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tv   Holidays at the White House  CSPAN  December 28, 2014 10:30pm-11:55pm EST

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bakers, quarter master and line of communication troops picked up the rifle and fought tenaciously against nazi columns. the weather cleared, the air force took to the skies to bomb and take it to the ground. >> up next on american history tv, "project runway" cohost tim gunn hosts a discussion on white house holidays and traditions from the kennedy to the obama administrations. we will hear from lyndon johnson
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robb, daughter of president johnsonm and former white house chief usher gary walter. the white house archives hosted this event. it is about 90 minutes. >> wow, we have a packed house. thank you for coming, everyone. how fun and festive is this? it is great to show the holidays with all of you. i am sure that all of you are wondering, what is tim gunn doing here? you will find out later, and it may surprise you. we have a lot of visual information for you. we have a lot of historical information. we have a preview of things to come. and it is going to be a very exciting night. so welcome. and we should get going with, we have our first slide, which is quite spectacular looking.
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and the white house looks fabulous, does it not? and this could not happen with -- how many volunteers are the? >> depending on the year. >> a little over 100 this year. >> a lot of christmas elves. i feel like that there -- >> years where there were almost 300. they come from all -- it was swarming. >> it is a beehive. >> and your experience as chief usher, do you have to conduct the volunteers as well? >> i was very fortunate to have a young woman to work for me for a number of years. her name was nancy clark and she was both right brain and left brain so she could put together computer some scratch and she could be an incredible designer. as she was the one that kind of orchestrated getting the
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volunteers together in association with the first ladies through the year and the first ladies families. there are normally about 100 to 150 people depending on the circumstances each year. they come from various walks of life. most of them have some affiliation in one form or the other with florists or florist delivery. and it is a wonderful group of people. they are dedicated. what is not known is in addition to the three days it takes to decorate the white house, -- >> it happens in three days? >> it closes down on friday and usually happens on saturday, sunday and monday with the first event eating monday evening. >> those volunteers -- >> that is a real deadline. >> those volunteers come for a week in advance and work at a
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remote site. that is the national park service site were all the decorations are held until they are needed. and then they work for that period of time putting the decorations together. then they are labeled. they are marked where they go. and it is an anthill for a while. >> it is like a military event. it is so organized. you wish your house ran like this. and every volunteer knows exactly where they are going with airbox, written with white decoration. >> you know firsthand because you are hosting a special on hgtv which will air on sunday, yes? we have a preview for all of it. to you want to set it up? >> it is being cut as we speak because we had to -- coleen and i just said, the day after thanksgiving. it is probably the quickest edited show. what we're going to see -- it's very fragmented. consider a top-secret. really cool and not bitmappy and weird. >> let's see the clip. [video clip]
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we promise there is a clip. here it comes. we're staring this way because we have a monitor. >> thank you for saying that. i did not realize we were all looking at it. [video clip] >> we are going to weave the frosted garland of the evergreen. little pinecones. >> then we are to hang some bows and some bells. >> you think it is done, and then there are 10 more layers. >> that's one bit. here is another. >> [inaudible] it's wonderful. >> two. >> so you can never -- it is really pretty pretty >> this particular shade which is vintage. >> really elegant things, you know. >> i think that might be at. one more. >> hi. [inaudible] >> there are 3200 total. this thing is stealing the show in the grand foyer. what is the plan of attack?
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do we start from the bottom and go up or top-down? >> top-down. >> top-down. >> this is the overall plan and a nutshell. it is all about berries. [laughter] >> that was it? all right. [applause] >> i promise the show actually connects together. i do not how we got that feed, but consider it cool. >> the show is about the process. >> most of the country is unaware this is something they can volunteer to do. i have been doing it for six years, and every year i go, the volunteers all approach me saying, this is how we found out that we can do this was watching the show. i am glad that we can be a part
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of bringing everyone into the party in celebrating this beautiful event that happens every year. and it is quite stunning. >> that is how i found out about. >> coleen, your chosen to be the 2014 design partner. >> nancy clark was kind enough to bring me in. i got hooked on the first ladies. i wanted to know all their styles. i ended up writing a book, " christmas with the first ladies." >> to the point. >> and the amazing thing was that mrs. obama invited me back. and this year they asked me to be the design partner. >> what does it involve? >> i got to keep the secret longer. i started working in march on the decorations. got to hear what the first lady's initial ideas were going to be. and i got to see the process inside. and it was just amazing.
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and the outcome, as we all know, it's just really beautiful. in fact, i see one of the gals who was on my team, susan, sitting in the audience. >> i remember you. you were in the clip. >> but we we had a great time. so this year's theme is children's winter wonderland. and just to see all of the elements come together and how many layers. just all of the thought in the process that goes into it from the first lady down is amazing. >> one of the things in that third clip, the gentleman jim you are speaking to -- he has been there for 28 years. he runs a design school. and he also designs ornaments. and he comes every year and spends his time helping the first ladies with their designs for the white house. >> that is wonderful.
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can we ask you, where do all of these trees come from? >> the trees are purchased from across the country. we found a gentleman up in pennsylvania who had a tree farm. the national christmas tree growers association holds a biannual meeting. and it was actually at that meeting that they choose both this year's winner and the next year's winner. and they are, by the christmas tree growers association, given the honor of presenting the blue room tree to the white house. this started in the johnson administration. in association with the national christmas tree association. they also provide a tree at their giving desire for the first family for their own personal tree on the second floor of the residence. we also have this gentleman who grew up in pennsylvania who is
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growing trees. he and his father planted their first batch of christmas trees in the late 1930's. and he called this one field they had literally abandoned a number of years ago the white house field. because the white house wanted trees that were 18 feet, six inches. that is the floor to ceiling measurement in the blue room of the white house. and we cannot find christmas tree growers because christmas tree growers grow trees for your home. how many people have 18 foot ceilings? the top whirl of the tree is tied up on the chandelier so the tree will not fall over. and the bottom has a very substantial stand that holds it in place and allows us to water the tree. the tree is not cut into very late in the season. usually in late november.
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and it allows them to come to the white house and be very fresh. >> how do you water it? >> with a very long hose. it is a garden hose that is about eight foot long. the gardener at the white house has been there for 50 years. devised the system that the hose-- he had a tank they held up in the air. in a very long hose that allowed us to go into the container that contain 15 to 20 gallons of water. and his mantra as far as the preserving the christmas tree was, do not put any additives in the water. a little clorox to keep the germs down. and extremely hot water. because that keeps the capillaries of the tree open. so now you know how to preserve your tree. the white house tree goes up the first week of december and stays up to new year's. and there are some times as 3000
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ordinance on the tree. and they have to support that weight. as i'm sure others can it testify, quite frequently the limbs are held together by wires, all the way to the top. >> you have that hole in your tree? they zip tie the lower pressure the upper branch. all the trees are perfect. you can do this. >> what i would point out is the scaffolding. how many look at this and are terrified? how many of us have been on that scaffolding? linda, they never made you get on the scaffolding? >> never let me. >> secret is out. >> would you stay at the bottom and supervise? >> there were a group of people that were dedicated as supervisors because they all had
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specific jobs. the people standing around the bottom would get the ornaments that are supposed to go on the tree at various levels and they would put them in little baskets. then the person on top would pull the basket up. and put the ornaments on because now that we have so many ornaments that are given by volunteers from around the country, when they come to the white house, they want to know whether ornament is. so we devised a system where we put ribbons on the tree, on each corner, north south, east and west, and we kept track of every five feet so that we could tell mr. smith when he came or mrs. jones your ornament is in the west side of the tree, 1/3 of the way down. it is up to you to find exactly where it is. we give you a general area. >> that degree of detail is
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remarkable. let's go back. this is 1896 and 1902. we are looking at the grover cleveland christmas tree in the yellow oval room. linda, that is the second floor? second floor. so not on the main level. >> right above the blue room. >> here we see teddy roosevelt's son archie, he actually smuggled a small tree into the white house and hit it in a closet in the upstairs sewing room. why? >> because his father was a staunch conservative, and at that time they did not grow trees as a crop. they grew trees in the woods and people went out and saw them -- and cut trees and brought them home. the president being a staunch conservative, he decided he did not want a tree in the house because that did not fit his thinking on cutting down trees. >> he sounds like a grump. >> ba humbug. >> he made great parks. so -- >> here we have franklin roosevelt and his family.
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and more of the roosevelt white house at christmas time. that is -- the east room? >> yep. >> it looks like about heavy tree -- a bottom heavy tree. >> they look like heavy chandeliers. >> there he much so. and the eisenhower white house. and we see a lot of tinsel. >> wow. >> it looks tinsel heavy. >> that was pre-theme. [laughter] >> the theme is tinsel. >> that was the theme, they did a great job of it. then we get to the kennedy white house, and things change here. coleen and gary, can you talk about what happened at that time? >> mrs. kennedy was the first first lady who said, we should have a theme. i guess if you're going to have 100,000 people over for the holidays, you should have a theme. they should be unified kid in the very first theme was "the nutcracker." it was a nutcracker christmas. i believe that his crate paper on the tree. i looked at it. -- it was crepe paper.
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>> i think it was supposed to be ribbon. >> it is more affordable. can you tell us about the creche we see on the right? >> do you want to take it? >> mrs. kennedy decided she wanted to have a creche. >> was that a first? >> the families had private -- this was on the state floor. she borrowed one to be on display at the white house. that started the tradition of the creche on display to remind people that the white house is a home. >> very nice. more of the nutcracker ornaments. >> and caroline. you have to know how precious she looks. >> and the nutcracker legacy was picked up again by the bushes in 1990. >> i think those are a little scary. i'm just saying. >> horrifying. >> they do not have eyes. >> we rounded the slides earlier, and the incredibly
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skillful individual who pulled these images said, she was being kind. this is actually a nice picture compared to the way some of the other was looks. they were rather terrifying. you were there. >> what it was is we bought the faces. they are just faces. blank porcelain faces, and the decorators, the white house florists and people from around the country actually put the different dolls together. they wanted to paint the mustaches to replicate european soldiers at the time. and they were throughout the house. those were on the tree in the blue room. we had a vignette on each one of the tables in the mantle pieces throughout the house that
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replicated the nutcracker, different scenes. but those were all built specifically, all the dolls were built at the white house by the florists. >> i do not know whether that makes it better or worse. [laughter] and then in 1996, president and mrs. clinton bring back the nutcracker theme again. >> and the amazing thing there was chelsea was dancing in the not cracker the year they chose that as the theme. >> this looks more cheerful. >> evolved. >> and now, linda, this is your territory. here we are. >> oh, absolutely. first, you have to recognize that we didn't decorate the
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house until december 22. because, of course, for a month you mourn the president. all over the white house, we had all this black crepe over the mirrors, over everything. then on december 22, which happens to be my mother's birthday, they tore up the crepe, and started putting everything together. and for our year, my father was very fiscally conservative. he said we would use the same decorations every year. and so, they were like your home might be. they were old-time, things that everybody could have, popcorn, and cranberries. after the first year we learned that cranberries should not be on a living tree. >> what happened? >> they cannot take 30 days. dry. so, after that, we had to have fake berries. but we have popcorn on a string.
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and that is -- i have to turn around. >> we are wondering who strung all of that. >> oh. >> did you participate? >> no. 50 years ago is so long that i do not remember that, but if you got the archives bulletin, you will see that little baby lucinda, stand up. [laughter and applause] lucinda was almost two months old. >> i'm going to fast-forward. we have -- >> oh, to have another time? >> let's fast-forward. here we go. >> but you can see -- a little more. this one has lucinda's first cousin's son. and then one of my first cousins children. we really did not spend every christmas at the white house. the only christmas we really spent there was our last christmas. every year we would have two particular special parties.
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one was for the embassy children. and they would come in custom -- i should not say costumes -- what they wore in their country. for us, it looked like costumes. then we would have a party for, i do not know if they were orphaned children, but they were
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particular home. and the children would come. and we would sit at little bitty tables and they would all have a christmas soda or whatever. that was very special.
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that is what the second picture. i'm in the picture with daddy, but you cannot see me -- only half of me. i'm wearing that pink outfit. but you can see the children loving the tree. >> and you had cookies within reach. >> yes. these were all ornaments, these are the ornaments, some of the ornaments over here. i do not know if any of you can see them. >> you can come up afterwards and take a closer look. >> they were very simple. one said, we -- ones we could have on our tree. and that was our theme -- everybody's christmas. i'm going to read you a piece that in december 22 of 1968, my father wrote this note to my mother. to claudia taylor johnson -- her holding. my dearest, upon your return to the white house, arrangements will be made to pay for the christmas tree decorations of you will enjoy them in years ahead. here is another birthday present i have told you -- i have been told he will enjoy. with all my love. and daddy, his next to last year, now, can we go back to the wedding? >> actually that is forward. >> we will get to it in a minute. chuck and i were married. chuck chuck, stand up. [laughter] [applause] chuck and i were married 47 and two days ago. >> bravo. >> we had the most beautiful
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decorations. and again, this is the way to save money. you just recycle them. you do them for the wedding and then you just keep on doing it. so, that year, talk about trouble -- can you imagine? we had wonderful, gorgeous trees made out of poinsettias. and they were all around. and then we got married on the ninth. and immediately, the next day, they -- now we can start on christmas. on the 10th of december. the beautiful creche, which was given by the ingle hearts, was right where we got married in the east room. it did not get to go up until we got out. but you will see a picture of that. this neapolitan creche. it was a gift to the white house.
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and every year they put it up. i have been back probably four -- i don't know for many of the first years, i would go back and take a picture of it with my children or whoever was available. and send the picture to mrs. inglehart to let them know it was really still there and loved and everything. a very special time. we got married. and then they had to start doing the decorations. you can imagine, we received our guests in the blue room. you cannot have that big tree in the blue room. so they had to do all of that starting on the 10th of december. i do not know how they did it.
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then we went off on her honeymoon. and my father went around the world, was the first president to go around the world. and he took off and went to the funeral of the prime minister of australia, want around to vietnam to see our troops. flew in to that can city -- vatican city to see the pope. he did the full world, and then came back on christmas eve. and that was really wonderful. and we came back from the honeymoon, so we could all be together for that christmas. that's when you see these pictures of lucinda and me. and it was wonderful. and then all of the sitting upstairs on the -- in the family quarters. here we go. and >> was that your family christmas picture you guys would take every year? >> we always did have to do a
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family horror show picture. i do not know about y'all, but it is one of the least fund thing -- fun things we do. everybody smiling. the two lyndons both smiling. we have a two month old baby. we have a dog. trying to get everybody. but that is upstairs in the family quarters, and that is the tree there, which was wonderful. and lucinda insisted i bring this. i will. yes. you notice? linda bird on it? everybody. very special bag. now, this is where i wish we had a picture. i do not think you have a picture of the upstairs other than this one. but we hung up stockings. and this year had stockings, special stockings made. which then -- >> that is elaborate. >> mine.
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and this is the university of texas where i went to school. mccall's magazine. there i am on the front cover. i worked for mccall's. there is ranch, all in beautiful -- spectacular. texas history. the white house. my sorority pin. and a little book which i should have written something wonderful in, but i do not think i did. >> there is still time. >> this has been, we've hung this up for 46 years, i guess. 47. i guess it was, because we have one for you, too, chuck, don't we? or it could have been 1968.
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when you get to my age, what is the year or two? but anyway -- it had to be 1968 because we have one for lucinda. >> where is yours? >> i told her to bring mine. >> so we have them hanging up. then, they hung in the lbj ranch after we left washington. they hung up and everything was gorgeous and beautiful and wonderful and we added grandchildren. that meant the mother had to make a new stocking. none of them will be as elegant as this because the lady unfortunately died, was not available -- [laughter] each week american artifacts >> this might have killed her. >> chuck's has a marine, a beautiful wonderful marine all in jewels and sequins and stuff.
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every one is different. daddy's is fantastic, mother's i hung these up a week or so ago and took it off the mantle to bring it here tonight because lucinda told me to do it. >> genevieve, do you approve? >> i'm taken away. it is so beautiful. it's not too much. [laughter] >> this was the fanciest thing we did. our tree is homespun and the only thing is every year we would put fresh cookies on it. and we would know it was appreciated, because we would see little bite holes. [laughter] >> we had to make sure that we
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put the cookies, the real cookies, down toward the bottom. we didn't want any child to break their tooth on them. even with these, we have the problem, you put candy in them and hope that the chocolate is not there next year. >> and saying about recycling. this is the same tree, but two different trees, different years. >> today, especially with the obama administration, everything is repurposed and reused. that is nice. that is so many owner mepts. -- ornaments. nice that they keep reusing it. >> i talk about my experience. we all want to know what is that under the tree?
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[laughter] any speculation out here? >> looks like one of those afghan dogs. >> white painted twigs. >> oh! >> it was meant to replicate snow under the tree. >> i see. >> if i could add one thing. the robs' 30th wedding anniversary, i received a call from mrs. robb and she said do you think we could come down to the white house. i know it is busy at christmas time but it is our anniversary. that specific date, the events for that evening were over at 7:00 and i knew everybody would be gone about 8:00 or 8:30. i made rangements for the
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senator and mrs. robb to come to the white house. and the buttlers and i placed a bottle of champagne in the east room for them so they could have private time in the room where they were married and i think it was a very moving occasion and points out what the white house really is, it's a home. and people flow through, but they always have a tie with the white house and we try and represent that. and it's something we feel very strongly about. the white house is the president's home. >> wonderful thing, made us feel so good. and we're still together 47 years. [applause] >> white house weddings do not have as many long weddings. so we feel very blessed.
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>> here we have christmas with the nixons. and -- >> this ornment that mrs. nixon is holding, this is referred to as the state flower balls and see more of them in this other picture and these were ornmepts, they were made by handicapped individuals and combination of felt and artificial flowers. and these ornaments were left behind, where first ladies make arrangements and take them to the presidential libraries. i had heard that these were around and i wanted to see them when i was researching my book and no one could tell me where they were, and we were working in the warehouse and there are a lot of boxes and we came across
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a box that was marked pat's balls. that's the raunchy part of this segment and they were inside. they have been used by mrs. reagan and mrs. obama. they have moved into the category as a national treasure because of their age and what they represent. that's my story. >> that is quite a story. >> and this is more from the nixons. >> she loved garland. >> where is that tree? >> it was in the grand foyer. there have been years where it was in the grand foyer. >> many years, it was in the blue room. >> last time the principal tree was in the kennedy administration.
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every year, it has been the principal tree with a theme on it has been in the blue room. there have been trees all over. >> there was a new tradition established under the nixons which is the gingerbread house. here are two of them. >> give you a little bit of background. the traditional gingerbread house is german and an american citizen and was born in germany and came to the white house in the johnson administration and when mrs. nixon came in, he went to her one day and said, the white house ought to have a tradition from around the world and i would like to create a gingerbread house. he was the chef to the white house. not the pastry chef. that is his gingerbread house and through the years, it has
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morphed considerably. and pastry chef will create the gingerbread house. >> this is 2009? >> it has electricity now. and water and ice skaters this year. >> incredible. >> remarkable. >> they work from architectural plans to get everything correct, the proportions and everything and each year, the chefs try to update it. there is about 400 pounds of gingerbread and icing. that is on a base there that is on a table in the state dining room and to carry it in, it takes eight people and taken
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from the pastry shop which is a temporary shop, actually where the china is kept. they need a big area. and very ceremony yousely taken out, loaded on a truck and driven two miles an hour to the north portico where it is taken off the truck and placed on the state dining room table, the end table i should say and stays there through the entire christmas season and at the end of the christmas season, it is taken out and thrown in the dumpster. it has been there for 30 days. you want to eat it? >> no. >> has it ever broken in the transfer? this is one of my favorite parts of the show every year. >> i'm not aware of it. >> i did see one year, i believe it was two years ago, we brought it up and i watched and there
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was someone who lit the house. it was not me. it was a wonderful moment >> the forward -- fords. >> and it was going to be a frugal christmas and watching the spending and the fabric was quite costly and ended up spending, but $1,600 for all the decoration that year. and the press were crazy because that was more than the previous three administrations had spent. so it kind of backfired. seems like nothing today.
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>> just that one? >> i believe they had smaller trees. smaller table top trees and used greens in the hallway but nothing like what we see today. she would like to wrap her packages with fabric. >> more of the ford white house. >> there's that fabric. >> she brought in a rather masterful quilter to work on these decorations? >> yes. this was the style. one of the reasons i loved researching this topic is a glimpse back in time of how things changed and how charming that was and kind of understated and maybe something we would repeat. i'm not certain. >> president ford took office, it was runaway inflation, which was about 6% and president ford
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and his staff came up with a win with inflation now program. and they were trying to be as frugal as possible. so a lot of the ornaments were natural material. >> this is the state floor cross hall. >> following year. >> 1974. >> and that's box woods that were cut up. and the angels with the trumpets, 12 of them on the state floor. >> they're beautiful. >> there was a bit of a problem with angels. there was supposed to be more and in transit to the white house, they were broken, so they scaled them back. >> well, now i bru you to me. this is 1979, and i was teaching
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at the corcoran school of art now part of george washington university and we were called two weeks in advance and given a lot of notice and told we were decorating, making ornaments for and decorating the white house christmas tree in the blue room. and we were all hugely excited. the woman standing next to mrs. carter was my boss. mrs. carter established the theme, i learned tonight. for some reason, i thought we established it. it was american folk art. we decided upon roughly 12 templates, because we needed to create a lot of ornaments. and we did a lot of research into american folk art and had a
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santa's workshop going, and we were painting. >> every ornament, every one we made by hand. and we did the installation. and to give you an idea of the sense of scale, that's how big the ornaments are. they are not small. and i made that noah's arc. i didn't know there was a picture of it. and i made that white house, i only made two ornaments and roughly the same size of the nora's arc. it is a huge tree. i have to tell you what happened. we had five days, which i know now is a luxury and up on the scaffolding and because we made
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these ornaments to look antique, they were all subdued hows and they were distressed. once they got on the tree, they disappeared. and we found out about it the first day of the installation. and i had been at sears, i don't know if it is still on wisconsin avenue. i had been buying sandpaper and dozens of tools for the students, because we had a lot of work to do. and once we were at the white house, i remembered passing a display of red apples. two inches in diameter. and i thought, i'm going to run to sears and buy as many of these apples as i could possibly can. they were 100.
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>> i said i need 100 boxes. >> so i returned with 1,200 of these apples and the tree came to life. it really did. the students who were majoring in ceram inch cs made them. everything is fired clay. didn't care about the clay packages but what was happening on this tree. >> it was the need for secrecy? you telling people what you were doing? >> i remember boasting about it. maybe that was a security breach. but we were all so thrilled. we are decorating the white house. we were in the basement for lunch every day. >> they are described as colonial. >> oh.
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really? >> decorations made in a colonial style made by contemporary artists made by 10 students from the corcoran school of art to make 500 ornaments. one of those students was our own panel moderator. >> i had graduated by then. initially, it was 10 people. once we saw how daunting the size of this tree was, i went running back to the school and i said, anyone standing, we need your help. it was a huge amount of fun. >> i made -- american folk art on a douglas fir tree that came from west virginia. >> tell you one other thing.
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we were thrilled to have our photograph taken with mrs. carter and something happened that would never happened today. when we followed up to ask where are the photographs? we were told there was no film in the camera. and that story has been corroborated by the national archives. there was no film in the camera. i want to ask you this, too. when we took the tree down, we took them all back. was that unusual? >> no. at that time, it wasn't. because they were a donation from the school. they went back to the corcoran school with the understanding that they would be sold. >> they were not sold. >> that was the understanding, at least as far as we can tell. >> this year, there are some ornaments we took back, too. one of them was books that were
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going to be thrown away and have them open with paper pop-up art coming out of it. we made arrangements that we are going to return to the artists. >> case by case. >> all the ornaments have become the property of the white house because the government paid for them. national archives take possession of them. >> we have had some discussions over the years because some of the natural things that have been on the tree, after they have been on boxes for a couple of years at the end of the administration like cookies and
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things, the national archives isn't interested in getting those things. there have been good discussions over the years. but all the ornaments go to the national archives. >> is this a surprise? >> mrs. carter was disappointed she wasn't able to join us. >> i'm going to burst into tears. >> oh! [applause] >> thank you. >> this is the lovelyiest thing ever. >> we have been looking for the ornaments. [laughter] >> that is so lovely. thank you. put it next to your stocking. what an incredible surprise. how did you fit that in?
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you all are sneaky. i'm deeply touched. i'm really thrilled and honored, thank you. we're moving ahead. -- whoops, we are going backwards. now, i have a question, who is holding mrs. reagan's legs in this photograph? [laughter] >> at least i was holding the ladder. >> the reagan years. >> well, i described them a little bit of hollywood demrits. -- glitz.
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mrs. reagan had a lot of gold and gold snowflakes. one of the things she did, if you remember, just say no, the campaign against drugs, she put her money where her mouth was. they were recovering young drug addicts who came and decorated the white house. there are many letters from these young people saying how much that meant to them that the first lady would bring them into the most important house in our land and entrust them with such a job. i found that to be a touching story. >> i never heard it before. >> but nancy had these shoes with red pompoms on them. i guess they were her christmas shoes. >> and then mrs. reagan was also known for bringing a little bit of celebrity to the white house. there were secret santas and some of them were well known from hollywood. that one is her husband.
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>> there's one. [laughter] >> that's a classic photograph. >> this was actually done at the press preview. and mr. t wearing multi gold neck laces, came down the grand staircase. so it did see the light of day early on. >> i loved that he is giving out these dolls to the children. >> this weren't today, i would say this was photo shopped. but it really happened. remarkable. i would have failed this multiple choice test. [laughter] >> and now we are to -- >> if i can back up just a second. the idea of those trees.
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go to the trees there. the idea of those trees started in the third year of the reagan administration. the trees with the snow. it was the idea of the designer that was mrs. reagan's designer from california. and the second year of the administration, we had baby's breath put in amongst the branches of the trees. and mrs. reagan said let's do lots of trees. we had 27. one in each corner of the east room, one on either side of the creche. and nancy clark went to new york on a shopping spree to try to get some decorations and red apples, i think were on her list and ran into studio 56 in new
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york and had a product that was called real fake snow. and what it was was terrafin that was run through a machine. we got this product and tried it on a small table top tree. did it in the summer. and we were putting handfuls on the tree, and he said, no, that's not the way snow falls and he grabbed the box of snow and turned it upside down on the tree and looked like it was natural. we go to the top of the tree and take boxes of this real fake snow and just throw it up in the air and let it fall down on the tree. and gave us wonderful look, as you can see. but in the grand foyer, when the tourists came up from the ground floor and came up the stairs to
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the state floor and made a left-hand turn into the grand foyer, these trees, and you could visably see them shiver as they walked in. because it seemed like it was so cold. and the kids at the parties, they used to love and run and slide up under the trees like they were in snow drifts. >> has this become a tradition? >> different first ladies have used it and the next slide you went to with the bushes. mrs. bush said, i have gone through six years of snow at the white house and i don't want it to stop. she said it's a wonderful tradition that nancy started and you can see in the foyer how it looks like it has been in a snowstorm. >> it's very beautiful.
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>> here we are with the bushes. >> what are we looking at? >> mrs. bush favored literacy. they hung books on the trees. they were part of the table top decor. you were looking for apples. and books served that purpose. all literary characters. >> this was another year. were you familiar with annabelle dolls. nancy clark went up and met with the people of that company and we baut the basic structures of these ornaments and animals and brought them back and hand painted them and created all the animals, cape and clothing for the dolls and that went on the trees and mantles.
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>> i think this is the year of the needle point where the plus room ornaments were done by needlepoint. >> and they did a whole needlepoint village, like a train village and i interviewed one of the people who worked on these and she said we were panic stricken that we weren't going to get them finished and needed so many of them. >> can i ask you a question about that? why? >> barbara bush loved to needlepoint. >> well, let her.
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>> i'll let you take that up with her. >> you will get an ardest person. when she picked it up. when the president was the ambassador to china, she needed an activity while she was flying back and forth to china. and when she started doing needlepoint, her church got together and good a needlepoint creche that they presented to them. why not do needlepoint. there are guilds all over the country and that is an effort that is going on today. outreach to use different groups. and i have gotten in more trouble than i can tell you, when a new first lady comes into the white house and after trying to go through the campaign, go through the thank u.s. at parties after the inaugural -- the thank yous, that's when the usher comes up to you and say we need to start think about
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christmas. >> how many of these ornaments were there? >> over 600. and some of them were like the house here were done not on canvass but done on the plastic mesh and got the houses to stand together. my daughter ended up doing milley's dog house. but they were on the mat mantlepieces once again, storybook characters. >> you don't like the needlepoint? >> it pains me because i know how labor sensitive it is and seems like the folk art tree a walk in the park. >> i believe that that milley ornament, she participated and
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made ornament as well that year. >> as well she should. and now we have mrs. clinton. first tree. 1995. the theme was twas the night before christmas. >> they reached out to architecture schools to create different ornaments for the house and they reached out to schools to represent that story. and it was a sugar mantle in the green room there. >> and created a bit of consternation. it was a pastry and sitting on a mantle against french silk. and there's also a fireplace under it which was lit every evening. the pastry chef, that we had
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long discussions and actually, you can't see it there, but ended up with pieces of flexy glass behind the pastry to shield the cloth and the front where the greenery is hides an insulation shield which kept the heat from melting. >> it's a make it work moment. >> i ended up being more of a person that says, you want to do what? let's talk about this for a moment, with the garlands hung. there was a lot of negotiation of how decorations would go up. >> they had snowmen one year. this is all pastry, this christmas tree here. all sugar work, and another
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sugar fireplace. amazing and intricate work. >> that was in the grand foyer. >> on that table, that white marbletop table was part of the purchase that was made after the white house was burnt in the war of 1812 and purchased by president monroe for the blue room. and now resides in the grand foyer of the white house just inside the north door and it becomes a prop for christmas decorations. there was a lot of talk how to preserve and make sure we didn't do anything to the mirror. but it works out exceptionally well. >> one of my favorite pieces. >> and what is this? >> good heavens. >> we were taking, had a course
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of work to repair the three in the east room and worked it out that one in the north and south ends had been done and the one in the middle was left open and this wreath was done to take the place of it. and it was a monstrous undertaking with a member of national park service engineers and architect on my staff making sure it wasn't too heavy for the support. that support actually goes up in the floor of the queen's bedroom above. there is an access hatch that allows you to get to that support. >> i don't know if i would have the courage to stand under it. it is beautiful. >> it says here gold and silver advent wreath. goodness. >> scary. >> what are we looking at on the
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right? >> first lady was honoring historic places and homes. you see a lot of buildings here. and the other thing i was going to point out, the clintons used the same tree skirt in the blue room. there is a patch from each state on the left that was quilted on. that was one of the things that remained constant. but these are more of the historic homes that we were honoring across america. i have a little bit of a funny
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story. over the summer, we were looking at photos and think about the decorations for this year and i said i have seen this photo from the clinton administration and it was a beautiful wreath. and i had the pictures on a kitchen table and my son said, you are putting up an o for obama? [laughter] >> and i said we might want to rethink the o. but the other thing is we found out that it had been repurposed as a halloween wreath and no longer existed. through the eyes of kids i thought that was pretty funny. >> and the next bush white house. >> yes. we get it. >> i think this year was home for the holidays and recreated all the presidential homes in minute tur doll house form and i have seen these in the warehouse and still exist and quite lovely.
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they invited me to come and see the one of the texas home. and big old dogs. >> it was after it? >> the bigger dogs are not there. we never decorated like that. >> designers license. >> we never had that tree. >> once again, the chief designer went to the national park service and all the sites and got the architectural drawings and the white house carpenter shop created these homes to scale. >> beautiful. >> and again, literary characters popping up. >> alice in wonderland.
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>> so this year -- well, their last christmas was a patriotic christmas. and this is the year that nancy clark was nice enough to bring me in. and we were creating the snow and given this instruction to make it look -- a beautiful snowy theme. we worked very hard and the first lady would walk through and we notes and the notes were, oh, dear, there is too much snow. we would regroup and start taking the snow away and now they would say, it is too little snow. and then they said, could we have more feedback and nancy clark said, there has been a fresh snowfall and it's three days later and the snow has melted. i said all right, i'm from
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jersey, you do not want snow the third day. >> you want a fresh snowfall. >> we got it right. but the point is the first lady had a vision and knew what it was and we were there to make it happen, to make it work for her. and when we got the finished product, it was beautiful and worth all the give-and-take. >> is cleanup just the worst with that stuff? >> that was the cotton bunting. >> the real fake stuff? >> we took the trees down and let it fall on the floor where it was and had carp enters buy plastic snow shovels and got it up off the marble floors. >> present day. obama white house. >> one of the things she does the first holiday activity of the season is with children of military personnel who are
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serving in active service and that way she honors them. i think this year, they were making some type of -- i'm sure low cal sugar pastry. >> and that's the state dining room. >> the hawaii ball that you saw, they were supposedly underneath an unattractive plastic gold ball and they decoupaged over them. this is america the beautiful, america the brave sm the blue room tree -- i think this is this year. this is this year's. >> and the blue room tree under mrs. obama has always had some type of military significance
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honoring our men and women who are serving or have served. >> pays tribute to our military through the eyes of children. >> they are humble. little pieces of log. all these immediate yums are available and approachable to everyone. >> that is this year. >> this is the room that the volunteers nicknamed. >> what is happening? >> you just go crazy. and really beautiful dress forms. the first lady had this idea which i thought was so neat giving her take on fashion. and we were so lucky that two volunteers showed up in our mix. and one was a teacher and another was a dress maker and they were able to take the lead on this.
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>> they're beautiful. >> the one on the left is a fabric undergarmnt, hoop skirt and got waggetel weighed down by the boughs. >> the other one is wire and works a lot quicker. >> i think the ornament on the left. the white house held an ornament contest and i believe this was one of the winners, on the left. >> a lot of blues throughout this year, which was a nontraditional christmas color that just looked gorgeous with the reds and greens. antique blue. >> i can tell a secret. if you go back to the picture -- you tell it. >> jim marvin who we mentioned earlier who has come back for
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many years and did the state room this year, you may see that the volunteers hung a j. and an m. did you think i was going to tell a different secrete -- secret? >> decorations and how they go up. like the garland over the top of the fireplace in the state dining room. it has to be supported and the mantle dates back to the early years of the white house. it has to be closely engineered and there was a small failure and the garland came crashing down and no damage occurred to the portrait of president lincoln. but it's one of those things that happens, just like in your home, you have a cat and dog chases it and goes up the tree. >> quite a production. >> once again.
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this process of delivering the tree to the white house started in the johnson administration with the national christmas tree association. this is the way the tree is delivered and actually comes from different parts of the country. i had the opportunity to go to washington and oregon and wisconsin and north carolina just about every state in the union where the christmas trees come from and get transported by national guard or private truck. it's all done as a donation from the christmas tree glorse's association. when it gets to pennsylvania avenue, it is off the truck and placed on a wagon and brings it up. this year, mrs. obama commented about how big the tree was and was going to be difficult to get in. you know the story about that. >> i think they had to take the doors off the hinges.
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>> tree trouble. >> no, sir the first time that has happened. 25 years ago, we got a tree that we literally could not get in the doors. ended up taking the doors on the south side down and used a crane over the railing and brought it in the south side. it was seven inches wider. >> and that's on your shoulders if the tree doesn't fit? >> yeah. >> the limbs are malleable. >> depends on the temperature once the tree is roped. and if it's too cold when it's transported, if they pull it too tightly, all the limbs snap and i can't say that hasn't occurred in past years.
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and we had to go out and get another tree. >> what is the story with the cranberry tree? >> mrs. ford started the cranberry tree. and it's a colonial of decoration -- and for many, many years, it was done just like this and two little ladies would dip their pin in glue and put it on the form. won would stay in receive engineeration and halfway through the season, they swapped them. mrs. obama has re-interpreted this. there was a cranberry mantle. this is the re-interpretation. and they have done a couple of different things. the cranberry tree has transformed.
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>> for years, nancy clark and i had an argument about that tree. it took two volunteers over two days to make those trees. each one was done individually and a third of the cranberries didn't hold up. and i said it was a tradition that i personally liked. and therefore, we would continuity. nancy found another way. >> and white house historical association ornaments. how long has this been a tradition? >> 33rd year. incredibly beautiful and remarkable legacy to have. >> and helps the white house historical association support the educational program about the white house and the families that lived there. main source of funds for that
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purpose and through the years has grown. for a while -- it has topped out and continuing to grow. and the ornaments. i had neighbors across the street i gave them the first set the first four years and they said if you move away and don't give us the ornament, we won't talk to you again. 1981 was the first year and people want to keep the set going forever. >> and it's holiday time and hanukkah in the white house. >> and they have recognized kwanza. president nixon was the first one to have the menorah in the white house. and there are been conscious
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effort in the last couple of years has been made to include other religions. >> and we have white house pets. >> whenever your approval rating goes down, a white house pet is a good thing to have. >> nixon family pets on the left and the bush's dog milley on the right. and we have the cat and buddy. >> i think under the bushes, under george w., they started the internet videos that were all the rage of the first pets going around and wore little
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cameras and see the decorations from their point of view. >> it's a barney cam. >> and sonny and bo are really big and popular. >> a ribbon was used on each of the animals. but the children love them. >> and this is caroline kennedy's pony, macka reasony. -- macaroni. >> and behind bo is a four-foot statue made out of 40,000 pipe cleaners. maybe they should have made bo out of pipe cleaners. >> they are are called bobots. >> and this is our last slide. >> and this represents what the white house is all about at christmas.
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these military people represent our military. they were at the end of the evening and long evening standing in front of the fireplace, enjoying the decorations. but all the visitors that come to the white house at some point have a moment like this, where they can enjoy the decorations and enjoy what is the white house home. >> beautiful. well, going to thank all of you. we ran longer than we planned. [applause] >> but we had a lot of information today. thank you all so much. and we are going to open the floor for a couple of questions and then let everybody run, if you have any questions. and afterwards, colleen is going to be signing her book. and thank you for that. as it's a treat, if you haven't seen it.
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a lot of content. >> no questions. we covered everything. >> any questions? [inaudible question] >> there's a microphone. >> this is fun. everybody loves all the ornaments and the decorations and then you got to take them down. all the volunteers come back or white house staff? who does this? >> a portion of the volunteers come back. they do all this at their own expense. the decorators come at their own expense. a portion of the decorators have come back, those are very good workers. we take the decorations down in less than one down.
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>> it is easier to take them down than put them up. >> they have to be catalogged as it did coming up. because the national archives would like to have some record. >> thank you so much. great program. do you guys what happened to the corcoran ornaments now that the corcoran is closing and going to g.w.? >> the individuals who made them took them back and i took great pride in giving away white house christmas trees, candy-colored ornaments for years, for years because we pay for everything. >> on ebay right now? >> they may be. i don't know what happened to my two ornaments. so, thank you, mrs. carter. >> if they are on ebay the price just went on. my mom volunteered at the white house under george w. bush. rumor had it, you were going to
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write a book. >> it's a good rumor. i personally have decided for the time being and further away from when i retired, i had the opportunity and pleasure to serve some great families and nice to me and very kind. and a lot of what i know and the questions that come out are very personal and i prefer to keep them to myself. [applause] >> we have one last question. >> how does one become a volunteer and how early in the year do you apply for that? [laughter] >> i found a 1999 ornament and had hinges on the ornament, does it open up? >> it does. >> it's an abe lincoln. >> thank you all very much. [applause] >> you were wonderful. thank you so much. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp.
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2014] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> are watching american history tv. 48 hours of programming every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter at c-span history for information on our schedule, upcoming programs, and to keep up with the latest history news. >> this year c-span is touring cities across the country exploring american history. next, a look at our recent visit to lafayette and west lafayette, indiana.


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