A Couple More White Houses
By Jack Mills
Sixty-eight years ago, a skinny 10-year-old boy peered through the trees and brush that separated his home from a huge white house in the West Hills of Portland, Oregon.
Thirty years later, in 1971, that same boy, now an adult, was ushered into another huge white house on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. There with a few businessmen, he was served cocktails and shook hands with the then-resident President.
Recently, that same 10-year-old boy, having passed through adulthood and now classified as a seventy-eight-year-old man, met at yet another white house, on Highway 35 in Hood River, Oregon. Here the 2008 Plein Air Writing Exhibition group gathered on August 28 to receive writing instructions, a gift package of writer’s goodies and some delightful donut holes.
The commonality of the three white houses mentioned above is the large white pillars outside supporting a second-story porch with a painted white railing. In size, the D.C. house was the largest, even without the east and west wings. The Portland house was next and the Highway 35 structure came in third, even though all three did, and still do, look impressively important.
With the Plein Air mission being to “Grasp a Moment,” I shall flash back sixty-eight years to the cocktail reception gathering on the lawn in front of the huge white house in Portland. Automobiles had been parking around the block while white-jacketed bartenders were passing out drinks, and smiling ladies in shiny black dresses with starched white aprons served hors d’oeuvres.
At about 6 p.m., as seen by the 10-year-old boy in the bushes, two black limousines double-parked in front of the house. From the first, four serious-looking men in black suits climbed out, and from the second came Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady, looking just as she did in the pictures he had seen all of his young life.
The guests parted and clapped politely as she crossed the lawn to the porch of the huge white house to meet her hostess, Nan Wood Honeyman. These two women, I learned later, had been long-time friends and had each served as maid of honor at the other’s wedding.
A short time later, a small single-engine, yellow aeroplane started circling overhead. The guests quieted somewhat as the men in black suits looked apprehensively aloft. Suddenly, the plane dipped down low and, just clearing the trees, flew over the
revelers. As everyone gasped and a few cried out, the plane flipped upside down so that all could see the large black block letters that spelled: WENDELL WILLKIE.
For those too young to remember, Wendell Willkie was the Republican Presidential Candidate who ran against Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940.
Everybody except the men in black suits laughed, and some even cheered, as the plane flew off and the party continued.
Jack Mills retired as vice president of U.S. Bank in Portland, Oregon, in 1975. He moved to Mt. Hood, purchased the Mt. Hood Country Store and served on the Hood River County Commission for six years. He has been involved with the Mt. Hood Railroad for the past 20 years.