World War I
Making a Mountain Out of a Mole Hill
On March 18, 1928, an urgent telegram was received by Lou Henry Hoover by Lady Lister-Kay, wife of Sir John Lister-Kay groom-in-waiting to King Edward VII. Lady Lister-Kay queried: "I was horrified to read in the papers this morning of the very narrow escape you had in your automobile yesterday which most happily and mercifully ended without injury to you. I do hope you are not feeling any shock and would like to hear how you are." Lou Hoover responded immediately reassuring Lister-Kay: "So many thanks for your wires. A very short skid and bump into a low wall going at very slow speed has been unduly exaggerated. None of us were in any way injured or alarmed or even slightly shaken. Glad to receive such pleasant expression of sympathy from you." What began as a single inquiry based upon a newspaper report soon mushroomed into many queries over the course of the week, all expressing sympathy for Mrs. Hoover in what was reported to be a terrible car accident. A brief review of some of Mrs. Hoover's responses to friends and well-wishers provides a better idea of the inaccuracies of some of the newspaper accounts as well as the likely sources for reporters.
How did such a minor incident in a rural area get reported in the first place? Mrs. Hoover surmised in a letter to Mrs. George Scott that "Either the purveyors to the press or some local garage people exaggerated most picturesquely a very short skid and bump which we had while travelling very slowly. We knocked a few stones out of a very loosely constructed stone wall in which we tangled up one of our wheels temporarily and bent a rod and one or two other little things that had to be straightened. But we were not"shaken up" the least bit, either in ourselves, our nerves, or baggage, as the paper said, nor did we hang precipitously over the river, nor break down wire bars or wooden stanchions..."
In spite of the many disclaimers Lou would write over the many days following the news story, she found some solace in the exercise. Writing to her friend Doctor Fairclough, Lou confessed: "This dramatic newspaper story has had one pleasant result—that I am again in touch with many friends who have been kind enough to write me sympathetically and express their concern over my welfare."