CONFLUENCE — John L. Haigh Sr. grew up in a small western Pennsylvania coal town: Lambert, Fayette County.
He never imagined when he joined the Air Force that it would become his job to fly on the most famous aircraft in the world — Air Force One.
Haigh was in Confluence on Friday to talk about his life aboard Air Force One and the dealings he had with the three presidents he's served, Presidents Carter, Reagan and Bush.
"I'm getting to relive everything I've done, but with PowerPoint and pictures," Haigh said of his book tour. "It's being well received. And whether you liked them politically, they were all very good people. And I had the privilege of being on board with them for 13 years."
Haigh retired as chief master sergeant from the U.S. Air Force. A crowd of about 50 people gathered at the Turkeyfoot Valley Historical Society to see slides and photographs of Haigh with all three presidents and their families.
"I got to pitch horseshoes at the White House with President Bush," Haigh said. "So I sort of got to know him a little better. I was on a first name basis with them. They called me John and I called them Mr. President."
Haigh served 30 years in the Air Force and had served as chief steward for Air Force One.
While Haigh told tales of his travels with world leaders and the various aircraft he's flown upon — including the Air Force One that returned President Kennedy's body from Dallas after his assassination — the retired airman talked about how presidents and first families treated staff as if they too were members of the family.
Haigh recalled one embarrassing moment when he'd fallen asleep on Air Force One and someone had the presence of mind to get a picture of it.
"President (Reagan) had a big smile on his face and said: 'Don't worry about it. I once fell into a cake,'" Haigh said.