Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ronald Reagan Trail: Lowell Park and 78 lives saved

My penultimate post in my Ronald Reagan Trail series covers Dixon's Lowell Park, where Dutch worked as a lifeguard, "One of the best jobs I ever had," on the shores of the Rock River.

"I worked seven days a week, ten to twelve hours a day, for $15--later $20--a week," Reagan wrote in An American Life, "and one of the proudest statistics of my life is seventy-seven--the number of people I saved during those summers." He once retrieved a swimmer's dentures, which earned him a $10 tip.

Rock River in Lowell Park
Reagan saved 77 lives at Lowell Park. But the lifeguard had one more life to save, which I will discuss in a bit.

Even though Reagan called Lowell Park "a forested sanctuary" in American Life, I expected a Midwestern "picnic savanna," large oaks with open spaces. But it really is a forested sanctuary.

The park opened in 1907 and is named for the poet and diplomat James Russell Lowell, his family donated the property to Dixon.

Lowell Park
Lowell Park is likely teeming with wildlife, but the only animals I encountered on the hot summer evening of my trip were mosquitoes--and plenty of them. Mosquitoes probably made the end of Dutch's lifeguard shifts very uncomfortable. Which could be why at the end of the day when swimmers wouldn't leave the water, Reagan would throw pebbles, according to CNN's Krya Phillips, and yell, "river rat!"

Oh, the 78th life Reagan saved was in Sacramento on July 4, 1967. The daughter of a California assemblyman was struggling in a pool and the governor dove in--fully clothed--and rescued her.

Next: Conclusion

Related posts:
Where Reagan saved 77 lives

Earlier posts:
Sunset east of Dixon--June 6, 2011

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