Monday's unrelenting sunshine burned away a week's worth of moist gloom over Montgomery County and added a gleam to all the star-spangled grandeur of Memorial Day activities.
Throughout the county, relatives and honor guards met in somber ceremonies at the graves of American soldiers, laying wreaths and flowers in remembrance of those killed in combat. In Takoma Park's Memorial Park on Maple Avenue, members of the city's Veterans of Foreign Wars laid a wreath in honor of young men from their city who died fighting.
Rockville put on its colors for the annual wreath-laying ceremony and Memorial Day parade, a grand display of traditional Americanism.
Andrew W. Johnson, a University of Maryland graduate student working as an intern in the city planning department, received one of the city's highest honors. He was chosen to portray Rockville's mascot, the Rockhawk.
Johnson wriggled into a mass of brown-and-yellow shag carpeting just before the festivities. "I always wanted the chance to be a ham," he said, plopping on an oversized bird-head that offered low visibility and no ventilation, "--or at least some kind of turkey." Someone remarked that the temperature was 86 degrees as he disappeared into the crowd, patting little heads and shaking bigger hands at the start of a long day's work.
Mayor John R. Freeland sat on the truckbed reviewing stand with the other dignitaries--mostly council members and former mayors--and rose to commemorate those who had died in service to their country.
Freeland acknowledged the solemnity of the day set aside for remembering those killed in America's wars and reconciled it with the jubilation in people coming together: ". . . for it is the friends, family and relatives for whom they gave their lives."
He introduced Gordon A. Crago, commander of Rockville's Henderson-Smith American Legion Post 86, who in turn introduced an array of post commanders, exhalted rulers, unit presidents and an "illustrious potentate." Each representative stepped forth in front of the courthouse, resplendent in streaming ribbons and glittering medals, to place a wreath before an iron altar bearing a single burning candle.
Aaron Williams Jr., a Shriner from Jerusalem Temple No. 4, wobbled out from the shade of the sycamores on his chugging, chrome-laden Harley Davidson Electra Glide. The rhinestones adorning his maroon fez spelled out "PAST IMP. POTENTATE."
"In fact," he said, "I'm the controller of all the temples in the state--and we have three."
Freeland led the parade, waving from a white Cadillac that brought him back to the reviewing stand across from the courthouse. Then down South Washington Street they came.
Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Camp Fire Girls, squads of majorettes paraded before the noontime crowd of hundreds. Ranks of police and military units clicked past the applauding spectators and 14 new and antique firetrucks lumbered past. There were clowns and roller-skating acrobats, school bands and motorboats in tow.
Before it all ended, after more than two hours in the midday heat, one might have sworn some of these marchers had come around for a second time.