'Inauguration Day'

by Natalie T. Ganley

I am never more proud to be a Washingtonian than on Inauguration Day. Only once have I been absent from the city January 20. That dramatic day in 1961 I was dreaming backwards through homesick tears to 1949.

In 1949 my fifth grade friend, Marylou, had invited me to the Inauguration. Zipped in velveteen leggings, hat and plaid wool coat against the cold, I climbed with Marylou and family into their black Chevy with its single digit DC plate. Downtown we were whisked through a back door to the District Building's second floor and Mr. Flanagan's Office of the Public Utilities Commissioner. The corner office had not one but two white stone balconies, one facing Pennsylvania Avenue and the other Fourteenth Street. Inside, the room soon filled with close friends and family. Platters of food began to arrive from nowhere. At swearing-in time the grownups huddled around a radio. Marylou and I listened politely, then with some success, tried out the soles of our black patent leathers on the polished corridor floors. We even explored an open broom closet and designated it our hideout. But the balcony, even in the bitter cold, kept luring us back. President Truman passed by and we cheered. But the main attraction for us was the parade of West Pointers and Midshipmen. All the way home we argued about which academy had the straighter formation.

That night, back at Volta Place, bathed and fed, we sat on the steps dreamily and watched Helen Flanagan adjust her elbow length gloves in the hall mirror while Jim Flanagan did a quick check on his tuxedo bow tie. They kissed us both and took off for the evening's events downtown.

I was born in Washington and loved growing up here. This Inauguration Day will be a first, to be sure. For myself, I'll be scanning the screen for those two white stone balconies at the corner of 14th and Penn and I'll remember fondly the Flanagans and my first Inauguration.

By washingtonpost.com editors  |  January 26, 2009; 9:00 AM ET  | Category:  Reader Submission
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