Just days before President Obama's second inauguration, Greenspring neighbors Jim Upp, Scott Shipe, and Gray Parks recount their experiences at Truman's inaugural parade
(Springfield, Va.) - The inauguration of President Truman in 1949 produced many firsts - first to be nationally televised, first to be openly integrated, first to debut the current Presidential seal - and also, the first inauguration attended by then-16-year-old Jim Upp, then-20-year-old Scott Shipe, and then-20-year-old Gray Parks. All three are now neighbors at Greenspring retirement community in Springfield, Va., but also have in common the experience of participating in the 1949 parade. Upp was an Eagle Scout positioned along the parade route and Shipe and Parks were West Point cadets marching with their units.
"I know I was stationed somewhere between 7th and 11th streets," said Upp. "The inaugural officials used us for crowd control." Upp mentioned that in 1949, people generally didn't run out toward the parade vehicles as they passed, so inaugural officials lined up boy scouts along the parade route. Security at the inaugural ceremonies has, of course, noticeably changed over the years; at President Obama's second inauguration planned for January 21, 2013, there will be a strong presence of ground, air, water, and even Metrorail security provided by a variety of law enforcement officials and public safety agencies.
"I also remember it was very cold," said Upp, who noted that the scouts were asked to remove their coats in order to display their full uniform when they saw the parade vehicles approaching. According to records, it was a windy 38 degrees that day in the nation's capital. "We saluted as the President's vehicle passed by," said Upp.
Upp grew up in the Southeast quadrant of Washington, D.C. and at age 14, was one of the youngest scouts to reach the rank of Eagle Scout. The 1949 inauguration was not the first unique opportunity that arose for Upp due to his scouting status. Just two years prior, he recalls being selected to serve as the escort for the young son of the President of Mexico, Miguel Alemán, when he visited the U.S. in 1947. "We rode around in a Lincoln sedan and were thrilled to have discovered the power window buttons," said Upp.
Upp's neighbor at Greenspring, Scott Shipe, was a first year plebe at West Point in 1949 when his unit, the 1st regiment, 2nd battalion, marched in the inaugural parade. Also remembering the day as chilly, but sunny, Shipe recalls his presentation. "We were dressed in full dress uniforms with rifles and bayonets," said Shipe. "We also wore our tar bucket hats with brass buttons on each side."
Shipe recalls marching in formation with the Corps of Cadets that day and being whisked back to West Point shortly afterwards. "We got right back on the train when the parade was over," said Shipe.
Shipe had attended Officer Candidate School for the U.S. Army before entering West Point and spent about ten years in the U.S. Army in total. He graduated from West Point in 1952 and served in the Korean War before being medically discharged. Shipe then attended graduate school and a doctorate program in St. Louis, Mo. before moving to the Washington, D.C. area. Shipe and his wife have lived in Springfield, Va. for about 50 years, 30 of which were spent working with the Central Intelligence Agency. The couple moved to nearby Greenspring in December 2008.
Gray Parks, who also lives at Greenspring, was a classmate of Shipe's at West Point. Parks marched in the 1949 inaugural parade with the 2nd regiment, 2nd battalion from West Point and also remembers the chilly weather that day and visiting Washington, D.C. via train. "I recall that we came down on a train and formed up rather early for the parade; we stood in ranks and waited quite a while," said Parks. "However, we were among the first groups in the parade so many waited longer than we did." Parks noted that he had another opportunity to see the President when he visited West Point upon his and Shipe's graduation in 1952.
Like the other men, Parks had lived locally for quite awhile before moving to Greenspring just over three years ago. Interestingly, however, none of the neighbors have attended another inauguration ceremony other than Truman's in 1949. "The ceremonies have become too crowded now," said Upp. They do, however, fondly remember their 1949 inaugural experiences. "I was able to watch the rest of the ceremonies with my Dad after finishing my duty on the parade route that day," said Upp. Parks also remembers the excitement, stating, "it was a thrill when we did 'eyes right' to see the President and other famous people in the reviewing stand."
About Greenspring: Greenspring is situated on a scenic 108-acre campus in Springfield, Virginia. The community is home to nearly 2000 residents, many of which reside in the 1404 independent living apartment-style homes. At Greenspring, over 200 resident-run and resident-driven programs promote an engaged, fulfilling lifestyle that is reflected in resident satisfaction levels that exceed the industry average. Life at Greenspring offers a true sense of community and is an exciting alternative to the typical retirement community. Additional information about Greenspring can be found at www.ericksonliving.com.