Memories Of Kennebunkport

Mark Knoller is a White House Correspondent for CBS News.
You can't say the Bush Family isn't willing to poke fun at the two U.S. presidents in its midst - at least about some things.

Along one of the paved pathways at Walker's Point, there's a sign:

President on Segway –
Slow down."
It evokes memories of the day in June 2003 when President Bush was caught on tape stumbling badly after trying to ride one of those Segway scooters. It was a low-point in the history of presidential dexterity.

Or maybe former President Bush is as much a speed demon on a Segway as he is on his speedboat, Fidelity III, with its three 275-horsepower outboard engines than can propel the craft up to 73 mph.

Either way, the sign is pretty funny.

Not since the days of the first Bush presidency have reporters had a chance to visit Walker's Point. It's an 11-acre, century-old estate with two mansion-like, stone-and-shingle homes built on a promontory that juts into the Atlantic Ocean.

It's been in the Bush Family for a hundred years. Former President Bush spent much of his childhood there and inherited the property from his parents.

And as a kid, the current President Bush spent most summers at the estate with his parents and siblings.

But he makes it clear he much prefers the heat and wide-open space of his Texas ranch to the cool, seaside environs of Kennebunkport.

As he waited for the arrival yesterday of Russia's President Vladimir Putin, he faced a question about the place.

"You sure you won't come back here a little more often?," one reporter (not me) asked him hopefully yesterday.

"That's what I figured," Mr. Bush said – conveying a sense of scorn toward those in the press who might prefer the rocky coast of Maine to the hard-dried plains of central Texas.

But his dad positively adores the place – even though it's vulnerable to ocean seas and storms.

I was in the press pool back on November 2, 1991 – when then-President Bush rushed back to his seaside home to inspect the damage inflicted by the fierce nor'easter that came to be known in book and movie as "The Perfect Storm."

It was a great personal loss for the Bushes. The high winds and seas ripped open their house, destroying prized possessions or sending them out to sea.

"The sea won this round," the President lamented that day to reporters. "It's devastating," he said.

Then-First Lady Barbara Bush was equally crushed by the loss, but she was philosophical about it.

"We are very lucky, we Bushes," she said. "A lot of worse things happen in life."

They vowed to rebuild the house, even though their insurance barely began to cover the costs.

While there yesterday, I reminded the former President of the episode 16 years ago – and a pained expression crossed his face.

But it was clear they made good on their word to rebuild.

It's decidedly less stately than the White House – but it's much more of a family home and a beautiful place to live.

It's good to be a former President.

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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.