A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at life on Pennsylvania Avenue with America's first families, by the man who spent nearly three decades in their midst.
J. B. West, chief usher of the White House, directed the operations and maintenance of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue―and coordinated its daily life―at the request of the president and his family. He directed state functions; planned parties, weddings, funerals, gardens, playgrounds, and extensive renovations; and with a large staff, supervised every activity in the presidential home. For 28 years, first as assistant to the chief usher, then as chief usher, he witnessed national crises and triumphs, and interacted daily with six consecutive presidents and first ladies, their parents, children and grandchildren, and houseguests―including friends, relatives, and heads of state.
In Upstairs at the White House, West offers an absorbing and novel glimpse at America's first families, from the Roosevelts to the Kennedys and the Nixons. Alive with anecdotes ranging from the quotidian (Lyndon B. Johnson's showerheads) to the tragic (the aftermath of John F. Kennedy's assassination), West's audiobook is an enlightening and rich account of the American history that took place just behind the Palladian doors of the North Portico.
J. B. West
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A story that is told so simply that it has the ring of truth about it. You almost expect an Upstairs Downstairs type of story but it is nothing like it. This book gave a great measure of humanity to the Presidents it covers and their First Ladies showing just how influential the Ladies were. Highly reccommended
I say, if you are interested in a subject and you find a non-fiction book, especially one that is well written – go for it. Such is the case with J.B. West’s UPSTAIRS AT THE WHITE HOUSE. Mr. West, Chief Usher, served at the helm of the inner workings at the White House and for 5 First Ladies from Eleanor Roosevelt to Jackie Kennedy and briefly for Pat Nixon (1957-1969). He was not only well regarded by his peers but by the Presidents and First Ladies whom he served.
This book provides an in-depth look at how each of these women brought a different character to the White House and how their influence and style affected both the general public, the staff, as well as their husbands and families. Additionally, there is a great deal of history shown from another perspective, that of inside the house while world events are going on as well as tables being set, sheets changed, rooms set up for visiting dignitaries, etc.
Upstairs at the White House, by J.B. West is about his life at the White House when he was, first the assistant to the Chief Usher at the White House, then the Chief Usher himself. He worked there for nearly three decades, twenty-eight years, starting with FDR and ending with the first six weeks of Nixon's term. Through the eyes and memories of J.B. West, we are able to catch a more personal glimpse into the lives of the most powerful families in the United states. I was fascinated by the different perspective Mr. West gave into life at the White House and the lives of the first ladies in particular. This memoir read more like a novel than a history book. I frequently found myself turning to whoever was sitting next to me and saying, “Did you know before WWII, they used to fly the flag only when the president was at the White House like they do for the Queen in England?” or “Did you know that Mrs. Kennedy had a baby the same year JFK was assassinated?”...
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