Football game, visit to store marked '57 visit

WAY BACK WHEN

Back Story

May 05, 2007|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

When Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visited Maryland nearly 50 years ago, they got a chance to attend a University of Maryland football game at College Park, visit a Giant supermarket, and take a ride on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad to New York.

After spending four days in Canada, Elizabeth, then 31, who was described as looking "somewhat worn" by The Sun, arrived at Patrick Henry Airport in Williamsburg, Va., on Oct. 16, 1957. The royal couple's arrival launched an official six-day state visit to the U.S.

After touring Jamestown and Williamsburg, the couple flew to Washington the next day aboard President Dwight D. Eisenhower's plane, Columbine III, and they were welcomed by Ike at National Airport.

The next day was chilly, windy and raw, as Elizabeth and Philip headed by motorcade to College Park, where they arrived at 1:15 p.m., just before the Maryland-North Carolina football game kickoff.

Elizabeth quickly slipped into a full-length $15,000 mink coat that had been presented to her by an organization of American mink breeders, and the garment, no doubt, helped ward off the afternoon chill of Byrd Stadium.

An estimated 43,000 fans watched as Elizabeth and Philip entered the "royal box" that had been built on the 50-yard line for their visit.

Their companions in the box included Maryland Gov. Theodore Roosevelt McKeldin, North Carolina Gov. Luther B. Hodges, Baltimore Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro Jr. and Wilson H. Elkins, president of the University of Maryland.

Also invited to watch the game from the royal box were Lynne Needle, a 19-year-old college student from Baltimore, and her boyfriend, Howard Miller, 22, who was the president of the University of Maryland's Student Government Association.

The one thing on Needle's mind, a senior at Centenary College, was the possibility of having to execute a curtsy.

"I haven't tried one," she told The Sun, "and if I have to, I don't know what I'll do."

After the playing of "God Save the Queen" and "The Star-Spangled Banner," the game got underway.

"Governor McKeldin was assigned the job of explaining the fine points of football to the Queen, who had never seen a game before," reported The Sun, while Hodges acted as tutor for Prince Philip.

"Elizabeth, who was bundled in a mink coat and a coral wool blanket, listened to her lessons like a dutiful student, her brow often furrowed in perplexity," observed the newspaper.

The climax of the fumble-filled game came early in the fourth quarter when Ted Kershner, a Maryland halfback, made an 81-yard touchdown run, which brought the struggling Terps from behind.

It was "one of the most exciting touchdown runs in Byrd Stadium history," reported The Sun. It broke North Carolina's lead and gave Maryland a 21-7 victory.

McKeldin, so overcome with the thrilling conclusion of the game, "almost fell off his chair," reported the newspaper, as the queen looked on in amazement.

"One thing that seems to amaze Her Majesty was that no one was hurt on the field," McKeldin said to a reporter. "She said she expected to see someone carried off on a stretcher any minute."

McKeldin seemed not to be overwhelmed by his royal guests.

"She is a lovely gracious person -- and she's much prettier than her picture," he told reporters, adding: "The Prince is a real nice guy."

On the way back to the White House, the royal limousine turned into the Queenstown Shopping Center and made an unscheduled stop at a Giant supermarket.

The queen seemed to be taken with chicken that was wrapped in cellophane, frozen pot pies and the ready abundance of beef in the store's meat department.

"It's very nice to be able to take your children here," she told one group of shoppers.

Donald A. D'Avanzo, the store's acting assistant manager, shocked the queen when he said his store did about $100,000 a week in business.

D'Avanzo told reporters that the unexpected visit was something he'd never forget. "It was the greatest thing that ever happened to me," he said.

Early Sunday evening, the couple said their farewells to the Eisenhowers at the White House.

"Goodbye," Mamie Eisenhower told them. "Tell the family we loved having you."

After being feted at a Commonwealth nations dinner, Elizabeth and Philip arrived late Sunday evening at Union Station, where they were greeted by Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Commonwealth diplomats and a thousand cheering spectators.

Waiting in the station was a special B&O train. B&O President Howard E. Simpson and his wife, Mildred, were there to welcome the royal couple aboard the dark-paneled, spacious presidential car.

As the Army Band serenanded them with "Auld Lang Syne," the queen and her husband stepped to the car's rear observation platform and waved to well-wishers as the train slowly pulled away from the station.

Their final waves were reserved for a small group of Pullman porters standing beside a waiting press train.

Several weeks later, as a souvenir of her visit and as a symbolic reminder of the yearly rental requirement as stated in Maryland's Charter of 1632, McKeldin sent the queen two Indian arrowheads from the "banks of the Magothy," reported The Sun.

A letter from the queen's private secretary to McKeldin said that the arrowheads would be placed in a collection in the library of Windsor Castle.

Her next visit came in 1991, when the queen came to Baltimore and spent 48 minutes watching an Orioles game at Memorial Stadium.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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