Hoover versus Hoover

I’m about 2/3 of the way thru Ike Hoover’s memoir. It’s a toboggan run of a read—just like JB West’s was. But Hoover is decidedly more candid in his appraisals of his employers, sometimes to the point of laugh-out-loud frankness. And what I took at times to be political partisanship I soon found was merely personal affection—or disaffection. His praise of both the Clevelands and Roosevelts is boundless. His admiration for both McKinley and Wilson is striking. He goes on for pages and pages about trivial events (Colonel House falling out of favor with Wilson) but says almost nothing at all about the entire Harding administration. And his distaste for the peculiarity of Coolidge and bald antipathy for the Hoovers is almost comical.

After sections in the Coolidge chapters with titles like “Coolidge Eccentricities” and “Coolidge Talks for Once,” a short section at the beginning of the Hoover chapters is called “Never a Kind Word” and starts:

When Coolidge reigned, we thought he was an odd person, but with the coming of Hoover, we changed our minds by comparison. Coolidge was quiet and did queer little things, but Hoover was even more peculiar. He would go about, never speaking to any of the help. Never a kind word or even a nod of the head. …

To hammer the point home, this section is followed by a section titled “Hard People to Work For”! On the other hand, he does grant that the very wealthy Hoovers were never stingy.

Also–disappointingly, Hoover describes the White House rooms only occasionally and rarely mentions where specific events took place. And he makes the strange error of suggesting that Lincoln may have signed the Emancipation Proclamation on the Resolute desk.

Update: Dennis notes that the book was edited together from Hoover’s notes after his heart attack while still on the job in 1933, which explains the holes and general disjointedness, especially of the second half. Time magazine carried the story on the day, with the ironic conclusion:

Once he was offered $50.000 to write his memoirs. He refused, saying: “When I pass out, everything I know goes with me.”

Not if you’ve written it all down it doesn’t.

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7 thoughts on “Hoover versus Hoover

  1. One big difference between the books is that Hoover’s was published after his death. Someone else finished the writing and editing.

    West lived 15 years (d.1984) after his book was published and his Ladies (except ER) were still alive in 1969. He had reason to keep secrets.

    I read somewhere that JBK lobbied to get West buried at Arlington, which he is.

  2. That explains the disjointedness of the whole second half. (I just finished it.) Altho still very readable, it’s less chronological and more a collection of rememberances, notes, and lists. He even ranks the presidents by egotism and self-control! (Coolidge fairs worst in both!)

  3. I have a copy of Ike Hoover’s book, but I haven’t read it in several years – I didn’t know that it had been edited and published after his death. Now I’ll have to dig it out and re-read it, keeping all that in mind!

    In reading between the lines in JB West’s book, I sense that he had a great big crush on Jackie – but he was totally professional and certainly didn’t let it affect his performance – or maybe they just “clicked” and were really friends. Just a “gut” feeling… 🙂

    And Dennis _ I’ve read that too, about Jackie lobbying to get Mr. West buried at Arlington. Lord knows he certainly earned it serving his country – as do all the household staff at the White House.

  4. Well, after looking at Eleanor, Bess and Mamie. I’m sure he DID have a crush on Jackie. Although West makes it clear that Mamie was his favorite. I always wondered if the E’s paid West for his time at the Gettysburg farm, where he acted as head contractor. I thought that was a little unseemly.

  5. I would agree that it didn’t look good. Can you imagine nowadays if Gary Walters was spending time in Texas or Kennebunkport or New York overseeing the building of a private home?

    I also agree that Mamie was his favorite. You’ll notice that there was never a single negative comment about her. He also goes into great detail about the Christmas gifts he and his family received from the Eisenhowers.

    Even with Jackie he says that she drew a line that could not be crossed.

  6. I still think West didn’t like Mamie much at all. He mentions how she insisted that the staff not use the family elevator, not walk thru the ground floor center hall, and some other things that had to grate on him. It amazes me, tho, how the book is written so carefully that it’s easy to get completely different impressions.

  7. There’s a lot of distance between being the favorite and “didn’t like Mamie much at all.” Perhaps the real answer is somewhere in between.

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