Monday, August 18, 2014

How to Feed Republican (and Democrats, although why we feed them, I don't know) Presidents

Alan DeValerio. A History of Entertainment in the White House. San Berardino, Ca.: 2014.

The most elaborate and costly of White House functions is a State dinner. All residential staff are involved. Much planning is required The Protocol Department attends to details to avoid diplomatic difficulties. There are often cultural details to be observed including food, music, and colrs, Cultural details require attention, such as that France and Japan consider chrysanthemums as flowers for mourning and Muslims do not drink alcohol.

President Franklin Roosevelt preferred holding dinners in local hotels, President Harry Truman renovated the White House so functios could be held there. Events then were usually held at round tables.

A working day fo a State dinner begins at 9 am. Guests arrive for tea in the Blue Room followed by welcoming on the South Lawn. Some then receive tea and pastries.

A “base or show plate” holds a napkin and menu. Three courses are served, usually some meat, some fish, and a salad, followed by dessert.

The wie glasses are the only replaceable glasses.

The menu and programs are meant to be kept as souvenirs.

The tables at State dinners have a bowl of Godiva chocolates, a bowl of mixed nuts, and a bowl of cigareets. Smoking is not permitted.

Dessert plates are set on side tables. Each dessert plate has a finger bolw with a mint spring of mint grown on the White House roof.

Husbands and wives sit apart for conversation purposes. An exception was made for pianist George Shearing whose wife helped him due to his being visually challenged.

After the State dinner, the President and visiting head of state toast. The Marine Band or a singer then entertains. Guests receive coffee and liqueurs in State rooms. Champagne is then served. The Marine Band plays and people dance. Guests are expected to leave when the President and First Lady leave. The Reagans usually left before 11:30 am. President Lyndon Johnson was known for staying up to 2:30 pm. The late hours were difficult for the butler as the butler had to later serve the President breakfast at 7 am.

Frank Sinatra at a State dinner told how he once punched a man who had to be hospitalized. Sinatra then told how he called the hospital to learn when the man would be released, so he could punch him again.

There are usually 15 to 20 guests at a State dinner.

The only time Nancy Reagan attended a greeting was with Andre Gromyko, Soviet Ambassador to the United States.

Butlers help keep continuity between new and previous Presidents.

The author worked with Eugene Allen when he was Head Butler. Allen began at a “pantry man” in 1952. He received a $2,400 annual salary. Allen as pantry man washed dishes, shinned silverware, and stocked cabinets.

John Ficklin was Head Butler before Allen. Ficklin began as a pantry boy in 1939. Ficklin knew President Truman as Truman knew all his staff by their first names. Truman visited Ficklin’s brother when he was hospitalized.

President Dwight Eisenhower was the only President who was involved in deciding the menu and which winers to serve. Eisenhower had only American food served.

President John Kennedy did not take the time to learn the names of White House staff until former President Eisenhower visited and Kennedy observed the Eisenhower knew all their names. Kennedy then learved all their names,

Ficklin was one of three ushers, with Hugh Auchincloss and Ben Bradlee, who ushered Jackie Kennedy to church after her husband was assassinated.

Ficklin was told two days before President Nixon resigned to be ready to help the Nixon’s pack.

President Johnson drank scotch and soda and the bartender had to have a new soda bottle opened.

There was seldom problems.  One happened when a contracted butler lit a fire in a non-working fireplace. Smoke filled the room which required removing smoke fro a Lincoln portrait.

President Jimmy Carter removed alcohol from White House functions even though he and First Lady Roslyn Carter drank Rob Roys.

The Fords were not very demanding.

President Andrew Johnson had easter egg rolls on Capitol grounds. This continued until a law effective in 1877 prohibited children playing on Capitol grounds. In 1878, President Rutherford Hayes allowed children on White House groundsfor egg rolling.

President Thomas Jefferson had public receptions on July 4th. This continued until the late 1860s. President Reagan had several South Lawn parties on July 4th.

President Abraham Lincoln began the tradition of pardoning a turkey at Thanksgiving in 1865. He did so at the request of his son Tad.

President Eisenhower began official White House Christmas cards in 1953.

One of the largest White House dinners was in 1971 which honored 600 prisoners that had been fred by North Vietman. Two Army refrigerator vans were used.

Isabella Hagen was the first White House Social Secretary in 1901. Prior, male clerks handled similar responsibilities. The White House in 1901 under President Theodore Roosevelt had 57 staff in and around the White House.

The Social Secretary title is now also listed as a Special Assistant to the President.

The Social Secretary is responsible for the official guest list for State dinners.

The job of Chief Usher in 2007 was changed to Director of the Executive Residence and Chief Usher.

The celebrity that the author found as the nicest was Sally Struthers.


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