Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on May 23, 1976 · Page 57
Get access to this page with a Free Trial

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 57

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 23, 1976
Page 57
Start Free Trial

What You Can Expect In Bicentennial Capital By Harry Roscnlhal Where There's a Monument, There Are Hordes of Tourists--With Cameras Washington Is Full of Monuments, And in This Bicentennial Year, Visits to Past To visit the nation's capita/ i* to go backward in time to the highpoints of our history. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are making that journey in this Bicentennial year. Here's an account of one two-day tour. WASHINGTON (AP)-So this is the year you are finally going to visit Washington. Welcome, friend, but be prepared. Prepare to walk, wait in line, lose your way. Prepare to be crowded, hot, thirsty, hungry, tired. Prepare to be lectured at, informed, misinformed, awed, bored. Prepare to be slave to a map and a seeker of rest rooms. And be ready to be overwhelmed, proud, and immensely more secure in your knowledge and emotions about the United States. ' An early prediction was that one of every five Americans would descend on " Washington this Bicentennital year. That figured to be more than 40 million people _ and struck area residents as suspiciously high--and frightening. NOW THE PROJECTION is 17 million, a 30 per cent increase over 1975, and an awesome 23 visitors for every one of Washington's 730,000 residents. Even counting the three million-plus persons in the metropolitan area, tourists will outnumber Washingtonians four-to-one. That has prompted at least one airline to advertise that a trip to Florida is a fine way to escape the touristy hordes. It also has caused the city to ban parking any place a tourist might want to and to set up--at a nominal cost--bus service from parking lots that will be superb if the reality is only half as good as the promise. Police .are adding strength and Chief Maurice Cullinane assures that, no matter what's been written, Washington's crime rate is lower than many cities of comparable size. Humorist Art Buchwald, looking askance at the expected invasion, notes that "in the daytime you would be as safe in Washington as you would be at night in Central Park." * ' DURING THE EASTER vacation rush and an unseasonable heatwave that hinted strongly at things to come, a resident accompanied two first-time visitors on a typical two-day tour. This is what they found: 8:15 a.m.--En route motel to White House in rush hour. Traffic circles confound the unitiated. Washingtonian tells horror stories of rain and snow and paralyzed traffic. State-named avenues, cutting diagonally across the square-block pattern of alphabetized and numbered streets^ may have been esthetic when Pierre L'Enfant laid them out in 1791; the visiting motorists needs advance study and courage. Tourist wife: "The White House looks smaller than in pictures." Resident: "That's "?hat everybody says." 8:45 a.m.-White House tour. Smart people write their congressmen for tickets 'in advance. Others line up at a tent to obtain a ticket for a specified time. Military and high school bands entertain those who wait, others go elsewhere and return. Better than past years when lines snaked around the \Vhite House. Still, 9,200 to 11,500 visitors go through in a single day. At mi- dafternoon the doors close. "After all," says visitors office director Michael J. Farrell, "these aren't museum rooms." The President and his lady use them when the tourists are gone. Outside, on Pennsylvania Avenue, a lonely picket parades where sometimes there are hundreds. "Nixon is now well enough to sit in the witness box," says, his sandwich board. A visitor, unmindful of the First Amendment, asks policeman E.J. Brosnahan, "How come they let that fellow walk around with that sign?" . Brosnahan: "He doesn't like Richard Nixon." Visitor: "He ought to shut up about it." 9:30 a.m.-Taxi to Capitol. Around the Treasury Department, not as imposing as its picture on the $10 bill, and down Pennsylvania Avenue. Resident explains that L'Enfant intended the space between "The President's House" and "Congress House" to be an unobstructed vista. But Andrew Jackson, impatient with quarreling over location of Treasury, planted his walking stick in the ground and ordered it built. Visitors more excited at recognizing the' entrance of the Justice Department because they've seen it on "The FBI" on television. Disappointed when told the FBI now has its own home, across the street. to-tail at the foot of Capitol Hill. In the Archives, a quick walk takes visitors past the fundamental documents of America: The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. A child gripes that this is "a dumb place with nothing to see." His mother says they could have displayed more readable copies. 2:30 p.m. - Resident notices visitors' eyes have glazed over, suggests a merciful rest because "you can absorb only so much in a day." 7 p.m. - Dinner. Washington's reputation for indifferent restaurants is no longer deserved, but people with children be warned. Pushcart vendors, federal building cafeterias and a soon-to-be tent capable of feeding 25,000 take care of lunch. The evening meal is something else - unless the children like fancy food. Saving grace is that everyone may be too tired to eat. ' , A Merciful Rest Take It When You Can »:« A.M. The Capitol Crowd lines down the broad steps. Resident points out great bronze doors which few visitors notice. Inside, always, an astonished first glance at the great dome 183 feet above, then a look toward the center spot where John Kennedy and two dozen others high and mighty lay in state. Capitol tour is quick but informative. Congress is not in session. Resident says, "You're not missing much; there seldom are more than a handful of legislators on the floor." The business of Congress is done in hearing rooms and offices. . 11:30 a.m.-The Supreme Court. Not crowded. The court isn't sitting. Visitors learn that by tradition each justice shakes hands with each other justice in a gesture of amity before entering the chamber; that Justice Lewis F. Powell at his swearing-in asked to wear the watch of the great Chief Justice John Marshall, a fellow Virginian. Also that $10 million was appropriated for the building completed in 1935 and that $94,000 was returned unused-the last time that may have happened in spendthrift Washington. 12:45 p.m. - Library of Congress. Often overlooked, this lavish ornamented building with its hundreds of miles of book shelves has new-found fame. In the film, "All the President's Men," the fictional Woodward and Bernstein pore over papers as the camera recedes to reveal the concentric mahogany desks in the great room. Outside the reading room, displays include a Gutenberg Bible and a letter written by Gerorge Washington. "He had good handwriting," the husband-visitor notes. "Our son, Gerry, has good handwriting," says his wife. Resident tries to call attention to the magnificent ceilings and geometric patterned mosaic floors. 2:10 p.m. - The National Archives. The half-mile walk is downhill and pleasant, through the Capitol's landscaped grounds, past its new reflecting pool and the courthouse where Watergate trials were held. A rough count shows 50 buses parked nose- 1:31 P.M. - Best time to drive through Washington. The imposing buildings along Pennsylvania, Constitution and Independence Avenues are now emptied of people but bathed in enough light to make even. the Federal Trade Commission look interesting. By the hundreds, visitors go to the breath-taking, night-lit statue of Abraham Lincoln seated with brooding gaze toward the Washington monument and the Capitol beyond. With the same kind of bureaucratic wisdom that effectively hides direction signs in this tourist-dependent town, city planners recently made it impossible to drive in front of the Lincoln Memorial, even late at night. The resident tour guide learns this the hard way; a $15 ticket for "barricades, driving through." His visitor reaches into his wallet for "$5 to slip to the cop." Resident has visions of spending night in the D.C. jail, not one of the capital's attractions. Afterward, a drive through Georgetown, a former Negro slum that now is the residential enclave of Washington's movers and shakers from Kissinger on down. Resident explains that it once was the pretty tobacco port of Geroge, laid out in 1751 and named after King George II of England. Visitors pay more attention to the little shops. Second Day, 10:15 a.m. - FBI Tour. During Easter week, 5,000 people a day toured the agency's new $126 million fortress-like home to gawk at pictures of the Most Wanted, the Serology lab, and a tnind-bog- gling collection of guns. "Three hundred and sixty-nine have been on the most wanted list since it was started," says the guide. And of the guns: "No two are alike." A 10-year-old boy points at a picture and asks, "Is that Al Capone?" "No," says the guide, "it's J. Edgar Hoover." The most popular part of the tour is the firing range where an agent shoots perfect holes with a pistol into the head of a man's silhouette, then finishes off the malefector with machine gun bursts that leave a gap in the chest precisely the size of a silver dollar. Crowd applauds. Noon - Ford's Theater. All eyes lift to the bunting draped box at stage left where Abraham Lincoln sat to watch "Our American Cousin" on That Night. Bearded, badged lecturer tells how it all happened but the acoustics, apparently unimproved since 1865, cause a tourist to say irreverently, "If he hadn't been shot, he probably would have fallen out of the box trying to hear." 1:30 p.m. - Mount Vernon. The drive, 15 miles south of Washington, is spectacular; through Alexandria with its pre-Revolution houses, along the widening Potomac River, past taverns where Washington drank ale and stout. Then on to the estate where he once received a silver cup "as a premium for raising the largest jackass." The restaurant outside the estate has its own premium this year, a bicentennial glass with all orders of apple dumpling. Waits to enter the main house can be as long as one hour. "This is ridiculous," complains a woman who has stood in line for 15 minutes. Then on her way out she complains again: "It's criminal the way they rush you through." People come by the thousands daily; an unflagging pilgrimmage to John F. Kennedy's grave and obeisance at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tourists ire hushed in this hillside forest of graves overlooking the capital. It is the last of two days of sighUeeing, but attractions chosen by one person might not be picked by another. There is so much, the Washington resident explains, that two days cannot do the place justice. 4 p.m. -Arlington National Cemetery. After all, Franklin and Jefferson lived here. This is where Lincoln agonized over the Civil War even as troopi were quartered in the White House and the Capitol, John Marshall, Marian Stone and Earl Warren sat in judgment. Wilson agonized over peace, Roosevelt fought the Depression, Truman made decision* in the white House which he called "the Hneit prton in the world." This was the site in 1932 of bonus marchers being driven off Capitol Hill, this is where MacArthur bade a soldier's farewell this is where 200,000 people heard Martin Luther King say "I have a dream." To really tour Washington, the resident explains, is to go backward in time. L.T. Anderson In the trial of Gov. Arch Moore, defense attorney Stanley Preiser intimated that gifts of money enabled the Governor to purchase the clothing necessary to make a dignified appearance. To sit and listen to one's self portrayed as a man willing to let other people buy his clothing strikes me as a damn sight less ennobling than wearing threadbare pants. But dignity aside, Preiser's courtroom intimation suggests incredibly poor management in the Governor's household. TO BE SURE, we all come up short some months, but if I couldn't buy my own pants on $35.000 a year, with a free house and free transportation thrown in r I would recognize the need for family counseling. It serves no purpose, however, to chastize a man because he cannot make ends meet. If I can live within my much more modest means, it behooves me to instruct rather than point the finger of scorn. The fact is that Gov. Moore doesn^need a large clothing al- the Sheen of Dignity lowance. Newness doesn't mean quality. Narrow lapels worn with insouciance are more acceptable in dignified circles. I daresay, than the bunny rabbit suits now in vogue. * ONE NEEDS to acquire an air of fine indifference to convention. A half-smile of contempt for nipped-in waists and synthetic fibers can identify us as Brooks Brothers types even if our clothing comes from'Goodwill. Some of the highest rollers in Charleston wear old suits, and they've got dignity to spare. The point I want to get across is that a slight sheen on the seat of the trousers and the hint of a frayed cuff add to. rather than detract from, a dignified appearance. It is a matter of patina. which distinguishes the old and valuable from the vulgarly new. I would be happy to inform the Governor of the dates of several forthcoming church bazaars. If he could be persuaded to adopt my shopping habits and my outlook he could avoid the humiliation of having clothing money dropped into his hands, and have a little left over on payday, too. Despite Mobs, Individualize Picture Possible After-Dark Efforts Alsof an Add Interest «

What members have found on this page

Get access to

  • The largest online newspaper archive
  • 8,600+ newspapers from the 1700s–2000s
  • Millions of additional pages added every month

Try it free