Sunday, April 8, 2012

Herbert Hoover: Easter Egg Scrooge

Well, not as much as FDR. . .

"No, Lou Henry, dear.  Keep the kids in the yard until I go back to the office." 

A tip for presidents: Go out and interact with the kids for the White House Easter Egg Roll. . . even if for only a minute.  Okay, okay, I am being to harsh on Herbert.  At least he didn't cancel the activity completely like Franklin Roosevelt did four his full four terms!  The Easter Egg Roll at the White House has been an on and off ceremony since 1814 when James and Dolley Madison imitated the tradition (just a few months before the Brits burned down the joint).  The event did not happen with regularity until the Eisenhower Administration.  It has been going strong ever since.  On this Easter Sunday, we look back to the 1929 egg roll hosted by First Lady Lou Henry Hoover.  We begin with an AP news article:

"Mrs. Hoover Sees Fun. WASHINGTON, April 1, [1929]. (AP) -- Eastertide egg rolling, that unique annual custom of Washington youngsters, brought life and laughter today to the usually staid and sedate lawns of the White House and capitol.

The third Easter Monday rendezvous of the children--Zoological park--also was crowded.  Throngs of visitors sought admittance to each gathering place, apparently intent on finding out just how egg rolling is played.  Among these for a time at the White House were some newcomers to official life, such as Mrs. Ray Lyman Wilbur, the wife of the secretary of the interior.  She was with the group which accompanied President and Mrs. Hoover to watch the youngsters.  The others in the group were Mrs. Edward H. Gann, sister of Vice President Curtis; Mrs. James J. Davis, wife of the secretary of labor, and Mrs. Mabel Walker Willebrandt, assistant attorney general.

Play Has No Rules.
The play they saw was not bounded by rules.  Each child was free to roll his eggs as he chose.  The picture was one of pink faces and eager eyes which followed the brilliantly dyed Easter eggs as they spun capriciously along the fresh, green grass; and of young, scampering feet which chased the eggs.

Small groups would cluster on the tops of knolls and tiny backs would bend to roll the eggs down the shallow inclines.  Once the egg reached the bottom, its young sponsor would run to pick it up again and then the process would be repeated.  Although egg rolling is the title by which children best know their Easter Monday pastime at Washington, that game today, as ever, occupied relatively little of their time.  What it really amounted to was a picnic, the families of the city invariably carrying with them a picnic lunch.

President Stays Inside.
Although the frolic took place not far from his window and the cries of laughter of the children were faintly audible within his office, President Hoover stayed close by his desk throughout the morning.  Mrs. Hoover introduced several innovations of the day's observance.  She invited the children of members of the cabinet, bureau chiefs and the White House staff to gather within the White House before joining the throng on the lawn, and there she greeted them.  Later she provided two Maypoles for installation upon the grass and a group of Girl Scouts gave an exhibition dance.

Entertainment was provided, too, when Mrs. Hoover made her first appearance in the morning.  At that time a quartet of Harvard students gave a short concert of Easter hymns and were followed by the glee club of Earlham college.  Another feature was a concert by the marine band."

"I will name you Herbert."

That's some pretty intense egg diving.

Lou Henry Hoover on the White House portico with children dressed in their Sunday best.

 Big crowds at the White House for the event.

Girl Scouts and children playing around one of the "Maypoles" Mrs. Hoover had set up for the Easter Egg Roll.

Happy Easter, all!

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