On Scene with Bill Wilson: Not So Straight from the Archives


President Ford addresses the crowd at Valley Forge on July 4, 1976.

This photo of President Ford at Valley Forge on July 4, 1976 represents both American history and family history. On the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, President Gerald Ford came to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania to sign legislation turning what had been preserved by the state of Pennsylvania as a state park, into a national park. It had been hoped at the time that the park might be expanded to include the 2,000 acres that lay south of the Pennsylvania Turnpike to preserve those acres from suburban sprawl. That didn’t happen because the Park Service determined that the turnpike presented an insurmountable physical barrier to making the two areas into one park.

 My Grandfather’s farm, where I was born was part of that proposed park extension, as it had been part of a much larger farm during the Revolutionary War. It wasn’t until 1836 that my great, great, great Grandfather, David Wilson, and his wife, Eliza, purchased 100 acres of land that would be become Elda (the first two letters of Eliza and David) Farm where five generations of Wilsons lived, played and grew up. My Grandparents sold the farm in 1959.

I can remember at a very early age walking through a freshly plowed fields looking for arrowheads.  My older brothers found several. After several different developers tried to build projects on the land only to have the local authorities reject their plans, the local township acquired the land for a park, which was opened in 2004.  During the building of the park, which involved leveling land for a variety of athletic fields thousands of revolutionary era objects were found.


Geraldine Ferraro addresses a meeting of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club in Washington, DC during the 1984 campaign.

This photo of Geraldine Ferraro addressing the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club in 1984 is also a mix of personal and historical importance. I had come out to my parents in 1983. This was the first campaign that I participated in as an out gay man and it was one of the first national campaigns that welcomed me as an out gay man. There were gay and lesbian delegates seeking conventions seats in both the Walter Mondale and Jesse Jackson campaigns.

This particular event took place in the Council Chambers of the District of Columbia City Hall when Congresswoman Ferraro arrived she had almost no voice and was suffering from a cold. She explained that ordinarily under the circumstances she would have called and asked for the event to be rescheduled. However she said that she knew if she did that there would be lingering doubts about whether she was really sick or just trying to avoid the group. She said she knew how important it was to the group that she be there and she wanted the group to know if was important enough to her for her to show up even though she wasn’t sure her voice would hold out. She gave a few remarks and spent most of the time answering questions from the group.

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