Pomp was everywhere. Gov. Harry Hughes, Lt. Gov. J. Joseph Curran Jr. and the leaders of the Maryland legislature donned morning coats, the state's appeals court judges wore red robes, and the rest of the state's legislators squeezed into the Senate chamber dressed formally for the swearing-in ceremony of Hughes and Curran.
And then, everyone started giggling, prompted by the Rev. Robert Meaker Powell, who began his benediction by saying, "On this joyous and happy occasion, I would like each of you to take the hand of the person next to you."
That started the snickers. But most everyone joined hands. Then Powell looked at the politicians, who love to skirmish with one another, and said, "Now, turn to the person next to you and say, 'I love you.' "
By now, the Senate chamber was rocking. Everyone was having fun. The somber nature of the formal ceremony took on the atmosphere of a party.
It didn't last long. As soon as Powell finished his benediction, everyone adjourned from the cramped but warm Senate to the frigid steps outside the State House to listen to Hughes give his inaugural address.
How cold was it?
It was so cold (26 degrees) that the slide froze on the trombone of one of the members of the U.S. Naval Academy band.
It was so cold that many legislators went directly from the swearing-in to their offices, skipping Hughes' speech. State Sen. Catherine I. Riley (D-Harford) threw a party for friends while Hughes gave his speech.
It was so cold that some Hughes staffers stayed inside and watched the speech on public television from their offices. It was so cold that most of the spectators ignored the orange plastic seats and stood huddled together. Those who sat did so in the areas bathed in cold sunlight.
The legislators, who refuse to take many things seriously, remained in character throughout the day. When the House of Delegates was formally introduced in the Senate chamber, the senators gave them a round of good-natured boos.
But the legislators stuck to their directions about when to show up and where. The formal procession preceding the swearing-in was so efficient that everyone was in place five minutes before the appointed noon hour, when Hughes' first term ended and the swearing-in for his second term took place.
"We have to kill six minutes," said Senate President Melvin A. Steinberg. "We wouldn't want to have any violation of the law with all our judges present."
The minutes were killed and Curran and Hughes took identical oaths from Chief Judge Robert C. Murphy who, at the end of the swearing-in, gave each man the option of declaring his belief in God, as there is no specific reference to a deity in the oath of office. They both affirmed that belief.
When everyone had signed the official documents, Murphy said quietly, "I think we're all married now."
With that, the formalities were over, Powell took the microphone and Maryland's political leaders began dissolving in giggles at the thought of holding hands with one another.