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Remembrance of inaugurations past

By Sun Advocate

Contributing Writer
With another presidential inauguration due on January 20, it brings back to memory three such events that I had the privilege of being in Washington DC for, the Jimmy Carter and two Ronald Reagan inaugurations.
My wife and 14-year old daughter accompanied me to our nation’s capital for the Carter inauguration. The morning of the event, at 7:00 A.M . we walked from our hotel, The Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, to the East Front of the National Capitol Building where the ceremony was to take place. This was the last inauguration to take place on the east front of the capitol. Ronald Reagan moved the event to the west front four years later.
Arriving at the parking area of the east front we found standing room only among a huge crowd already forming. The weather that January was fairly brisk. About an hour later a thought came to me, my press card that [Publisher] Bob Finney had given to me as an employee of the Sun Advocate. I pulled the card out of my wallet and showed it to a nearby police officer. Saying good bye to my wife and daughter, he escorted me to the press area immediately back of the seated area.
Shortly after getting situated in the press section I noticed an attractive blonde woman come by that the press representatives immediately thrust microphones in her face and asking for comments. I asked a fellow next to me as to who she was? He replied that she was the woman recently reportedly involved in a scandal with a prominent member of Congress.
After willingly answering several questions of her, she proceeded to waltz down the aisle to front row seat in the seat area. I asked the same press man why she deserved a choice seat. His reply, “Mister. she can have any seat in the house just by keeping her mouth shut.”
After the swearing ceremony was over there was no way I could ever find my wife and daughter. I walked down to Pennsylvannia Avenue to find a curb side standing spot to watch the parade and take some pictures. I did not see them again until late that afternoon back at the hotel. It turned out that they watched the parade not too far from where I was situated.

The Reagan connection

Before recalling the first Ronald Reagan inauguration allow me to relate and earlier contact with him. Long before he became governor of California my wife and I drove to Pasadena, Calif. for the Rose Bowl parade and game.
Early that New Year’s day I drove my car to the football stadium parking lot where we left it and walked back to the then parade route. After setting down our lawn chairs at a curbside spot, my wife noted how she would like a good cup of coffee. I told her I would go find one for her.
Walking up to a policeman at the intersection I inquired if he knew of where I could purchase a cup of coffee. Looking up he said, “Look there’s a coffee truck pulling in back of this grandstand, follow him.”
Sure enough the driver set up a table and put out coffee cups and doughnuts. I walked up, picked up a cup and a doughnut and looked for someone to pay. Looking across the table there was a small group enjoying the coffee and doughnuts. Directly across from me, staring me in the face was Ronald Reagan. With him was his wife Nancy, Audrey Meadows of the Jackie Gleason Snow and Mel Allen, the famous sports announcer. I did not realize that this was the group to do the television commentary until a man came over and said, “It’s time to take the elevator to the broadcast booth.” As they walked over to the elevator Nancy said, “Oh honey, I’m going to miss you.” Reagan pointed up to the booth and said, “I’ll just be up there.” I grabbed another cup of coffee and doughnut for my wife, firmly believing Reagan thought I was part of that coffee truck.

Reagan’s first

Fast forward to the first Reagan inauguration . I was accompanied by another couple, my wife and daughter did not make this trip. Through the good will of a Congressman from Utah we were provided with tickets in the seated area for the ceremony. After it was over my friends opted to return to the hotel and watch then parade on television, so I again found a curbside standing room on Pennsylvannia Ave. to watch the parade and take some more pictures.
As the parade unfolded it came down to the last float, a huge truck carrying the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The truck was stalled for some reason at the point I was at and I knew one member of the choir, a woman named Helen. Security had relaxed at that point so I was able to walk around the truck looking for Helen. In no time at all I spotted her and yelled up, “Helen, what are you doing up there?” She yelled back, “Walt, what are you doing here?”
The tabernacle truck made its way down Pennsylvannia Ave. to the presidential group assembled in a booth on the White House grounds. They serenated the new president and his party with a rendition of “Battle Hymn of The Republic”. The Choir went on to the end of the parade and the presidential party walked back into the White House.
No, I wasn’t invited for another cup of coffee. You see, I had not voted for him.

Reagan’s second

The second Reagan inauguration took place on one of the coldest days ever recorded in Washington, The ceremony took place inside the Capitol building and the parade was canceled. Some of the bands scheduled to march, including the Springville, Utah High School band, were transported to a basketball arena in Maryland where they performed. That afternoon I thought I would walk the few blocks to the capitol and take some pictures of all the empty chairs I walked no more than two blocks but it was so cold I could hardly stand it so I made a bee line back to the hotel.
In looking back at the experiences Carter’s was a poor man’s inauguration, Reagan’s a rich man’s inauguration. During the Carter weekend everything in DC was free, free rides on the Metro subway, free entertainment at the Kennedy Center a free gigantic square dance at Union Station that we took in.
During the Reagan weekend I had never seen so many stretch limousines as I did then. We ran into Governor Scott Matheson in the lobby that evening, he and his wife were on their way to an inaugural ball. They went outside to get a cab, came back in 20 minutes later and said no cabs were available, only limos. He said they were gong back to their room saying he thought that he had represesented Utah well enough already.

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