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Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lines of Literature: Upstairs at the White House


A favorite book of mine is Upstairs at the White House. It is light-weight history rather than serious study, but written in 1973 by Chief Usher J. B. West it gives his perspective of his time with Presidents from Roosevelt to Nixon. A few lines from a passage about the transition from the Trumans to the Eisenhowers, a period that we are studying this week in the Edwards Academy:
It is a tradition that the President-elect ride up to the front door of the White House to greet the outgoing President, and then that they ride together to the Inauguration. In my thirteen years there, this was the first time I'd witnessed the ceremony, because there'd been no "outgoing" President since 1932. And I almost missed this one because the President-elect [Eisenhower] was so angry with the President he didn't want to go through with it. But he did, of course.

I watched the two grim-faced men step into the special, high roofed limousine (General Eisenhower refused to wear a tall silk hat, for which the limousine was designed), and I was glad I wasn't in that car. But I had a strong feeling that Mrs. Truman should have been at her husband's side. She always had been, in every endeavor. (p. 126)

A few pages later, Mr. West writes that Mamie Eisenhower had a habit of working from her pink-covered king-sized bed, leaning against a mountain of pillows and the pink-tufted headboard, until nearly noon. She summoned the White House staff, including Usher West, to her room in the morning to discuss the day ahead. Her mother, Mrs. Doud, lived in the White House with the Eisenhowers.
Like her daughter, Mrs. Doud stayed in bed until noon. And every morning, they chatted across the hall by telephone, each sitting up in her own bed, resting against dozens of pillows. "This is a long-distance call from Mother," Mrs. Eisenhower joked one morning, waving her ever-present cigarette in the direction of Mrs. Doud's room. (p. 141)

And, about President Eisenhower, Mr. West writes:
Unlike Mr. Truman, President Eisenhower confined his work to regular hours in his west wing office. It wasn't that he devoted less of himself to the job, though.
"I believe there is a point at which efficiency is best served," he told me. "After you spend a certain number of hours at work, you pass your peak of efficiency. I function best in my office when I relax in the evenings." (p. 137)
In the evenings, President and Mrs. Eisenhower, with Mrs. Doud, took dinner on their tray-tables in the West Hall, while watching the television news. Along with the rest of the country, they were that caught up in the new TV mania. (p. 158)

The President's taste in movies, however, was more restricted. Providing Mr. Eisenhower with enough Westerns became amajor task for the Usher's office--because he'd seen them all, perhaps three or four times. Every night the projectionist prepared a list of the films available from the motion-picture distributors for White House screening.
"Can't you find a new Western?" President Eisenhower kept asking. (p. 161)

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