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Another Parade, Another Time

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Saturday, January 10, 2009; Page A13

This time around, the newly minted president of the United States will have to make his way to the White House from the Capitol without my participation. I'm scheduled to watch the proceedings from the roof of a building on the parade route as part of a team providing television commentary.

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Fifty-six years ago, it was a different story.

After Dwight David Eisenhower was sworn in as the nation's 34th president, he and I traveled the same route to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. There were just a few minor differences.

He rode in a shiny black limousine. I hoofed it from start to finish.

His journey ended at the White House. My legs kept moving for four or five blocks.

His travel companion was his wife, Mamie.

I shared those special moments in 1953 with 600 other Boy Scouts marching in mass formation with American flags in Eisenhower's first presidential inauguration.

The story of my participation in the Parade of '53, billed as the longest in three-quarters of a century if not in American history, was told a few years ago ["The Parade of '53," op-ed, Jan. 20, 2001].

It's worth repeating now because that procession and the security arrangements surrounding it are unlikely to be replicated in my lifetime.

The holiday mood in 1953 was evident across downtown Washington. People flocked to the event and mingled freely without having to navigate security checkpoints staffed by steely-eyed guards.

The procession kicked off in the early afternoon and went on for four hours and 39 minutes. It had more than 750,000 spectators, 25,000 marchers, 75 bands, 59 floats, cowboys, members of the armed forces, a 280mm cannon that was longer than the White House reviewing stand, herds of horses and elephants, and blimps overhead.

It also was my first real experience with "hurry up and wait." We Scouts were ordered to assemble around 10 a.m. in a park near the Capitol, where we were left standing under sunny skies and unseasonably warm weather that grew colder as the day went on.

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