July 26, 2020 – Hartford, WI -President Reagan’s Remarks to Broan Manufacturing Company employees in Hartford, Wisconsin on July 27, 1987. Can you identify the other local lawmakers on stage as Reagan enters?
I spot Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, U.S. Senator Bob Kasten, and Governor Tommy Thompson.
“I want you to know I’m grateful to the other three employees of yours who are up here with me … we all work for you,” said Reagan.
Does anyone remember what gift Broan management presented to Reagan?
Photo courtesy Broan
Behind the scenes of the Reagan visit
It was 33 years ago when President Ronald Reagan visited West Bend.
Behind the scenes, key players in the community remember the two weeks of preparation needed before Reagan’s motorcade made its way to the Washington House for a luncheon with the Noon Rotary.
In 1987 James Skidmore was chief of police in West Bend and Paul Heterbrueg was a captain with the department. “Security was paramount,” said Heterbrueg. “We had to make sure every apartment was checked at the Washington House and those that were abandoned we smashed the doors down and made sure it was all clean,” he said.
There were two limousines in the president’s motorcade; one delivered Reagan to an entrance in the alley behind the Washington House. “We built a walled fence out of plywood so nobody could see when he got out of the car,” said Heterbrueg. “There was even a roof so nothing could be thrown over the fence.”
Former West Bend alderman Tom O’Meara lived on the second floor of the Washington House.
“Almost a full week before the visit I got a knock on my door from the Secret Service and they wanted to know your entire schedule and a little bit about you,” said O’Meara. The Secret Service told tenants they wanted them to vacate the building 48 hours before the president came on Monday. O’Meara took issue with that request. “I got all the tenants together and said ‘forget this’ and told them we’ll leave that morning for our normal jobs and that’s it,” he said.
After balking at the 48-hour notice, O’Meara said the Secret Service backed down. That Monday morning however, security agents returned with drug-and-bomb-sniffing dogs and walked through every apartment.
Noon Rotary president Roger Stephenson had a full plate arranging the guest list for the ceremonial lunch with the president. “You had to be a Rotary member for five years in order to attend the lunch,” said Stephenson. “The White House wanted a representation of the community, so not all of the existing Rotarians were able to attend.”
The audience was primarily made up of men. “That was the nature of the beast,” said Stephenson recalling State Assembly Rep. Mary Panzer and Chamber of Commerce executive director Betty Pearson as two of the women on hand.
Stephenson was also responsible for determining who would sit with whom. “One of the most interesting was the interplay between the various political factions in the county and state as to how they were going to be treated and where they were going to be seen,” he said.
Everybody had to be cleared by Secret Service and background checks were conducted on all who sat at the head table with the president.
Robert Rolfs, founder of Amity Leather, sat on the president’s left-hand side and Stephenson on the president’s right. “That mattered, which side – there was protocol for just about everything,” said Stephenson.
Others at the head table included Alan Kieckhafer, Cliff Nelson, Patrick Faragher, and attorney William Bunk. “It was Bunk who arranged Reagan’s visit with help from his brother in law, then Gov. Tommy Thompson,” said Stephenson.
Table talk with Reagan was deemed “personable.” Stephenson said it was “like talking with your grandfather.”
“He told a few stories. I’d say he was much more at ease than I was.”
Photographs with the president were taken specifically by an official photographer. Mike Husar was 25 years old at the time and credentialed as the local photographer. “I was assigned to the president’s official photographer, so wherever he went I went,” said Husar.
The credential consisted of a small, metal button that was attached to a shirt collar.
There were metal detectors and Secret Service agents scanned all of Husar’s photo equipment. “The funniest part to me was they made you actually take blank pictures. They said ‘burn some frames’ and I had to physically take pictures for them,” he said.
Preparation of downtown Main St. was also extremely specific. Mary Husar Martin remembered volunteering with Shirley Schwartz to put up flags, flowers and hang bunting from the windows at the Washington House.
“It wasn’t the city of West Bend that gave us the directive it was the president’s people that came in a couple weeks ahead and said they wanted to see American spirit,” said Husar Martin.
The theme of the day promoted by the West Bend Chamber of Commerce was ‘Picnic with the President’ and local restaurants distributed red and white striped box lunches so the crowd on Main St. could sit outside and eat and listen to the president’s remarks.