Friday, January 16, 2009

Ike Liked the Monterey Peninsula

Locals liked President Dwight Eisenhower as much as he liked the Monterey Peninsula when he and his wife, Mamie, visited in the summer of 1956. He arrived after a 120 mile train trip from San Francisco to Monterey during which he spent an hour waving to well-wishers from the open back platform of the train. Arriving at Monterey at 10 PM on a late August evening, he was met with a cheering reception. His caravan then made the short drive to the Cypress Point Club. Ike came for three days of golf, caught "vacation fever" and stayed for two more. It was a happy break after he was nominated for a second term by a Republican convention in San Francisco. Ike and Mamie spent most of their time at the Cypress Club which only had 130 members (versus 250 today). His suite is still referred to as the Eisenhower room. While at Pebble Beach, the problems of the world would not go away. Ike would need to respond to a recent nuclear test by the USSR and monitor the growing Suez crisis. He also faced a very personal test: the infamous 16th hole at Cypress Point.

The president, despite recent surgery, played 18 holes of golf at the exclusive Cypress Pint Club five days in a row. He was clearly enchanted and commented to the press about drizzle from the fog and the thickness of a cypress tree that held onto a ball he hit into it. He joked that the sea lions always began barking went he commenced a drive. Ike let reporters know that if he tried for three years he wouldn't be able to get a ball across the 220-foot span of ocean on the infamous 16th hole, so he took extra strokes to keep his ball on land. The Eisenhowers rarely ventured away from Cypress Point, but found hundreds of well-wishers waiting in cars greeting them as they entered Carmel on a Sunday morning. They visited the Carmel Mission and Ike shook hands with all 36 nuns. They attended services at the newly-built Carmel Presbyterian Church where all 325 seats were taken and hundreds waited outside. A wall at the church included bricks from churches around the world, including the Eisenhowers' own church in DC.

(Image: Ike golfing in 1956 on the Monterey Peninsula from
Life Magazine)

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