Vlog: The presidents who visited Kitsap

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Hayes stopped by Port Blakely. Taft and the Roosevelts, the Navy Yard. Truman toured Bremerton. And Clinton came to Blake Island.

In honor of president’s day, I brushed up on my Kitsap County presidential history and found out some fascinating tidbits about those rare times POTUS stopped by. I was lucky to have a copy of historian and journalist Fredi Perry Pargeter’s book “Bremerton and PSNY,” which devotes a whole chapter to presidential visits.

Here’s a rundown of the Oval Office occupiers’ visits and why they came:

Rutherford B. Hayes: In 1880, Hayes came by ship to Bainbridge Island, where he helped cut a 150-foot long tree at Port Blakely Mill.

Teddy Roosevelt: Not long after the shipyard was built, Teddy Roosevelt came to see it in 1903. Roosevelt didn’t stay long — half hour or so — and thus let down quite a number of onlookers who’d hoped to catch a glimpse of Teddy. But later on his trip, he journeyed to Tacoma, where a man from Manette — who had been a roughrider alongside Roosevelt — came to see him.

William H. Taft: Taft also visited the shipyard, this time in 1911. During the visit, he apparently remarked that Charleston, then an independent city, was simply too close to Bremerton and that the two should be joined together. They were.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: No. 32 visited Kitsap more than any other president. He came twice as assistant secretary of the Navy and as president came another two times. The first, in 1942, was done in secret for war planning. The then Bremerton Sun didn’t know about the visit until nine days after it had happened. The second visit was public and Roosevelt made a speech aboard the USS Cummings, a picture of which you can find prominently displayed at the Bremerton Bar and Grill. He held himself up to appear standing, though he was afflicted with polio.

Harry S. Truman: The Missourian came to Bremerton in 1948 and gave a stump speech at the corner of Fifth and Pacific. It’s widely believed, even by Truman himself, that it was here someone shouted the phrase, “Give ’em hell, Harry.” While it’s in dispute, I’d say let’s just go with it.

Bill Clinton: In 1993, the former Arkansas governor brought together leaders from Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries on Blake Island. During the video we made, I misspoke — in an effort to be more causal, Clinton brought them all leather Bombardier jackets, not jean jackets, according to the Washington Post.

Additionally, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter are both believed to have come to Kitsap before they were president. And there’s a rumor that even JFK stopped by. But that will take some additional research.

Photo by Reuters.
Photo by Reuters.

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