AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Whether it was to sneak a first kiss or listen to Led Zeppelin, climbing onto the roof of the White House was apparently a popular practice among a few presidents’ children.
Steve Ford garnered laughs during a panel discussion Thursday with fellow children of former presidents as he recalled dragging a stereo onto the roof with a friend his first night there in 1974.
A teenager at the time his father took office, he said, “I think we were playing like Led Zeppelin’s `Stairway to Heaven.’ Literally, it was like `Dumb and Dumber.'”
Jenna Bush Hager later told Ford, “You can still get up on that roof, because I had my first kiss with my husband up there.”
Her twin sister, Barbara Pierce Bush, and Lynda Johnson Robb also spoke during the conference, which is part of a series focusing on the nation’s first ladies. But Thursday’s event was the first in which their children have participated, offering a different perspective about life in the White House.
The conference, “The Enduring Legacies of America’s First Ladies,” was hosted by the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin and was presented by American University and the White House Historical Association.
Ford noted that his family got to the White House in a “different way.” His father was appointed vice president after the resignation of Spiro Agnew, and then became president after the resignation of Richard Nixon.
He noted that Nixon’s presidency ended so abruptly that the Nixon family’s possessions were still being packed after Ford was sworn in, so the Ford family returned to their suburban Washington home for several days.
After his father was sworn in, his mother, Betty Ford, fixed the family dinner.
“She looks over at my dad and says, `Gerry, something’s wrong here. You just became president of the United States and I’m still cooking,'” he said.
He also talked of his parents’ deep devotion to each other, noting their decision to frankly talk about Betty Ford’s breast cancer diagnosis just weeks after he became president.
“I can remember them holding hands and standing in front of the press and saying, `We’re going to take the shame off of this disease,’ which was a closet disease for women back in 1974,” Ford said.
When his mother expressed concern after her diagnosis about wearing evening gowns, Ford said, his father told her: “Betty, come on, don’t be silly. If you can’t wear cut low in the front, wear cut low in the back.”
When asked to reveal something the crowd might not know about their mothers, Robb said her mother was a big “Gunsmoke” fan and noted that state dinners could interfere with her mother’s viewings, so her father came up with a solution.
“Somehow he got WACA, that’s the White House Communications Agency, to find a way to tape `Gunsmoke’ for mom,” she said.
Other conferences have been hosted in Texas by the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas and the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station. The next conference will be held in the spring at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The conference ended with a panel featuring former first ladies Barbara Bush and Laura Bush during which the two revealed former President George W. Bush has taken up painting.
“And he’s good, that’s the most extraordinary thing,” his mother said.
His wife replied, “The truth is he gave up cigars and he had to find some pastime.”
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- The bride's guide to feeling your best on your wedding day
- Deciding when you need knee surgery
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns
- Top ten road trip bathrooms in America
- Six things causing a pain in your neck
- 5 things to make your summer move easier
- Three elements of a strong timeshare exit guarantee
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths
- Affordable small home makeover ideas
- Locals helping locals: 6 success stories you need to know about
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Overlooked water tips to save you money
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food
- 5 spring cleaning spots everyone forgets
- 5 reasons to look forward to watching the D-backs this season
- Common virus attributed to spike in head and neck cancers
- 5 signs it’s time to end your timeshare ownership
- 3 most overlooked ways to keep your home healthy