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History lesson in 4th grade comes true

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POSTED January 22, 2009 12:30 a.m.
I can still remember the weekly reading pamphlets in my fourth-grade class.

In it was a photograph and story of Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.

This was the site where John Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor of his time, assassinated President Abraham Lincoln during the third-act performance of the comedy, “Our American Cousin.”

Ford’s Theater became property of the U.S. Government shortly after that fatal evening of April 14, 1865 (Lincoln died the very next morning across the street in the Petersen home). The historic site had been renovated and was again open to the public.

For me, the contents from this classroom material planted the traveling bug. I not only wanted to someday visit Ford’s Theatre but also see other historic sites along the East Coast.

But I was only 10 back then. As a family, we just didn’t travel due largely in part to lacking the resources.

Those dreams were held on the backburner until after my college days at Fresno State.

I made friends there who later become colleagues in the work force. Included was sports writer Dan Mooney, who I became acquainted with during our days on the Daily Collegian staff, a daily on-campus publication.

Dan and I worked for sister newspapers in Merced County for a couple of years. Later, he landed a job writing sports for the Poughkeepsie Journal in central New York. By then, I was making enough money to travel on my own itinerary.

My sphere of traveling on the East Coast soon expanded.

Gayla Park, another newspaper colleague, relocated to Philadelphia when her husband accepted a work transfer. Frank, who became a good friend after we worked together on the same newspaper, ended up in the Nation’s Capital when he was accepted to law school at American University.

This was an exciting time in my life thanks to all of these folks.

On several occasions, I would board a train from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia, continuing the journey by taking another train to New York while making stops along the way to visit friends.

During one of those trips I suddenly recalled the weekly reader from the fourth grade.

While strolling around Washington, D.C., I happened along Ford’s Theater.

Call it fate?

I entered into the historic place, and gazed up at the state box where the Lincolns sat. There I saw the portrait of George Washington, which impeded Wilkes’ fall on to the stage. At this point, the Southern sympathizer reportedly said, “Sic sempter tryannis” (defined in Latin, thus always to tyrants).

Only later did I realize that I had accomplished something formulated many years ago while sitting in a class room. For this little dream had come full circle.
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