In September of 1960, the U.S. and Japan were celebrating 100 years of diplomatic relations. Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko traveled to Washington at the end of the month to celebrate the occasion with an official state visit.
Japan’s Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko actually stopped traffic inside the White House last night as President Eisenhower‘s 4-year-old granddaughter Mary Jean was detoured down another corridor in her battery-powered miniature Thunderbird convertible.
Shortly before the royal couple’s arrival for the state dinner in their honor, Mary Jean was happily utilizing the wide marble-floored halls for driving practice, skillfully avoiding potted plants and dodging the shins of uniformed security sentries. As the hour neared for formality to commence, the preoccupied girl was dispatched elsewhere to play by a message relayed down from her parents, Lt. Col. and Mrs. John Eisenhower, who were upstairs dressed to join the other 88 guests.
Though Mary Jean’s 5-mile-an-hour auto looks luxurious, to her it’s a long-awaited secondhand hand-me-down. It belonged first to big brother David, who long ago graduated to a stripped-down soapbox derby type vehicle that zooms around the White House grounds at 15-miles-an-hour.
“We’ve been looking forward to your coming,” FIrst Lady Mamie Eisenhower told Princess Michiko during a personally conducted tour of the White House. At one point early in the evening, both women smiled at an obvious difference in Eastern and Western viewpoint. “This is quite old–the 1700s,” said Mrs. Eisenhower, indicating a yellow silk Philadelphia Chippendale chair in the Oval Room.
“Old in our country, that is,” she corrected herself, “not in yours.”
Both old and priceless of course. I’m surprising Governor Romney didn’t break that one as well during his clumsy visit.