on the crowd.
With television lights accenting his
features, the Vice President takes on
a fine chiseled, clean-cut, Mid-West
farm boy look.
Straight backed and sturdy, Ford
addresses his friends:
"I would like to consider the spirit-
ual values related to athletics . . .
the spiritual development encouraged
by athletic contests helps each per-
son become a better citizen, encour-
ages him to join with his fellow citi-
zens in moving one step further up
the road of progress."
A noticeable giggle is heard from
the press area. It is just too much to
take. Here is the second most power-
ful man in the United States espous-
ing the spiritual and reverent side of
the most brutal of professional sports.
In the middle of the speech the
real Jerry Ford pokes through. He is
the eternal football hero-the man
who has never forgotten the feeling
of adrenalin pumping through the
system after a hard workout, or the
sensation of glory after winning the
big game. Here is the Vice President
of the United States; a man who is
frozen in the American dream world
of football field glory Nonetheless, the
people in the auditorium think he is
nne hel1 nf a euv Atbhogh he is as

is to be out there on the playing
field. That is where the action is.
And that's where we all belong."
Another giggle from the press box
is ,drowned out by an overwhelming
standing ovation. Of course, what do
you expect from a group of people
who spend their Monday nights, Bud-
weiser in hand, staring at miniature
gladiators on a luminescent green
battle ground? This is all they want
ed to hear . . . this is proof that the
American way works, that there is
such a thing as progress. This is all
the proof they need to justify all
their plans and all their buildings.
The future of the new Grand Rapids
is secure. Especially now that it is in
the hands of a man who knows when
to go for a two point conversion.
The American Dream is alive and
well and the people back home just
call him Jerry.
But there is still one more event to
attend. Jerry Ford leaves the Civic
Mausoleum and head for the new
Grand Rapids City Hall where he will
shake hands with the public.
CITY HALL is one of the many
streamlined, steel - glass structures
that are separated by wide open
plazas. About 500 people brave the
cold winter air and wait patiently to

shake the hand of their old buddy
Jerry Ford.
Secret Service men, looking like
human robots, swarm the plaza out-
side. As the area fills up with peo-
ple, the air is engulfed by the hoarse
sound of the Calvin Christian High
School Band p l a y i n g the Star
Spangled Banner.
As the crowd lines up I notice the
hitchhiking war veteran who I had
dropped off in the area earlier in the
day. He stands huddled on line and
shivers from the cold as I approach
"What the hell are you doing
here?" I ask as I approach him with
an outstretched hand.
"Well listen man, you know I'm not
into this rah-rah Jerry bit," he re-
plies defensively, "but you gotta ad-
mit that it's worth shaking this guy's
hand --- he might end up being Mr.
Numero Uno someday."
And as I watch the people file
past Jerry Ford, shake his hand and
walk off into the antiseptic cold of
the new Grand Rapids, I realize that
the American Dream is alive and well
indeed, and that he is on the verge of
being the next President of the
United States.

boom. And except for the immediate
area around the school, there is no
evidence that the Vice President's
visit is making any impression on this
side of town. There are no posters,
flags, nor waving pedestrians.
The area was white and middle
class black in 1931 when young Jerry
Ford proudly sported his letter
sweater on his way to class. Those
were the days when Ford had a full
head of blonde hair, when he was the
kind of boy of whom people would
say, "yessiree, that boy is gonna go
far." But student Ford was oblivious
to all this talk as he concentrated on
new plays for the big game or as he
practiced snapping a football for
hours on end.
While at South High, as it was
known in those days, Ford was an All-

Ford, an omnipresent s h a d o w
throughout the day, is suited in a
bold orange dress - the epitome of
mail-order, haute-coutoure.
Ford smiles youthfully as he is
awarded a trophy, a school letter, and
a year book from 1931. While balanc-
ing his awards in his arms Ford looks
the part of the proverbial hero 'who
invariably leads his team to glory. He
speaks with the boom and spirit of a
cheerleader as he. tells the audience,
"Whether it was on the football field
or in the classroom, this is where I
learned the all important values that
I was to utilize all my life." He waits
for the applause and then adds with
characteristic homespun humility:
"The most important things you can
learn from school are to cooperate,
compete, and respect authority . - -
these are the basic ingredients to a
successful future."
As Betty Ford looks on with the
pride and poise of senior prom queen,
Ford concludes, "Only in America is
a story like mine possible."
So that his example will stand as
an inspiration to future generations
of students, Ford's portrait will hang
prominently as the first addition to
the school Hall of Fame. Whether or
not his presence or his spiel here to-
day has been convincing is dubious.
"I don't know if your gonna print

Ron Brown


-:; .-s-

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