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700 Welcome a Nostalgic Reagan Home to California

January 22, 1989|From Times Wire Services

A nostalgic Ronald Reagan, acknowledging that "it was hard to say goodby," arrived home in California Friday after taking one last look at the Oval Office and leaving two handwritten notes for President Bush.

After a brief airport reception with Mayor Tom Bradley, comedian Rich Little, actor Robert Stack and others, the former President and Nancy Reagan where whisked by motorcade to their new home in exclusive Bel-Air.

The airport reception attracted about 700 people waving placards that read "Welcome Home," "The King and Queen Return" and "Happy Trails Again."

"It has been a bittersweet several hours this day," Reagan told the crowd. "There were many wonderful associates that we have been working with the last eight years that we had to say goodby to.

"When you have to stay eight years away from California except for an occasional visit, you live in a perpetual state of homesickness," Reagan said.

Little kidded the former President about having to find a job, and Reagan--the former actor--quipped that he had a movie deal in the works.

"I was asked to play a part in a remake of 'Bedtime for Bonzo,' only this time they wanted me to play Bonzo," Reagan said. "He wasn't a very friendly type."

During his Hollywood days, Reagan played opposite a mean-tempered chimpanzee in "Bedtime for Bonzo."

The Reagans left Andrews Air Force Base, Md., at 10:10 a.m. PST and flew home, both vowing to pursue objectives they battled for during Reagan's two terms.

The former first couple waved to a cheering crowd of about 2,000 at Andrews, and Reagan received a 21-gun salute as he reviewed a platoon from each of the five branches of the military service. Reagan did not address the crowd.

With their dog, Rex, the Reagans boarded the plane that in the previous eight years would have been designated Air Force One. A sign in the crowd read "So Long Gipper."

About an hour earlier, Reagan stood by as George Bush took the presidential oath of office at the Capitol. Bush, who fought Reagan tirelessly for the Republican presidential nomination in 1980 before becoming his vice president, turned to Reagan after taking the oath and said, "President Reagan, on behalf of the American people I thank you for the wonderful things you have done for America."

'A Great Pride'

Reagan, asked while he was walking with Bush through the Rotunda of the Capitol if he felt a sense of relief, said, "No, but a great pride in what's happening."

After the solemn swearing-in ceremonies and Bush's acceptance speech, Bush and his wife, Barbara, escorted the Reagans to the east side of the Capitol to a waiting helicopter, where they said their goodbys with handshakes and kisses.

As the Reagans stood in the doorway of the Marine helicopter, Reagan turned and snapped a salute to Bush, who returned it.

Asked by a reporter for his final thoughts, Reagan said only, "Carry on."

Joined by Quayles

The Bushes were joined by Vice President Dan Quayle and his wife, Marilyn, who waved goodby to the Reagans before their helicopter lifted off and made a traditional final sweep of the Mall and White House.

Old foes at home and abroad praised Reagan, the first President to serve eight years since Dwight D. Eisenhower gave up the office to John F. Kennedy in 1961.

He is, "according to all external indications, leaving office as a completely successful political figure," said Pravda, the official voice of the Soviet Union, the nation that Reagan denounced in 1983 as an "evil empire."

Reagan began his final day in office with a nostalgic visit to the Oval Office to make sure, according to his spokesman, Marlin Fitzwater, that the presidential office was shipshape for his successor.

'World Is Quiet'

His national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Colin L. Powell, who so often briefed Reagan there on trouble spots throughout the globe, told him, "The world is quiet today, Mr. President."

Powell's words were relayed to reporters by Fitzwater, who was present during the Oval Office visit.

Then, for the last time, Reagan made the walk through an arched colonnade to the executive mansion, where he and Mrs. Reagan lived and where the Bushes will now live.

In a soft voice, he called out "goodby" to members of the White House staff and journalists seeing him off.

Letter to Thatcher

Fitzwater said the last piece of paper the former President signed was a letter to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, thanking her for her support. In London, Thatcher saluted the outgoing President as "a true and perfect gentleman."

The First Lady's press secretary, Elaine Crispen, said that after returning to the executive mansion Reagan joined his wife in walking hand in hand down the central hallway and spending a few minutes in the Yellow Oval room overlooking the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial.

The Reagans also said their goodbys to the domestic staff.

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