Sunday, November 09, 2008

Eugene Allen's Story

Eugene Allen started his career at the White House working in the pantry. He witnessed eight administrations, eventually working his way up to Maitre d'. Days before the presidential election this past week, the Washington Post interviewed him and his wife for a story.

He was in the White House kitchen the day JFK was slain. He got a personal invitation to the funeral. But he volunteered for other duty: "Somebody had to be at the White House to serve everyone after they came from the funeral."


First lady Nancy Reagan came looking for him in the kitchen one day. She wanted to remind him about the upcoming dinner for West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. He told her he was well ahead in the planning and had already picked out the china. But she told him he would not be working that night.

"She said, 'You and Helene are coming to the state dinner as guests of President Reagan and myself.' I'm telling you! I believe I'm the only butler to get invited to a state dinner." Husbands and wives don't sit together at these events, and Helene was nervous about trying to make small talk with world leaders. "And my son says, 'Mama, just talk about your high school. They won't know the difference.'

Lovely story, albeit with a sad ending.


ggop said...

Its behind a firewall. Nice to hear of this gesture by Nancy Reagan. Read she was pretty bad to her staff so this is nice.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Ggop, I was pleasantly surprised to read that too.