Woodrow Wilson, World War I president, founder of the League of Nations, scholar and -- doggerel rhymer?
One of his efforts, which had escaped history books, was quoted on invitations to a fund-raising reception at the late president's Kalorama house last night:
There was a young man so benighted
He never knew when he was slighted
He went to a party
And ate just as hearty
As if he had been really invited.
The rhyme, said Earl James, WW house director, was committed by the president as a Bastille Day toast on July 14, 1919.
At most Washington parties, the important guests are those who know the president. At last night's party the president-to-know was the one who ended his term in 1921 and lived in the S Street house until his death in 1924. Very little in the house has changed since then, although the picture of Queen Marie of Romania has been removed so that its silver frame can be repaired. The other pictures, including those of at least two British kings, still look down their noses at the lesser breeds.
Dr. W. Dabney Jarman said Edith Bolling Wilson, the president's second wife, was a bridesmaid at his mother's wedding. Rose Fales remembered playing bridge as a young girl with Edith Wilson. Fales looked around the piano nobile -- the main floor -- for the place where they played and finally decided it was the solarium.
Edith Wilson's other great reason to invite guests was to hold seances. James said the house still has her Ouija board and, in code, the seance transcripts. "We'd like to get a curator who would have time to decode all of them so we would know, for one thing, who came to the seances."
"The Wilsons didn't entertain much in the three years before his death," said James. "But after he died, Mrs. Wilson enjoyed having people in until her death at 89 in 1961. Her bridge group came often, and she gave other dinners for about 10, nothing as large as this evening. She served whiskey sours."
Last night's 300 guests milled around the house and had their drinks in a tent in the sunken garden; admired the new rug in the dining room, the gift of Lacey Champion, which duplicated the old green and red rug of the Wilson era; noted the resilvering of the sconces and deplored the condition of the damask curtains; and shook their heads here and there at the need for new paint. James promised that the new paint for all the house is on the way.
Elinor Farquhar, Woodrow Wilson House Council chairman, received with J. Jackson Walter, the new president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She said, "Things do wear out. But this evening raised $18,000 for the house -- $2,000 more than we had expected. That's not a large benefit, not like the Symphony Ball, but it's what we needed. Our budget is about $175,000 for the year."
The guests were the sort who support Washington institutions: Louisa Duemling, who stays busy helping the Corcoran Gallery of Art; Bob Waldron, just named to the Woodlawn Plantation Board; Russell Train, president of the World Wildlife Fund; and Aileen Train, founder of Concern, still active with environmental causes; and Dudley Brown, a restorer of old buildings.
Most everyone went on from the reception to one of seven dinners, given at their homes by council members, their spouses and friends: Elinor and Norman Farquhar, Raymond and Pamela Howar and Ann Heuer; Charles and Britty Cudlip; John Irelan; Bob Alfandre; Ann Randolph and her husband Tom Adams; and Ed Gerber and Chris and Henri Keller.