The days of Camelot and Royalty in The White House

It was January, 1974 and it was one of those patented sunny and warm days on the island of Palm Beach. It was lunch time and all of my staff in my publishing office on Seaview Avenue had taken off for lunch. I was at my desk alone.

All of a sudden I looked up and there stood Rose Kennedy. She had on a yellow, flowery dress and had white gloves on. I leaped to my feet and I think I bowed. “Hello, do you know where Dougherty’s restaurant is?” she asked.

I told her that it was just down the street and I would be happy to take her there. In one of those moments in life that you never forget Mrs. Kennedy took my arm and we walked out of the office toward the restaurant which was only about a half block away on South County Road.

There I was escorting one of the most beloved persons in the world down the street and even though I think we talked about the wonderful weather, thoughts flashed through my mind of what this extraordinary woman had endured in her lifetime. She had weathered the losses of three sons, John and Bobby Kennedy to assassination and Joe Kennedy, the oldest son, to World War II.

When we arrived at the restaurant she turned to me and lightly took my hand and looked right into my eyes. “It was so kind of you to walk me here. Have a blessed day,” she said. I opened the door for her and immediately two men walked over to greet her.

On my way back to the office I felt like jumping. Did that really happen? Yes, yes it did! Later I wondered how she came to walk into my office. She had come in the door, walked past the empty reception desk and found me. Where was her driver? A butler? Someone? I will never know, but I am motivated by her presence that day as she was a bright and cheery 74 then and only four years older than I am today. Did you know she lived to be 104? Wow!

Of course I didn’t tell Mrs. Kennedy that I had been in her home (the Kennedy compound in Palm Beach also known as the “Winter White House.”) In 1965 I was doing work with the late Frank Wright and Frank insisted that he wanted to invite Mrs. Kennedy to speak before his Palm Beach Round Table. It had only been two years since her son’s death and I was against asking her.

Nevertheless, Frank asked me to take a package of information about the Round Table to her at the Kennedy home. Frank had arranged for me to give the information to Mrs. Kennedy’s secretary and off I went.

The only thing you can see from the street of the mansion is a big green wooden door and a wall. I got out of my car and knocked on the door, but no one answered. I opened the door and found myself in a garden with the main entrance door about twenty yards away. I went up to the door and there was a handwritten sign: “Please go around to the back entrance.” I walked around and came out onto the lawn facing the Atlantic Ocean.

I knocked on the door, but again no one came to the door. I opened the door and walked in. I looked up at the pecky cypress ceiling and the aroma of the old guard came to mind … blue blood and rich. A man in a suit appeared and took me into a room on the right where Mrs. Kennedy’s secretary greeted me with a smile. I introduced myself and handed her the information. The man then walked me outside onto the ocean side lawn.

Being only 23 at the time with a journalistic bent I asked the man if I could walk around a bit. He watched me closely as I walked out onto the middle of the lawn and memories of the Kennedy’s playing football came to mind. I walked over to the pool and the image of JFK sitting on a pool chair all tan with sunglasses was at that moment real in my mind.

Later in 1996 I was invited as a member to a Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce event at the Kennedy home, a home that was purchased by New York banker John Castle shortly after Mrs. Kennedy passed away. There was a guided tour through the mansion and when we were taken out to the lawn I vividly remembered the day Mrs. Kennedy came into my office and the day I visited.

As I stood there I could hear the music

… “For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Camelot.”

It’s true! It’s true! The crown has made it clear.
The climate must be perfect all the year.

A law was made a distant moon ago here:
July and August cannot be too hot.
And there’s a legal limit to the snow here
In Camelot.
The winter is forbidden till December
And exits March the second on the dot.
By order, summer lingers through September
In Camelot.
Camelot! Camelot!
I know it sounds a bit bizarre,
But in Camelot, Camelot
That’s how conditions are.
The rain may never fall till after sundown.
By eight, the morning fog must disappear.
In short, there’s simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Camelot.

Camelot! Camelot!
I know it gives a person pause,
But in Camelot, Camelot
Those are the legal laws.
The snow may never slush upon the hillside.
By nine p.m. the moonlight must appear.
In short, there’s simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Camelot.