Pilgrims on the Peanut Special from Jimmy Carter's home town of Plains, Ga., debouched into a some what unprepared capital at 7 yesterday morning. Half the people from Plains found they had no hotel rooms, but survived the snafu.
Now in Plains (as several of the 383 passengers pointed out) you can see Jimmy Carter plain as day walking around the little village of 600 souls, but in Washington "Well, the Inauguration was fine, what we could see of it," said Vonnie Young from Plains. As near as she could make out, she was somewhere behind "that two-story thing for the television people."
Ed Timmerman, formerly of Plains but now of Cairo, Ga., said, "We can see him better at home."
But then they understand the problem, that there are more humans in Washington on Inauguration Day than in Plains for a Fourth of July barbecue even.
One and all they appeared to like the idea of President Carter holding his wife's hand and walking smack down the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue for a mile and a half.
"I thought it was wonderful," said Timmerman. "They say it made the Secret Service nervous and I can see that all right. But I have a feeling that Jimmy's going to do a lot that the Secret Service doesn't like."
Out in the crowd after the parade Larry Barber of Doraville, Ga., was looking for a cab with his wife and daughters Lorry, 5 and Kim, 12. He too had liked the President walking: "It just shows he wants to be next to the people."
Here and there one gathered a slight resentment toward the Secret Service - a necessary job, maybe, but armed body guards remind people, possibly, of organizeed crime and unstable nations and a lot of Americans don't like it.
Don Walker, former Plainsman now of Lapeer, Mich., thoroughly enjoyed the goings on: "I stood out there and froze and it was wonderful."
He said he guessed it was not traditional for a President to walk to the White House. "but it's traditional for Jimmy Carter."
Some of the others froze, too, and didn't think it was so wonderful at all:
"If I can ever get warm," said Ann Kemph. She said there was no heat on the 10th floor of the Ambassador, the hotel at 14th and K where the Peanut Special is staying, or was until it turned out there weren't enough rooms.
"I can't believe this, I cannot believe this," said Maxine Reese of Plains, who organized the chartered trains, and who earlier had flung the gauntlet at Billy Carter (who organized a chartered flight up from Albany, Ga.,) and said it made no difference, she could fill the train anyway, and she did.
"There are always a few snafus with a group this large, and I wouldn't worry so much about it," a person said to Maxine Reese.
"Not worry about it - here are all these people without a room to stay in and you say don't worry. This was all arranged weeks ago through the Inaugural Committee and Amtrak," she said.
Asked how many rooms short she was, she said:
"I can't tell - so many people are checking out because they haven't got any heat - they're moving to motels."
Reese, a good organizer and calm woman, seemed not far from tears, either of despair of rage.
After some hours during which it was not possible to reach the Ambassador's general manager, Siegfried Tang, the sales manager, Fred Recio, told a reporter that Tang "is out right now trying to buy some blankets."
He said the whole problem was that when the reservations were booked, there were plenty of rooms available, but "the hotel is very old and an engineering problem arose," specifically "the big pipes began to bust."
Recio said the management corporation leases the hotel from the Cafritz Corporation, and that the Cafritz engineers came over to see about the pipes and fearing further trouble, disconnected heating facilities for much of the hotel.
"We were deprived of the use of space that would have accommodated 300 more people," Recio said. This ultimate disabling of the heating system occurred, he said "a couple of days ago.
"I would say we were short by something like 100 to 130 rooms for the Peanut Special group on short for accommodations for something like 200 to 250 guests from Georgia."
Nanette Varias, the reservations clerk, said she did not know if any effort had been made to find rooms for the reservations holders elsewhere, but said the party had been notified in Georgia that there were heating problems.
At Plains, visitors are used to staying 35 miles distant in a motel and renting a car to get back and forth, but they thought Washington, being the capital, would be a little different.
Jimmy Wardlow of Clayton, Ga., a teacher who has a broken foot said he had a lot of trouble getting a room though he was on the list, and was shunted here and there and succeeded in getting a room after 3 p.m.
"Well, I went crashing around and finally got a room. It's not super, but can't tell how many people had trouble, because the consensus in this group is that half or more have left. The room I'm in now is like ice.
"But naw, it's not going to ruin the trip for us at all. We're all going to go to the ball."
The group will leave today by train for the return trip to Plains.