Rags To Riches

Reagan: Youth Reagan went from poor childhood to Hollywood

Ronald Reagan's earliest years were not easy ones. He was born in 1911 in an apartment over a general store in Tampico, Illinois. His father was an alcoholic shoe salesman who had trouble supporting the family. But he did give Ronald a nickname that stuck. He said the baby looked like a little Dutchman -- hence the nickname "Dutch." The family settled in Dixon, Illinois, and the young Reagan became an athlete, actor and student body president at Dixon High -- and a lifeguard during the summer. At Eureka College, he stayed active in sports, drama and student government. And when he made a speech during a student strike, successfully getting some courses restored, he learned for the first time what he could do with words. After graduation, Reagan went into radio -- starting out as a sports announcer. He'd simulate Chicago Cubs baseball games using a play-by-play teletype. And it was while he was in California for Cubs spring training that he got a Hollywood screen test -- which led to the first of more than 50 movie roles.