March 18 • 12:12 PM

Bentz family reflects on inaugurations, 48 years apart

February 11, 2009
Editor's note: The following guest column was submitted by Almont native Larry Bentz who now resides in Clinton Twp. Bentz is a graduate of Michigan State University and currently works in finance.

On January 20, 1961, I attended the presidential inauguration of John F. Kennedy. On January 20, 2009, my daughter, Julie, a resident of Atlanta, GA, attended the presidential inauguration of Barack H. Obama. We noted the many contrasts in our trips.

It was my first of many visits to Washington, D.C. It was Julie's latest of many visits to D.C. I attended as a 12-year old 7th grader; Julie attended as a 23-year old working adult. I won my trip by placing first in a subscription contest held by the Port Huron Times Herald, which I delivered in Almont; Julie paid her own expenses, witnessed the inauguration from a reserved viewing area, and attended the Georgia State Society Inaugural Ball. My travel time by car and train took more than 17 hours; Julie's flight took only about 90 minutes. The D.C. Metro (subway) did not exist when I attended JFK's inauguration; Julie had the option of taking the Metro or above-ground transportation. JFK's inauguration marked the first time it had snowed in D.C. for an inauguration in 100 years; there was no snow at Obama's inauguration. I took pictures with a cumbersome slide camera and had to wait over a week for the slides to be developed; Julie had the capability to take digital photos with her cell phone and email them anywhere in the world instantly. The two inaugurations took place in different areas of the U.S. Capitol Building—JKF took his oath of office at the east portico; Obama was sworn in at the west front.

Julie Bentz at Barack Obama’s inauguration last month in the nation’s capitol.
Julie is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Georgia with degrees in psychology and criminal justice, and works for an Atlanta law firm. She recently gained acceptance to several top-tier law schools and is deciding which one to attend in the fall.

My 25-year old son, Eric, a graduate of North Carolina State University with a degree in chemistry and a resident of Goldsboro, NC, was unable to attend Obama's inauguration because he has been called up from the U.S. Air Force Reserve for temporary active duty – advanced training as a KC-135 Stratotanker crew chief. Like his sister, Eric has visited D.C. many times. He even lived there for a summer during high school when he served as a page in the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition to working full time as a pharmaceutical chemist and serving in the USAF Reserve, he will be entering a graduate program in business at East Carolina University in the spring.

I believe that winning the trip to JFK's inauguration was the apex of a valuable lesson I learned as a newspaper carrier in Almont – that setbacks can be overcome with perseverance and the help of others.

When I was 11, the Detroit Times agreed to let me take over their route in Almont. I learned the route but the Times reneged at the last minute, saying I was too young. I was crushed. Two weeks later, my neighbor, Rose Bishop, who knew of my disappointment with the Detroit Times, recommended me to Roger Jackson when she learned he was looking for a boy to take over his Port Huron Times Herald route in Almont. My age wasn't an issue with the Times Herald. Roger trained me and the route was mine.

Eighteen months after the Detroit Times had rejected me as a paper boy, during which time I had ridden my bicycle about 2,700 miles delivering the Port Huron Times Herald, Almont Postmaster Earl Halsey hand carried a special delivery letter of congratulations to me from the Times Herald. By doubling the size of my route and my earnings, I placed first in the subscription contest and, along with three other delivery boys, won a free trip to Washington, D.C. for JFK's inauguration and a guided tour of our capital city.

Without the encouragement and coaching from my mother, Kate, who is now 85 and lives in Port Richey, FL, I never would have won. My since deceased father, Pete, was a great help in other ways.

Three months before I won the trip to D.C. through the Port Huron Times Herald, the Detroit Times went out of business.

Julie told me she was glad she attended Obama's inauguration and that it will probably mean even more to her 20 years from now. I agree, as that has been the case for me, 48 years after JFK's inauguration.

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