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Lyles Station and Princeton Theatre come together in the Night at the Museum series
to showcase amazing stories in a whole new way
– Celebrating our collective histories and providing entertaining and educational experiences made better together

2024 Main Event

Welcoming Alonzo Fields home to Lyles Station Where it all began…

About The Show

Show Details:  When Alonzo Fields accepted a job as a butler at the White House in 1931, his plan was to work there for the winter. That winter lasted 21 years. Based on the real-life story of the grandson of a freed slave who grew up in an all-black town in southern Indiana, Fields is forced by the Depression to give up his dreams of becoming an opera singer and accept the job at the White House where he quickly was appointed Chief Butler. Looking Over the President’s Shoulder is told from the unique perspective of the Chief Butler who served four U.S. presidents and their families. Credit dramaticpublishing.com

Show Times:
Friday, June 21, 2024 at 7 pm

Saturday, June 22, 2024 at 7 pm
– with Presidential dinner @ 5:30 pm

Sunday, June 23, 2024 at 2 pm

Ticket Details: Show ticket price – $25 ea.
Discount Hotel rate is offered to those who purchase tickets!

Alonzo’s Stories

Realtor and Princeton Community Theatre board member Kelly Bolhofner said the real reason to bring a historical play about Chief Butler Alonzo Fields back to his hometown of Lyles Station and Princeton is that many people don’t know what an influence he had on history. 

“It’s not just about bringing together Princeton Community Theater and Lyles Station Museum,” she said. “Bringing Alonzo home gets me teary eyed, that such an important person in the history of Lyles Station, in the history of Gibson County is going to have his story remembered here. A lot of people you say ‘Alonzo Fields’ and they say ‘who?’” 

Alonzo Fields, of Lyles Station, was the Chief White House Butler for 21 years through four presidents, the Great Depression, World War II and more. 

He witnessed history being made, and wrote a tell-all book, “My 21 Years in the White House,” after his retirement from the White House, then went on speaking tours after his book published. 

The book, which billed itself as 21 years of secrets, was not just an early tell-all, but the last book written by a White House member of staff — the White House actually banned memoirs by employees in the wake of the book, requiring all domestic help to sign a waiver. 

One paperback cover promised, “No book ever offered such an unusual inside view of White House life–none will leave as many mouths open, as many eyebrows raised.” 

The book received generally positive reviews, particularly for its unique perspective on historical events and its insight into the personal lives of the presidents and their families. Fields provided anecdotes, observations, and personal reflections that shed light on the inner workings of the White House and the people who lived there. 

That book was part of the research by playwright James Still, who would go on to write “Looking Over the President’s Shoulder,” a one-man play about the life of Alonzo Fields and his dedication to service as an art form. 

“This is a good opportunity to show some history of Gibson County, and to talk about why it’s a significant story,” Bolhofner said. 

She praised the museum’s efforts to bring the production locally, and added they had requests for tickets before the tickets even went on sale. 

The benefit of partnering is the museum’s deep knowledge of Fields’ life, and the way by joining forces the two organizations can reach people who are not in their usual orbit — the museum goers will be drawn in to see Princeton’s historic theater, and their theater regulars will become aware of Lyles Station Museum. 

“This brings light to each organization. It’s also a good opportunity for those not familiar with our non-profits to get a taste of what we’re about. 

As a Gibson County transplant, she could add that locals don’t always talk about the local attractions. 

“I’ve been here since 2016 and I had never been to Lyles Station. Recently I took my grandkids when they were in town,” she said. It was a light day at the museum and they had a private tour from Museum Director Stanley Madison. 

She said she didn’t know what they had absorbed, but then was surprised to see their posts on Instagram, quoting Madison and documenting their tour. 

“Lyles Station is a significant part of the local history, just like the theater is,” she said. 

Since the performance was set, she’s talked with actor James Creer, Director Doug Baird, and Lyles Station organizer Nora Nixon. 

“When they pictured us, as a community theater, they thought we were something on the side of the road with flashlights instead of spotlights,” she laughed. 

Originally they thought they might have to arrive three weeks before to stage the play, but after the call they had a better understanding of the theater, and its amenities and were able to reduce the time anticipated for staging. 

In the meantime, the theater is working hard on things like sponsorships, ticketing, marketing and planning.  

To ring in the New Year with the first three sponsors is more than they could ask for, and she added the plan to launch the “where is Alonzo” campaign is going well.  

The theater has commissioned a life-sized cut out of Alonzo Fields, and Alonzo will visit local businesses and attractions up until the play premieres to have photo opportunities with locals. 

“It’s not only bringing awareness to him and what he means to Gibson County, but also a wider audience. He’ll be at the Indiana Military Museum in Vincennes and the Evansville War Museum among others.” 

She said she hopes to introduce a new audience to the Broadway Players. The local company produces four plays a season, and rents out space for special events. 

“We’ve lived in our own little bubble for a little while, this year people will see a lot more of us,” she said. “We are a part of the community and want people to see us…We try to maintain that small community.” 

The Broadway Players are a volunteer organization, and always need volunteers in the box office, ushers, concession sellers, and actors. 

This year they’ll host a February talent show, and four comedies, as well as murder mysteries among other events.  

Did you know that when President Franklin D. Roosevelt took over the White House salaries of everyone who worked there were cut 25 percent to fulfill a campaign promise?  

Lyles Station native Alonzo Fields wrote in his book “My 21 Years in the White House,” that during the Hoover administration servants made $60-90 per month, ($1,461.66-$2,192.49 today) plus three meals for butlers and cooks; two for other servants. Paychecks were reduced when the Roosevelts moved in. 

“There was too much work for even the head man to stand around and pose,” Fields wrote in his book. 

The push to reduce government spending went all the way down to the dining utensils. Servants didn’t have enough flatware for all the courses, leaving them to do the dishes in order to have enough forks to serve dessert. 

To learn more about this, Alonzo Fields, or President Roosevelt, pick up tickets to Looking Over the President’s Shoulder, a play Lyles Station and Princeton Theater are organizing in June, or stop in during regular museum hours to see the Alonzo Fields exhibit at Lyles Station. 

Museum seeks missing journals of Lyles Station native in preparation for performance 

Walking up to Lyles Station Museum, a museum housed in a former two-story schoolhouse, is humbling. In one room you see the simple blackboard and schoolroom where the students would learn 16 spelling words per day; in a gallery — quilts, medals, and recognition from Lyles Station alumni, sit aside artifacts of the pioneer farming life people in the all-black Indiana settlement led. 

Lyles Station was a haven for those fleeing persecution, a stop on the Underground Railroad, and this summer expects hundreds of guests for their Juneteenth celebration that will feature a three-day run of a play about one of their most famous locals, Alonzo Fields, former Chief White House butler to four US Presidents. 

But while their gallery celebrating Alonzo Fields is excellent, and includes a copy of his tell-all book, “My 21 Years in the White House,” there is something missing, a mystery lost to history if you will.  

The museum only has five of what would have been at least 20 diaries of their native son. The rest they would love to find before the crowds they expect for the Fields homecoming. 

To rewind, after Fields left butler service, he wrote his book based on his journals. He did a book tour of the country, and his book was eventually the basis for “Looking Over the President’s Shoulder,” a one-man play dramatizing the large historical moments of Fields’ life and his take on them during his time in the White House. 

The Fields exhibit at Lyles Station features magazines Fields was in, his diaries, invitations and photos, among other items. 

“We put this (exhibit) together with the understanding that Fields was a man of character,” Museum Director Stanley Madison said. “He could tackle things that seemed impossible.” 

That was not just as a butler but as a man experiencing peak segregation. 

“This lady,” Madison gestures to a white maid, “and this lady–” he points to a black maid, “–could not clean in the same room.” 

Blacks and whites couldn’t ride together in the service elevators, for example, so in Fields’ responsibilities he had to keep a running mental load that juggled the issues of segregation while getting all the work done.  

This was at a time when there were no downtown movie theaters that would allow black people to view movies, and the one playhouse that allowed blacks to attend were the burlesque shows, and at those, they had to sit in the upper gallery.  

But times were changing, and Fields changed with it. He adapted to each president’s requirements. 

During the Hoover administration, for example, the servants were supposed to be completely unseen, to the point there were designated closets for workers to jump into when the president or first lady were about to walk through. 

Compare that to the Roosevelt administration, when Fields was asked what he thought about policies. 

“They were sitting out at the chestnut tree behind the White House,” Madison recalled during a tour of the Fields exhibit. A commanding officer gestured to Fields, who was serving, and told the group the man shouldn’t be privy to the confidential security information. Roosevelt disagreed. “Put some numbers behind Fields’ name. There. He’s just become an agent.” 

Fields kept a daily diary of his time in the White House, which he used to write his book, and the museum has five of these diaries as the centerpiece of their display. Fields’ controlled scrawl.  

The page in the exhibit currently sits on Thursday, Jan. 8, 1942. 

“Tonight the Prime Minister (Winston Churchill) asked me for a second Scotch and soda after Champagne with dinner, and three glasses of brandy, including sherry. He says, ‘You know I have a heavy burden on my shoulders such as fighting the war, so give me another Scotch and soda; it helps to keep up the morale…’” 

While justly proud of their Fields exhibit, the museum is looking for the rest of Fields’ diaries to complete their set. Mayland Fields, the widow to Alonzo, gave the museum five tomes that are the current centerpiece of the Fields exhibit.  

Efforts to find the other missing diaries have not been fruitful. 

The museum checked with the Truman Institute, because Truman and Fields were close friends, but that exploration didn’t turn up the missing diaries. 

Madison likens the journals to a trail of history. 

“I see the story of Fields as a young man from a small town taking it on his shoulders to be the best of the best he could possibly be,” Madison said. 

If anyone has a tip to help the museum in locating the missing Alonzo Fields journals, call 812-385-2534. The museum is open 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and by appointment. 

To buy tickets to “Looking Over the Presidents Shoulder” go to www.lylesstation.org or www.princetontheatre.org 

In “My 21 Years in the White House” Chief White House Butler Alonzo Fields, who was from Lyles Station, just outside Princeton, talks about private moments with presidents, things like FDR receiving the news of Pearl Harbor, Hoover battling the Great Depression and an assassination attempt on Truman.

What he doesn’t talk a lot about is his own personal life with his wife, his own politics, how he judged presidential decisions or his lived experiences of segregation.

Some of those he does address in later interviews. In an interview with Washington University for a documentary on the Great Depression, he talked about segregation.

Fields remembered that on the bus trip to the White House, he accidentally went into an unmarked white restroom. The restroom was unmarked, but the hostility he felt from those inside was not. When he came out, a fellow person of color indicated a separate, lower quality restroom behind the rest stop.

The first thing that struck him in Washington, he said, was right in the White House. He was surprised, initially, that white help were segregated from people of color doing similar work.

“There was one department store, blacks weren’t welcome at all…You’d stand around before you’d be served,” he remembered, adding there were places black Americans couldn’t get a line of credit.

There were movie theaters downtown, but none of them would serve people of color; the only show both people who were white and people of color could attend was a burlesque show. (Women dancing.) The people of color were relegated to the upper level of the theatre, however.

Certain theatres had certain days a person could go with an all black cast.

Alonzo Fields was born in Lyles Station, Ind., and grew up in an era marked by racial segregation and discrimination. Despite the challenges, Fields pursued education, and ran a grocery store before becoming butler to an academic home that let him pursue his passion to become a classically trained opera singer. 

He was set to have his debut, when the death of his employer left him without a job. He’d met Mrs. Lou Hoover, wife to President Herbert Hoover, at his employer’s home. She remembered him, and he was offered a position in the White House in 1931. 

It was early in the Great Depression, so he felt blessed to have a job, and intended to go back to opera singing after the winter was over. That winter lasted 21 years.

Fields, however, was known for his lightheartedness, and developed a passion for hospitality and service.

Fields’ exceptional professionalism, attention to detail, and dedication led to his eventual promotion to the position of Chief Butler, making him the first Black man to have that role.

During his time in the White House, spanning administrations from Hoover to Eisenhower, Fields witnessed history, serving everyone from queens and princesses to members of the presidents’ families. 

He was chosen for special missions by each president, and gave input to them when asked. He also saw numerous moments of global importance, from the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the Korean War.

Fields’ memoir, titled “My 21 Years in the White House,” sheds light on the behind-the-scenes happenings, offering a unique perspective on the personal lives of the presidents and their families, as well as the significant historical events that unfolded during those years.

His tenure in the White House not only exemplified his exceptional skills and broke racial barriers. 

He stands as a symbol of dignity, professionalism, and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Alonzo Fields passed away on March 22, 1994, leaving behind a legacy of excellence in service and an enduring contribution to American history.

In an unforgettable theatrical journey, Princeton Community Theatre and Lyles Station Museum present “Looking Over the President’s Shoulder,” a compelling production that invites audiences into the life of Alonzo Fields, the chief butler at the White House during the administrations of Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower, and a native to Lyles Station, Ind., just outside Princeton.

“Looking Over the President’s Shoulder” invites you to be moved by the enduring lessons of humor, integrity and fortitude.

Performance Details:

  • 7 p.m. June 21
  • 7 p.m. June 22
    • Presidential Dinner Option starts at 5:30 p.m.          
  • 2 p.m. June 23
  • Princeton Theatre 
  • Tickets: Available at LylesStation.org/Events

For media inquiries, interviews, or press passes, please contact Nora Nixon at 812-385-6941

January 3rd

Which Local Man was once sent on a secret mission for President Franklin Roosevelt on this day in history?

On Jan. 3, 1942 President Franklin Roosevelt gave Lyles Station native Alonzo Fields, (who came from right outside Princeton and went on to become Chief Butler at the White House) notice that he was to gather a crew immediately for a secret mission, destination unknown. Every person was to pack their bags for 10-15 days, and they were told they could give no information to their families. 

“Those who needed tools, I told to get their tools, to answer no questions and to get out of the house as quietly as possible,” Fields later wrote in his book about his service.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 4, a Secret Service member picked up Fields and him and his crew to Washington’s Union Station to catch a train. Only Fields knew the destination and was instructed to read his instructions and destroy them.

They would get off at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and be met by a Secret Service officer, and taken to the home of a state department relative. They had no idea who they would be caring for, but the Secret Service said to prepare for 15-20 people for dinner; it was 2 p.m.–dinner was at 8 p.m.– and Fields ended up using his own money to buy food and alcohol for the guests.

When the guests arrived, it was Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his naval aide, Scotland yard chief, and physician among others.

It was the height of World War II, only days before 26 Allied countries had signed the Declaration by United Nations. Two days after this arrival, Roosevelt would announce more aid to Britain in his State of the Union Speech. Chief Butler Alonzo Fields was on the front lines as history was made. 

To learn more about secret White House workings, Alonzo Fields, or President Roosevelt during World War II, pick up tickets to Looking Over the President’s Shoulder, a play Lyles Station and Princeton Theater are organizing in June, or stop in during regular museum hours to see the Alonzo Fields exhibit at Lyles Station.

Show Reviews

“This one-man show is at once warm, thought-provoking, and inspiring. I cannot recommend this play strongly enough. It is a timeless story for all ages, a pure joy to see, and a story and performance you will remember long after the curtain falls.”

                                                   – TriCities.com

2024 Show Sponsors
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Previous Events

2022

2022 Production of

 Fugitives and Heroes – Experience the struggle for freedom on the Underground Railroad

 

Freedom or Captured?

In a nation on the road to Civil War, the Fugitive Slave Act ignites a powder keg that intensifies north and south divisions and magnifies the dangers for the enslaved and those who help them. Meet 10 historical figures as they make daredevil escapes, face unfathomable challenges, and continue to pave the road on the Underground Railroad with their courage and blood.

Lives, a Nation, and True Freedom in the Balance

A Night at the Museum

2013
Lyles Station and Princeton Theatre come together in the Night at the Museum series
to showcase amazing stories in a whole new way
– Celebrating our collective histories and providing entertaining and educational experiences made better together

2024 Main Event

Welcoming Alonzo Fields home to Lyles Station Where it all began…

About The Show

“This one-man show is at once warm, thought-provoking, and inspiring. I cannot recommend this play strongly enough. It is a timeless story for all ages, a pure joy to see, and a story and performance you will remember long after the curtain falls.”

                                                  – TriCities.com

Show Times:
Friday, June 21, 2024 at 7 pm

Saturday, June 22, 2024 at 7 pm
– with Presidential dinner @ 5:30 pm

Sunday, June 23, 2024 at 2 pm

Realtor and Princeton Community Theatre board member Kelly Bolhofner said the real reason to bring a historical play about Chief Butler Alonzo Fields back to his hometown of Lyles Station and Princeton is that many people don’t know what an influence he had on history. 

“It’s not just about bringing together Princeton Community Theater and Lyles Station Museum,” she said. “Bringing Alonzo home gets me teary eyed, that such an important person in the history of Lyles Station, in the history of Gibson County is going to have his story remembered here. A lot of people you say ‘Alonzo Fields’ and they say ‘who?’” 

Alonzo Fields, of Lyles Station, was the Chief White House Butler for 21 years through four presidents, the Great Depression, World War II and more. 

He witnessed history being made, and wrote a tell-all book, “My 21 Years in the White House,” after his retirement from the White House, then went on speaking tours after his book published. 

The book, which billed itself as 21 years of secrets, was not just an early tell-all, but the last book written by a White House member of staff — the White House actually banned memoirs by employees in the wake of the book, requiring all domestic help to sign a waiver. 

One paperback cover promised, “No book ever offered such an unusual inside view of White House life–none will leave as many mouths open, as many eyebrows raised.” 

The book received generally positive reviews, particularly for its unique perspective on historical events and its insight into the personal lives of the presidents and their families. Fields provided anecdotes, observations, and personal reflections that shed light on the inner workings of the White House and the people who lived there. 

That book was part of the research by playwright James Still, who would go on to write “Looking Over the President’s Shoulder,” a one-man play about the life of Alonzo Fields and his dedication to service as an art form. 

“This is a good opportunity to show some history of Gibson County, and to talk about why it’s a significant story,” Bolhofner said. 

She praised the museum’s efforts to bring the production locally, and added they had requests for tickets before the tickets even went on sale. 

The benefit of partnering is the museum’s deep knowledge of Fields’ life, and the way by joining forces the two organizations can reach people who are not in their usual orbit — the museum goers will be drawn in to see Princeton’s historic theater, and their theater regulars will become aware of Lyles Station Museum. 

“This brings light to each organization. It’s also a good opportunity for those not familiar with our non-profits to get a taste of what we’re about. 

As a Gibson County transplant, she could add that locals don’t always talk about the local attractions. 

“I’ve been here since 2016 and I had never been to Lyles Station. Recently I took my grandkids when they were in town,” she said. It was a light day at the museum and they had a private tour from Museum Director Stanley Madison. 

She said she didn’t know what they had absorbed, but then was surprised to see their posts on Instagram, quoting Madison and documenting their tour. 

“Lyles Station is a significant part of the local history, just like the theater is,” she said. 

Since the performance was set, she’s talked with actor James Creer, Director Doug Baird, and Lyles Station organizer Nora Nixon. 

“When they pictured us, as a community theater, they thought we were something on the side of the road with flashlights instead of spotlights,” she laughed. 

Originally they thought they might have to arrive three weeks before to stage the play, but after the call they had a better understanding of the theater, and its amenities and were able to reduce the time anticipated for staging. 

In the meantime, the theater is working hard on things like sponsorships, ticketing, marketing and planning.  

To ring in the New Year with the first three sponsors is more than they could ask for, and she added the plan to launch the “where is Alonzo” campaign is going well.  

The theater has commissioned a life-sized cut out of Alonzo Fields, and Alonzo will visit local businesses and attractions up until the play premieres to have photo opportunities with locals. 

“It’s not only bringing awareness to him and what he means to Gibson County, but also a wider audience. He’ll be at the Indiana Military Museum in Vincennes and the Evansville War Museum among others.” 

She said she hopes to introduce a new audience to the Broadway Players. The local company produces four plays a season, and rents out space for special events. 

“We’ve lived in our own little bubble for a little while, this year people will see a lot more of us,” she said. “We are a part of the community and want people to see us…We try to maintain that small community.” 

The Broadway Players are a volunteer organization, and always need volunteers in the box office, ushers, concession sellers, and actors. 

This year they’ll host a February talent show, and four comedies, as well as murder mysteries among other events.  

Did you know that when President Franklin D. Roosevelt took over the White House salaries of everyone who worked there were cut 25 percent to fulfill a campaign promise?  

Lyles Station native Alonzo Fields wrote in his book “My 21 Years in the White House,” that during the Hoover administration servants made $60-90 per month, ($1,461.66-$2,192.49 today) plus three meals for butlers and cooks; two for other servants. Paychecks were reduced when the Roosevelts moved in. 

“There was too much work for even the head man to stand around and pose,” Fields wrote in his book. 

The push to reduce government spending went all the way down to the dining utensils. Servants didn’t have enough flatware for all the courses, leaving them to do the dishes in order to have enough forks to serve dessert. 

To learn more about this, Alonzo Fields, or President Roosevelt, pick up tickets to Looking Over the President’s Shoulder, a play Lyles Station and Princeton Theater are organizing in June, or stop in during regular museum hours to see the Alonzo Fields exhibit at Lyles Station. 

Museum seeks missing journals of Lyles Station native in preparation for performance 


Walking up to Lyles Station Museum, a museum housed in a former two-story schoolhouse, is humbling. In one room you see the simple blackboard and schoolroom where the students would learn 16 spelling words per day; in a gallery — quilts, medals, and recognition from Lyles Station alumni, sit aside artifacts of the pioneer farming life people in the all-black Indiana settlement led.
 

Lyles Station was a haven for those fleeing persecution, a stop on the Underground Railroad, and this summer expects hundreds of guests for their Juneteenth celebration that will feature a three-day run of a play about one of their most famous locals, Alonzo Fields, former Chief White House butler to four US Presidents. 

But while their gallery celebrating Alonzo Fields is excellent, and includes a copy of his tell-all book, “My 21 Years in the White House,” there is something missing, a mystery lost to history if you will.  

The museum only has five of what would have been at least 20 diaries of their native son. The rest they would love to find before the crowds they expect for the Fields homecoming. 

To rewind, after Fields left butler service, he wrote his book based on his journals. He did a book tour of the country, and his book was eventually the basis for “Looking Over the President’s Shoulder,” a one-man play dramatizing the large historical moments of Fields’ life and his take on them during his time in the White House. 

The Fields exhibit at Lyles Station features magazines Fields was in, his diaries, invitations and photos, among other items. 

“We put this (exhibit) together with the understanding that Fields was a man of character,” Museum Director Stanley Madison said. “He could tackle things that seemed impossible.” 

That was not just as a butler but as a man experiencing peak segregation. 

“This lady,” Madison gestures to a white maid, “and this lady–” he points to a black maid, “–could not clean in the same room.” 

Blacks and whites couldn’t ride together in the service elevators, for example, so in Fields’ responsibilities he had to keep a running mental load that juggled the issues of segregation while getting all the work done.  

This was at a time when there were no downtown movie theaters that would allow black people to view movies, and the one playhouse that allowed blacks to attend were the burlesque shows, and at those, they had to sit in the upper gallery.  

But times were changing, and Fields changed with it. He adapted to each president’s requirements. 

During the Hoover administration, for example, the servants were supposed to be completely unseen, to the point there were designated closets for workers to jump into when the president or first lady were about to walk through. 

Compare that to the Roosevelt administration, when Fields was asked what he thought about policies. 

“They were sitting out at the chestnut tree behind the White House,” Madison recalled during a tour of the Fields exhibit. A commanding officer gestured to Fields, who was serving, and told the group the man shouldn’t be privy to the confidential security information. Roosevelt disagreed. “Put some numbers behind Fields’ name. There. He’s just become an agent.” 

Fields kept a daily diary of his time in the White House, which he used to write his book, and the museum has five of these diaries as the centerpiece of their display. Fields’ controlled scrawl.  

The page in the exhibit currently sits on Thursday, Jan. 8, 1942. 

“Tonight the Prime Minister (Winston Churchill) asked me for a second Scotch and soda after Champagne with dinner, and three glasses of brandy, including sherry. He says, ‘You know I have a heavy burden on my shoulders such as fighting the war, so give me another Scotch and soda; it helps to keep up the morale…’” 

While justly proud of their Fields exhibit, the museum is looking for the rest of Fields’ diaries to complete their set. Mayland Fields, the widow to Alonzo, gave the museum five tomes that are the current centerpiece of the Fields exhibit.  

Efforts to find the other missing diaries have not been fruitful. 

The museum checked with the Truman Institute, because Truman and Fields were close friends, but that exploration didn’t turn up the missing diaries. 

Madison likens the journals to a trail of history. 

“I see the story of Fields as a young man from a small town taking it on his shoulders to be the best of the best he could possibly be,” Madison said. 

If anyone has a tip to help the museum in locating the missing Alonzo Fields journals, call 812-385-2534. The museum is open 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and by appointment.

In “My 21 Years in the White House” Chief White House Butler Alonzo Fields, who was from Lyles Station, just outside Princeton, talks about private moments with presidents, things like FDR receiving the news of Pearl Harbor, Hoover battling the Great Depression and an assassination attempt on Truman.

What he doesn’t talk a lot about is his own personal life with his wife, his own politics, how he judged presidential decisions or his lived experiences of segregation.

Some of those he does address in later interviews. In an interview with Washington University for a documentary on the Great Depression, he talked about segregation.


Fields remembered that on the bus trip to the White House, he accidentally went into an unmarked white restroom. The restroom was unmarked, but the hostility he felt from those inside was not. When he came out, a fellow person of color indicated a separate, lower quality restroom behind the rest stop.

The first thing that struck him in Washington, he said, was right in the White House. He was surprised, initially, that white help were segregated from people of color doing similar work.

“There was one department store, blacks weren’t welcome at all…You’d stand around before you’d be served,” he remembered, adding there were places black Americans couldn’t get a line of credit.

There were movie theaters downtown, but none of them would serve people of color; the only show both people who were white and people of color could attend was a burlesque show. (Women dancing.) The people of color were relegated to the upper level of the theatre, however.

Certain theatres had certain days a person could go with an all black cast.

Alonzo Fields was born in Lyles Station, Ind., and grew up in an era marked by racial segregation and discrimination. Despite the challenges, Fields pursued education, and ran a grocery store before becoming butler to an academic home that let him pursue his passion to become a classically trained opera singer. 

He was set to have his debut, when the death of his employer left him without a job. He’d met Mrs. Lou Hoover, wife to President Herbert Hoover, at his employer’s home. She remembered him, and he was offered a position in the White House in 1931. 

It was early in the Great Depression, so he felt blessed to have a job, and intended to go back to opera singing after the winter was over. That winter lasted 21 years.

Fields, however, was known for his lightheartedness, and developed a passion for hospitality and service.

Fields’ exceptional professionalism, attention to detail, and dedication led to his eventual promotion to the position of Chief Butler, making him the first Black man to have that role.

During his time in the White House, spanning administrations from Hoover to Eisenhower, Fields witnessed history, serving everyone from queens and princesses to members of the presidents’ families. 

He was chosen for special missions by each president, and gave input to them when asked. He also saw numerous moments of global importance, from the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the Korean War.

Fields’ memoir, titled “My 21 Years in the White House,” sheds light on the behind-the-scenes happenings, offering a unique perspective on the personal lives of the presidents and their families, as well as the significant historical events that unfolded during those years.

His tenure in the White House not only exemplified his exceptional skills and broke racial barriers. 

He stands as a symbol of dignity, professionalism, and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Alonzo Fields passed away on March 22, 1994, leaving behind a legacy of excellence in service and an enduring contribution to American history.

In an unforgettable theatrical journey, Princeton Community Theatre and Lyles Station Museum present “Looking Over the President’s Shoulder,” a compelling production that invites audiences into the life of Alonzo Fields, the chief butler at the White House during the administrations of Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower, and a native to Lyles Station, Ind., just outside Princeton.

“Looking Over the President’s Shoulder” invites you to be moved by the enduring lessons of humor, integrity and fortitude.

Performance Details:

  • 7 p.m. June 21
  • 7 p.m. June 22
    • Presidential Dinner Option starts at 5:30 p.m.          
  • 2 p.m. June 23
  • Princeton Theatre 
  • Tickets: Available at LylesStation.org/Events

For media inquiries, interviews, or press passes, please contact Nora Nixon at 812-385-6941

January 3rd

Which Local Man was once sent on a secret mission for President Franklin Roosevelt on this day in history?

On Jan. 3, 1942 President Franklin Roosevelt gave Lyles Station native Alonzo Fields, (who came from right outside Princeton and went on to become Chief Butler at the White House) notice that he was to gather a crew immediately for a secret mission, destination unknown. Every person was to pack their bags for 10-15 days, and they were told they could give no information to their families. 

“Those who needed tools, I told to get their tools, to answer no questions and to get out of the house as quietly as possible,” Fields later wrote in his book about his service.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 4, a Secret Service member picked up Fields and him and his crew to Washington’s Union Station to catch a train. Only Fields knew the destination and was instructed to read his instructions and destroy them.

They would get off at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and be met by a Secret Service officer, and taken to the home of a state department relative. They had no idea who they would be caring for, but the Secret Service said to prepare for 15-20 people for dinner; it was 2 p.m.–dinner was at 8 p.m.– and Fields ended up using his own money to buy food and alcohol for the guests.

When the guests arrived, it was Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his naval aide, Scotland yard chief, and physician among others.

It was the height of World War II, only days before 26 Allied countries had signed the Declaration by United Nations. Two days after this arrival, Roosevelt would announce more aid to Britain in his State of the Union Speech. Chief Butler Alonzo Fields was on the front lines as history was made. 

To learn more about secret White House workings, Alonzo Fields, or President Roosevelt during World War II, pick up tickets to Looking Over the President’s Shoulder, a play Lyles Station and Princeton Theater are organizing in June, or stop in during regular museum hours to see the Alonzo Fields exhibit at Lyles Station.

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953 N. County Road. 500 W. 

PO Box 1193

Princeton, IN 47670

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Site designed and powered by Parrish Consulting Services. 2023 Lyles Station - All Rights Reserved