Wednesday, May 4, 2022

found in the garage

B. and I are slowly cleaning out old odd stuff stored in our garage, so you may be in for a series of posts under this title. I inherited a number of possessions of my grandfather's after my mother and I cleaned out his belongings after his death, and I hadn't even known I had this or indeed that it existed: apparently never previously unsealed by me, underneath its huge cardboard wrappings it proved to be a 32" x 24" glass-covered picture frame in which my grandfather had had professionally framed all the souvenirs of the most star-studded night in his and my grandmother's lives, the time they attended a state dinner at the White House.

As a prominent businessman in Grand Rapids, Michigan, my grandfather had been an early supporter of his congressman, Gerald Ford, and they remained in occasional touch; so after Ford became President, he rewarded him with this invitation to a dinner in January 1976 for Yitzhak Rabin, then Prime Minister of Israel. The list of guests, clipped from some Washington newspaper, is one of the framed items, and my grandparents were the only Grand Rapids locals among a lot of Jewish machers, such as the national chairman of the United Jewish Appeal (Frank Lautenberg: you may have heard of him, he later became a senator). A mixed assortment of other famous Jews (Danny Kaye, Herman Wouk, Calvin Klein), plus the usual political notables, only some of whom were Jewish - Vice President Rockefeller, Secretary Kissinger, Ambassador Moynihan, etc etc, a whole lot of senators, "Richard B. Cheney, assistant to the President, and Mrs. Cheney" - oh god. Also, perhaps because of the President's sports background, a bunch of sports stars, none of whom were Jewish: Chris Evert, Carlton Fisk, Terry Bradshaw, Tom Landry.

There's the formal invitation ("Black Tie"), the envelope it came in, the pass to the White House gate, the seating cards, all of them on reinforced cardboard and neatly glued to the backing. Also the menu. I always wonder whether I would have liked the food at something like this, and the main course here was fish ("Suprême of Striped Bass"), rice, green beans, and tomatoes - sounds tasty). Also the program for the after-dinner entertainment, which revealed that Helen Reddy and Carol Burnett (also both listed among the guests) would be singing "Songs of the Sixties" (which I guess would leave out "I Am Woman," which is from the 70s).

I can understand my grandfather keeping this stuff as a souvenir, but framing it? For public display? In a big, unwieldy ... I'd known they'd been to this dinner - elsewhere I have a photo of them shaking hands with the Rabins in the receiving line, but it's not in the frame - but it's not worth keeping this massive thing beyond the warm memories of the original attendee. Instead, I'm memorializing it in this blog post.

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