Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"Upstairs at the White House"

I have just finished the most fascinating book: "Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies" by J. B. West and Mary Lynn Kotz. Mr. West was the chief usher of the White House, that is the executive director of the executive mansion and grounds. He retired in 1969 and this book was published in 1973 so it is new only to me. 

Mr. West joined the White House Usher staff during the Roosevelt administration and retired shortly after the Nixons came to live there. His memories are warm, humorous, gentle and loving. His love was for the House itself as he served Presidents and First Ladies from both political parties. He is always respectful of the women who held the unelected, un-appointed, and untrained for highest volunteer position in the nation. 

Much of the book is about the refurbishing and redecorating that each woman did to the family rooms of the White House. I was interested in the turn my thoughts took while reading about that. I found myself looking at my own home, my own style, and wondering what I would do, what colors would I pick, what would I choose to make a very formal, national monument into my home for a period of time?

I am ready for the next book in the series, ready to hear about the next set of ladies who lived in and decorated that house. I don’t know if the next chief usher has written yet. Maybe he won’t. I wish he would and with the same care and love of his subject that Mr. West shows in Upstairs at the White House. 

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