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Where Were You in '85? Or 2005? Inaugural Memories

By this time next week, the "Obamaural" will be history.

We'll finally know whether 4 million people descended on Washington or whether the number was somewhere below that.

We'll know whether Metro ground to a halt or whether it ran like a well-oiled machine.

We'll know whether the bridges from Virginia were reopened or whether District officials decided "You know what? Let's just leave them closed."

And we'll have read approximately 378,250 stories about inaugural events in The Washington Post.

I know this because I've seen the list of stories we have planned. This will be the most reported inauguration in history -- and rightly so, of course. My favorite part of The Post's inauguration plan is the spreadsheet that shows where reporters will be stationed on Jan. 20.

They'll basically be spread out every five feet from the Capitol to the Washington Monument, BlackBerrys in their frigid hands. If you are stuck on the Mall, it will be possible to use the heads of Post reporters as stepping stones to work your way downfield. (Luckily, we have strong necks.)

What will I be doing? Geez, I don't know exactly, though I can reveal that yesterday I was fitted for an Abraham Lincoln costume.

Before we start reminiscing about Obama's inauguration, I want to hear your memories of earlier festivities. The only inaugural I attended was Bush's second. I prowled the edges of Pennsylvania Avenue at the tail end of the parade. My only strong memory is seeing John McCain in the crowd and thinking, "I wonder if he'll run for president next time, only to be defeated by an African-American from Illinois?"

What memories do you have of past inaugurals? Here's a funny one from 1985 from Sandy Schwalb of Fairfax:

As we know, the swearing-in of President Reagan was moved indoors and the parade cancelled due to the bitter cold. I worked for then Senator Charles McC. Mathias, Jr., of Maryland. The staff had to work that day, so we could meet and greet constituents who came into D.C. for the festivities. We were also to provide refreshments.
As I recall, we were going to have coffee and related drinks available. In addition we had (among other snacks) many donut holes to offer. Certainly easy to handle, pop in the mouth, no muss, no fuss, etc. Although I was not directly involved in the purchase of the sugary treats, I know we had boxes and boxes.
Well, once the major public activities were cancelled, there were very, very few constituents (or for that matter, non-constituents) walking around the halls of the Rayburn Senate Office Building. The staff ate as many donut holes as we could (it pays to be young when working on the Hill) that day, but I know those boxes stayed around the office for what seemed like weeks.
Every time someone opened a file cabinet or desk drawer, there they were -- boxes of donut holes; mocking us as if to say, 'Okay kid, you can handle just ONE more'...even in March! Here's hoping for a comfortable and not frigid day!

Germantown's Bill Brobst has a neat inaugural keepsake: a metal inaugural "No Parking" sign dated Jan. 20, 1965, from the Johnson inauguration. Bill wonders: "Do they use the metal signs anymore? Have they made them in recent years? They are a great souvenir."

Anyone know the answer to that? I'll probably stroll down there today to take a look, but I wouldn't be surprised if hard times means those white cardboard signs are the order of the day.

What souvenirs do you have from past inaugurations? And what anecdotes can you share?

By John Kelly  |  January 14, 2009; 9:10 AM ET
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Next: The Thin Blue Line: On the Inaugural Parade Trail


Now John, had you, upon seeing McCain, pondered: "I wonder if he will run for President, choose an obscure Alaskan running mate and be defeated by a bi-racial first term Senator with a running mate whose national prospects were thought doomed because of an earlier plagiarism kerfuffle," then I would be impressed.

Posted by: mfromalexva | January 14, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Due to a friend working in the EOB, I had the opportunity to attend some of Reagan’s second inaugural festivities in 1985 using some tickets her co-workers didn’t want. I remember how cold it was the night before on the Mall. The highlight of course, was the Inaugural Youth Ball at the DC Armory. I made my dress (quite an accomplishment for me). We met at Jenny’s apartment near Dupont Circle with our dates and took the Metro to the Armory. There we were in our formal gowns and tuxedos, freezing our butts off, sipping champagne (shh!) on the subway, going to an Inaugural Ball! The ball was crowded and hot, but it was so exciting to be there. Oh yea – best part – Skip Castro was one of the bands! I still have swizel sticks and napkins.

Posted by: msok | January 14, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

In 1997, I was a senior at GW. A classmate of mine worked for Clinton’s Inaugural Planning Team (or whatever it was called) and was able to score tickets to the Youth Ball and the Arkansas Ball. We made it to the Youth Ball much later in the evening. As it was much later, we were quite inebriated. (It WAS a celebration, after all!). We wiggled our way through the throngs to a position closer to the stage where LL Cool J was performing. In the middle of a song, LL shouts, “Chelsea Clinton in the house!” Lo and behold, standing no more than 10 feet in front of me was the First Daughter. Aided by many of my earlier drinks, I seized the moment and yelled, “Chelsea!!” She turned (expecting to find someone she knew, I can only assume) with a surprised half smile. She waved hi and I stood flatfooted and motionless. She turned back around again to face the stage. I must have looked so stupid, but she made my night.

Posted by: tacoman1 | January 14, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

When I lived in DC, I went to four inauguration day parades. Didn't see much, but it was fun to be part of history. Now I'm back home in the midwest. While I would LOVE to be at this year's event, I'll be content watching everything on TV, and checking the WaPo on line. I took the day off from work to do so and am looking forward to it. Best of luck DC!!

Posted by: MILW | January 16, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

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