But Mrs. Kaltman was tough enough to send the domestic side of the Johnson white House into domestic hostility, sometimes famous in the East Wing. Seems she and the oo-la-la famed French chef, Verdon René, hired in April 1961 for his epicurean skills, ran into the budget minded housekeeper/Queen of Food at the White House who insisted on frozen foods, recipes from a common book and a president that wanted his fish slathered in sauce with the skin still on. Mon Dieu. They had a similar arrangement to what the Obama Family has now - on the second floor Sam Kass is in charge of the personal meals and he came with them from Chicago while the Executive Chef handles state functions. A hundred years earlier another battle ended as Mary Todd Lincoln had the housekeeping staff report directly to her. Now, that subject is split into two functions at the Executive Mansion, with cleaning it and cooking for it being two different, yet equal professional career paths. (Sasha clearly knows the ropes and speaks to one of the long tenured White House butlers about exactly what she wants while the First Granny looks on.)
The Cross Hall and Grand Foyer getting a thorough polishing in the Obama White House.
There is a wonderful movie, Back stairs at the White House made on the life of an early twentieth century maid. Many of those at the White House worked for the first family while also working with an aunt, uncle, mother, father and brother. No matter the messes made, memoirs and anecdotes focus on the history and the occasions rather than any grist for the mill. Many serve for decades. An amusing anecdote shared by first lady Hillary Clinton came at the hands of an exuberant tween, Chelsea who had entertained friends with a movie. The popcorn did not exactly land in mouths and Hillary was horrified. The White House staff was in shock as Hillary had Chelsea clean up every kernel and they were not allowed to help. Kind of like Sasha & Malia have no bed service in the mornings - bed made with their own hands before leaving for school and they must help carry in the dishes in the morning for their breakfast.
From 1877, the staff/servants during Lucy Hayes' time as first lady. Almost sixty years later the staff was integrated by Eleanor Roosevelt. She felt the need to make White House domestic staff help African Americans only which kept wages lower and reduced any rancor. Photo courtesy Hayes Administration and Bob Cesca.
Shirley Bailey in 1970 learned her craft working for hoteliers before setting her keen eye about the executive mansion. The job always has perils such as the hate between the president and the person in charge of the food in the 1930s & !940s. Henrietta Nesbitt as the stern housekeeper overseeing cooking for FDR & Eleanor Roosevelt courted fame for the lousiness of the food served during her tenure. In 1926, single lady Miss Ellen Reilly was hired as the head of housekeeping for the White House and even traveled with President Calvin Coolidge being hired from managing a cafeteria at a retailing outfit in Boston. Blair House, the presidential guest house, has the same attention to excellence and the opportunities to transfer over to the White House when an opening becomes available allows them to serve the president directly.
Its not only the floors, walls, and dishes that get a good scrubbing in the White House. Liberty could usually be found in the Oval Office, but here is Susan Ford with Frankie Blair providing a vigorous doggy bath.