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White House Birthday Party 1956 | by Vermont Ferret
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White House Birthday Party 1956

As I've mentioned elsewhere, Barbara Anne Eisenhower, the president's granddaughter, was in my 1st and 2nd grade classes at St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Va. Her brother David (who later married Nixon's daughter Julie) was in the class ahead of me.


Hopelessly smitten with Anne from the first day of school, I was hardly alone--every boy in our class felt pretty much the same way. She was taller than most of the boys and all of the girls and very sweet and very pretty--the whole class adored her. Neither Anne nor David ever made a big deal about the president to anyone, always modestly referring to him as "Grandfather".


For her birthday in 1956 Anne invited our class and her friends from Ft. Belvoir, where her father was stationed, to celebrate her birthday at the White House. The photo above was taken at the very end of the party before we all went home.


Our parents dropped us off at school on a Wednesday afternoon, where a fleet of cars driven by the Secret Service picked us up and drove us into an underground garage at the White House. From there we were all escorted to the room in the photo where Anne was sitting on the couch opening presents; her friends from Ft. Belvoir were already there.


For her birthday I'd given Anne a matching pen and pencil set from the Episcopal High School where my dad taught. She'd seen my dad's set earlier that winter on one of the occasions when she and David and their mom (who's standing in the back on the left) would spend a day at our home on campus, sledding down the school's front drive and ice skating on the pond. The Secret Service guys loved coming to the campus--they'd go sledding along with us. Armed.


Anne came over to thank me for my present just as the President walked in. Ike joined us and wished Anne a happy birthday; then, turning to me, he asked her, "Who's your friend, Anne?"


Anne replied, "Grandfather, I'd like you to meet my friend Willie R*venel!"


Ike stuck out his hand and looked me in the eye and said, "Hello, Willie!" I shook his hand. I was pretty thrilled--our family loved Ike.


The next photo in this set and the rest of the story to follow...

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Taken on July 30, 2005