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The White House Historical Association | Classroom
E. Churchill: The White House chief butler's view
If I had thought the days of the early New Deal were busy, from then on I really had something to learn. For instance, on December 22 I thought that my daily detail was completed at 6:00 P.M. and was preparing to leave for home when my phone rang. I was told that an important guest was expected at about 7:00 P.M. The number in the party would be anywhere from 25 to 40 people, and the name of the guest was off the record.
Well, when the guest arrived one look told us that he was the Prime Minister of England, Winston Churchill.
This man Churchill was a dynamic personality. I felt it when he stepped into the room. His manner was typical of John Bull himself, with a jovial, ironic wit, a gruff, outspoken personality that could wax warm sometimes, yet I was sure that underneath it was cold, factual and determined. His entourage occupied the entire east wing of the White House.
His was a healthy appetite. On his breakfast tray I was instructed to have something hot, something cold, two kinds of fresh fruit, a tumbler of orange juice and a pot of frightfully weak tea. For “something hot” he had eggs, bacon or ham, and toast. For “something cold” he had two kinds of cold meats with English mustard and two kinds of fruit plus a tumbler of sherry. This was breakfast. At lunch he had Scotch and soda. For dinner always champagne, and after dinner, brandy. Then during the evening more Scotch and soda.
The Prime Minister would wear an air-raid suit around the house, attending most of the morning conference in this outfit. He would have conferences with his staff including Admiral Leahy, Admiral King and General Marshall. Later the two combined staffs would go into conference together which could last and last.
During this stay many people who knew that the Prime Minister was a house guest were disappointed, on being invited to the White House, not to meet the President and the Prime Minister. Except for official occasions, they did not eat in the dining room. By dining together with a few of their advisers much time was saved. Mr. Churchill was to be with us for quite a few days.
My Twenty-one Years in the White House, pp. 81-82