Taft with WRA historian Tom Vince
Yours Truly restaurant, in Hudson, once again hosted a visit by several past presidents and first ladies to commemorate the recent President’s Day holiday. Much to the delight of the customers, the former heads of state strolled throughout the dining room and spoke with each of the patrons present.
Guests dining that night had the opportunity to talk with Pres. George Washington and his wife Martha Washington. They could also chat with Ulysses S. Grant and William H. Taft. Former first lady Lucretia R. Garfield was on hand, as well, to speak with the visitors who were eating.
The guests of honor paraded into the dining room to the sound of Hail to the Chief played over the speaker system, while General Manager Jerry Wisniewski introduced each in turn. All of the dignitaries had a few words to say before breaking ranks and mingling with the crowd. Both adults and children were invited to play presidential trivia games to win prizes. In honor of the occasion, the restaurant was festooned with red, white and blue bunting and banners with a presidential theme.
In an exclusive interview with the Akronist, Pres. Washington told a reporter: “I’m pleased to be here in the Northwest Territory of our country on this 17th day of February, 1790. I’m looking forward to enjoying the camaraderie and learning all that is going on in this part of our country. I hope, futuristically, this will become one of our next states,” he concluded.
Lady Washington added that they were enjoying their visit. “Oh, it’s a little cold right now. However, Mr. Washington and I have found our accommodations are well and our horses are being taken care of, so we enjoy meeting all of the new people,” she said.
Mrs. Garfield said she felt honored to be here, with the other presidents and Lady Washington, to represent her husband. “He passed almost 30 years ago now and I’m very grateful to see that people, that are here enjoying their meals, actually remember my husband. He was very worried that he would be forgotten,” she added.
When asked to comment on his visit, Pres. Grant stated: “It’s been a long time, since 1880, since the last time I was here in Northeast Ohio, to help heal the rift between the two wings of the Republican party.” Grant added that he had a distinct connection with Hudson. “My father and John Brown worked together at a tannery in Deerfield. That’s how my father became an abolitionist; my father was in Hudson for a while,” he said.
Pres. Taft mentioned he and his wife, Nellie, were thoroughly enjoying their visit to their native state of Ohio. “We’ll be leaving Hudson shortly and traveling to Cincinnati to visit our home and our friends down there. But it is exciting to be here at Yours Truly this evening and having the opportunity to enlighten the diners on the lives of the presidents and first ladies,” he explained.
When pressed for the details of the “Bathtub” incident, Taft did not hesitate to answer. “It’s somewhat embarrassing for me, but the Whitehouse had a claw-foot bathtub, which was the bathtub of the day, and I, wanting to soak away the cares of the day of the President, decided I would take a bath. So I had warm water drawn in the bathtub. I settled into the water and reclined back and I realized that I had become stuck to the bottom of the tub. “Well, I had to call six of my assistants in to assist me out of the tub. It was an embarrassing situation.”
Within a week an engineer was on hand and construction had begun on a new bathtub designed specifically for Taft. “It was four feet wide and seven feet long and it was a glorious way to soak away the cares,” Taft concluded.
Tom Vince, Hudson resident and local historian, attended the event to have dinner and meet with the presidents. “I thought it was an interesting thing. I have a lot of knowledge about American presidents. I’ve visited their houses and their libraries so I’m pretty good at presidential trivia. The only one I did not know the answer for was: ‘Who selected the site for the White House?’ So I said, ‘Well, it either has to be Washington or Adams because they were the first two presidents.’ Adams was the first one to move in, but did Washington select the site? I’m not sure. That was the only [trivia question] I was uncertain of.”
Vince said he has fun asking the impersonators questions of his own. “I don’t deliberately try to trip them up,” he chuckled.
When asked about his impression of the evening and what he thought the public got out of it, Vince said, “I think the public learns something about American presidents and that’s a good thing.”
Cheryl McGuire, a former teacher from Akron, was there with a friend and had this to say before leaving, “We loved it. I had just watched a tour of the White House on television. George Washington [tonight] was giving us some more facts. I think it’s just great for the kids, and to see the people in period costumes – they are very knowledgeable. I thought it was great.” Her companion agreed. “Yeah, it was fun,” she said.
Wisniewski explained how one young boy there knew that George Washington did not have wooden teeth. “He said: ‘No, they were hippo and elephant tusks and gold.’ They were talking about some of the other presidents and it’s as if this young person just went and studied these cards and did such a great job with it. He knew all these trivia facts.
“So it’s folks like that who know the history and they want to put the face and the fact together. And this is why this troop is fantastic for the audience. They know what’s up, they’re here to educate. Mr. Taft was talking about his first baseball game he attended in Washington D.C. and he threw out the first pitch of one of the first games in Washington. It’s the small stuff like that,” Wisniewski added.
Art Shibley is part owner of the Yours Truly chain of restaurants along with his brothers. When reached by phone he said the group of enactors – We Made History – is from Mentor. “Mentor is the home of Pres. Garfield. There, we were also active in the renovation of the Garfield home when that was done a few years back, and these actors were involved with the library up there. They have done a great job [at Yours Truly in Mentor] the last few years and that’s why we brought them to Hudson,” Shibley said.
As to the significance of Yours Truly hosting these enactors for President’s Day, Shibley said, “It’s just a continued part of our belief, which is to give back to society and of course foster the family relationships that continue developing at Yours Truly restaurant. We are a family oriented restaurant and that’s what we foster and this is a family type of event.”
The members of We Made History who channel the dignitaries are: Dale Fellows – George Washington; Nancy Fellows – Mrs. Washington; Deborah Weinkamer – Mrs. Garfield; Donald Miller – U.S. Grant; and Dale Liikala – W.H. Taft. To learn more about the group and their up-coming schedule visit: