Weather dampens inauguration history

There’s enough inherent drama in next week’s presidential inauguration that you might think it wouldn’t be necessary for the TV news networks to hype it. But you’d be wrong. That’s just what they do.

Writer’s Block

There’s enough inherent drama in next week’s presidential inauguration that you might think it wouldn’t be necessary for the TV news networks to hype it. But you’d be wrong. That’s just what they do.

Most of the cameras, microphones and reporters that exist on this plane – and maybe Mars and Venus, too – will be in Washington, D.C., Tuesday. I can’t wait to see what Mary Hart will be wearing.

In a fun book called “Presidential Inaugurations,” a guy named Paul F. Boller Jr. writes about the long history of that big event. He includes a chapter on how weather sometimes messes things up. But like a stage musical where the lead singer gets laryngitis, the show still always goes on.

On the very first inauguration day in 1789, George Washington got his hair all powdered up, adjusted his teeth and then made haste for the ceremony on horseback. Even though the event was in late April, some accounts say the weather was lousy, so Washington carried an umbrella. He also wore a dress sword at his side. Maybe it was because he preferred to cut his own meat.

No matter the weather, the event has almost always been held outdoors. A few presidents have moved the festivities under cover during nasty weather – and not necessarily just because they were wimpy presidents. After all, if the citizenry is willing to brave the cold and the rain, the president ought to be able to do the same. Except maybe for William Henry Harrison. He should definitely have called a rain delay when he was inaugurated.

It was pouring cats and dogs that March day in 1841. And also yaks and platypuses, animals not even found in this country. It was just that rainy.

If 68-year-old President Harrison had kept his speech down to 20 minutes or so, he might have only emerged with the sniffles. But instead, Harrison’s speech went on for two hours, reportedly much of it filled with splashing noises. Sadly, Harrison soon came down with pneumonia and died only a month into office. I realize that’s not a very funny punch line, but it’s true.

Nearly 50 years later, Harrison’s grandson Benjamin was sworn in on a day almost as rainy, but he pressed on and gave a speech almost as long as his grandfather’s. But because Benjamin wore a heavy coat and long underwear, he didn’t come down with anything except prickly heat and a rash – rarely fatal.

When Ulysses S. Grant was sworn in for his first term, the weather was rainy and cold. So by the time his second inauguration rolled around, people figured the odds of a nice day had to be better. Wrong.

It was just 4 degrees, with a piercing wind. Musicians tried to play a tune during the inaugural parade, but the valves on their instruments froze up. (Why couldn’t that happen to the trumpet that my next door neighbor kid has been learning to play since September?)

When President Grant tried to read his speech, the wind was blowing so hard that almost no one could hear him. He may very well have said: “My fellow Americans, we need to ask ourselves: How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” It wouldn’t have mattered, not even to woodchucks.

During the inaugural ball that night, the few guests who bothered dancing did so in furry overcoats and clunky boots, perhaps waltzing to imaginary music played by musicians with stuck valves. Everyone did the best they could but with the heavy clothes and boots, they wouldn’t have had much of a chance of making the finals on “Dancing With the Stars.”

Even though a big dinner had been prepared for guests, it was all mostly frozen by the time it was served. But the dessert – ice cream, sherbet and baked Alaska – was perfect.

In 1909, a weatherman named Willis Moore forecast a sunny day for the swearing in of William Howard Taft. Moore was considered the Jeff Renner of his time – but without the benefit of a Doppler, he didn’t see a blizzard heading his way. Afterwards, at least Taft kept a sense of humor about it. “I knew it would be a cold day when I became president,” he said.

Many years later, the weather was so wretched for Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985 that he had to take his oath privately indoors – hoping they could do a public ceremony the next day. But 24 hours later, the temperature was still 4 degrees below zero, making Grant’s second inauguration seem like a sauna by comparison.

So Reagan wound up instead taking his oath inside a warm and toasty Capitol Rotunda.

Thus allowing Mary Hart to wear a short skirt and heels.

More in Opinion

Enumclaw boys, join the scouts

Troop 422 here in Enumclaw has taught me these things, and it has allowed me to be able to incorporate these things into my own life.

Concessions may be needed to enact carbon pricing

This is the sixth year Gov. Jay Inslee will try to convince lawmakers that the best means of fighting climate change is by making it more expensive to pollute.

Humility allows for tolerance of other’s opinions

Each of us has grown up in different circumstances. Each has been shaped by our life experiences. Each of us sees the world around us differently as a result. Why, then, should it be so difficult to understand that no two people will agree on every issue?

President Trump working toward the vision of our Founders

President Trump is working to return power and liberty to the people.

Inslee: ‘It’s our state’s destiny … to fight climate change’

In his State-of-the-State address, the governor made the case for an ambitious carbon tax.

Culture, politics have and continue to shape race relations

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

Better luck this year, Eyman

2017 was a stinky year for Tim Eyman. It ended with a thud last week when he confessed to not collecting enough signatures to get onto the ballot a measure that would reduce car tab fees and kneecap Sound Transit.

Don’t label all Trump supporters as racist

While the column correctly points out that Trump supporters are happy with his performance and still enthusiastically support him, Mr. Elfers had to inject the liberal “lie” that Trump supporters are racist.

Political turmoil makes nations stronger

Finish this sentence: “What doesn’t kill you___________.” This is how I introduced my recent continuing education class entitled, “President Trump a Year Later.” Of course, this quote is normally completed with the words, “makes you stronger.”

Most Read