Monday, December 10, 2007

the Night That I Called President Nixon

Yes, as a seventh grade student I made a phone call to Henry Kissinger and President Richard Nixon while they were in Peking (now Beijing) on their historic China trip. A little background is in order, especially as I have posted a picture of the Kenilworth Police Station at the top of this post. That is where I spent part of the evening. During Junior High a few of us figured out how to make free long distance phone calls by switching some wires in a box on the outside of what was then the Chicago & Northwestern (now Metra) train station in Kenilworth, IL. We could then use the outside phone booth for free and the bills went to Chicago & Northwestern. This was a fairly big deal during the early '70s as phone rates were both regulated and very high. We really didn't have anybody to call outside of our area code except during the summer. During the summer we could call friends at camp and friends visiting out of town relatives.

Well during a boring February evening (the town ice rink must've melted) a few of us got the brainstorm to call Nixon and Kissinger while they were in China. Yeh, I know, hopelessly political. So we headed over to the train station, switched some wires and soon I was on the line with a long distance operator asking for a person-to-person line to Peking. Well the operator asked a very reasonable question, "Pekin, Illinois?" No I answered, Peking, China. We knew the hotel that the American delegation was staying at so I asked for that hotel and requested a person-to-person connection to either Henry Kissenger or President Richard Nixon.

Needless to say this prank got some attention at AT&T and the local Bell, they called the railroad to report the phone calls, the railroad promptly called the Kenilworth Police who quickly crossed the street to find two scrawny seventh graders making phone calls from the outside phone booth. Well we spent about an hour explaining to the police how we had rigged the phone booth for our use and how we had figured it out in the first place.

I was reminded of that bit of childhood hijinks by this hysterical story about an Icelandic high school student who called President Bush on a private White House line. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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Blogger Publia said...

This is a wonderful story. I loved it totally. I am thinking maybe you need to write a book on growing up in Kenilworth; sort of like Lake Woebegon, only different.

9:04 PM  
Blogger El Rider said...

Way different. Thanks.

9:53 PM  
Blogger El Rider said...

I guess that I should add that when I wrote both this post and the post about Mahoney Park on Sheridan Road, I figured that they could easily be expanded into short stories. These are pretty rough drafts, neither post really involves the characters involved, add those and I figure there are two easy short stories. I have been going through the Second City acting/improv program and that is the sort of the thing that is occasionally demanded so its nice to have these in my back pocket.

10:14 PM  

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