Elizabeth II conquers Washington

John Kelly
Columnist June 16, 2012

I have a memory from the late 1950s of standing on Queens Chapel Road with my sisters to see Queen Elizabeth drive past in a convoy. My husband says I am mistaken and that she never visited that area. Can you offer any input?

— Mary S. Marsic,

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

Port Republic, Md.

Sometimes of an evening, Answer Man will sit on his Chesterfield sofa, nursing a tumbler of Beefeater gin, a copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets open on his lap, some Vaughan Williams on the hi-fi, and he will wonder: What have the English ever done for us?


Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip made an unexpected stop at the Giant Supermarket in the Queenstown Shopping Center in 1957. (United Press)

Didn’t we kick them out of our country? Twice? And yet we remain fascinated by them, especially their royals, whom we welcome with open arms.

Such, for example, was the case in 1957, when Queen Elizabeth II made her first trip to her former colonies as a monarch. (She had been just a humble princess when she visited in 1951.)

The trip coincided with the 350th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, and it was to Virginia that Elizabeth and husband Prince Philip first went, arriving there on Oct. 16, 1957.

After seeing the sights down there — but not, curiously, Yorktown, where Cornwallis surrendered — and spending the night in Williamsburg, the royals flew to Washington, where 6,000 white-gloved Girl Scouts lined Constitution Avenue as Her Majesty’s motorcade crept past, President Eisenhower sitting between the queen and prince. (Some school systems refused to make it an excused absence; others deemed the experience “educational.”)

The queen had a jam-packed schedule over her four days in Washington. There was a state dinner at the White House, a reception at the British Embassy, and visits to Children’s Hospital and the National Cathedral. She went to the National Gallery of Art and became the first person to use a piece of new technology: a hand-held device that provided recorded narration about the exhibit, in this case a display of William Blake’s paintings. A few of the paintings must have looked familiar. Four were hers, on loan from Windsor Castle.

The media were obsessed with what Elizabeth wore, dutifully printing descriptions of each outfit. Representatives from the Mutation Mink Breeders Association of the United States delivered a $15,000 mink coat to the British Embassy in the hopes that the queen would don the “deep bluish brown with slightly lighter under hair” creation.

Wore it she did, at what must have seemed the most incongruous part of her trip: going to College Park on Oct. 19 to attend a Maryland-North Carolina football game. She and Philip watched the Terps defeat the Tar Heels 21-7. (In preparation for meeting the queen, Maryland team officials made sure that starting center Gene Alderton replaced the front tooth that had been knocked from his skull the previous week.)

The queen called her own audible before the game. She asked if she could visit a supermarket that her motorcade had passed. Arrangements were quickly made, which is how after the game the Queen of England ended up in the Giant in the Queenstown shopping center on Queens Chapel Road. (Wonder why they chose that one.)

“It’s very nice to be able to take your children here, isn’t it?” Elizabeth asked one bewildered shopper.

Philip said to another shopper, picking up the lone cucumber that rested at the bottom of the man’s shopping cart, “You haven’t got very far, have you?” The commoner’s answer went unrecorded.

Nosy parker

After last week’s column on disabled-parking rules in Arlington County, several readers pointed out that parking meters there didn’t originally have stickers reading “All may park. All must pay.” The first ones had a white wheelchair symbol above the words, “Handicapped pay for parking.” Wrote Tom Felleisen: “Many people misunderstood the stickers to mean that the meters’ spaces were reserved for the disabled.”

Send a Kid to Camp

Trails have been cleared. Lawns have been mowed. The pool has been cleaned and the cabins swept out. On June 25, Camp Moss Hollow will throw open its gates to campers.

That’s the camp for at-risk kids from the Washington area that readers of The Post have supported for close to 40 years. It costs about $700 to send one child to camp for one week. Your tax-deductible gift will help ensure that kids who may otherwise spend the summer stuck inside will get a taste of the great outdoors.

To donate, go to washingtonpost.com/camp. Click where it says “Give Now,” and designate “Send a Kid to Camp” in the gift information. Or mail a check payable to “Send a Kid to Camp” to Send a Kid to Camp, P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.

Send your questions to answerman@washpost.com. To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/
johnkelly
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