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Growing Up In Washington

I was born in Washington D.C. and grew up in the suburbs. I moved away several times and ended up moving back twice – both times because of job transfers. I left for good about 45 years ago and have never thought of returning. Too expensive, political and government oriented. These images are from back in those days.

Things Are Rarely What You Believe

Indulge me as I walk down memory lane…

My dad was in the Navy and was seriously injured in WWII. My mother was a Marine stationed in Washington. I was born in Georgetown right after VJ Day and my parents moved to the Old Town section of Alexandria when I was 2. Neither address was fashionable at that time we lived there. At 5 we moved again into suburban Fairfax county.

I played some A1 football in the league featured in the movie Remember The Titans but a few years before the time portrayed in the movie. One of my best friends dads was the principle of the new school that was the focus of the movie. The problems, according to him, came more from the merging of two rival schools into the new TC Williams than it was about race. Five years before that movie era my team already had two black players and there were never any protests or problems.

Washington at that time was more a military town than a government town and it didn’t seem much like a big city. As kids we went everywhere on buses (AB&W). There were four movie theaters in Northern Virginia and I almost lived at the Smithsonian.

When Kennedy was inaugurated we got hit with a blizzard that shut things down for almost a week. The Army cleared the snow on the Mall for the inauguration ceremony.

I and two friends went into the Mall on the day of Dr. King’s march on Washington. The reason for our trip was the news reported that Bob Dylan and Joan Baez would be singing. We had all their albums and this was an opportunity. There were a lot of people there and very few of us were white. We got about half way up the north side of the Reflecting Pond but never heard anything recognizable on the Lincoln Memorial steps.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis a neighbor was a high level civilian at the Pentagon. The Army showed up and built him a helicopter pad in a field down the street and kept a helicopter sitting there for a few weeks. The neighbors were all scared.

The day that Kennedy was killed I was attending high school. The next day I went into Washington and stayed for three days. I stood in the line to walk by his coffin for probably 5 or 6 hours. The day of the funeral procession I stood at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue when the funeral procession went by. I have three distinct memories;

  • The riderless horse was difficult to control, rearing up constantly and the handler almost lost control more than once.
  • The front row of dignitaries included Haile Selassie of Ethiopia in full uniform with a chest of ribbons and lucky to be over five feet tall. Next to him was Charles DeGaul of France standing about six foot six and also in full uniform. The height difference and the uniforms made the pair look oddly funny.
  • There were lots of people listening to “transister radios” and about the time the coffin went by word spread through the crowd near me that Lee Harvey Oswald had just been shot and killed in Dallas.

Two neighbors right across the street at the time were Col. Barns, pilot of Air Force One and Mr. Youngblood, a member of the Secret Service Presidential detail. If you look up a picture of Lyndon Johnson being sworn in on the plane you’ll see Col. Barns in the cockpit doorway. Mr. Youngblood became famous as the agent who ran and jumped over the back of Johnson’s limo and covered him when the shots were fired.

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