Woony Memories

Politics Schmolitics

By Dan Hagman, Corona, Calif.

Anybody else tired of all the political jabber? I don’t care if you’re Democrat or Republican or muskrat, you must be ready for Nov. 6 to get here. Of course, I couldn’t help thinking back to the political scene of the late ‘60s into the ‘70s. My classmates’ first voting presidential election was Ronald Reagan vs. Jimmy Carter in 1980, but we had some fun before that.
By far the most famous political figure from our area is George McGovern. Having married a Woonsocket native, it was pretty amazing having a presidential candidate who knew our favorite little town with the beautiful lake. The 1972 election didn’t fare well for Senator McGovern, but it sure was exciting. I remember wearing Eleanor McGovern buttons and getting caught up in the hoopla.
Of course, I didn’t know the difference between the parties at that time and couldn’t have cared less. My buddy, Craig Godfrey, was related to the McGoverns and that was enough for me. Signs were installed on both the east and west edges of town declaring Woonsocket as the hometown of Eleanor McGovern. Unfortunately, Richard Nixon swept the ’72 election by a landslide, but we all know what happened to him.
Senator McGovern ended up losing the ’80 Senate election to Jim Abnor and so went our local connection to the big stage. Other South Dakota political figures included: Jim Abourezk, Larry Pressler and Karl Mundt to name a few. Who remembers Ben Reifel? For some strange reason at an early age, I had a strange fascination with presidents. I could say them all in order and proved it to Congressman Reifel one day when my Great Aunt Bea bragged about me to him at the Chef Café in Huron. Sure can’t remember the order anymore and have to really think to even recall the name of our present Vice President. You know… good ol’ whatshisname.
Out here in California, we’ve had some pretty famous governors: Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzeneggar. Just change the word famous to infamous, however, in South Dakota. Wild Bill Janklow was quite the legend. As I recall, he served two separate times beginning in the late ‘70s. Unfortunately, his political legacy was over-written by his inability to safely drive a car. He was sure popular with the college-age population in the early ‘80s when drinking and driving was viewed differently. Before Janklow, Dick Kneip, a Salem boy, served as our South Dakota governor through the middle of the decade. Governor Kneip had the best babysitter in the world. Her name was Kathleen Huls, but some of you may know her now as Kathleen Hagman.
It would be more than 10 years before I could really vote, but I remember writing up a kiddy ballot for Robert Kennedy in 1968. He still hadn’t yet beaten Hubert Humphrey for the nomination, but that doesn’t matter when you’re seven. You can vote for Batman if you want. HHH was another South Dakotan who made a name for himself nationally. Is there still a Humphrey’s drugstore in Huron? There certainly was back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Of course, the Metrodome is named after him.
In the meantime, we still have far too many weeks before the ballots are completed. Television is full of negativism against all parties. Facebook is a mess, and here I am being grumpy about the whole thing. I think I’d like to just place my vote right now for Chuck Norris and be done with it. Maybe he and Batman can clean up Pierre and Washington, D.C. I would have said Clint Eastwood, but that moment passed. Vote your conscience and let’s just be done with it already.

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