In a second-floor room of the tavern where George and Martha Washington used to dance the minuet at Washington's "Birthday Balls," Gov. Mills E. Godwin was given a key to the city of Alexandria yesterday by Mayor Frank E. Mann as part of the weekend celebration of the first president's birthday.
Godwin, a self-described "history buff," told a small gathering of invited guests at Gadsby's Tavern Museum that, "despite our energy shortage and tight budgets, I think Washington would feel the country today is a most marvelous fulfillment of his dreams."
After a brunch of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and fruit, Godwin spoke briefly to about 70 people in what was formerly the "flop-room" or sleeping quarters of the tavern, according to William N. Glasgow, chairman of the city's committee on Washington's birthday celebrations.
The Virginia governor said that although Washington lacked the "fiery oratory of Patrick Henry and the mastery of words of Mr. Jefferson," he partisanship" and was therefore what transcended "special interests and faction-ridden early America needed. "Washington didn't, for some reason, seem to antagonize anyone," Godwin said.
Among the "guests" at the reception were George and Martha Washington, portrayed by Mrs. Walter Brennan, of the Little Theatre of Alexandria, and by Richard B. Hills, an Alexandria assistant school superintendent.
Glasgow said the original idea of the committee was to invite the governors of the 13 original colonies to the birthday celebrations. Since only one other governor, John Chafee of Rhode Island, indicated he could attend, that idea was given up. Then at the last moment, due to a misunderstanding Gov. Chafee was told the celebration was cancelled, Glasgow said.
Glasgow, a retired Army colonel who wore the Revolutionary War uniform of the First Virginia infantry regiment, lamented the lack of coverage given to Washington's birthday celebrations in comparison to some sporting events.
"If you have a lousy old football game you have national television," Glasgow observed.
As part of the celebrations yesterday, Godwin and others visited Ft. Ward on Braddock Road near Seminary Road where a reenactment of an encampment of Virginia's first regiment was performed with family members doing the outdoor cooking.
Today Alexandria's annual "George Washington's Birthday Parade" will begin at 2 p.m. The first leg of the parade will go north on Fairfax Street to King Street where it then turn west.