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The memories of White House workers include not only times of grief, war, and political tension, but also charming moments with the first children, joy, humor, excitement, and satisfaction with a job well done.

Usher Nelson Pierce taught Caroline Kennedy how to turn somersaults; he also read stories to her brother, John F. Kennedy Jr. Plumber Howard “Reds” Arrington delights in telling how he successfully installed powerful water jets in the shower in order to please President Lyndon Johnson. Maître d’ Alonzo Fields reminds us that staff must be constantly attuned to the needs of visiting dignitaries, whether it be bringing Prime Minister Winston Churchill his evening sherry, or ensuring that the Queen of England has a cushion on her chair at the dinner table.

The story of the working White House is embodied in the dedication and skills of the residence staff, in their relations with the first family, and in their cohesion as a community. For more than two centuries, the traditions and memories of these workers have left a lasting mark on the White House, not only as a semi-private home, but also as a very public symbol of the United States.


First Lady Patricia Nixon’s birthday party, 1972 (right). On the occasion of First Lady Pat Nixon’s 60th birthday, White House staff members wished her a “Happy 39th” in the spirit of comedian Jack Benny’s longstanding joke that he perpetually remained 39 years old.

The White House



White House chefs prepare Tricia Nixon’s wedding cake, 1971 (background image). Chefs Henry Haller (left) and Maurice Bonté set out the cake for the White House wedding of Tricia Nixon and Edward Cox on June 12, 1971. Haller recalled, “It was six or eight tiers. You see, the cake had to be really big because the East Room has a very high ceiling; so if you put a small cake in there, it looks like nothing. You don’t worry about a little bit of overproduction here; you make a big cake.”

Library of Congress

Image: First Lady Patricia Nixon’s birthday party, 1972.
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