I read that as part of President Trump’s recent fund-raiser in El Paso, Texas, for a mere $15,000 you could have a photo opportunity with him. I hope that anyone who would pay that much would be doing it as part of a previously planned donation, and not just as an expensive ego booster. A posed photo with a president is a rare opportunity, but not worth anywhere near $15,000. Even if I had the cash, I would lack the inclination to shell out that much money for one.
With today’s digital photography, there should be no problem with lost photos, but that hasn’t always been the case. I just hope that those who shell out that much cash, don’t wind up receiving only a very expensive disappointment. My own experience with posed presidential photos didn’t turn out very well.
When President Ronald Reagan made a speech at the Wayne Street railroad crossing on his whistle stop tour in 1984, I actually had a FREE photo op with him, but I never received the picture. I was in charge of local security for that visit, and worked pretty much day and night for about two weeks with Mike Young, the Secret Service agent in charge. Together, we oversaw the entire complicated operation of handling security for the visit.
Arrangements had been made for 12 local people to board the train for a posed photo with the President at the conclusion of the visit. The group consisted mostly of local elected officials, plus Chief Frank Catlett and the contractor who had been in charge of construction at the site.
Mike Young and I were standing by the steps of the railroad car as the VIPs were let in, one at a time, for their photo opportunity. When the 12th one climbed the steps, an agent started to place a chain across the stairs to deny any more access. To my total surprise, Mike Young placed his hand on the other agent’s arm, pointed at me and said, “He goes on too.”
He had not mentioned anything about this to me, and it came as a complete shock. I found myself being led up the steps and into the rail car, where a smiling President Reagan was standing. Another agent introduced me to him, then left the room. I found myself shaking the hand of my favorite president, with no one else in the room but a photographer, who asked us to look in his direction. We both assumed a smiling pose, and he snapped a picture.
I was then led out of the room and down the side steps of the car. By now, I was really shaken, just about to the point of tears, and not able for a few moments to fully comprehend what had just happened. After it sank in, I realized that for the third time in my career, I had been within touching distance of a President of the United States, all three times armed with a firearm. I doubt very much that the Secret Service would allow that to happen today.
I was told that I would receive an autographed copy of the picture within a few weeks. The few weeks went by, and one day Chief Catlett called me to come to his office. The first thing he said was, “We’re not going to get our pictures.”
I asked why, and he explained that he had received a call that the White House photographer had lost the roll of film that held about half of the presidential photos taken that day, and that ours were among the missing ones. I did receive a personalized, autographed picture of the president, but I can picture it being prepared in a basement room, autographed by a machine, and just one of a large stack that went out that day.
My biggest problem is my thought that the White House photographer, who probably made about three times the salary that I made for being in command of over 60 police officers, should at least have been able to hang onto one lousy roll of film.
Don Stratton is a retired inspector for the Lima Police Department. He writes a guest column for The Lima News, often focusing on police matters.