Reflections with Sammy Way: Mr. Osteen visits the White House


Reflections will reprint an article from The Sumter Item archives written by Hubert D. Osteen, editor and publisher of The Sumter Daily Item, in 1963 which pertained to his visit to the White House at the request of President John F. Kennedy.

Mr. Osteen was notified March 27, 1963, of his invitation to a White House luncheon. The invitation was preceded by a wire from the White House which noted: "It would be useful to me to have an exchange of views with you on state, regional and national problems. Therefore, I would be most pleased to have you as my guest at luncheon on Thursday, April 4, 1 p.m. Hope it will be possible for you to attend." The article will be reprinted in its entirety and presented in two parts.

"Thursday of last week I had the pleasure, along with 16 other South Carolina newspaper men and women, of lunching with President John F. Kennedy at the White House. While the president did not give us a lot of secret information on national and international affairs, he did answer freely and frankly all questions directed at him. He was a perfect host, pleasant and affable throughout the affair. He quickly put everyone at ease, and the meal went off in a completely relaxed atmosphere.

"All of the newsmen and women arrived at the Pennsylvania Avenue gate to the White House 10 or 15 minutes before one o'clock, the time set for the luncheon.

"Guards at the gate had a list of guests and checked the names off as they arrived. Each guest was required to show some identification, such as a driver's license, credit card or registration certificate.

"Upon entering the White House, each guest was assigned a seat by lot, with the exception of Ed Chaffin, editor of the Greenwood IndexJournal, who is president of the South Carolina Press Association. He was assigned the seat to the right of the president.

"All of us were directed to the room adjoining the state dining room, where the luncheon was held. Here liquid refreshments of various kinds, including tomato juice, were served. The tomato juice received very little play. A few minutes before one o'clock, a secret service man announced: 'Gentlemen, the president of the United States.' Upon entering the room, the president moved around greeting and shaking hands with each guest. When an attendant passed around a tray of drinks, he selected a small glass of tomato juice, passing up the more potent alcoholic beverages.

"Shortly after one, the president suggested that we go into the dining room for lunch. Everyone accepted his suggestion.

"The luncheon was served on crested gold embossed china. The gold-plated dinnerware made all the guests feel right at home. Following is the menu: Surprise Virginia, which turned out to be Virginia ham rolled around some form of vegetable, which I guessed to be shredded burr artichoke; Sirloin Maitre d'hotel, which was a generous piece of as fine medium-rare sirloin as I ever ate; Potatoes Quelin, tiny buttered Irish potatoes garnished with parsley; French Peas, buttered green peas with small onions; Peach Melba and Demi-tasse. Along with the meal, Inglenook Pinot Noir, a burgundy type purple wine, was served.

"The president has a good appetite. He ate heartily, until he came to the Peach Melba, which he shunted aside. He took one sip of his wine, and that was all. At the end of the meal, he smoked a small cigar. His guests were offered large Corona Coronas."