Upstairs at the Roosevelts: Growing Up with Franklin and Eleanor

By Curtis Roosevelt | Go to book overview

4
White House Pleasures of the Table

One of the comforting things about life in the White House was the regularity of some events—like teatime in the afternoon, at about 4:30. Sis and I would be dressed up, looking proper with hair combed and all in place. But while I much enjoyed the tea and cakes, it was being included in the adults’ company—and also being the object of a good deal of attention—that appealed to me the most.

In the evening the president presided at the dining table. My grandmother, as his hostess, sat opposite him. Even in the so-called family dining room, the table was quite large and easily seated twenty people, so the distance across the table between them was at least ten feet. Yet no matter how crowded the table was, Franklin Roosevelt’s personality prevailed. But at teatime my grandmother was in charge, my grandfather rarely present.

When I was young many American families still followed the English tradition of afternoon tea. Granny daily had tea at Hyde Park, even if she was alone. There was always tea at the White House. It might be for a few of us gathered in the West Sitting Hall or a reception for several hundred on the first floor of the White House.

If it were only a dozen of us, Eleanor would be there behind her lovely old tea service ready to ask, “How would you like

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