Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election Day

Election Day in California is not the same as it was in New York State when I was growing up in the forties and early fifties. It was a really big deal to everyone in my town and the areas around us. There was excitement in the air, along with the chill of approaching winter.

After the adults voted, there would be Election Night dinners in area churches, with all manner of wonderful home cooked food. Sometimes I would go to the church that was on the hill behind my house. Other years saw me accompanying my grandparents, and aunt and uncle, to the Grange Hall across the road from my grandparents’ house out in the country. I really looked forward to going there. It is the oldest Grange Hall in the United States, and is in danger of being demolished. My grandmother and aunt worked at the polls, then helped with the wonderful dinner we all enjoyed. They also had a hand in the cooking, and the baking of desserts. This was a special time every year.

My uncle ran for office every two years as Superintendent of Highways. He held the position for many years. This was another reason that Election Day was important to my family. When I was old enough, I started helping to serve at the dinners in the church. I was happy to do my part, and enjoyed being with all of the townspeople. It seemed like one big, happy family. It was a tradition.

The summer between my Junior and Senior year of high school, I was chosen to go to Empire Girls’ State. This was sponsored by the American Legion, and was held at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs. I was one of two girls in my county chosen to attend this week of intensive political studies. Before we went to Saratoga Springs, we were feted at a dinner, so girls in surrounding counties could meet each other. When it was time for our week at the college, we took the train to the area. It was my first time on a train.

This was one of the most exciting weeks of my youth. We learned about politics on the state, county and local level, campaigned, had rallies, chose candidates for state office, held elections, and sat in the Assembly and Senate Chambers in Albany, the State Capitol. We lived in dorm rooms for that week, and ate in the cafeteria, played tennis, and did all kinds of fun things.

Much later in life, I became very involved in the political scene. This was in the Buffalo area, and there was much going on because of the size of the city. I knew many people because of jobs I had had, and because of groups I was involved with, so it just seemed natural that I started working on campaigns. The first was a campaign for the Mayor of the City of Buffalo. My candidate was a very impressive man, and after I met him, I volunteered to work on his campaign. It was my first time to do something of this nature for a real candidate, and it was very exciting. I even kept the campaign office open at night, with my young son for company. This man didn’t win, as the two major candidates were defeated in an upset by a minor party candidate, but we became good friends. He went to Washington, DC, to run Senator Jacob Javits’ office. Eventually, he came back to Buffalo, to his law practice.

One day we ran into each other on the bus on the way downtown. I worked at City Hall at the time. He asked if I would be interested in working for Javits in his Buffalo office, and I told him that I would. He started the procedure for my employment, and I heard from the Senate after I had a security clearance to work for the government. I loved this job. There were just two of us working in the office, in the Federal Building, and I was usually alone running the place, taking care of constituents. The job was very involved, as Senator Javits was Senior Senator, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, along with being on many other committees. I made many friends there, those that worked for other major government agencies. Shortly before the Iran Hostage Crisis, Senator Javits and his wife received threats, therefore I was instructed to leave the office door open at all times and the Federal Police periodically checked on my welfare. Much of the time, the head of the ATF office next door sat in the chair in front of my desk while I worked.

I later worked on campaigns for Erie County Executive, United States Congress, some New York State offices, and Presidential campaigns. I was a friend of a previous County Executive while he was in office, just before he became New York State Comptroller. I did a lot of work in Congressman Jack Kemp’s office, after I had completed my job for the Senate. I was offered a job in his Washington office, but I didn’t really want to move out of my house and go there. I considered it, but didn’t follow through. I wonder what would have happened if I did go to Washington. I had loved that city from the first time I saw it, as a high school senior.

The work in the various offices was very interesting, the campaigns were exciting, with all the hoopla of rallies, and hanging out in hotel ballrooms on Election Night. I even had the pleasure of going to a party in a suite of hotel rooms with the County Executive, his family, and his cronies on the night he won the election. Those days are gone forever, now. I am too old for that stuff, but I sure had a wonderful time when I was involved in politics.


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