"Step right up, folks," the barkers were calling. "Hurree, hurree, hurree!" The Ferris wheel was turning, the roller coaster swooped down its artificial abysses, and the piccalilli was waiting to be judged. But the most up-to-date attraction at the Illinois State Fair last week was a good-looking, dark-haired young man with a manner both aggressive and modest, and a personality to delight any political barker. He seemed to have everythinga fine TV manner, an attractive family, a good war record, deep sincerity and religious faith, a Horatio Alger-like career, which had led him into notable accomplishments on two major campaign issues: corruption and Communism. He was Richard Milhous (pronounced mill house) Nixon, Republican nominee for Vice President.
Nixon (himself once a barker for a "carnie" wheel) had come to Springfield to compete with the Democrats' star attraction, Adlai Stevenson, on his own home grounds. In a broiling sun, Dick Nixon spoke to 9,000 Illinois Republicans. He proved himself no great orator but a hard-hitting performer.
"Adlai Stevenson owes his nomination not to the people but to the bosses," he cried. "Just yesterday he has sat in as an ex-officio member of Harry Truman's cabinet . . . The voice will be that of Stevenson, but the hand will be that of Harry Truman." This charge, said Nixon, would surely be called unfair, but there was a simple way for Stevenson to refute it: "I challenge him to be specific and tell the American people in plain English wherein he disagrees with the Truman-A.D.A. program . . . The people have had enough of his fancy-striped-pants language, meaning all things to all people. They want Stevenson to get down to brass tacks . . ."
Next day it was Stevenson's turn. As usual, he gave a good performance. His English, however, was more polished than plain, and he sidestepped Nixon's specific questions on whether or not he favors Acheson's foreign policy, the Brannan Plan, federal seizure of the tidelands. Comparing Alben Barkley, 74, to Richard Nixon, 39, Stevenson remarked: "The Republican Party is the party which makes even its young men seem old. The Democratic Party is the party which makes even its old men seem young."
Childhood: Dishpan Hands. Dick Nixon hardly seems like an old man, but he is old for his years. He was born in Yorba Linda, near Los Angeles, where his parents had a lemon grove. They wished it had been orangeswhich were the promissory golden fruit that had helped attract Dick's maternal grandfather, Quaker Franklin Milhous, to California from his home in Butlerville, Ind. In 1897 he had loaded lumber, doors, windows, cows and horses on a freight car and set out for the promised land. At a Quaker church party, his daughter Hannah met Francis Anthony Nixon, who had also come out from the Middle West. She married him two years later. Their second son, Dick, worked in the lemon grove as a youngster, chopping weeds and caring for the trees. The grove itself turned out to be a lemon. The family moved to Whittier and set up Nixon's Market, a general store and filling station, which is still going strong today. (Nixon's parents, still hale & hearty, have left the store to be managed by their third son, Don.)