The bands boomed and vendors hawked, and kids wriggled up into trees; the sun came out, oaths were taken and the government changed hands. These were scenes from the passing show:
At the entrance to the Capitol South Metro station yesterday morning, Don Grant of Jacksonville, Fla., stood beside a board containing Reagan-Bush buttons, bellowing "Flags, buttons!" to an indifferent stream of inaugural-bound subway riders. "Where is the patriotism in this country?" he asked. "I hope I don't get stuck with this stuff."
On New Jersey Avenue what seemed like the entire student body of the University of Tennessee filed out of buses and headed for the mall. A shirt-sleeved office worker flung open a window on the top floor of the Longworth Office Building and shouted, "Don't go, don't go."
At one of the gates to the inaugural seats, an irate Californian without a ticket pointed at her purple suede pumps and shrieked at an Air Force guard, "Do you see these shoes? I bought these shoes last week in Italy. They cost $300. They're just like Nancy Reagan's. Do you mean I have to stand here in the mud?"
"I'm sorry ma'am," the officer said.
"We'll see about that," the lady huffed.
In the center of the standing room area in front of the Capitol, 19-year-old Terry Epstein leaned against the slatted fence that separated the mink-swaddled fat cats from the masses dressed in blue jeans and parkas, and said, "There's no fur coats on this side, but there's body heat."
Nearby, ear bent to a radio, was Manhasset, N.Y., history teacher Steve Gilroy waiting with his friend, Nadine Miskovetz, for the ceremonies to begin. At 26 a consummate political junkie, Gilroy said he has taped every major presidential broadcast since 1968, written an unpublished 228-page book called "Richard, Gerald, Jimmy and I," and even turned his bedroom into a replica of the Oval Office.
"I'm going to do a slide show for the kids," Gilroy said. "I don't eat, sleep or drink, and usually I'm a very considerate and patient person, but I go crazy for this stuff. When I come to Washington I leave friends in the dust."
"He is crazy," agreed Miskovetz. "I've seen so much because of him. Otherwise I'd be a normal person."
Pfc. Charles Wright, a member of the president's honor guard, checked credentials at one of the sections reserved for journalists. CBS editor Anne Edwards didn't have the right pass, but she was desperate to get a tripod. "I'm from CBS," she said.
Wright was not impressed, rebuffed her, and then turned to a fellow guard. "She said she was from CBS; I don't care if she's from heaven," he said.
Edwards came back apologetically, "I had to check a tripod. I really am from CBS."
"You're one in a million," Wright said.
"What did you say about me?" Edwards asked.
"Ma'am," said Wright, "I was instructed not to let out any derogatory remarks."
Graduate student Sam Willis wandered around for two hours trying to get to his $25 inaugural seats. But when he rendezvoused with five friends on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue they discovered the avenue had been blocked. Nobody would help the smartly dressed crew across the street. By the time they trekked to the south side of the hill, they had decided to go home and watch the ceremony on TV. "A temper tantrum might feel good," Willis said.
A Navy lieutenant was remonstrating with members of the new vice president's family, a passel of pinstripes and patrician miens. "Bush family, attention please," he said. "If you're not going back on the bus, let an aide know. It's not going to be easy to get out of here as it was to get in."
C. Fred Kohler had driven up from his Middleburg farm, Bittersweet, with his family of southern belles. Last fall the Reagans had rented the farm next to theirs. "Our farm was closer to Reagan than we're going to get today," he said, straining to see over the white three-story tower that had been constructed for the TV networks.
Amid the national politicians and famous personages arrayed for the inaugural were such local figures as Sen. Charles McC. Mathias, looking dapper in a velvet-collared formal overcoat; D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes, looking on from the Governors section; and, appearing at various times of the day at sundry locations. Virginia Sens. Harry F. Byrd and John W. Warner, Maryland's Paul Sarbanes, Reps Marjorie Holt, Michael Barnes, and others.
As Reagan began to take the oath of office, Libby Dalton, a 44-year-old Democrat, wept bitterly. "I can't believe this is happening; I can't tell you how sad I am."
But Susan and David Edwards gazed up at the bunting and the marble in a blissful swoon with their 3-week-old boy whom they had named after the 40th president. "We want him always to remember that he was named after a great man."
Mary Welsh and Rose Tucker, Republicans from Nantocoke, Pa., had ducked into a sandwich shop for a bite to eat before the parade began, and already were reminiscing about the swearing-in ceremony. Holding a pickle, Tucker said, "When I heard 'America the Beautiful" it gave me bumps. I looked out at all those people and I felt like I was part of history."
The sky had clouded up by the time the parade got under way. At 3rd and Pennsylvania, Charlie Wilson, a 34-year-old Rockville city worker, was waiting to see the first inaugural of his life. "All these years I've lived in the area but I'd never been. It's history in the making, Ronnie coming in, $8 million for the party. I thought I'd check it out."
Choppers fluttered overhead, and, on the roof of every building the figures of agents were outlined against the sky. Marselee Mitchell, a 28-year-old New Yorker with cornrows, said, "Reagan's messing up already: he's three hours late."
Back along the avenue, Charlie Wilson's 17-year-old son Chuck craned to see the formations coming down the street.
"The police," said Terry Rosenfeld, 23, of Silver Spring.
"Aw, I don't want to see police, I see enough of them already," Chuck said.
A 1981 Monte Carlo, bearing D.C. Police Chief Burtell M. Jefferson, rolled down the avenue.
"Hey, chief!" yelled Chuck. Jefferson grinned. The chief had just made history. He was the first black to lead the inaugural parade.
"Here come the prez," said Julie Wilson.
"Look at that $1,700 dress!" Nancy and Ronald waved to the Wilson family, or seemed to . . .
Reagan's motorcade passed.
"He coulda gone slower. He coulda stopped for some sandwiches," said Marselee.
"Chuck, I told you he wouldn't die from the excitement," Julie said.
"Yeah, but I bet they got a respirator in there."
"All right, let's go to McDonald's," said Charlie Wilson. "That's our ball tonight."
Spectators were giving Bill Lawler a wide berth as he muttered Our Fathers at the corner of John Marshall Place and Pennsylvania. "I am director of the FBI," Lawler said. His beard was thick and long. He said the parade had pleased him. "The formations of the military were excellent. And Mrs. Nancy Reagan had on a beautiful red coat."
A score of people clutching cameras scrambled after the man in tails, top hat and a rubber Nixon mask, saying "Hey, Mr. Nixon, can I take your picture? Hey Tricky Dick, Mr. Nixon, Mr. Nixon . . ."
"I'm not the same Dick Nixon you kicked around in '68," said the incarnation, posing with the people, shaking his hands in the victory V. "I can't tell you my name, but I'm a student at Georgetown. The school does it to us."
"Welcome home the hostages, get your buttons!
At 6th and Pennsylvania, buttons saying, "I was in Washington, D.C., when the hostages were released, January 20, 1980" were selling briskly. "I guess in the end we thought it would go down to the wire," said Michael Stein, a New Yorker who with friends gambled and had 4,500 of the buttons printed. "I bought a case of mayonnaise for us to eat if we guessed wrong."
"Welcome home the hostages, get your buttons," Stein shouted.
Ellen Hume, a reporter for The Los Angeles Times, who was vacuuming the crowd for quotes for readers in Reagan Country, took time out to buy a button. "I collect buttons," she said.
Mike Phillips plunked down $3, too. "I don't know why I'm buying this, I'll never wear it," he said, walking off.
"Welcome home the hostages, get your buttons!
Martial music from rival bands warred discordantly in the echoing Pennsylvania Avenue canyons, and faded away. Hot dog wrappers, green ERA stickers and newspapers blew down the streets.
One kid was whining, and her mother in a fur coat with a big label stuck on the back that said 59 cents, said "Okay, that's it." Weary crowds stopped under police ropes, shuffled between vendors packing up trucks, and headed for home.