Thursday, January 22, 2009

The First Of All Inaugurations (For Us)

1952 … St. James School, what there was of it, gathered in the auditorium to watch the inauguration of Dwight Eisenhower and the departure of Harry Truman. I don’t recall if they arrived in the same car; possibly, but if so, it was in silence so thick you could cut it either with one of Ike’s swords or one of Harry’s well-chosen swear words.

We kids, of course, wouldn’t know until later the phrase, “You two-timing, adulterous war hero,” any more than, “You dirt-poor farmer should have stayed in Missouri.” But they made nice in front of the cameras and the government changed hands peacefully. (Actually, Truman ripped up Ike’s fun folder, saying it was nobody’s business.)

So there we sat, waiting for the festivities and, finally, it was lunch time. I don’t know how many students rushed to their homes to catch the rest, as tv was new in those days, but my grandparents had one and I had the best seat in the house. Eisenhower took the oath while I was home and all was well with the world.

The nuns did the best they could, but they were not able to stretch classes and lunch periods through the Presidential Baptismal Hour.

Later, Ike would put into practice many of the salutes, coinage and other things the old folks claim were always around: God this, God that, God the next thing. No, much of it did not exist before the fifties, no matter how much we stretch our memories. “Under God,” “Over God,” “Whatever God,” was Ike’s work.


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