Home Page, Site Index, Search, Help

Go to Main Story

Go to
Inauguration '97

Go to National Section

Go to Home Page

Time for Marching, Music, Memories

Washington Post Staff
Tuesday, January 21, 1997; Page A13

James Dyson trudged slowly toward the White House, 20-pound sledgehammer in hand.

It was early yet, and the Inaugural Parade route was a nearly empty tableaux of flapping flags as Dyson approached a manhole cover in the middle of 15th Street NW. He raised his hammer slowly overhead and—in a scene he would repeat 50 times yesterday—brought it down in a wide arc that ended with a ringing clank.

He stepped back as his colleague jimmied the loosened cover and a skinny brown dog tethered to a uniformed officer gave the hole a sniff for the odd explosive. A serious young man in a gray overcoat, his neck chain bristling with official-looking credentials, also peered inside.

Then they replaced the cover and the whole entourage moved on to the next manhole—a methodical parade-before-the- parade—with Dyson leading the way in Pepco-issue yellow hard hat, blue coveralls and rubber boots.

Dyson, 38, was philosophical about his place in history. "Everybody has their part," he said. "The pay isn't bad, either."

—Robert O'Harrow Jr.

City as Canvas
President William Jefferson Clinton was still two hours from his second inaugural swearing-in, but on the Metro Red line, somewhere between Wheaton and Union Station, Marjorie Michaels, of Springfield, N.J., was already giddy.

She unfurled a Mall map for her two sons.

"David, Jonathon, look at this!" she said. "First we'll catch the swearing-in, then we'll go down Pennsylvania [Avenue] so we can see the parade."

She had them, but only for a moment.

"Hey look! Cool!" David, 13, said, pointing at graffiti-tagged buildings whizzing by. " 'Cool Disco Dan.' Who's that?"

"Some of these guys are pretty good writers," said Jonathon, 12. "I wonder how they paint like that, with all those colors."

"They probably use stencils or something," David said.

Jonathon shot his brother a disgusted look. "No, they don't. That's stupid."

Their mother glanced at the graffiti, then back at her map with a sigh.

"I better find a place for lunch," she said.

—David Lindsey

Sousaphone Home
A look of utter horror slowly creased Michael Leverone's face. The buses carrying the Eastern Fairfax All-Stars band were halfway to the Mall when Leverone, a 16-year-old sousaphone player, began patting down his pockets."Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God," he whispered.

His mouthpiece sat in a car back at school. Without it, he would have to march and only pretend to play. But the band's sound would be affected. Worse, he had forgotten it once before. The band director would go nuts.Leverone walked slowly to the front of the bus to whisper the bad news into the ear of band director Jack Elgin. "He gave me a look of not surprised and total disgust," Leverone reported as he sank back into his seat.

Laura Leach, a mellophone player in whose car the mouthpiece languished, came to his rescue. She used a mobile phone to call her father, who drove to the school, got the mouthpiece, drove to the staging area at the Pentagon and persuaded security to let him in. "Thank you so much," said Leverone, giving Ted Leach a hug.

"We need a mouthpiece leash for that guy," Elgin said. But school officials couldn't be too hard on the kid. They forgot the banner for the front of the band.

Playing the role of Ted Leach in the banner rescue was Elgin's secretary, Lois Convery, who got it to the Mall on time.

—Peter Finn

To His Credit
"Doesn't work? Try this one." The anxious young man with slicked-back hair and a saxophone lapel pin slapped another credit card on the counter.

Tap, tap, tap. The blue computer screen rendered another harsh verdict. Not one of his cards had room for another $314—the cost of two tickets and a $14 processing fee to last night's California inaugural ball.

The young man had ordered the tickets by phone back home, but the sale was voided because he used a maxed-out credit card. Now, at a desk set up in the lobby of the Agriculture Department for just such emergencies, his plastic was letting him down.

The salesman shook his head sympathetically. Then the young man from California had an idea. "Try splitting it in half"—between two credit cards.

"That might do it," the salesman agreed.

Tap, tap, tap. The salesman's face lit up.

The Californian was going to the ball.

—Debbi Wilgoren

Sitting Pretty
Kevin Bosco, 16, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., started out with only standing-room rights to see Clinton sworn in. Then a friend of a friend slipped him a blue ticket, and that got him to the back of the podium facing the U.S. Capitol.

From there, Kevin ambled up to the coveted orange section, where seats are assigned and the swells get a prime view. First he copped Seat 155, six rows back, next to a family of four from Greenville, S.C. Then the holder of seat 155 arrived, and Kevin moved up a row.

That's when people began to notice the seat-swapper, the kid who sneaked by security at the swearing-in of the president of the United States.

"Well, you just wait until they look one way, and then you go, real natural like, right past them," Kevin said. "Really, the U.S. Open was much tougher."

As more ticket holders claimed their rightful places, Kevin moved and moved again. "Isn't that Murphy Brown?" he asked, and there was Kevin having his picture taken with Candice Bergen.

The section filled up. Somehow, Kevin was still there, four rows back, smack dab in front of the stage.

And when Billy Graham took the lectern and asked all to pray, Kevin reached up and pulled off his blue knit ski hat and bowed his head.

—Jo-Ann Armao

Borrowed Finery
To the observant on the Capitol's West Lawn, Samuel Dole's dark tan amid their bundled paleness betrayed him as an out-of-towner. But then, so did his hat and matching knit gloves—all a pretty lavender.

"They're my sister's," Dole explained.

Dole had to borrow the cold-weather gear because he had flown up to Washington with scarcely enough time to buy a plane ticket. His sister had come down with a bad cold only two days before, and his brother-in-law had telephoned to ask if Dole wanted to "witness a little history" in her stead. He didn't hesitate.

"I find this all enthralling," said Dole, 48, of Miami.

Dole planned to attend one of the balls last night. "But I'm drawing the line at wearing my sister's dress," he said.

—Dan Beyers

Nervous and New
The first thing you noticed were their eyes. They darted nervously, picking out people and official cars and uniforms, details the rest of us might never see.

Francisco and his family walked down E Street NW toward the parade route, grasping tiny American flags. They are Mayans, from Chiapas, Mexico, by way of Mount Pleasant. Francisco and his wife, Mirabelle, came north five years ago. Their son, Zorroco, a 15-year-old with a braid of black hair, arrived last year. Two daughters remain south of the border.

Their English was broken, their enthusiasm shyly apparent.

"We come to see Clinton," Francisco said in a hesitant whisper. "He will be their president."

He was talking about his children. Francisco got his green card a year ago, after four years in illegality's twilight. But his wife and son are apparently paperless. They rarely venture into downtown Washington. Mirabelle kept peering up and down the street.

"Gracias," Francisco said by way of goodbye. The family from Chiapas hurried away, laughing and waving the American flags in short, choppy circles.

—Michael Powell

Sign of Ignorance
Excuse me for asking . . .

Tom Kelley of Katy, Tex., found himself standing along the parade route next to seven anti-gay demonstrators from Topeka, Kan. They waved signs with graphic depictions of homosexual acts, Clinton's picture mixed in among them.

"Why," he asked Margie Phelps, "do you hate anyone?"

She gave him a full blast of Scripture, five minutes' worth. "It's not me who hates, it's God who hates," she concluded.

"Ma'am . . . I respect your opinion, but . . ." Kelley began.

"Remember this," Phelps interrupted, "I told you on Jan. 20 at First and Constitution. I warned you, T-boy," she said, referring to his Taylor High School jacket. "Don't get in my space."

"You've come here to call attention to yourself but now that I want to talk to you, you don't want to listen," Kelley tried again.

"I told you we are through talking," Phelps said, and gave him her back.

—Linda Wheeler

Call to Arms
One puzzled Secret Service agent to another as more than 200 U.S. Army soldiers marched in place along the parade route, surrounded by D.C. police in a dozen cars and on two dozen motorcycles, with another 60 or so on foot:

"Why do they need the United States Secret Service when they've got all of this?

—Brian Mooar

Shoving Match
Nearly afloat in a sea of American flags and bonhomie, the sounds of Liquid Soul washing over the crowd at Seventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, a woman climbed onto a park bench beside a family of five. The father would have none of it.

"I've been here 2½ hours," he said. "I'll be damned if I'll let you push me off the bench."

The woman shoved. He shoved back.

"I can push just as hard as you can push," the woman said.

On it went, a humorless exercise in king-of-the-hill, until at last the woman stepped down, in tears.

She protested to a U.S. Park Police officer, who spoke briefly with the man and his family. The officer took no action. She saw a subtext.

"It's because I'm black and he's white," the woman said. "This desecrates Martin Luther King's birthday."

The man and his family remained on the bench. The woman walked away.

Happy birthday.

—Justin Blum

Here Comes the Sun
Jessye Norman was singing a medley of American standards when she came to "Amazing Grace," and, as if on cue, the clouds began to part. The timing of it prompted a woman to turn to her friends and sing along, sort of.

"Amazing grace, how sweet the sun . . . . "

—Dan Beyers

The Tie That Binds
Laura Evans and Meredith Wellman had hoped to see the swearing-in, but a few ill-positioned portable toilets blocked their view.

So Evans and Wellman, both 18 and freshmen at American University, tried to imagine what the president looked like and invented the "tie theory."

"It's a very important decision," said Wellman of the president's choice of a tie. "It has to scream . . . leader of the free world."

Evans agreed. "It has to be conservative, but it can't be Dole, and it can't scream power tie," she said. "It can't have a flag either, since that's too cheesy."

Later, along the parade route, Evans and Wellman caught a quick glimpse of the president from behind bulletproof glass.

"I have to admit he looked bored," Wellman said.

"Yeah, he's probably exhausted," Evans replied. "He probably had to get up at 6 this morning to pick out ties and show them to Hillary."

—Anna Borgman

Man of Influence
Why did the senator cross the road? Because he was a senator.

As Washington is a town ever in thrall to status and pecking order, it is perhaps no surprise that crossing the street near the parade route was not an equitable affair. Just north of 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, where the president would step from his limousine, the street was closed off with concrete barriers.

As the parade began, a few straggling ticket holders ran to the barricade and beseeched a small knot of Secret Service agents to let them cross the street so they might take their places in the stands.

Bob McDonough, 74, had traveled from Capistrano Beach, Calif. In 1949, while a student at Georgetown Unversity, he had watched Harry S. Truman's swearing-in. And he caught Clinton's first inauguration four years ago. Now, he waved a $75 ticket and asked to cross the street.

An agent, a crimson wool cap pulled tight over his ears, politely declined. "I don't know what to tell you, sir," the agent said. "We aren't escorting anybody across."

Well, almost anybody. There came Sen. Charles S. Robb (D-Va.) and his wife, Lynda, running down the west sidewalk. They must, absolutely must, get across so they could enter the Crestar Bank building, where there was a party.

"They're okay," one agent shouted to another. In no time, the Robbs were on the other side.

—Amy Goldstein

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

Back to the top

Home Page, Site Index, Search, Help