Posts tagged Secret Service
My Grandfather, Lyndon B. Johnson, Mickey Mantle, the NY Yankees, the Washington Senators & some cool photos!4
This blog post has been a couple weeks in the making.
When I started the project of scanning old photos around the house, I came across a stack that were loaned to me by a local relative. The photos are old black and whites from the late 1960s and were in good, but slightly decayed, condition. The content and people in them, though, were nothing short of amazing. I called my dad and got the full story behind them. Here it is…
In the spring of 1968, my grandfather (William P. Croom) took his two boys to a local ball game. You see, Bill Croom was the Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Builders Association and he always went to the opening day baseball game of the Washington Senators to take pictures of association members. It seems it was tradition for many of the members to skip work in order to go to that game each year. My grandfather would publish photos of them there in NVBA’s monthly magazine for fun.
Bill took my father, my uncle and two of their friends to the game. The four kids skipped school (with parental, but not school, consent) to see the Washington Senators play the New York Yankees. As in previous years, my grandfather always bought his tickets at the gate the day of the game. When they got there that day, though, the ticket booth guy was very reluctant to sell him the tickets he had available. You see, Bill Croom insisted that he had to have five seats together and the game was packed. The man selling the tickets sold him the last block of seats that size that he had and swore my grandfather to secrecy not to tell anyone what gate he purchased them at. This seemed a little odd to Bill, but he complied.
The five of them went in and gave the tickets to an usher who promptly seated the group in the “Presidential Box”… four rows behind Lyndon B. Johnson.
My grandfather went ballistic snapping photos. He told my dad to take a cab to his friend’s store, Capital Camera, and purchase more film (since he still needed to get photos of association members.) You see, back in the “before time” people had a finite number of photos they could take based on how much film he or she had brought along. Film wasn’t cheap, either, so pictures were taken sparingly based on the chance of a good photo. Today, you can take a thousand digital photos for almost no cost and just select the ones you like. Ah, the age before digital…
My father bolted to the store and made it back in no time. When Bill Croom finally got up to go take pictures of his association friends/members, he was cornered by the Secret Service. They asked him for identification and how he got the tickets. My grandfather explained the situation behind his good luck of getting the seats and his true reason (the association) for being there. The agents asked him if they could take his film and develop it for him to make sure that there were no unflattering pictures of the President among them (i.e. drinking a beer, picking his nose, etc.) Bill declined to surrender the film. The Secret Service requested (insisted?) that when he developed the film that he bring proof sets to the White House for the Press Secretary to review.
(It was obviously a much different world then. I can’t even fathom how this would have gone done in today’s post 9/11 age.)
Bill Croom agreed and made arrangements to do so at a later date. He made the proof sets and enlargements of the best pictures he had taken that day of President Johnson. On the agreed upon day, my grandfather asked my dad if they could trade cars for the afternoon. This seemed an odd request, and my father had to think a long time about letting his Bill take his 1950 Chevy and driving my grandfather’s brand new Buick Riviera.
With the strange trade completed, my grandfather pulled up to the gate at the White House in his son’s old car. The guard came out and asked him if his vehicle had broken down. Amused, my grandfather said the car was fine. He introduced himself as Bill Croom and explained that he had an appointment with the Press Secretary. The guard checked his list and then invited my grandfather in, but requested that he park his car out of view of the front of the White House so visitors wouldn’t see it.
In true “Croom” fashion, Bill parked the car right out front. His plan was to take a picture of his son’s car parked in front of the White House… and it succeeded. I don’t have a copy of the picture, but it is allegedly in my dad’s photo album.
The Press Secretary was impressed with the pictures of the President and found no issues with any of them. Before he left, though, Bill asked if it would be possible to get LBJ to sign one of the photos. After a moment’s thought, the Press Secretary agreed. The two men walked into the oval office, and here is the result:
Life Magazine heard about the picture and tried to purchase it from my grandfather, but he refused. It seems that there had been (at that point) no pictures of a President with “sports action” in the background. The other reason Life was so interested? The “sports action” in the picture just happened to be No. 6 of the New York Yankees: Mickey Mantle.
The aftermath: The day after the four boy attended the game, my grandmother wrote them the standard “please excuse the absence” note for being “sick.” The boys all turned in their notes and went about their day in class. A couple of hours later, though, they were all called to the principal’s office. It seemed that their story of being sick didn’t fly.
As you can see from the photos below, Bill Croom and the boys were sitting directly behind the President.
Well, a local newspaper had scored a shot of LBJ throwing out the first ball of the season from the front and ran it in the morning’s edition. The principal pointed out that you could see the boys in the background of the newspaper’s photo and none of them seemed to look ill. BUSTED.
You can click on the photos below for large versions. I have, on my computer, 300 dpi duplicates that I restored (thanks Photoshop!) to be printable. Good stuff.