Sunday, November 27, 1994

Let me join the chorus of objectors to the proposed closing of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House for the protection of the president. There must be better ways to secure the safety of our chief executive.

What a change in the security needs around the White House from the way it was when I first came to town in the mid-1920s. Not only was Pennsylvania the "People's Avenue" then, but the north lawn of the White House was a public park. It was a symbol of democracy that the people could stroll on the lawn or eat their lunch in the president's front yard.

When walking from Foggy Bottom to downtown F Street, one could follow the direction of F Street through the basement of the State, War and Navy Building, walk across the North Lawn and through the basement of the Treasury without interruption.

Every New Year's, the president would hold an open house wherein any citizen could drop in and shake his hand. For many years, the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of the District of Columbia went as a group to greet the president. The members walked from their clubhouse in the old firehouse at 19th and H streets NW to meet the president.

This 129-year-old association also objects to the planned closing of F Street NW between Fourth and Fifth streets just one block from the proposed sports arena at Gallery Place and favors the retention of L'Enfant's plan, his street names, house numbers and vistas.

-- Harold Gray

is president of the association of the Oldest Inhabitants of the District of Columbia; he is 87.

Lars-Erik Nelson's Nov. 8 op-ed column, "No Man's Land Outside the White House," reminded me of a kinder, gentler time in Washington.

I moved to the District in the summer of 1951 to take a job following graduation from college. A few months later, early on a gorgeous fall day, an errand had me headed west on foot on the south sidewalk of a nearly deserted Pennsylvania Avenue when I glanced ahead to see striding toward me none other than Harry Truman -- out on his regular morning constitutional. He was followed by two Secret Service fellows moving at a near trot to keep up with him.

When we were almost abreast, Mr. Truman looked me straight in the eye, and I reacted in a loud voice, with, "Good morning, Mr. President!"

Harry Truman pointed his cane at my nose and replied just as loudly, "Good Morning, sir! Good morning!" and hustled on by. The Secret Service guys favored me with a cursory glance.

Late arrivals in Washington can forget it. There will never be another Harry Truman in the White House, and chances are they will never meet a president of the United States out for an early morning stroll on the sidewalk in front of his home. Time does indeed change everything.

-- Edwin Dallas Kennedy