It was Tuesday. Tuesday is egg day, as is Saturday, but let’s stick with Tuesday. Cari also plays doubles tennis on Tuesday mornings at Washington Park at 8:30. I had dressed in casual clothes, gone out and picked up the Chronicle, which I now call the “paper”, rather than “newspaper”, prepared breakfast, and had just finished eating those delicious soft-boiled eggs. Cari has her one egg in an egg cup, a habit she picked up on a visit to England. She carefully places the egg in the cup and whacks off the top one-quarter, adds a little butter and salt and then scoops out daintily. I have my two in a heavy old-fashion glass heated in the hot water that had cooked the eggs. I hold the burning hot egg in my left hand, whack at the egg with a knife, and scoop out the contents, wondering how long my hand can stand the heat of that egg.

I had finished doing the crypto-quip, the first thing I look for in the “paper”, and was tackling the news when the phone rang. One of Cari’s partners was ill and could I substitute. I readily agreed, switched clothing, and got over to the courts, a three minute walk, and played poorly, but happily for an hour and half.

This was the Tuesday of the month when I attend a meeting at Stanford Hospital. For about four years I have been a member of an Institutional Review Board, whose duty it is to assure that all human subjects, in medical studies there, are properly advised and protected by the multitude of Federal, State, and Stanford Hospital regulations. All such boards must have a non-technical member, which is I, on Board number five. I am given easy assignments to present, which is good, for there is no limit to the new diseases and procedures that have appeared in recent years, with nomenclature I can’t pronounce, let alone understand.

During the month I receive, by e-mail, various minor changes in protocol to approve, and then the monthly luncheon meeting at the hospital. After these meetings I usually go visit my ninety five year old sister, Jean, in Palo Alto. Jean had a stroke five years ago, and has around-the-clock care by three loving Philippine women. Lately her speech is difficult to understand, and her mind takes some strange turns. Yesterday’s hospital meeting was shorter than usual, and since I had told Jean’s caretaker I would arrive around three, I had some time to kill. Why not drive around the campus?

In 1929, my mother had died of tuberculosis, and my father worked away from our home in Sacramento, so my five sisters and I moved to Palo Alto to live with an aunt and uncle. They had a three acre place at Alma Street and Palo Alto Avenue, with a big house and four cottages, renting mostly to Stanford students…

Pertinent to this story, while Jean was attending Palo Alto High School, a classmate, Delano Large, became enamored of her. Del’s mother, Jean Henry Large was sister to Lou Henry Hoover, and while Herbert Hoover was President of the United States, Del, his mother, and his sister Janet, lived in the Hoover house on the campus. The Hoovers leased land from the University and had this house built in 1920, and later, in 1945, after the death of his wife, Mr. Hoover gave the house to the University. Jean spent quite a bit of time at that house, and Del, much time at our house. Often he arrived in a cut down vehicle they called the “Bug”, which had been the favorite transportation of the Hoovers’ sons, Alan and Herbert, Jr. Then there were a few times when all my sisters and I would go swimming at the house on the campus. In 1934 we children moved back to Sacramento, and Del followed, living across the street, eating with us, and attending Sacramento Junior College with Jean. A year later Jean and Del married at the Stanford Chapel, and the Hoovers held a reception at their home on the campus, my first meeting with the Hoovers. Del later completed his education at Cal and at Stanford Business School, and eventually settled in Palo Alto as a building contractor.

I, too, enrolled at Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1941, living with my sister, Jean, and Del in Palo Alto. While there, I got to know Mrs. Hoover, who was living there alone, before later joining her husband in New York. A few times, when her regular help was not available, I got better acquainted with her as I chauffeured her around Palo Alto while she shopped. In June of 1941 my younger sister, Rosemary, in Sacramento, was ill with tubercular meningitis. I went there to the hospital and gave her a blood transfusion, and returned to take my finals at Stanford. Jean and Del then went to Sacramento, while I stayed on in Palo Alto to finish the quarter. Mrs. Hoover insisted I come stay with her until my exams were over, which I did before rushing to Sacramento, where my Rosemary died a few days later. a terrible loss of my twenty year old sister.

A year later, in 1942, I was in the Marine Corps, stationed in Quantico, Virginia. Mrs. Hoover invited me to visit her and the President for lunch at their apartment in The Waldorf Astoria in New York. Mr. Hoover kept deep in conversation with his guest, a journalist, while Mrs. Hoover and I, opposite them at the table, talked of many things. I only recall Mr. Hoover asking me what I did in the Marine Corps. When I said I was an instructor in Seacoast Artillery, he said “Everybody’s an instructor. Who’s out there fighting the war?”

In January of 1944 I was on a troop train from New River, North Carolina, to San Diego. Somewhere along the way, maybe Texas, at a stop, I got a newspaper and found that Mrs. Hoover had died. I was deeply saddened; she was such a gracious, intelligent and generous woman.

So, while driving around the campus, I thought I would take a look at the Hoover House, which was now the home of the University President, John Hennessy. It took me a while to locate it, but as I stopped along the curved driveway to gaze at the front of the house, I heard a voice. I looked up, and there on the roof terrace, stood a woman who appeared to be cultivating some plants. She was a slim good-looking woman, with a tan that befitted a gardener. She asked me if I was looking for a dog. I replied “No”, that I was just reminiscing, and told her a little of my involvement with the house. She then said that she wanted to show me some photographs of some paintings in the house, which presented some historical questions I might be able to answer.

She let me in the front door and explained that she, Trish Benson, is the manager of The Lou Henry Hoover House, not just the residence of the university president, and a National Historic Landmark, but the entertainment venue of many students, their parents, and multitudes of guests from around the world. Then, a lovely, petite, brunette women appeared and introduced herself as Andrea Hennessy, wife of the University President. I knew then, why John Hennessy was appointed President, for the First Lady is a very important position at a university.

They led me into a great living room, and the three of us sat for a half-hour, they asking questions, and my not knowing when to stop talking. There aren’t many people alive now, who can talk about the early days of that house. My sister, Jean, who always had a great memory for details, and kept in touch with friends for years, has dimmed in that ability.

At last, when I felt it was time to go, they led me to the foyer, where a curved stairway led to the lower floor, and on the wall, to the left of the stairway were three large paintings of draped women; a lovely sight. They then showed me some photographs of those paintings, taken at some early date. But those photographs showed heavy dark frames around the paintings, which no longer surrounded the paintings on the wall. The question is – where are the frames? Did I remember seeing these paintings seventy years ago, and were they framed? The paintings on the wall were discovered in a storage closet when the house was being redecorated, but the frames have never been found. They discovered that the Hoovers had seen these paintings on glass windows of a chapel at Oxford University in England, and had commissioned the paintings for their home.
Alas, I remembered nothing in the past of these paintings, but I’ll remember them from now on, and will cherish our meeting.

I left, feeling a great warmth for these two women, and excited about my unplanned visit.
I went to see sister Jean, who was sitting on her patio. I told her of my visit to the Hoover House, and asked her questions about it, but she seemed not to know what I was talking about. I returned home to Burlingame, where Cari was giving a piano lesson to a lovely Asian Indian girl. I got out my sister’s memoirs and re-read her story which she wrote, about ten years ago. Here is another woman, my sister Jean, that both I and society are indebted to.

So went my day – yesterday.

George Parker
June 2010

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