A Nixon Family portrait from 1969 — their first year in the White House.

On Thanksgiving Day 1969 —their first year in the White House— the Nixons invited more than two hundred residents without any families from nineteen DC area old age homes to join them at the White House for a traditional meal including fruit salad, turkey and all the trimmings, and pumpkin pie.  The guests, ranging in age from 58 to 93, arrived in busses and were greeted in a presidential receiving line.

The Nixon family —RN, PN and Tricia, Julie and David, and Mamie Eisenhower and David’s sister, her 17-year old granddaughter Susan— welcomed the guests, who were divided between the East Room and the State Dining Room.  Everyone was seated at round tables of ten decorated with centerpieces of  fall flowers and fruit.  Music was supplied by the Army’s Old Guard Fife and Drum Band and the Marine Corps Band Orchestra; entertainment was provided by the Beers Family folk singers and a balladeer from Colonial Williamsburg.

Several guests responded when RN asked for anyone over 90 to raise their hands.   One of them was 93-year-old John W. Graves of Neosho, MO who lived in the National Lutheren Home for the Aged in DC.  The irrepressible nonagenarian rose three times — first to tell RN that he was born in Missouri (RN replied: “I know President Truman will be glad we had a Missourian here today.”); then to inform POTUS that “I’ve never had a sick day in my life.” (RN: “I’m going to have the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare come and talk to you and get your formula so we can pass it around the country.”); and, finally, to observe that “My father lived to 93; my sister lived to 94; and there were 10 children, five of us still alive.” (RN: “I want to get your formula too.”)

The New York Times‘ headline for the story of the event:  “Nixon Is Outtalked by Holiday Dinner Guest, 93.”

Julie Nixon Eisenhower told the guests that the grace she would say was one that had been used in the Nixon family since she and Tricia were little: “Thank you for the earth so sweet; thank you for the food we eat….”