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The Working White House: Memorable Times

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We had a good time. There was never a dull day.

Lillian Rogers Parks, maid and seamstress, 1929-60

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.