Blossoms time at the Tidal Basin

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It’s big bloom around the Tidal Basin

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Cherry blossoms best near FDR

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Here comes big bloom

Friday morning was the last frigid one until next fall and the cherry blossoms have survived. Big bloom should be late Saturday or Sunday. It won’t be the usual eye-popping show with reportedly 50 percent of blooms ruined by recent frost, but it’s still worth walking around the Tidal Basin or other parts of town. And with 75 degrees on Saturday, it will just be nice getting outside without a jacket.


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Kilroy was here

Kilroy was here

He was the best known image of the American GI during World War II even if everybody claimed his name.

“Kilroy was here” was a popular phrase accompanied by a drawing of a bald man looking over a wall that GIs scribbled as they advanced through Europe. Hitler thought Kilroy was some super spy or a code name. Stalin asked about him, too. Sorry guys, it was a prank.

Kilroy was so popular during World War II that it’s on the outside of the World War II Memorial behind the wall of stars. Look to the left of Delaware and right of Pennsylvania on the outer wall. My photo has a shadow diagonally across and isn’t original art.

The real Kilroy was believed to be James J. Kilroy, a rivets inspector at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Mass. Riveters were paid by the number of rivets each day and would place check marks when finishing each day so Kilroy and other inspectors could count them. But, some riveters started erasing the chalk line and putting a new one several rivets back so they could steal the money from the previous worker. Kilroy would leave his mark by the chalk marks to prevent the next riveter from changing it. Thus, “Kilroy was here” stopped cheats and started a legend. That the rivets were inside ship bulkheads made it seem mysterious whenever opened.

Servicemen liked seeing Kilroy’s name as some sort of protective talisman. Soon, they started marking enemy areas to show successors where the first troops were. It became a badge of honor to do so.

Kilroy markings are reportedly on the Statue of Liberty, Arch de Triomphe, atop Mt. Everest and even on the dust of the moon.

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Wordless Wednesday: Confederate Memorial at ANC

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Alfaro: the Old Warrior of Ecuador

In the row of bronze busts outside the Organization of American States along Constitution Ave. is Eloy Alfaro, the former president of Ecuador whose full name was José Eloy Alfaro Delgado.

Alfaro (1842 –1912) was the president from 1895 to 1901 and 1906 to 1911. He was known as Viejo Luchador (Old Warrior) for opposing conservatism for 30 years. Alfaro is best known for modernizing his country’s transportation and education system.

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Anton Hilberath: The German soldier in Arlington National Cemetery

Anton Hilberath


Anton Hilberath is an enigma surrounded by children.

Hilberath’s the only German soldier from World War II buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The First Sergeant of the Wehrmacht was among 830 German prisoners of war that died in the U.S.

Anything else about Hilberath requires plenty of patience and a translator. After a few dozen hours on the internet and couple conversations with older friends with military backgrounds, I pieced together some thoughts.

Hilberath died April 21, 1946 while working on Maryland’s Eastern Shore’s farms. Wait, that was a year after the war’s end. What were German prisoners still doing here? Turns out nobody was in a hurry to repatriate POWs across the Atlantic.

How did Hilberath end up at Arlington? Under the Geneva Convention, prisoners were given military funerals at the nearest government cemetery. At the time that was Arlington.

Anton Hilberath

After dying of an undisclosed illness, Hilberath along with deceased Italian soldiers Arcangelo Prudenza and Mario Batista were buried in Arlington. The marker doesn’t note Hilberath’s Nov. 19, 1898 birthdate, only his death, nationality and rank.

All three lie in Section 15C not far from the Tomb of the Unknowns and one section over from the Confederate memorial and graves. Hilberath lies amid children of U.S. soldiers with no marker to the immediate left of him.

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Wordless Wednesday: Army of the Grand Republic

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The chapel in the cemetery

At first glance it seemed there was a little chapel in the middle of Rock Creek Cemetery. A beautiful Gothic stone building alongside many of the mausoleums of the rich and famous. And sure enough, walking up to it, I saw it was also a mausoleum with a number of vaults as seen from the glass doors that were locked.

The sign outside said Hibbs. Not much could be found aside William Hibbs was a banker born in Maryland in 1911 and living in Washington by the 1920 census before later residing in McLean, Va. when dying in 1969. He worked for American Security and Trust.

Still, it’s the coolest building in a very cool cemetery.

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Life in a fishbowl

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Sunset among cherry blossoms

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Cherry blossoms starting to pop, but . . .

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Sunset at the World War II Memorial

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Wordless Wednesday: Rock Creek Cemetery

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DAR pediment is simple enough

DAR pediment


We’re going with an easy one here. I don’t care if you’ve never seen a pediment in your life (and you may have not) you’re going to know what this one means.

High above the western entrance into the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall is an eagle with 1776 on one side and 1783 on the other.

Care to take a guess what this means?

It’s the symbol of America and the dates of the Revolutionary War. It’s above the organization of women descendants (like my wife) related to those soldiers. The 90-foot pediment was finished in 1930.

Told you it was an easy A.

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Under the spreading Lincoln oak tree

Lincoln oak tree

An old stump is all that’s left of one of the older trees ever around Washington.

The Lincoln Oak, named for president Abraham Lincoln meeting under its expansive branches with local military leaders during the Civil War, was destroyed by lightning in 1994.

The tree was believed to date back to around 1510. That’s 601 years ago! The oak was supposedly 173 years old when the nearby Old Spring House was built in 1683.

Ft. Lincoln Cemetery officials planted new white oak to replace the Lincoln Oak, but we’ll have to wait until 2610 to see if it’s worthy of its predecessor.

See you there. Well, my 20th great grandson will be there.

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Wordless Wednesday: Mount Vernon

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Sewall-Belmont House and Museum continues its cause

Sewall-Belmont House


Amid the famous buildings of Capitol Hill sits a small brick house with two centuries of history.

The Sewall-Belmont House on the corner of Second St. and Constitution Ave. NE has been associated with our political leaders since the city’s early years. In 1929, the National Woman’s Party bought the house for feminist education that’s still ongoing.

The national headquarters, the society continues seeking equal rights for women. The house has a museum filled with exhibits and education programs. It also has tours. Check the website.

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Returning to Great Falls

We take the Potomac River for granted as it passes often passively by Washington. But far north of the city lies Great Falls National Park where the water drops quickly and sometimes deadly.

I went there once as a young child. I remembered the river pouring over the rocks.

And that was my only memory for about 50 years until Sunday when a 70-degree day in mid-February compelled me to be outside. Why not go see it again, I thought.

Turns out lots of other folks had the same thought as the final few miles took more than 30 minutes and a remote parking lot was needed. But it was fun to see the falls that are nearly on the complete opposite side of town from where I live. The view looked much the same as I remembered.

Washingtonians a century ago used to visit the falls in the summertime to escape the heat. How they made it from the city mystifies me. It’s a good way from town.

But Washingtonians’ connection to the falls predates the city’s origins. George Washington believed a series of canals could connect the Potomac River between the East and Ohio Valley where the country’s western expansion would begin. In 1784, the Patowmack Company began five canals that were completed in 1802.

For 26 years, the canal would see great commerce over the three-day trip from Cumberland, Md to Georgetown. Railroads eventually made canals obsolete.

The falls are still a great recreational area with plenty of picnickers. People go swimming and boating along it, though the section near the visitor center has a sign stating seven people a year drown in the river so be careful.

I doubt I’ll be around in 50 years to see the place again. Maybe my grandchildren will one day want me to take them.

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