RONALD REAGAN. President of the United States.
Autograph Letter Signed, “Love / Dutch,” as President, December 7, 1981, one page, quarto, on White House stationery. To “Hup” (the widow of the Iowa radio station program director who gave Ronald Reagan his first job 49 years earlier). With the original White House envelope [postmarked December 7, 1981], addressed by Reagan to “Mrs. Peter MacArthur / Lakeworth Towers Apt. 507 / 1500 Lucerne Ave. / Lakeworth, Fla. / 33460.”
“It’s that time again — Christmas and you know I wish you & so does Nancy — the Merriest of Christmases & a Happy New Year! We’ll be spending ours in Wash. — Christmas that is — we get to Calif. for a couple of days over New Years. This is always a time for Warm & Happy memories of holidays past. I remember them in Des Moines and they grew more pleasant & treasured with the years. I don’t think in those days we could have predicted what I’d be doing now. Maybe it’s good we couldn’t. It would have spoiled the fun. Merry Christmas. Love / Dutch.”
“Hup” was 88-year-old Lydia Hupfer McArthur, widow of Peter MacArthur, program director at radio station WOC in Davenport, Iowa, which shared its frequency with WHO Des Moines. Ronald Reagan had just graduated from Eureka College with a degree in economics and sociology and he wanted to be a radio sports announcer. He first went to the radio stations in Chicago. He was told to try some of the small cities. From an article President Reagan wrote for UPI about his first job, in part, “This was 1932 and the very bottom of the Great Depression … I left Chicago, knocked on doors across Illinois and crossed the river into Iowa. At WOC Davenport I made my standard pitch and this time the turndown was accompanied by word that I was a week late. They had held auditions and hired an announcer the week before. That was too much.”
“On the way out I said aloud, ‘How do you get to be a sports announcer if you can’t get inside a radio station?’ The door closed and I went to the elevator. While I was waiting for it I heard someone calling. It was Peter MacArthur, the program director I’d been talking to … When he caught up with me he asked what it was that I’d first said about sports announcing. I repeated what I’d said and he asked me if I knew anything about football. When I told him I’d played it for eight years he asked if I thought I could tell him about a game to make him see it. I said I thought so. With that he took me into a studio, stood me in front of a mike and told me to broadcast an imaginary game. I knew I had to have names so I decided I’d do the fourth quarter of a game I’d played in my last year at Eureka … Fifteen minutes later I called the final play and then grabbed the mike to keep from falling down. My knees had suddenly gotten wobbly. Peter MacArthur said: ‘Be here Saturday and you are broadcasting the Iowa-Minnesota game. You’ll get $5 and bus fare. I was a sports announcer….”
In 1937, Ronald Reagan went to the Chicago Cubs spring training camp in southern California to do play-by-play for WHO. Impressed by his confidence and good looks, an agent arranged a screen test for the 26-year-old sports announcer at Warner Bros. He signed a seven-year contract and moved to California. But he never forgot Pete and Hup MacArthur whom he affectionately called “Ma” and “Pa.” He sent Christmas cards and letters to them on a regular basis from 1938 until 1948 when Pete died, continuing to correspond with Hup until she died in 1995.
Framed (in an off-white inter mat and a blue outer mat, with an engraving, in a decorative silver frame) dimensions: 20 1/4 inches wide by 15 1/2 inches high.
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