Post 80— LB, LBJ and KVZK (Part 2)

The motorcade heads toward the school dedication.

The motorcade heads toward the school dedication.

(The journal kept by the Presidential secretary continues:)

12:15 PM: Traditional presentation of Samoan gifts to the President and Mrs. Johnson.
[Margin note:] The weather seemed to get much warmer, and the President wiped his forehead several times. The President received: a roast pig, tapa cloths, miniature outrigger canoes and the supreme ula—one made from the red fruit-seeds of the pandanas tree. The single most prestigious gift to be given to President and Mrs. Johnson was a Samoan fine mat (took nearly two years to make).

The President then went several yards to the rear of the platform to a round grass hut with open sides. At one end of this native girls in native dress were kneeling and began singing as the President entered. At the other end, to which the President went, was a bar. The President paused here and had a drink of water.

12:21 PM: To motorcade. A truck of photographers led, then the President’s car, a red Impala convertible with the President and Governor Lee sitting on the rear seat. Mrs. Johnson followed the Secret Service cars in a light blue Mustang convertible with Mrs. Lee beside her.

12:23 PM: Motorcade moving. Along the way to the school there were people scattered on either side of the road way waving and saying “Talofa.” Small thatched huts could be seen, the obvious homes of some of the native population. Along the way the motorcade passed a band, groups of Boy Scouts, and other uniformed groups. (The police of American Samoa were dressed in red skirts with white shirts, red fez. ) The route was 1.3 miles to one of American Samoa’s new consolidated (ETV) schools for dedication by Mrs. Johnson. The new name of the school is Manulele Tausala Consolidated School, which translates roughly into “Lady Bird Consolidated School.”

The new Lady Bird Consolidated School.

The new Lady Bird Consolidated School.

12:32 PM: Out of the cars. The President and Mrs. Johnson paused to be photographed by a sign written in flowers growing in a special flower bed. The red floral arrangement spelled out the name of the school.

Mrs. Johnson cut the floral ribbon to officially dedicate Manulele Tausala Consolidated School. The children of the school, dressed in black skirts and white shirts were gathered on either side, forming a line for the official party to walk through.

The President and Mrs. Johnson then began a visit of the classrooms. They observed six channels of educational television broadcasting for grades one through 12. They went into one room of small children, greeted the teacher,  posed for pictures, and watched the children learning a language from the television teacher.

12:53 PM: The school children sang their school song— very melodic. Mrs. Johnson responding by thanking them again.

12:56 p: Motorcade departing. Once again people lined the route, waving, smiling, singing.

1:04 PM: Arrive at airport. The crowd sang the Samoan farewell song, “Tofa Mai Feleni” (“Goodbye My Friend”). The President and Mrs. Johnson were given more leis.

1:15 PM: Air Force One off. President to his bedroom to change from his clothes for he was so warm. He remarked how beautiful the island was.

Departed Pago Pago, American Samoa. Wheels up for Ohakea, New Zealand.

[Margin note:] The temperatures had been in the 90s in Pago Pago and the President and Mrs. J. were warm and uncomfortable. They went immediately to the bedroom which had been kept cool in their absence, changed into pajamas and got into bed for takeoff.

Back at the TV studio, enthusiasm was beginning to flag. The teachers had been in a state of readiness for hours, but there had been no sign of the President. The visit to KVZK had been planned for after the Lady Bird School dedication, but word got back that the President’s entourage was running late. No one dared eat lunch or leave the building for fear of missing the visit, and the teachers were hungry and cranky when word finally came in that Air Force One was not headed toward them but on its way to New Zealand.

The disappointment in the studio was palpable, and some teachers felt angry that they had skipped the dedication in order to stand by in the studio. Regardless of personal politics, a Presidential visit did not happen every day and many of them had been thrilled with the idea of giving him a tour. They had also been in the only air-conditioned building on the island all day and had no idea that the sweaty President just wanted to get back in his temperature-controlled airplane, put on his pajamas and brush his teeth to get the taste of kava out of his mouth.

Larry looked around at his tidy office and sighed. He had really wanted to meet the President. He got up and hung the toilet seat back on the wall.

(Photographs supplied by Farida Sweezey and Dave Gillmore)

For an important disclosure note, see The Word of the Day.

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