Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Patricia Perkins Andringa, September 20, 2019

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:02 - Personal background

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Partial Transcript: This is an oral history interview Patricia Perkins--please pronounce your last name.

Segment Synopsis: Andringa discusses her personal background, education, and how she became a White House intern in 1963.

Keywords: Abraham Ribicoff; Align; All-female; American politics; Bess Abell; Bretton Woods Conference (1944); Businessman; Chemical engineer; Convinced; Corrugated box company; Cum laude; Democrat; Disinterested; Excited; Family; Fortunate; International documents; International relations; Internship; Largest department; Loving; Major; No hesitation; Northeast Corridor; Not discussed; Not unusual; Paper; Plans; Political Science Department; Politics; Presidential assistants; Professor; Public school; Refused; Republican; Senate; Thesis; Victoria Schuck; White House

Subjects: Actress; Childhood; Early life; Education; Europe; Father; High school; Interest; Mother; Mount Holyoke College; Mutual friend; New England; New Haven (Conn.); Opportunity; Parents; Political science; Professor; Respect; Values; Work

00:05:19 - White House internship / First impressions of Bess Abell

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Partial Transcript: And so I went down and I met Bess.

Segment Synopsis: Andringa recalls when she first arrived in Washington, D.C. to begin her White House internship. Andringa shares her first impressions of Bess Abell during this time.

Keywords: Accomplished; Arrangements; Bess Abell; Creative; Dusk; Excited; Expectations; Finished; First trip; Fun; Illness; Interesting; Internship; Lights; Loved; Met; Public policy seminar; Return; Semester; Smart; Strict; Substantive; Thesis; Unsure; Vivacious; White House

Subjects: Meetings; Mentor; Mount Holyoke College; Participation; Politicians; Summer; Travel; Washington (D.C.); Washington Monument (Washington, D.C.)

00:08:13 - Victoria Schuck / Memories of John F. Kennedy's assassination

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Partial Transcript: Do you know anything in particular about the relationship between Bess and Dr. Schuck?

Segment Synopsis: Andringa discusses the great reputation of one of her professors at Mount Holyoke College, Victoria Schuck, who specialized in American politics. Andringa reflects upon her memories of John F. Kennedy's assassination.

Keywords: Assassination; Bess Abell; Difficult; Documents; Events; Expansion; Football game; Highly respected; Impacted; Important; Internship; John F. Kennedy; Lyndon Johnson; New president; Oldest internship; Opportunities; Powerful; Run; Senate; Ted Kennedy; Terrible; Victoria Schuck; White House

Subjects: Dark; Football; Interns; Mount Holyoke College; New Haven (Conn.); Political science; Politicians; Professor; United States; Washington (D.C.); Work; Yale Bowl (New Haven, Conn.); Yale University

00:10:48 - White House internship duties

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Partial Transcript: So, were you based in the Old Executive Office Building?

Segment Synopsis: Andringa describes what some of her duties were as a White House intern under Bess Abell.

Keywords: Accessible; Accomplished; Activities; Amazing; Approach; Arrival; Bess Abell; Businessmen; Careful; Copies; Date; Dean Rusk; Difficult; Disappointing; Distinguished; Dress; East Wing; Entertaining; Evening; Event; Events; Fascinating; First day; Football game; Fun; Good seats; Greeting; Guests; Honors thesis; Impact; Important; In charge; Intelligent; Internship; Invitations; Invited; Kind; Kingman Brewster; Lady Bird Johnson; Late; List; Liz Carpenter; Meeting people; Moved; Obvious; Old Ebbitt Grill (Washington, D.C.); Parking; Press office; Reflection; Resources; Response; Responsible; Secretary of state; Sent home; Situation; Soft-spoken; Southwest; Special; Startling; State dinner; Tasks; Top educators; Troops; Typing; Uncomfortable; Variety; West Wing; White House; Wife; Wonderful

Subjects: Age; Building; Chance; Character; Confidence; Conversation; Correspondence; Example; Experience; Football; Freedom; Friendship; Letters; Men; Offices; Opportunity; People; Perfection; Politicians; Research; Students; Successful; Summer; Typewriters; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Walking; Washington (D.C.); White House Gardens (Washington, D.C.); Yale Bowl (New Haven, Conn.); Yale University

00:18:32 - Friendship with the Johnson family / Andringa's husband

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Partial Transcript: Did you have, uh, opportunities to interact with, uh, Lady Bird and--and with the president?

Segment Synopsis: Andringa discusses her friendship with the Johnson family, especially with Lynda Bird Johnson Robb. Andringa then talks of her husband, who also worked at the White House as a military social aide.

Keywords: Bess Abell; Chuck Robb; Easy; Entertaining; First name basis; Gone; Gracious; Graduates school; Husband; Interactions; Internship; Lady Bird Johnson; Lovely; Lynda Bird Johnson Robb; Met; Outside; Party; President; Separate; Social aides; Special; Uncomfortable; White House

Subjects: Age; Classmates; Daughters; Friendship; Johnson family; Military; Politicians; Summer; Undergraduate; University of Wisconsin; Washington (D.C.)

00:21:03 - First job in the federal government

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Partial Transcript: Bess had a party for the social aides when I came back and I was--well actually I should probably back up because through Tyler I had my first job in Washington.

Segment Synopsis: Andringa details her first job in the federal government as a research assistant in the U.S. Postmaster General's office.

Keywords: Bess Abell; Colleagues; Connections; Different; Disliked; Fascinating; Hotel; Idea; Interesting; Jack Valenti; Liberal arts; Motion Picture Building (Washington, D.C.); New office; No issue; Office of Planning, Programs, and Systems Analysis; Old Boys Network; Post office; Postal institute; Program learning; Questions; Research assistants; Researcher; Robert McNamara; Secretary of defense; Senior staff; Sense; Sent; Support; Talking; Tyler Abell; Video equipment; Weekly

Subjects: Black; Career; Change; Dynamics; Education; Federal government; Lucky; Meetings; Men; Mount Holyoke College; Organization; Politicians; Postmasters general; Potomac (Md.); Problem solving; Programs; Research; Schools; Smart; Students; Training; United States; United States. Department of Defense; University of Michigan; Washington (D.C.); Wellesley College; Work; Writing

00:25:50 - More on Andringa's husband

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Partial Transcript: Bess, uh, would invite me to help her do things at the White House when she needed extra hands on for an event or something.

Segment Synopsis: Andringa recalls how she met her husband, which was through a party given by Bess Abell at her farm in Potomac, Maryland.

Keywords: Apartment; Bad habit; Bess Abell; Brian Lamb; Busy; C-SPAN; Cakewalk; Car; Cheek; Chuck Robb; Congressional children; Country fair; Date; Dates; Disinterested; Double dates; Down-to-earth; Driving; Escort; Farm; Founder; Fun; Future husband; Good friends; Guest; Help; Internship; Invited; John F. Kennedy; Left; Lynda Bird Johnson Robb; Party; Phone call; Picnic; Room; Shallow; Social aides; Swollen; Unconcerned; White House; Wisdom teeth

Subjects: Children; Cold; Death; Friend; Management; Marriage; Mother; Night; Politicians; Pond; Potomac (Md.); Summer; Swimming; Time; Washington (D.C.); Water; Winter; Young

00:29:32 - Bess Abell and Lady Bird Johnson / Bess Abell's personality

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Partial Transcript: Talk a little bit about your observation of Bess and Lady Bird. How did their relationship, uh, strike you?

Segment Synopsis: Andringa discusses the working relationship between Bess Abell and Lady Bird Johnson. Andringa also briefly describes Bess Abell's personality.

Keywords: Aligned; Amazing; Arrival; Bess Abell; Calm; Class; Classy; Close; Development; Distressed; Generous; High energy; In control; Lady Bird Johnson; Left; Nice; Optimistic; Positive; Problems; Result; Social secretary; Sophisticated; Texans; The South; Unconcerned; White House

Subjects: Caring; Johnson family; Kentucky; Personality; Politicians; Riots; Stress; Texas; Trust; Washington (D.C.)

00:32:40 - Internship logistics

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Partial Transcript: Where did you live during that summer?

Segment Synopsis: Andringa details the logistics of her White House internship, including her living arrangements and transportation.

Keywords: Access; Alumna; Articles; Bess Abell; Car; Carpool; Classmate; Close; Course; Dentist; Detached; Driving; Freelance; Good friends; House; Important; Interested; Interesting; Internship; Nice; Out of town; Parade Magazine; Parking; Parking space; Party; Permission; Picture; Politics; Relative; Row house; Swimming pool; Unpaid; Upton St. NW (Washington, D.C.); White House; White House lawn; Write-up

Subjects: Bedrooms; Connecticut Avenue (Washington, D.C.); Death; Father; Housing; Interns; Morning; Mount Holyoke College; Politicians; Roommates; Summer; Visibility; Washington post; White House; Writing

00:36:10 - White House social aides

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Partial Transcript: Um, talk a little bit about the social military aides and how they--their role was in the--

Segment Synopsis: Andringa characterizes the dynamics between White House military social aides and President Johnson. Andringa also considers how Bess Abell managed the social aides as a part of her job responsibilities.

Keywords: Accomplishments; Advocate; Angry; Announcements; Announcer; Askew; Assistance; Bess Abell; Comfortable; Difficult; Events; Expectations; Firm; Gardner Ackley; Guests; Husband; In charge; Internship; Intimidating; Kind; Lady Bird Johnson; Line; Lyndon Johnson; Midwest; Mispronounced; No nonsense; Personal; Pleasing; Politicos; President; Reporting; Responsible; Sense of humor; Sent; Serious; Situations; Social aides; Social secretary; Understood; Unfamiliar; White House

Subjects: Best; Caring; Criticism; Fear; Handshaking; Military; Names; People; Perfection; Politicians; Press; Teasing; Vietnam; Walking; Washington (D.C.); White House; Worry

00:41:23 - Stress management at work

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Partial Transcript: And she probably also had what I might call a light--a light side to her personality?

Segment Synopsis: Andringa evaluates how Bess Abell managed the dual responsibilities of a high-powered, stressful job in the White House and raising her two young sons.

Keywords: Bess Abell; Concerned; Conscientiousness; Control; Effects; Events; Internship; Long hours; Not uptight; Role model; Social secretary; Talking; Unable; White House

Subjects: Children; Politicians; Responsibility; Stress; Time; Washington (D.C.); Women; Work; Worry; Young

00:43:00 - White House social events / Bess Abell's nickname

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Partial Transcript: Tyler mentioned, uh, the first White House country fair.

Segment Synopsis: Andringa discusses some of the White House social events she participated in as an intern. Andringa also discusses some social aide reunions she attended because of her husband's former position as a social aide. Andringa considers the origins of Bess Abell's nickname, 'the iron butterfly.'

Keywords: Afternoon; Bess Abell; Congressional children; Coordinator; Country fair; Dinner; Expectations; Good time; Hotel; Husband; Internship; Iron butterfly; Lady Bird Johnson; Lunch; Lyndon Johnson; Origin; Peter McCarthy; President; Reunion; Social aides; Social secretary; Special; St. Patrick’s Day; Stories; Wedding song; White House

Subjects: Code names; Memories; Metaphor; Politicians; Secret service; Tea; Time; Volunteer; Washington (D.C.)

00:46:39 - Bess Abell's fashion / Influence of Professor Victoria Schuck on Andringa's life

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Partial Transcript: What about, uh, her carriage and her appearance and her dress and--and so forth?

Segment Synopsis: Andringa characterizes Bess Abell's fashion sense. Andringa considers the influence of Mount Holyoke political science professor Victoria Schuck on her life.

Keywords: 35th anniversary; Academic; Aspirations; Bess Abell; Brother-in-law; C-SPAN; Chair; Chuck Robb; Class; Clothes; Coverage; Disappointed; Disliked; Down-to-earth; Enjoyed; Expectations; Fun; Glow; Host; Husband; Impeccable; Important; In touch; Interested; Interesting; Internship; Internship group; Invited; Jack Valenti; Job; Later; Lynda Bird Johnson Robb; Meaningful; Mentors; Nice; No desire; Perfect; Politics; President; Public policy seminar; Public service; Recognition; Republican Party of Wisconsin; Social secretary; Stunning; Style; Traits; Victoria Schuck; White House

Subjects: Children; Confidence; Death; Energy; Experience; Friend; Hair; Learning; Marriage; Mount Holyoke College; Paper; People; Political science; Politicians; Professor; Relevance; Speeches; Values; Volunteer; Washington (D.C.); Wisconsin

00:52:25 - Extra work at the White House / Contact with Bess Abell after internship

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Partial Transcript: Um, y--you spoke about coming back from time to time to help out--

Segment Synopsis: Andringa details some of the occasional extra work she did for Bess Abell at the White House following the end of her internship. Andringa then assesses her level with contact with Bess after the internship ended.

Keywords: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Washington, D.C.); Bess Abell; Chain Bridge Rd. NW (Washington, D.C.); Connected; Dinner; Group; Guest; Husband; Included; Internship anniversary; Invited; Luci Johnson; Lynda Bird Johnson Robb; Met; Moving on; National Archives (Washington, D.C.); Odd jobs; Reception; White House

Subjects: Cold; Life; McLean (Va.); Parties; Politicians; Speech; Washington (D.C.); Weather; Weddings; Work

00:55:50 - Impact of internship

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Partial Transcript: Uh, h--h--how did that experience at the White House shape your thinking and your future and--

Segment Synopsis: Andringa assesses the impact of her White House internship on her life.

Keywords: Appearance; Assumption; Bess Abell; Effort; Extension; First job; Goals; Husband; Ideals; Impactful; Internship; Met; Next level; No son; Oldest; Possibilities; Reinforce; Role model; Similar; Special; Support; Tasks; Tyler Abell; Upbringing; White House

Subjects: Business; Caring; Credit; Father; Federal government; Mentoring; Mother; Politicians; Reinforced; Values; Washington (D.C.); Work ethic

00:58:26 - Andringa's involvement in politics after marriage

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Partial Transcript: Bess is in the foreground and then we have the political scene in--in these times.

Segment Synopsis: Andringa explains her lack of involvement in politics after marrying her husband.

Keywords: Agreement; Assumption; Beliefs; Candidate; Center; Chuck Robb; Concerned; Continue; Declined; Democrats; Easy; Fiscal responsibility; Harmony; Host; Husband; Introduction; Invited; Lady Bird Johnson; Lady Bird special; Liz Carpenter; Lynda Bird Johnson Robb; Main reason; Political activism; Political inclinations; Politics; Reasons; Republican; Similar; Social outreach; Support; Together; Uninvolved

Subjects: Budget; Fiscal policy; Irony; Marriage; Parties; Political parties; Social policy; Washington (D.C.)

01:01:19 - Undergraduate thesis

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Partial Transcript: So talk a bit about the thesis that you wrote when you got back--

Segment Synopsis: Andringa provides an overview of the process behind the creation of her undergraduate thesis on presidential assistants in the White House.

Keywords: Academic paper; Access; Beginning; Book; Borrow; Bryce Harlow; Charts; Clark Clifford; Concerned; Connections; Disinterested; Dwight Eisenhower; Effusive; Eisenhower administration; Evening; Franklin D. Roosevelt; Harry Truman; Husband; Information; Interesting; Internship; Introduced; Invited; Involved; Issue; Jack Valenti; Julie Andrews; Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.); Long; Movie premier; Moving; Nice; No salaries; Not allowed; Note; Office; Plans; Position; Presidential assistants; Ratings; Return; Second semester; Sent; Special; Spring break; Thesis; Tough; Unbelievable; Unpaid; Update; White House

Subjects: Administration; Atlanta (Ga.); Data; Demographics; Education; Employees; Evidence; Evolution; Experience; Interviews; Military; Money; Mount Holyoke College; Opportunity; Parents; People; Politicians; Press; Professor; Research; Time; Washington (D.C.); Wausau (Wis.); Work; Writing

01:06:39 - Clarification on events / Grading thesis

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Partial Transcript: --(coughs)--Did Vicki like your work?

Segment Synopsis: Tyler Abell offers a clarification on the timing of events discussed in connection with a trip that Andringa declined to take with Lady Bird Johnson in 1963 (rather than in 1964 as mentioned earlier in the interview). Andringa recalls the methods used to grade her undergraduate thesis at Mount Holyoke College.

Keywords: Beautification; Bess Abell; Close; Departments, Academic; Grades; Help; Honors thesis; Interview; Invited; Jack Valenti; Lady Bird Johnson; Lady Bird Special; Liz Carpenter; Manager; Nice; Panel; Political models; Political theory; Rare; Seminar; Similar; Thesis; Thrilled; Tyler Abell; Victoria Schuck

Subjects: Education; Mount Holyoke College; Papers; Political science; Politicians; Professor; Travel; Washington (D.C.)

01:09:48 - Social secretaries today / Relationship between Lady Bird Johnson and Bess Abell

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Partial Transcript: Think--think of Bess as--as a--as you have described her. Would she survive as a social secretary in today's world, do you think, or is that a lost species?

Segment Synopsis: Andringa speculates upon whether Bess Abell would be successful as a social secretary in the 2010s. Andringa discusses the close bond present between Bess and Lady Bird Johnson.

Keywords: Accomplished; Bess Abell; Better; Creative; Difficult; Familiar; First lady; Fortunate; Good experience; Happy; Insightful; Interactions; Intern; Internship; Issue; Lady Bird Johnson; Nice; Office; Political; Positive; Rare; Represent; Results; Selection; Smart; Social secretary; Special relationship; Today; White House; Wonderful

Subjects: Age; Best; Friendship; Perspective; Politicians; Summer; Survival; Washington (D.C.); Young

01:13:29 - Final thoughts

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Partial Transcript: I tend to consider myself a person of the future.

Segment Synopsis: Andringa shares her thoughts on memory and why she prioritizes the future rather than past memories.

Keywords: After; Bess Abell; Busy; Details; Forgotten; Future; Hurt; Husband; Important; Influence; Internship; Met; Suppression; White House

Subjects: Death; Grief; Memory; People; Philosophy