GLENDALE — Vic Pallos, who worked as public information director for the Glendale Unified School District from 1971 to 2004, on Wednesday recalled the day he herded six elementary school students to a speech President Gerald Ford made during a campaign stop in front of City Hall in 1976.
For drawing the best political posters in class, their reward was shaking hands with a U.S. president.
"I think they were awestruck," Pallos said.
So was Carl Raggio, who at the time was a school board member for the district.
"Like most of us, you're a little in awe because he is president of the United States," Raggio said.
At the time, Ford was campaigning to hold on to the post he inherited following Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974.
Ford invited widespread criticism for the pardon he issued to Nixon for the Watergate scandal, but he went on to lead a more transparent and open administration.
Ford, who died at age 93 at his home in Rancho Mirage, also survived two assassination attempts.
Ford eventually lost his election bid to Jimmy Carter, but not before leaving his mark outside City Hall.
"I think it was a big day for Glendale," Raggio said.
After Ford finished his speech to an audience of about 2,500 people, Pallos said the president took time to meet each of the students and sign their posters. "We were very grateful he did that," Pallos said.
Despite all the pomp and circumstance usually surrounding a presidential visit, it was an offhand comment from Ford about the "Days of Verdigos" celebration — instead of "Verdugo" — and a healthy laugh from the crowd that had the most impression on Raggio.
"That's the thing I remember most about his visit," he said.
But for those who never got to shake Ford's hand or listen to his speech or experience the fanfare firsthand, for Raggio, the president's visit should still be more than just a passing moment in the city's history.
"A visit by a president to this city is an event and should be celebrated as such," he said.