SIMI VALLEY, CA (KPLR) - On our visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum I seemed to remember a story from long ago about a letter sent to the president.
In 1981 the former California governor had been in the oval office only three months when on March 30th John Hinckley, Jr. tried to assassinate Reagan, shooting him in the chest, seriously wounding his press secretary and injuring two officers.
But the incident made an impact on many Americans.
At the time, he received an outpouring of postcards and letters from across the country.
'We have things from 160 different countries,' says Jennifer Torres, Register. 'You name it we have one of it. People wrote poems, they crocheted Afghans and painted portraits and they just mailed everything to the president at the White House.'
A year later, a trusty number two pencil was used to write this letter from a little boy who misspelled the president`s last name and asked to be pin pals.
He described his life and the people important to him, and the things that mattered to an average grade school student.
'That`s the perfect example, a demonstrative example of what an archive can be,' says R. Duke Blackman, Director, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. 'You come here with an idea you`re going to do this great piece on the Reagan library and Situation room and tell the story. But wait, I remember when I was 11 I wrote this letter, what about it. One of our staff, our curator said hold on.'
That`s right, that little boy was me, and this was the surprise of my life.
Reagan head curator Randy Swan took notes as I told of a memory I had forgotten from three and a half decades before.
'They go down, go through the boxes and pull it out,' says Blackman. 'That`s what research can be about and should be about.'
'On the other end of the phone Diane is going, 'Patrick Clark that's not a super unique name,'' says Randle C.W. Swan, Supervisory Curator, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum.
'The file she dug up was several thousand deep. Luckily your letter was at the top.'
Many thoughts poured through my head as I tried to get in my grade school mindset.
Apparently, I closed, with a full-page joke about whether there was baseball in heaven.
'Our job at the National Archives, which we are part of, is to find those documents and provide access to them for the public,' says Blackman.
That`s where the letter will remain, with the National Archives and Records Administration.
NARA runs the 13 presidential libraries and museums built since Herbert Hoover was in office.
The United States guards these locations and materials for posterity, for generations to come.
'You gave me just enough information and luckily we have a very talented pool of colleagues here,' says Swan.
'I`ll talk to the audience here,' says Blackman. 'Without question we are the best presidential library. I know this because we have more visitors than anybody. They`re all great places, but we are the best.'
It`s also the home of a letter that made its way from the Midwest to the White House and here to the West Coast.