ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Five Interesting Facts About Ronald Reagan That You Probably Didn't Know

Updated on January 18, 2017

They called him the Gipper: Ronald Reagan, the man who was the king only of B-movies until he went on to become the Governor of California and later the 40th President of the United States. Hated by many, but beloved by many more, Reagan was the one who, in the words of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, won the Cold War without firing a shot.

We know about Bedtime for Bonzo, about his penchant for jelly beans, and about his plea in Berlin to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev: "Tear down this wall." Here are some fun and interesting facts about Ronald Reagan that you probably didn't know.

Ronald Reagan Lifeguarding in Lowell Park
Ronald Reagan Lifeguarding in Lowell Park | Source

1. He Saved Seventy-Seven People from Drowning

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911 in Tampico, Illinois, but grew up in the neighboring town of Dixon.

Beginning in 1927, he spent his summers working as a lifeguard in Lowell Park along Dixon's Rock River. It was tough work. The people in charge were the park's concessionaires, a couple by the name of Edward and Ruth Graybill, who had to have a lifeguard on the premises in order to keep their license and to keep the insurance rates low. In the mornings Reagan would come to their home and get ice, which he'd put into coolers for the day. Because of floodlighting, the park was usually open until at least 10 p.m., which meant Reagan would be at the job twelve hours a day. He worked seven days a week.

Reagan worked alone, keeping an eye on sometimes as many as a thousand bathers, and over the course of the next six summers he swam out and rescued 77 people who were drowning without losing a single one. He knew the number precisely because he made a notch on a log each time he made a rescue, and many of his rescues were written up in the local paper. Reagan subsequently considered making these rescues as one of his life's greatest achievements, and rightly so.

2. He Once Foiled a Robbery

In the 1930's Reagan was living in Des Moines, Iowa, where he was working as an announcer at radio station WHO. One summer night he heard a commotion outside the window of his second-story apartment. He looked down and saw a man assaulting a nursing student by the name of Melba Loehmann. The man had already taken her purse and was starting to go after her suitcase.

Thinking quickly, Reagan yelled out the window, "Leave her alone or I'll shoot you in the shoulders." Accounts differ as to whether Reagan even had a gun at the time. If he did, it almost assuredly wasn't loaded. Nevertheless, his act of bravado was enough to scare the attacker off without any haul. Reagan then came downstairs and, in his pajamas, escorted Ms. Loehmann to the hospital where she worked.

Talk about a win for the Gipper.

3. He Got Married in a Cemetery

Reagan met Jane Wyman in 1938 while the two of them were working on the Warner Brothers film Brother Rat. Reagan pursues Wyman romantically in the movie. By 1939 they were dating for real. If Reagan was reluctant at first, it may have been because he was still getting over Margaret Cleaver, his hometown sweetheart who had broken off their relationship by mailing back her engagement ring. Wyman had recently been in a relationship as well with Myron Futterman, whom she divorced the same year she met Reagan.

When Reagan and Wyman got engaged, it was Wyman's friend gossip columnist Louella Parsons who broke the news. The Hollywood press had a field day, proclaiming Reagan and Wyman to be the perfect couple. One magazine even offered to pay for a honeymoon in Hawaii in exchange for the exclusive right to photograph them.

They got married on January 26, 1940, in the Wee Kirk o' the Heather, one of three wedding chapels located at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. Then, as now, the cemetery was a popular wedding venue because of its serene atmosphere, beautiful architecture, and well-manicured lawns.

Unfortunately, within a decade the marriage was as dead as what was under those manicured lawns. The ideal couple of the movie magazines became "Those Battling Reagans," and by 1948 they had called it quits. Afterward, each of them kept mostly mum about their relationship for more than half a century. During Reagan's presidency, Wyman experienced a career revival of sorts starring as Angela Channing in the CBS television drama Falcon Crest which ran from 1981 to 1990. Upon Reagan's death in 2004, she finally broke her silence, releasing a statement calling him "a great president and a great, kind and gentle man." She also came to his funeral even though at 90 years old she was not in the best of health. Wyman herself died three years later and is buried at Forest Lawn's Cathedral City park near Palm Springs. Reagan is buried on the grounds of the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley.

4. He Played Vegas

Ronald Reagan as a comedian? In Las Vegas? It happened -- although very briefly.

In February, 1954, a little over a year after their daughter Patti was born, Ron and his second wife, fellow actress Nancy Davis, needed money, so Reagan accepted a two-week gig at the Last Frontier hotel in Las Vegas to be part of an act called the Continentals, in a sketch that exaggerated his supposed lack of talent. Reagan got good reviews and some offers to appear in other clubs around the country. But especially as parents of an infant, the Reagans decided that just wasn't their thing. Fortunately, a much better gig came along soon afterward, when Reagan became host of General Electric Theater at a salary of $125,000 a year.

Here's the Rest of Him

5. He Held His Own Against Union Thugs

Reagan is, of course, the only President so far who has been president of a labor union. Yes, some say, but it was the Screen Actors' Guild -- the implication being that SAG wasn't a real union.

Actually, in the late 40's and 50's, when Reagan was active in the SAG, unions had considerably more power than they do today -- and they were no place for choirboys. Not many years earlier, the Feds had dismantled the Chicago Mob, thanks to the testimony of Willie Bioff, an enforcer for IATSE, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, who for more than a decade had been engaged in a lucrative shakedown operation of the Hollywood Studios, threatening work stoppages if the studios didn't pay up. (Bioff was rewarded for his testimony by a bomb planted in his pickup truck in 1955.) Roy Brewer had recently been brought in to clean up the Alliance. The Communist Party of the USA had become interested in Hollywood, too, being one of the influences behind the Conference of Studio Unions (CSU), a conglomeration of film-related craft unions which was formed in 1941.

By 1946, IATSE and the CSU were engaged in an all-out turf war. The CSU had called a strike on behalf of the set decorators, allegedly to push for better wages. What the CSU really wanted to do was pry set decorators loose from IATSE by claiming to represent all of them. People were asking the SAG what to do. Reagan, who was then just an SAG board member (he wouldn't become president of the organization until 1947), suggested calling for binding arbitration.

Reagan soon discovered he'd kicked open a hornet's nest. While working on the film Stallion Road, he got a call at a filling station from a man who threatened to destroy his face and thus his livelihood. (Reagan found out later that the plan was to throw acid.) Reagan didn't find out who the man was, but he took the threat seriously enough to report it to the Burbank police, who equipped him with a gun which he carried for the next seven months. The police also put a watch on his house. On another occasion Reagan came to work one morning and discovered that a bus scheduled to take actors to a location shoot had been fire-bombed.

Fortunately, nothing happened to him. When the strike fell apart shortly afterward, it marked the end of the CSU. But Reagan's experience in the SAG became the first stepping stone in what was to become a remarkable political career.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image 

      3 years ago

      the reagan presidency began to tear down the founding fathers' wall separating church and state, and the reagan presidency began tax cuts for the rich, which has undermined america's infrastructure and created wealth inequality not seen in more than a century. is america better today than before reagan? not from my perspective.

    • russinserra profile image

      Russ Inserra 

      6 years ago from Indianapolis, In

      I believe that some of your facts may be more myth than reality. Legend grows up around popular American idols such as Reagan, just like they have about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      cool facts!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      yay ronald reagan!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)