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Male narrator: It's the most powerful house in the world,
a place where decisions affecting millions of Americans
are routine business; and during war,
the future of the planet waits on choices made here.
But the White House is something else, too.
It's a home, a refuge for the President and First Family
to escape extraordinary burdens,
and a place to just live.
Gary Walters: It's a tough position, the presidency.
They're always under the scrutiny of prying eyes,
and they need some sanctuary.
narrator: The 95 people
who make up the White House Residence Staff
make that possible:
even friends-- intensely loyal, nonpartisan
and dedicated to serving President after President.
They are constant witnesses to history.
From scandals, to resignations,
to national tragedies,
these workers are at the heart of the action,
eyewitnesses to the most powerful person in the world.
Roland Mesnier: I've seen every President that I've served.
I've seen them laugh, and I've seen them cry,
every single one of them.
That's the one thing you get to do
when you're the chief usher.
You get to hear an awful lot from the source.
They just do their jobs
and make the residents of the White House feel it's their home,
and they're very special in every way, and all of them.
There wasn't a bad apple in the bunch.
narrator: The White House has been home
to every American President, except George Washington.
John Adams was the first President
to actually live here,
and when he arrived in November 1800,
he brought his servants with him.
Subsequent Presidents continued the tradition
of bringing their own staff,
in many cases, slaves, for decades
until Congress approved funding
for a permanent staff in 1840.
Today, there are 95 people working inside the White House,
known as the Residence Staff.
Their workplace is also uniquely designed as a living space.
The 132-room Executive Mansion
includes the three floor residence,
where the President and First Family live
the West Wing, where the President works--
and the East Wing,
where the First Lady and her staff have offices.
But the heart of the working White House
is here in the Ushers' Office.
The Chief Usher manages the entire Residence Staff.
President Bush, Sr: Called Chief Usher, I think.
Barbara Bush: That's right. But he's so much more than that.
He really ran the White House.
When I went to work there and told friends
that I was an usher at the White House,
they thought I was working
in the theater at the White House, seriously.
But Mrs. Eisenhower didn't like the name,
Mrs. Kennedy didn't like the name,
but they couldn't think of a better name,
so it stayed as the Ushers' Office.
Bill Cliber: We're a small group, but very efficient group.
We know what we have to do and how to handle it.
narrator: Smithsonian Curator, Jim Deutsch,
has been studying White House workers for more than a decade.
One thing that we, as folklorists at the Smithsonian, do
is we study living culture.
We study the traditions.
narrator: The Smithsonian Center for Folk Life and Cultural Heritage
brings history to life,
taking it directly to the people.
White House workers have been part
of the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival in Washington, DC,
and their stories are being showcased
in a national traveling exhibit.
Jim Deutsch: Workers at the White House
represent a very special and distinctive occupational group
who are bearers of wonderful traditions.
They have amazing memories.
They have been witnesses to great amounts of history.
narrator: For Chief Usher Gary Walters,
the simple act of lighting a fire in the fireplace
became a powerful symbol
when Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, visited in 1987.
Gorbachev had come to sign
the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty,
a giant step forward in ending the Cold War.
Gary Walters: But after that treaty signing in the East Room,
the two Heads of State walked into the State Dining Room,
and they stood before two podiums,
separated by only the great fireplace in the State Dining Room,
which we lit that time,
for the only time that I can remember
when I was at the White House,
and then, they talked to the world.
And as the warmth from the fire
relieved the coolness in the room,
it's rather trite to say,
but I could really feel the Cold War ending.
It was a very emotional time for me.
It was the most historic moment that I can remember.
You're not just seeing history on television or something.
You're actually part of it
and, you know, realize the context
in which you're dealing.
This is history every day at the White House
that's being made in one form or the other.
The Presidents, every one of them,
Presidents and First Ladies,
have talked about that sense of history.
Never got over it.
I felt a sense of awe the first time I walked into the residence
and to the Oval Office as I did the day we left,
same sense of awe, same sense of respect,
same grasp of wonderful history
that surrounded that place.
And so, you never get over it,
you never want to get over it.
It was very, very special.
narrator: The crucible of history
leaves coworkers feeling like family;
and for some, the White House becomes a family business.
Lillian Rogers Parks was 12
when she first started going to the White House with her mom in 1909.
Her mother, Maggie Rogers, worked as a maid under President Taft.
Lillian went on to join the staff
as a seamstress in 1929,
during the Hoover Administration.
Jim Deutsch: What greater pride
could there be in asking your children
to work in the same place you were working in,
carrying on a family tradition?
narrator: President and Mrs. Hoover
expected the staff to be virtually invisible.
When the workers heard three bells,
it meant the President was moving,
and they had to disappear from sight.
Alonzo Fields, who served as a butler
and maitre d' for more than 20 years,
remembers what it was like.
Alonzo Fields: You heard the three bells.
You took off. You got behind doors.
You didn't stay in the corridor.
You'd get off the floor and get into a closet.
If people hear the bell, and man,
they'd run just like a mouse would run for his hole.
The cat came in, you'd run into that little closet.
narrator: Years ago, incredible loyalty and excellent work
weren't any shield to intolerable treatment,
even in the White House.
Starting around 1909 to about the mid-1930s,
there were segregated facilities
for the White and the Black workers.
narrator: For Alonzo Fields and many others,
it was hard to comprehend.
Alonzo Fields: This, I just couldn't understand.
I didn't appreciate it at all.
To me, the White House, as the example for the country,
there it should be that equality be shown.
narrator: Those days are over,
but the dedication of the White House Residence Staff is unchanged.
Jim Deutsch: With the idea of transition and continuity,
it's very important among White House workers.
And so, when one President leaves,
the staff remains,
and they provide the glue that keeps the presidency going.
You can ask the staff in the White House.
That's the first thing they say.
Oh, this is the guy that never made the same dessert twice.
narrator: Roland Mesnier is the longest-running
Executive Pastry Chef in White House history.
Roland Mesnier: You can't compare the White House
with any other establishments.
I don't care where you have been,
the White House is,
first of all, for me, the sacred place.
narrator: For 26 years, Roland served five Presidents
and their families,
beginning with President Carter.
Today, Roland's mind is a rolodex
of every President's favorite dessert.
Two of them were famous for loving dessert,
more than even everybody else was:
President Reagan and President Clinton.
When Reagan came in, of course, President Reagan
loved, loved chocolate, one of his favorite things,
but Mrs. Reagan was not too keen for him to have it too often.
So, when Mrs. Reagan maybe was out of town,
doing business in California,
we will very likely sneak in a beautiful chocolate dessert to the President
with crunchy stuff in it.
He loved crunch, always something crunchy.
narrator: The first President Bush
appreciated almost any type of food.
Roland Mesnier: George Bush, Sr.,
I must say, from all the Presidents,
is the one who was the most adventurous in eating different food.
narrator: President Clinton presented special challenges.
He was allergic to flour, dairy products, and chocolate.
So that leaves very little for the Pastry Chef to work with,
but he loves dessert, too.
There have to be dessert in every meal.
So, many things were created for him.
He loved carrot cake.
He was a big favorite of carrot cake.
And what he was not supposed to do,
he loved chocolate cake;
and, you know, sometimes he would fight me,
because when we were at a party,
and chocolate cake was served, we made a carrot cake for him.
He said, "Roland, I don't want that.
I want a piece of chocolate."
I said, "Mr. President, this is not your cake."
He said, "You're wrong.
It is my cake for today."
And the next day, guess what?
The eyes all puffed up.
I can tell when he's been a bad boy.
His eyes get all puffed up.
So, you know, but he's the President.
He can have whatever he wants.
And then George W. Bush,
of course, cake and ice cream was always a big favorite.
I, Lyndon Baines Johnson--
narrator: But working on the White House Residence Staff
isn't all ice cream and cake.
President Johnson: I will faithfully execute--
Chief Justice: --the office of the Presidency of the United States.
President Johnson: --the office of the Presidency of the United States.
narrator: Inaugurations are particularly trying for the Residence Staff,
both professionally and personally.
Gary Walters: Inauguration Day is the hardest day on the staff,
not from just a physical aspect of moving one family out
and moving another family in,
but certainly from the aspect of the emotional change.
You've lived, literally lived--
sometimes, it's the first people
that they see in the morning,
and the last people they see at night.
So, you've lived with these families
for four or eight years
and watched, in the case of Chelsea,
grow up from a young girl to a young woman;
the Bush girls, in college, when they started,
and now one of them's gotten married.
narrator: In 1992, President Bush and Governor Clinton
waged a grueling race for the White House.
Just a few months later, they put rancor aside,
and President Bush turned over the keys to the new President.
President Bush: Welcome to your new house.
Good to see you. Good luck, sir.
narrator: It was a peaceful and seamless transition of power,
but still an enormous adjustment for everyone.
Christine Limerick: For every First Family coming in,
it is a shocking experience.
All of a sudden, you're in this big historic house.
You have all these people running around, staff members.
And if you have never had personal servants,
it is an adjustment.
narrator: That morning, the incoming First Family
has tea with the outgoing Administration.
Walter Scheib: They are deserving, entitled to,
and are owed the same level of intensity,
respect, and dignity
that we gave the previous First Family.
Roland Mesnier: Now, when they come in,
they bring all sort of guests with them, the new family.
So, we are in the kitchen cooking and baking all day long
to make all sorts of things, just in case they say,
"Oh, well, do you have a carrot cake somewhere?
Do you have a cheesecake? Do you have cookies?
Do you have ice cream?"
You don't know what they may ask of you,
because you don't know anything of this new incoming family.
narrator: Once in a lifetime events seem to happen every month
at the White House.
State dinners are probably the most complicated.
They require solid teamwork and months of preparation.
Every part of the Residence Staff,
including butlers, florists, and chefs,
has to work as an intricate team.
Walter Scheib: Oh, a state dinner is an amazing,
an amazing occurrence.
You know, I would-- you know, while it's called a state dinner,
I think it really is more like a Broadway play,
in terms of all the different components
that come into it to make it work.
There are literally thousands of people involved,
and the chefs are one component of that.
narrator: State visits begin with an official arrival ceremony
in the morning.
Leaders come from all corners of the globe.
For their first state dinner in 1994,
the Clintons hosted the Emperor and Empress of Japan.
Anwar Sadat, the President of Egypt,
visited the Carters in 1979.
Prince Charles and Princess Diana
were among the many guests of the Reagans.
South African leader Nelson Mandela
personally met with many of the Residence Staffers
on his state visit in the summer of 1998.
State dinners have a thousand essential details,
and nothing is left to chance.
Walter Scheib: Once the final menu is decided on,
we would rehearse it, and rehearse it, and rehearse it,
make sure we had it just exactly right,
because working at the White House
isn't like a hotel or a restaurant.
If the dinner doesn't go well,
it's not you can give them ten percent off the check
and a free glass of champagne.
You really have embarrassed the First Lady;
and goodness knows, you would never want to do that.
Nancy Mitchell: And the dinner,
everything just had to be so perfect,
no fingerprints on the wine glasses.
If there was ever a chance to shine for the chefs
and for our whole staff, that was it.
narrator: By evening, the President and First Lady
greet the visiting Head of State and his wife
on the North Portico of the White House
for the big event.
The media is on hand to film everyone's arrival.
After passing through the receiving line,
guests are seated in the State Dining Room,
and the leaders' toasts begin.
Mr. President, I raise my glass to you and to Mrs. Bush,
to the friendship between our two countries
and to the health, freedom, prosperity,
and happiness of the people of the United States of America.
narrator: Back in the kitchen, it's showtime.
Everything is timed, down to the second.
The kitchen's on the ground floor,
and the State Dining Room is one floor above,
so all the food has to be transported upstairs
to the butler's pantry and adjoining family dining room
before it is served.
Roland Mesnier: Then you have the main course.
The main course, again,
you're not going to find some strange meat.
We're not going to be serving octopus for a state dinner.
That would be a big disaster.
Usually, the food is designed not to be offensive to anyone,
meaning, forget about garlic.
Forget about curry.
Forget about all these very strong spices.
narrator: The Clintons started a new tradition:
holding state dinners outside under a tent
to accommodate more people.
This state dinner for India had more than 900 guests.
Roland Mesnier: This is where the best of the world come to eat,
so everything has to be the best.
narrator: After dinner, guests are entertained
in the East Room.
It's a long day for the staff.
It usually starts about 5:00 in the morning of the actual day
and goes well after midnight.
By the time we finish cleaning up,
sometimes it's 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning of the next day.
narrator: State dinners are challenging,
but Christmas season at the White House
is the most demanding time of year.
Like in January, the first year we got there,
Nancy came up from the flower shop and said,
"All right, what will be the theme of the Christmas?"
I said, "Are you kidding? It's January."
And she said, "We start working right now."
narrator: The residence staffers are busier than elves,
Workers are there around the clock,
and this becomes your second family,
your family away from home.
Well, I was the first woman ever to work as an usher
in the White House.
I began during the Christmas season,
which, for the Residence Staff, is the busiest time of year.
It's absolutely crazy during Christmas,
because there are so many events,
and there's so much planning and last-minute changes,
and, you know, it's a fun time.
It's a beautiful time,
but it's kind of crazy in the Ushers' Office.
It was fun, because you loved seeing people come there,
and admiring the beauty of the White House at Christmas,
and just being in that majestic building,
so that offset the--
Exhaustion. --angst about having so many events.
narrator: The chefs have their fair share of holiday madness, too.
Roland Mesnier: Mrs. Laura Bush wanted to have on the dessert table
Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory.
So, I came down to my shop, and I was very puzzled.
I said--I stopped my staff from working.
I said, "Excuse me, everyone here,
but can you tell me who the hell is Willy Wonka?"
I didn't grow up with Willy Wonka.
I don't know Willy Wonka.
We don't have that story in France,
so I had no idea what he was.
What do I do now? Buy the book? Yes.
Read the books, and where do I go next?
Home Depot to buy all sort of pipes,
and pots, and everything.
And Willy Wonka came alive.
I became Willy Wonka.
People used to say to me, "Roland, you're as crazy as Willy Wonka."
narrator: Even with the never-ending demands of the White House,
First Families need time to relax
and just be with each other.
And the White House staff helps them carve out privacy
in the most public place in the world.
Gary Walters: First and foremost,
it is the home of the First Family,
and it's the place where they can go, and reside,
and feel comfortable in their privacy.
Once the public goes out each day,
and once the activities of the Presidency are done for the day,
the entire residence,
not just the second and third floor,
which some people refer to as the President Apartment,
but the entire residence
is the home of the President and his family.
narrator: The First Family lives
on the second and third floors of the residence.
The second floor has five bedrooms,
including the famous Lincoln Bedroom,
a small kitchen, a dining room,
and seven baths.
The third floor is where the First Family goes to relax.
It houses the billiard room, workout room, and solarium.
It's also where some of the Residence Staff has offices.
The South Lawn of the White House
is the First Family's backyard.
The Truman Balcony, on the second floor,
provides both privacy and a spectacular view.
Gary Walters: But all the Presidents also have talked
about sitting up on the Truman Balcony
and feeling in touch with the American people,
because they could look out across the expanse of the South Lawn
into the Ellipse,
and hear people playing baseball and soccer,
and the traffic going by,
and looking at the Washington Monument
and the Jefferson Memorial in the distance.
One thing that makes the White House so distinctive
is this mix of public and private.
It is a private residence, you know.
A family lives there,
and yet it is the public symbol of the Presidency,
and the workers at the White House
have to straddle both the public and the private.
Christine Limerick: Privacy is a very big issue with First Families,
some more than others.
The Reagans were private people,
but they enjoyed having the staff around.
The Bush 43 President and First Lady,
they enjoy the staff,
but they like a lot of private time.
You have to learn to adjust to that.
It's just an individual preference.
Gary Walters: You know, there's 95 people on the Residence Staff,
plus all the other staff that are around,
and you have to trust that those people
are going to provide you with a degree of privacy.
It's not easy.
The Presidency is not easy.
narrator: The White House staff also develops an instinctive sense
of how to deal with sensitive situations.
We would try, I guess,
everybody who worked at the residence
would always try to judge the temperature, if you will,
of the House, and this temperature really
was how the First Family was feeling.
As a chef, you can make a huge difference
in the days of Presidents and First Ladies.
Those people have a lot of bad days,
a lot of bad days,
a lot of bad news, a lot of bad things,
and this is when you have to know what to serve.
narrator: The Monica Lewinsky scandal,
during the Clinton Administration,
was rough on everyone.
And I was very sad to see our President,
and First Lady, and Chelsea
being hurt so much every single day.
There's nothing you can say,
but you can use your job the best you can,
and my job, at the time, is to make dessert.
This is why I decided to come up
with this strawberry cake at the time.
I said, you know, "I know he's going to love that.
This is right down his alley."
The first night we served him that cake,
as he was eating by himself.
He ate by himself for a few days.
He ate half of the cake by himself, a 10-inch cake.
narrator: Mrs. Clinton had her own comfort food.
Roland Mesnier: Mrs. Clinton loved her mocha cake,
and I knew, when she had down day,
when she was down,
that's what she loved best, to have a slice of mocha cake.
And I did quite a few cakes in that period of time, mocha cake.
And I was glad I could do something, you know.
[drone of airplane]
archival narration: Friday morning, 11:37, the President's jet lands
at the Dallas Airport, Love Field.
narrator: The White House has been home
to some of our nation's most painful tragedies,
and the White House staff has to work,
even as they grieve.
archival narration: Several thousand enthusiastic Texans are on hand
to give the President and Mrs. Kennedy a warm welcome.
narrator: Usher Nelson Pierce will never forget
that tragic Friday in November 1963.
At 12:45, I got to the East Gate,
and the police officer said,
"Pierce, hurry and get to the office.
The boss has just been shot.
archival narration: It appears as though something has happened
in the motorcade route.
Something, I repeat, has happened in the motorcade route.
There's numerous people running up the hill,
alongside Elm Street, there by the Simmons Freeway.
Nelson Pierce: When I got to the office, of course, the TV was on.
We were watching everything, and I was the one
that actually got the call from Texas
that his death was official.
And Rex Scouten said, "Call the engineers
and have them lower the flag on the House."
So, I called the engineers,
and then I called GSA Flag Control Center
and told them the death was official,
to have all flags on ships at sea,
embassies all over the world,
fly their flags at half staff for 30 days.
narrator: Within minutes, flags all over the country
were lowered to half staff.
Nelson Pierce: And that got me right here,
and for 30 days, I had a problem,
because I was the one that gave the order
to have all those flags flown at half staff.
Within ten minutes after Air Force One departed Dallas,
Mrs. Kennedy had her secretary call us
and tell us that she wanted the funeral
as much like Abraham Lincoln's as possible.
The ushers got in touch with the Curators' Office immediately,
and the Curators got in touch with the Library of Congress,
and the amount of research that went on
in a matter of just a few hours was incredible.
Bill Cliber: Went up in the East Room
and helped the people drape the black batten
around the chandeliers in the East Room,
and set up the casket podium,
and was there when the casket was brought in
before the review of the First Lady.
Everything was done as close to Lincoln's funeral
as we could do it,
even down to the decoration of the White House in black crepe.
narrator: But the White House staff couldn't plan for everything,
especially their own feelings.
That night, when they brought him back,
and put him in the East Room,
that's when it really set in that he was really gone.
And seeing Mrs. Kennedy there, when she came in,
that was really a sad time.
That's when it really hits you.
Nelson Pierce: I saw Mrs. Kennedy coming down the ha
from the East Room,
and wondered what I would say to her
when she came around the corner to the elevator.
And there was a time when our eyes met,
as she came around the corner,
and there was a rapport between us
that I had never known,
and I knew I didn't have to say a word.
She still had on the pink dress with the blood stains.
And it was a very difficult time in my life;
and even now, I have trouble thinking about it
and talking about it.
Bill Cliber: To see the caissons come up the north driveway,
through the northwest gate, and pick up the President,
Chills went down my spine.
I haven't talked about this in years.
narrator: One of the worst days at the White House
in recent history was September 11, 2001.
Chief Usher Gary Walters didn't go home
for three straight days.
The morning, September 11th, I had walked out with Mrs. Bush.
She was on her way to the Capitol.
And as she was getting in the car,
as the Secret Service agent was assisting her,
he turned to her, and to me, and said,
"You might want to watch television, Gary.
There's been a plane fly into the World Trade Center in New York."
I walked into the Ushers' Office,
and the television was on,
and there were three or four of my assistants
that were standing there
and sitting and watching the television.
And just as I walked into the room,
I saw a plane fly into the building.
And I stopped, and I looked,
and I asked my assistant, I said,
"How did they get that on tape so quickly?
I understand a plane just flew in."
And he looked at me, and it was like somebody hit me
with a fist in the stomach.
He said, "That's the second plane."
[clearing throat] Wasn't any doubt in my mind,
at that point, we were under attack.
And somebody came and grabbed me and said,
"Roland, you've got to get out now."
I said, "What for? Are you crazy? No!"
"I mean now!"
And that lady was a little lady.
She grabbed me and pushed me out of the shop
and said, "Now go!"
I was up on the second floor
when I saw the explosions at the Pentagon.
I looked back over my left shoulder,
down towards the river, and across the river,
and there was this column
of what appeared to be khaki-colored smoke.
And it turned out, I learned later,
it wasn't the smoke.
It was actually the Pentagon stone vaporizing
and followed very, very quickly by this jet black--
the jet fuel burning.
Christine Limerick: I was trying to round up my staff,
but getting everybody outside
and then trying to find everybody,
and the panic on the street
for a couple of hours after the attacks,
it was, it was traumatic.
Gary Walters: What most people don't realize is that that day,
we were supposed to have the Congressional Barbecue
on the South Lawn of the White House.
Twelve hours later, the entire United States government
would've been on the South Lawn of the White House,
with the exception of one secretary to the President.
Had that occurred at night,
and had the White House been a target,
they would've been able to wipe out
the entire United States government.
But I knew the President was coming back to the White House.
And given the urgency of what had occurred,
he wasn't going to be able to land somewhere else
and motorcade into the White House.
So, I was determined that we were going to get
the picnic tables off of the lawn
and clean things up
so that the helicopter could come back.
To make a long story short,
we were able to finally clear the picnic tables off.
Even though the Secret Service had told everybody
to evacuate and everything, we stayed behind.
I had five people that stayed with me.
The President was able to land there later that night
and speak to the American people from the Oval Office.
And if you ever see those pictures again,
when the helicopter lands, you'll see picnic tables
stacked all the way around the South Lawn,
as the President walks to the Oval Office
to give the address that night.
narrator: The Residence Staffers
are the permanent eyes and ears of the White House.
They witness historic events,
but they also see everyday facets of life in the White House,
and gain an unvarnished view
of our Presidents and First Ladies.
LBJ would go around grading you all the time,
give you A's and B's and D's and F's.
You know, he would turn around
and tell the White House policemen,
"Well, you got an F. Go find another job."
Mrs. Reagan was very particular,
and she had an idea about how the residence should look.
She was particular about her personal belongings.
She had a lot of collections.
She had collections of Limoges boxes.
She had collections of jade frogs.
She had collections of silver picture frames.
We would have a table that might be 6 X 6.
We might have 100 items on that table.
And in order to dust every day,
we had to pick up the items and dust
and put them back
exactly the way they were located.
At that point, we started photographing the collections,
so that we would know
exactly how things should be put back after we cleaned,
and that was a big help.
It's still being used.
That system is still being used in the residence.
narrator: Barbara Bush was the grandmother to the staff.
Nancy Mitchell: She knew each member of the staff by name,
and she would often go down and see them.
We have engineers there,
and she would go down into the bowels of the basement,
where most First Ladies didn't go,
and see, visit, and see what they were doing.
They were so wonderful, and we had those two wild dogs.
They weren't wild, but that-- when we would go on a trip,
they'd be put downstairs with the engineers.
And once I went down without giving them notice,
and it said on the blackboard, "Wash those two stinking dogs."
[chuckling] And they were humiliated,
but the truth was they were wonderful.
They washed the dogs,
which was not on their agenda at all.
narrator: President Bush 41 started a horseshoe tournament
with the Residence Staff.
And they loved it.
I'd sit in the Oval Office
and hear those horseshoes clanking down,
and there at the Southwest Gate,
they'd be practicing for the next encounter.
It was really fun.
I think it was good for morale, certainly good for my morale.
I just absolutely loved it.
narrator: Ron Jones, from Housekeeping,
was the staff's best player.
President Bush Sr.: I could never beat him on a good day,
or any other day.
narrator: But some days, even Presidents get lucky.
And Ron and I stood there in the Executive pit,
and for some reason, he clutched up,
and I beat him badly.
And he said, "We've got to have one more."
I said, "No, Ron, this was one game only.
And don't worry. I'm not going to tell anybody about it."
The minute he walked through the hedge,
I got on the telephone and called the ushers
and the other butlers, and I said,
"Ask Ron how the match went today, will ya?
Tell him." It was just wonderful.
narrator: It's not just Presidents and First Ladies
that staffers feel affection for.
The White House is often home to children.
To see Chelsea there as a--
I think she was in the seventh grade
when they came in-- in braces.
And we watched Chelsea mature.
She was with us for eight years.
narrator: The First Families' cats and dogs
get plenty of attention, too.
Christine Limerick: I have never seen a White House pet
that I didn't like. [chuckling]
The Fords had a Golden Retriever named Liberty,
and they made the puppies available to the staff.
My fellow Americans, thank you for joining Nancy--
narrator: The Reagans had Rex, a cavalier King Charles Spaniel,
named after the former Chief Usher of the White House,
Millie and Ranger were the Bushs' beloved Springer Spaniels.
Ronald Reagan used to feed the squirrels.
And our dogs liked to chase squirrels.
And so, when he left the White House,
he put a sign right outside the Oval Office
that said, "Beware of the Dogs,"
for the squirrels, you see.
And they would go across the White House lawn,
both Ranger and Millie,
and they'd get a huge count on these squirrels.
They'd do them in, and it was wonderful.
We were applauding them.
Nancy Mitchell: You'd see Mrs. Bush out walking on the grounds,
which she did often.
And then you'd see Millie right behind her,
or right in front of her.
Well, Millie was wonderful.
You know, when she had her puppies
there at the White House, up on the second floor,
we built a special box for her,
and she had all her puppies right there.
It was just spectacular.
Everybody was so excited.
narrator: Barney and Mrs. Beasley
became a part of the residence family, too.
And Barney loved my shoes at the White House.
Every time, if I would be in the elevator among 10 people,
15 people, and Barney comes in--
--go between the peoples' legs to come to my shoes,
because he find on my shoes
chocolate, sugar, flour, butter.
You should have seen him licking my--
I had the cleanest shoes in the White House with Barney.
narrator: There's another inevitable cycle of emotion for the staff:
the sadness when First Families leave the White House.
Gary Walters: So, you get to live with them.
You know them intimately.
And when they leave, it's a pretty emotional time.
You're not going to be around them any longer.
narrator: The Residence Staff leaves their politics at the door.
Their job is ultimately a commitment to the Presidency,
not the individual President.
When President Nixon resigned,
many loyal staffers felt a deep sense of sadness.
That was a very sad time,
because you could see the man deteriorate
almost from day to day, physically,
and there wasn't anything you could do to help him.
narrator: On the day of her husband's resignatio
Mrs. Nixon asked electrician Bill Cliber
for one last favor.
Bill Cliber: When she saw me there, she said,
"You take care of him, Bill."
And I said, "Sure.
Whatever he wants, I'll do it."
So, he walked ahead of me with his entourage
and went on over there, and I walked on up.
I went and stood to the right-hand side of the President,
and he went through his speech.
Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency,
effective at noon tomorrow.
Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President
at that hour in this office.
After his speech, he just turned around and says,
"It's all over, Bill."
I said, "Unfortunately, you're right."
And, you know, those people,
you're just a little person in their life,
but sometimes, they feel so lonely.
I mean, being on top of the mountain
sometimes is a lonely, lonely place.
narrator: It's a White House tradition for the Residence Staff
to gather in the State Dining Room
for the final farewell.
The President and First Family say goodbye
before they head to the Capitol for the changeover.
And they came down, and the three of them--
Chelsea, and Mrs. Clinton, and the President--
they didn't say a word when they first got there.
They just stood in the middle,
and they looked at each and every one of us in the eyes,
and that made a lot of people just plain break down.
narrator: It's just as emotional for the Presidents.
I find that I cry whether it's good news,
[chuckling] bad news, or no news.
And this was very emotional,
because they were all like family,
and they just did a superb job,
and it's like saying goodbye to a son or a daughter.
You walked out that door, and wow!
I found it very difficult to keep my composure.
Barbara Bush: We took one last circle
around the South Lawn with the dogs,
and then came back, greeted the Clintons.
And as we were leaving,
I snuck through from the Oval Room and hugged them--
I'm going to cry talking about it--
but hugged the ushers and the staff goodbye.
narrator: Roland Mesnier finally retired from the White House in 2004,
after 26 years of service,
but the White House has never left him.
Roland Mesnier: I'm still in the White House in my mind.
I'm still making dessert for state dinners,
when I know there is one.
I still worry about what the family eats every day,
because I was so much part of it.
President Nixon: This house has a great heart,
and that heart comes from those who serve.
After a hard day, I'd always get a lift from them,
because I might be a little down,
but they always smiled.
narrator: The bond between First Families and staff
is so genuine,
it inspires incredible loyalty.
It is the defining experience
for generations of White House workers.
And it's an honor to be able to just go in every day,
and see the President and the First Lady
and talk with them and their families.
We always felt we were the luckiest living humans.
narrator: The White House Residence Staff
doesn't try to make history,
but they help make history possible.
They're anonymous to the public,
but the Presidents know their names.
And people treat you so generously
and with so much kindness,
you want to show your appreciation
in any way you possibly can.
So, President 41, when he sees me,
you know what he does?
The hug. [sighing]
You know, it makes you feel very special,
you know, makes you feel like all those years
you spent in the White House, you worked very hard,
but they were worth it because of that, you see.
That's the icing on the cake.