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Do you remember your childhood excitement when you received an invitation to a party? Imagine how exciting it would be to receive an invitation to a party at the White House!
While Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s children were all adults during the White House years, two of their grandchildren lived for a time in the White House. Anna and Curtis Dall, known to many as “Sistie” and “Buzzie,” were the children of Anna Dall, the Roosevelt’s eldest child and only daughter.
According to “Buzzie,” he and his sister lived in the White House from September 1933 to November 1935. They visited the White House from Christmas 1936 through the Inauguration in 1937 and then again during Christmas 1939. They returned to the White House to live from 1944-45, though they spent most of that time at boarding school.
While in the White House Anna and Curtis hosted many birthday and holiday parties. Invitations to those parties are found here in the archives at the FDR Library.
September 22, 1942
“NEW YORK, Monday—…After writing my column yesterday, I began to think about how people, who have never been in public life, little know about the everyday things involved in living not as one chooses, but as one must.
Those of us who have lived in government houses know that no government house is ever our own, nor is it ever a home. For instance, I love the White House. It is a simple, dignified and beautiful government building. I take great pride in it, but it is not that intimate, personal thing—”my own home.”
I am always glad to see my children in the White House, because unless I did, I would often miss opportunities of seeing them. But it is at home, in our own house, in our own surroundings, that I really like to welcome them; for that is ours and we have an obligation only to our family and our own friends there.
It is a curious thing which is often stressed in electing a man to office in this country, we, naturally, do not elect his wife nor his children to office. Yet some people think that there is something very glamorous and much to be envied in this rather anomalous position, where you have certain responsibilities, pleasures and privileges imposed upon you through somebody else’s position.
You may find a woman living in the White House who has no interest in public affairs, and yet, willy-nilly, she must live there and she must entertain very often, for no reason except that her husband is in public office.
Many a shy and retiring child, I am sure, has suffered from being pointed out as the child of a President, or even the grandchild. No one will deny that there are great opportunities. To be the relative of a man in public life is useful in assisting those throughout the United States who need help, and it is also useful in meeting people of outstanding interest. Nevertheless, there are a considerable number of drawbacks.
Silver Cocktail Set (MO 1972.14a-g) and Pernod Absinthe Bottle (MO 1976.331)
FDR had a long-standing practice of hosting a pre-dinner cocktail hour in the White House residence during his presidency. It was a time when he could cast aside the burdens of office at the end of the day and relax with close friends and family. Topics related to politics or government policy were banned from discussion.
FDR always mixed the drinks at these events, often using the Chinese silver cocktail shaker and cups seen above. The President especially enjoyed making unusual martinis, mixing together copious amounts of vermouth with whatever liquor or juice he had on hand. He was also known to add a few drop of absinthe “for flavor” according to his personal secretary, Grace Tully. The Pernod absinthe bottle seen here was from FDR’s tray of liquor in the White House.
FDR even indulged in the practice at diplomatic meetings. “It is cold on the stomach,” remarked Stalin, after being served one of FDR’s concoctions at the Teheran Conference.
Below is the recipe for the “FDR Special” found in the Val-Kill Cookbook:
2 parts gin
1 part dry, light vermouth
olive or lemon peel for garnish
Shake up gin and vermouth in a container half filled with chipped ice. Pour into chilled martini glasses, straining out the ice. Add garnish.