Inaugurations happen every four years

A bitterly cold disappointment. The impression that I still have about Dwight Eisenhower's 1953 inaugural parade. My 4 year old mind was looking forward to a parade but my 4 year old body lacked the height to see much more than the backs of legs that were shuffling about to keep warm. I remain grateful that my father filmed portions of the parade because the video has allowed me a view of much of what I missed.

We stood in the cold to watch the Cadillacs roll past with waving figures in Republican cloth coats waiting for clowns, acrobats, marching bands and the other things that Dr. Suess assured us were supposed to be parts of a parade. What we saw was cars with politicians, patriotic floats from the various states and soldiers, lots of soldiers, over 22,000 according to the Eisenhower Library. Four year olds are not patient with 22,000 soldiers.

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Photo from the National Park Service

If only we could have been near the reviewing stand when Montie Montana rode up on his paint “Rex”. Eisenhower described it in is memoir this way, “A California cowboy, riding a highly trained horse, got clearance from the Secret Service, stopped in front of me, and threw a lasso around my shoulders.” Now that would have been cool, even for the youngest who were all Hopalong Cassidy fans anyway.

Of course, growing up in the DC area, Presidents and inaugurations were not such a big deal. School kids could count on a field trip to the White House at least once in the term of each President, so most of us met a lot of Presidents. I doubt any of them remembered me. Inaugurations happened every four years and since they were always in January, they were always cold.

The worst of the cold may have been the 1985 inauguration of Ronald Reagan. That winter, there were stretches of two weeks when the temperature did not get above freezing; fine if you live North Dakota, but not something for the Mason Dixon line. That winter was the only time I saw the Chesapeake Bay frozen from shore to shore and the only time I have seen the surf frozen on the Atlantic beaches of Maryland and Delaware. Reagan, a Californian by choice, knew when to head indoors. The Inauguration that year was held in the Capital Centre in Maryland.

Reagan was not just a fair weather politician. He also brought a sense of showmanship that may have been natural with his acting background. Some of the best fireworks displays I have ever seen were a part of the Reagan's two inaugurations, but he did not stop there. Driving from Alexandria to Arlington on the George Washington Parkway at night is an awe inspiring vista of national icons in white stone lit up as beacons to the ideals that we cherish about our nation. Reagan added remarkable cones of high intensity light around many of the memorials that shone hundreds of feet into the air drawing more attention to the national heritage. Earrings for an elephant, but they were some grand earrings.

While Reagan gets the award for pyrotechnical buzz, the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama went beyond buzz to a low roar. Nothing in my experience with protests, inaugurations, Super Bowl victories or anything else set that city spinning like the first black president taking the oath of office.

I received an invitation to attend the inauguration of George H.W. Bush. It arrived in what I can only describe as a pizza box and included all manner of things that were suitable for framing. I guess that if I had been a major donor to his campaign the package might have been well received, but since I was a relative of a high level staffer, I was less enthusiastic. There should be a moment when you reach out and shake the hand of leaders of the winning side, but you do not have to go so far as to attend their victory celebration. So, no, I did not attend or keep any of the memorabilia. Actually, I did keep one thing. It is important to note that I try to avoid doing anything that requires wearing a tie. I guess that in a bad year, I will have to ask for help in knotting one of them once, but you get the idea. Inside that pizza box was a dark blue tie with tiny, little airplanes that spelled “Bush”. I still have the tie even though I have never worn it, just drag it out every once in a while to prove this story is true. I can't shake the notion that Montie Montana still had a better idea for a presidential tie.

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