In 1964 my 3rd grade classmate Teddy found a ripped up old dollar bill and someone told him that if he mailed it to the President of the United States, the President would send him a perfectly good dollar to replace it. So Teddy mailed his mutilated bill to Lyndon Johnson, care of the White House.
And son of a gun if it wasn’t just a couple of weeks later and the President mailed Teddy a check for one dollar! Well, somebody mailed him a check.
But we all thought it was President Johnson. We figured Johnson probably sat around the Oval Office all day waiting to get letters from kids who send in old beat-up money so he could cut them a check and get it in the mail right away. What a guy. Good ole’ Lyndon Baines.
I mention this only because I wanted to be the first kid in space and I thought it would be a great idea to use Teddy’s close acquaintance with LBJ as a means of introducing myself to the President while simultaneously volunteering for a space mission. Because, to put it mildly, you could say that I was a space enthusiast as a lad.
I had a space helmet. Toy rockets. I could identify Sheppard, Schirra, Glenn, Grissom, all of the original Mercury missile-men on sight. I read everything I could get my hands on about space and spaceships and anything at all to do with NASA. (I later suffered severe emotional distress when, at eight years of age, I realized that my allergic reaction to Tang would prevent me from a career as a spaceman.)
But when Teddy got his one dollar check from…wherever it really came from, I didn’t know that fate and whatever they put in Tang would never allow me to escape the surly bonds of gravity and soar into the inky black void.
So I wrote a letter to President Johnson.
I gave it to my Dad to mail for me. Thing is, I guess he and Mom read the letter and thought it was just the cutest thing so they decided to keep it instead. For posterity I guess. At least I suppose that’s why they didn’t mail it though now that I think about it there is a chance that Mom and Dad weren’t all that sure that the government was above participating in a “send a kid into space” stunt and they definitely did not want me going into space. They didn’t even want me going out of the yard.
Well Dad was going through a box full of posterity in the basement not too long ago and he found my note to the President. And so now, I present the text of the letter I wrote to President Lyndon Johnson in the fall of 1964.
Dear Mr. President:
I think just recently you sent my friend Theodore a one dollar check. Boy, oh, Boy, everybody was talking about it. Well anyway, now that we are ahead of the russians in space travel. And I’m always studying about it well if monkeys, went into space, and men, why not children. After all the russians sent up that woman cosmonaut so why not show them up by putting a child onto the moon flight. Now don’t worry he wont be in the “LEM”, it means the vehicle that will land on the moon. He’ll just be orbiting. Dear Sir please give this some serious thought.
John Webster Jr.,
P.S. If you do I hope they choose me.
Was I Beaver Cleaver or what?
Please note the formal use of “Theodore”, because in correspondence with the President I think it’s obvious we create a sophisticated and serious impression through the use of at least a modicum of formality.
Good thing the folks didn’t mail that letter because my in-depth briefing of the President on the nature of the “LEM” had to be exactly the kind of know-how NASA was looking for.
I think too that President Johnson might have been duly impressed by my punctuation. Evidently I wrote that letter the day there was a two-for-one sale on commas.