Author recounts experiences as an Eisenhower
Part 1 of 4
Anyone wondering what it's like to be a member of one of this nation's most illustrious families would do well to talk with Kathryn “Kaye” S. Eisenhower Morgan of Arroyo Grande, Calif.
Morgan, who lived in North Charleroi during some of her formative years and was graduated from Charleroi High School in 1952, has been there, done that. And she is writing a book about her experiences as the daughter of a state legislator and the niece of Dwight David Eisenhower, military hero of World War II and the 34th president of the United States.
Her first book, the first edition of “The Eisenhower Legacy: A Tribute to Ida Stover Eisenhower and David Jacob Eisenhower” (Roesler Enterprises Publishing) was released in 2010. It is available at Amazon.com or by contacting Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ida and David Eisenhower were Morgan's grandparents.
“I wrote the book to clarify some of the myths and untruths about my family, their origins, et al,” Morgan said. “It is strictly about David and Ida, their formative years, how they both traveled west, met and married and raised their sons to adulthood. It ends about 1946 when Ida died.”
The book is dedicated to Morgan's grandparents and chronicles their lives together raising six rambunctious boys — Arthur, Edgar, Dwight, Roy, Earl and Milton — in Abilene, Kan. The late Earl Dewey “Red” Eisenhower Sr. was Morgan's father.
“Many people think there were only five brothers,” Morgan said. “Roy died in 1942 shortly after his father David passed away. That kind of left (Roy) out of the notoriety of the Eisenhower routine that covered the press in the next several years. Actually, there were seven boys — an infant brother, Paul, was born in 1894 and died in 1895 at the age of 10 months. Ida, my grandmother, grieved for him the rest of her life.”
As poor boys coming from parents who were highly educated for the time and place (rural Kansas), the Eisenhower brothers “developed an unusual consciousness about being the Eisenhowers,” Morgan says in her book.
“Life was never easy during those times, their collective success seemingly stemming from strict discipline, Bible study, regular church attendance and adherence to the Golden Rule,” she said. “They made lives of their own, leaving a legacy for future generations of Eisenhowers.”
John S.D. Eisenhower, son of President Eisenhower, wrote the foreword in his cousin's book.
“This book, researched with incredible thoroughness and highly readable, may well turn out to be the most definitive treatment ever written on the Eisenhowers of Abilene,” he said. “It is a history, not only of a single family, but also of a Western culture, the memory of which is worth keeping.”
Perpetuating that legacy, Morgan emphasized, was not always easy.
She recalls the unfounded rumors that circulated across the campus during her freshman year at Pennsylvania State College (now The Pennsylvania State University).
“Uncle Ike was running for President at the time (1952), and I wasn't really keen on letting it be known I was an Eisenhower,” Morgan said. “There were stories that I got drunk at a party and they were completely false, perhaps created out of jealousy, spite or dislike for my uncle. The truth did come out eventually that I was an Eisenhower and then everyone wanted to be my friend – or in many cases, a boyfriend — because they were interested only in my name. It was rather hectic at times.”
She also recalled the avalanche of publicity when her uncle hit the news, “how reporters descended on us, how my mother was unable to handle the pressure, how I got to go politicking with my dad.”
There was no escaping the Eisenhower spotlight.
Dwight D. Eisenhower became a five-star general in the U.S. Army during World War II and served as supreme commander of Allied Forces in Europe. He was responsible for the successful invasions of North Africa, France and Germany that led to the end of the war. He also served as the first supreme commander of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), as Chief of Staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Harry S Truman and as president of Columbia University in New York City before becoming the Republican candidate for president in 1952.
“He was a true American hero, larger than life,” Morgan said. “There was no getting around that and we had to learn to deal with it. We knew him as Uncle Ike, one of the Eisenhower brothers and a man who was, at times, much different than his public persona. But when someone in your family is thrust into the public eye the way he was, it affects everyone.”
That was demonstrated in a big way in 1945, after World War II ended, and a major homecoming was held for Uncle Ike and “the entire Eisenhower family” in Abilene. Everyone rode a train bound for Abilene and a celebration at the family homestead. Kaye was “only 10 or 11” at the time but was quick to notice that other passengers on the train moved aside to let the Eisenhowers pass by on their way to the dining car.
“They treated us with the greatest respect,” she said. “It was as though they were in awe of anyone named Eisenhower. My uncle was the man of the hour, but people extended the esteem to everyone in the family.”
There were several Abilene homecomings over the years, Morgan said.
“Most of the time it was just the six brothers,” she said. “But the really big one, with extended family, wives and children, was in 1945. A riotous time! Such memories! The homecomings were Uncle Ike's doing. He was a great family man and a prodigious letter writer.”
The Eisenhower brothers also enjoyed regular poker parties at the White House and “all of them were expected to attend,” Morgan said.
The brothers also enjoyed fishing expeditions, one of which provided a treasured moment in family lore.
“They were on a fishing trip somewhere in Wisconsin in 1946 and The Milwaukee Journal sent a photographer there to get what became a truly famous picture of the Eisenhower brothers,” Morgan said. “It was eventually signed by all the brothers except my father, who is the one in the picture with the fishhook caught on his pants. He is struggling to remove it and all his brothers are laughing uproariously at his predicament.”
The classic photo is just one of myriad documents, pictures and artifacts displayed at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene (www.eisenhower.archives.gov). Morgan has donated a large array of family memorabilia to the library.
Ron Paglia is a freelance writer.