WASHINGTON -- Britain's Queen Elizabeth probably didn't know what to think when a jolly 67-year-old great-grandmother at a housing project in one of the capital's worst neighborhoods gave her a big hug Wednesday and exclaimed, 'How are you doing?'
The queen, who is rarely touched in public, appeared to exhibit feint alarm, and endured the display of affection without hugging back.
But Alice Frazier didn't seem to think there was anything unusual about what she had done. 'That's the American way to me,' she later said.
Frazier didn't even recall whether the queen had hugged her back: 'I was so excited I didn't know. She kind of put her arm around me.'
The queen visited Frazier and 10 members of her extended family inside her home, a modest wood-frame dwelling, during a 20-minute stop in her second day of a three-day visit to Washington.
Frazier's home is one of four built by a private-public partnership for low-income homebuyers in predominantly black Marshall Heights, one of the District of Columbia's most drug-infested and violent neighborhoods.
But Frazier was proud of her home, the first she has ever owned. Displaying her living room -- decorated with a bust of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a wall hanging of John F. and Robert F. Kennedy, a painting of Jesus Christ and numerous family snapshots -- Frazier told the queen that this was her castle. 'I just love it. ... We have a home in our house,' she said excitedly.
The queen, wearing a yellow and white dress and yellow hat, didn't say much and mostly just nodded.
But Frazier later noted that she 'finally got her to smile.' The name of one of Frazier's married daughters is Betty Queen, and Frazier told Queen Elizabeth, 'See, I have a queen in my house too.'
Accompanying the queen to the housing project were first lady Barbara Bush, Housing Secretary Jack Kemp and District of Columbia Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon. Secret Service agents and police stood at attention, and children from neighborhood schools lined the street, cheering wildly when the queen came over to shake their hands.
'I'm so impressed to see you,' a woman in dreadlocks and a 'Black is beautiful' T-shirt told the queen.
'I think it speaks volumes for her in terms of reaching out to people,' said Lloyd D. Smith, executive director of the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization, which formed the private- public venture to assist low-income home buyers like Frazier.
'She is looking out to how she can help people, and this helps us a lot. It says we are rebuilding. It sends out a message to people that a neighborhood can revitalize itself.'
Frazier, who was wearing her best white dress, offered Queen Elizabeth her best potato salad and fried chicken wings, but the queen didn't have time to taste the food.
'Mrs. Bush was kind of rushing her,' Frazier said.
While most of the approximately 300 school children lining the streets were excited about seeing a queen for the first time in their young lives, a few were skeptical of royalty.
James Surles, age 11, said he thought queens were 'a waste of taxpayers' money.' But, he also observed: 'If you think of it, the first lady is like a queen, too.'
Venus Smith, 11, said she would be a queen if she had the opportunity. 'I think it's great,' she said.
Three children were designated to give bouquets to Queen Elizabeth, Mrs. Bush and Dixon, and a red carpet had been rolled out for them to walk on. U.S. and British flags were hung on telephone poles, and a high school band played for the queen.
'She was beautiful compared with what I thought she would be,' Frazier observed.