Background for this post: In the late fifties and early sixties, my father Richard Ryan published fanzines as a member of FAPA, the Fantasy Amateur Press Association. Members wrote about sf/f, each other’s zines, current events, and (as with all zines) anything else that crossed their minds.
I have copies of the zines he produced, and I hope, eventually, to transcribe and/or scan them all for The Fanac Fan History Project. The issue from which his piece below is taken, Bandwagon #8, was postmailed to FAPA 94. In January 1961, Dad was 30, living in Washington, D.C. and working for the Library of Congress.
I miss him.
Here’s the piece:
let us begin:
It had to be cold up there on the Hill, but when the TV showed the presidential party leaving for the Capitol my sense of history got the best of me. I walked the two blocks to the Capitol grounds, where the several thousand earlier arrivals were sitting and standing around in chilly attitudes. Most of the seven inches of snow that had been dumped on the city the evening before was still underfoot. The bystanders had rearranged it a bit in shuffling for position, and picked up a bit in shoes and cuffs, but the bulk of it was still there, crisp and powdery in the below-freezing temperature.
Both seats and “preferred” standing room had been sold, but there was plenty of space behind the ropes. I picked a spot on a little hump of snow, a few inches higher than the surrounding area. Individual figures on the platform a few hundred feet away couldn’t be distinguished; one citizen, evidently anticipating this, had brought a portable radio. The occasional announcements that something was indeed happening, somewhere, gave heart to us shivering masses as we waited.
For the better part of an hour on January 20, the nation was leaderless. Most of that time after 12:00 was spent praying the new President into office by the greatest assortment of religious functionaries assembled since the last Ecumenical Council. Cheers broke out, non-partisan I’m sure, when the preliminaries were finally over and the oath was administered to Kennedy. The best part of the proceedings was unfortunately the shortest, since Robert Frost had sun-glare trouble and couldn’t read his prepared statement — but he recited “The Gift Outright” from memory.
The Inaugural speech has been highly praised by most (except Max Ascoli of The Reporter, who must be extremely irritating to doctrinaire liberals). Though I thought many things were said that had long needed saying, none of them were surprising. There were cheers at the end, and then the fringes of the crowd started melting away as one final prayer began. I started to leave, and then waited; it seemed like the thing to do.