By Tia Lynn Ivey, Managing Editor
The Christmas season at the White House is a notoriously grand and elegant affair, but few Americans ever see it in person. But two Morgan County natives, twin sisters Esther Curry and Effie Powell, were both selected to serve as docents this year during the annual Christmas tours at the White House in Washington D.C.
“Personally I feel it was an honor to be given the opportunity to do something fun and to serve in such an important place in that small way and to be a part of an exciting time in history,” said Esther, who still lives in Morgan County. “I know a lot of people applied to do this and I have not been able to figure out what the common denominator is on who was chosen.”
“On a personal level, it was great after so many years of living away to be able to do something so unique and fun with my twin sister!” said Effie Powell, who retired to Chattanooga, Tn. three years ago with her husband.
It all began back in August when the sisters were looking for a special way to celebrate their birthdays this year together. Effie discovered the opportunity to serve as docents through the White House website.
“Effie saw an item on the White House website showing the opportunity to help decorate the White House for Christmas, or to be a Greeter during the holiday season,” explained Esther. “Neither of us felt qualified to decorate, but we thought it would be fun to be greeters…We applied on the day that the application was available and we were notified in early November that we were accepted. We were asked to commit to two four-hour time periods on successive days.”
“Amazingly we were accepted!” said Effie. “It has always been on my bucket list to see the White House Christmas, but usually I forgot and waited too late to get tickets. Tickets to the White House tours are free and can be gotten through your senator or representative’s office, but they do get snapped up fast.”
So Esther and Effie checked off another goal on their bucket list and headed to Washington D.C. to serve as docents in the White House. According to the White House, this year’s Christmas display was designed by First Lady Melania Trump, who set out to pay homage to American values.
“This Christmas season I want to honor those who have shaped our country and made it the place we are proud to call home,” said Melania Trump in press release statement. According to the White House, this year’s theme is “The Spirit of America,” and is “a tribute to the traditions, customs, and history that make our Nation great…the White House decorations celebrate the courageous individuals who have shaped our country and kept the American spirit alive.
As greeters, Esther and Effie were given keepsake aprons, and a “Greeter” badge to take home once they were finished volunteering. During their time as docents, they distributed Hershey Kiss candies and keepsake booklets describing this year’s Christmas theme to guests taking the tour. The sisters were impressed with the grand decorations and historical artwork in the White House.
“The White House Christmas was amazing!” said Effie. “It was so sparkly and all the decorations were very thoughtfully coordinated and sophisticated. My favorite room was decorated with a huge amount of deep red American Beauty Roses. The mantel and other decorations were done in a very symmetrical way too that made it very pleasing to the eye, and of course, the rich red was really elegant looking.”
“The decorations were magnificent, glittery and perfectly done,” said Esther. “My favorite Christmas Tree was the big tree in the Blue Room, decorated with replicas of each state flower, done in gold paper. I also liked the State Dining Room, decorated in garlands of red roses. I also always love to see the room with the pretty portrait of Jackie Kennedy. I also love the Green Room, with so many paintings by American Artists hanging on the walls.”
For Esther and Effie, taking part in the Christmas tours of the Whitehouse was a once in a lifetime opportunity they will cherish for the rest of their lives.
“It was great to be able to do something so unique with my twin sister,” said Effie. “We welcomed probably around a thousand people and it was so interesting to hear where they were from, where they work, how they ended up there that day, and to be part of their experience. It was so fun to say to every person, ‘Welcome to the White House!’”
Esther and Effie, who were born in Morgan County as daughters of a local dairy farmer, were thrilled to not only serve at the White House, but to visit the nation’s capital, visiting government headquarters, culturally enriching museums, and experiencing city life. The sisters even sat in on the proceedings of the Supreme Court during their time in Washington D.C.
“We also visited the National Museum of African American History and the Capital Visitor’s Center, and we were able to view the Supreme Court in session,” said Esther. “ All of those were also great experiences. Washington DC is a great town to visit. The transportation system is excellent, feels safe, and is easy. Most of the museums have no admittance fees. I do not think I will ever have enough time to experience all of the museums in D.C.”
“I loved how as American citizens the White House, Capitol, and Supreme Court are open and free for all of us,” said Effie. “To be able to literally walk into the buildings where our government works, to be able to see the President’s home, the Supreme Court Justices arguing a case, or the Congress doing the business of our nation, and if I wanted to, I could go stand outside there and protest or support any business going on there. It is a privilege citizens of many countries in the world only dream about. We are so blessed to have been born here.”
Esther and Effie were born at Morgan Memorial Hospital in Madison and grew up in town. Esther is a real estate paralegal for The Merritt Law Firm,who has worked in Madison for the past 25 years. Effie married an army officer and moved frequently all over the country. She graduated from the University of North Georgia with a degree in Special Education and worked in the field for seven years. She also became an avid Bible study teacher before retiring to Chattanooga.