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Local participants in 1961 inauguration of JFK remember a bone-chilling experience

January 21, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy ride in the inaugural parade Jan. 20, 1961. The South Hagerstown High School marching band took part in the parade.
Library of Congress

Hagerstown residents Mike Hennesy and Dick Martin weren’t in Washington, D.C., Monday for the inauguration of President Obama, but they played a role in an inaugural parade more than 50 years ago.

Hennesy and Martin were members of the South Hagerstown High School band that marched in the Jan. 20, 1961, inaugural parade for John F. Kennedy.

One of their memories of that day is the weather.

“I can’t ever remember it being that cold, and it just wouldn’t go away,” Martin, 67, said. “It was so cold we put glycerin in our valves to keep them from freezing.”

According to the National Weather Service, the high temperature in Washington that day was 22 degrees, with a wind chill that made it feel like 7 degrees.

Hennesy, also 67, said that he remembered the city being hit with 8 inches of snow.

“We were standing in the snow at first because it wasn’t plowed until you hit the parade route,” he said. “I remember my eyes watering from the cold.”

Martin, who played the trumpet, and Hennesy, who played the clarinet, were 10th-graders at the time. They said they were marching as a surrogate band representing Utah due to the fact that it elected not to have a band march in the parade.

Under the direction of Elwood E. Kinney, the band finished in second place in the inaugural parade from among about 40 high school and collegiate bands.

“We didn’t even know we were in competition with the other bands and we came in second,” Hennesy said. “Of all our first place wins during that time, that second place finish was probably our biggest win. It’s something to be proud of.”

Martin also described it as an honor.

“I certainly count that as one of the highlights of my life,” he said. “They all kept telling us not to look at the president when we were marching, but I think we all took a peek.”

Martin and Hennesy graduated from South High in 1963.

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