Monday, September 10, 2012
By Zeke Campfield | Published: September 9, 2012
Nothing tempers the chill of partisan politics like a Saturday afternoon of sunshine and family — even when it's the governor who plays host.
Well, perhaps seeing a unique swimming pool also would be nice.
For Carson Kardokus, 9, at Septemberfest with his mom, dad and two younger brothers, nothing short of both would do the trick.
“He wants to see the swimming pool because it's apparently shaped like the state of Oklahoma, or at least that's what we heard,” said Kardokus's mother, Shannon, who corralled her sons into Gov. Mary Fallin's mansion for a quick tour. Her youngest son, Creed, carried a stuffed Clifford the Big Red Dog under his arm.
Earlier that morning, Fallin read a story to the boys and other children out on the mansion lawn, Shannon Kardokus said. A petting zoo, inflatable toys and demonstrations at the mansion and across the street at the Oklahoma History Center filled in the gap.
“He is in the fourth grade and he's learning about government, the politics and history, so I thought it would be fun to come down and see it from a local aspect,” she said of Carson. “Clifford — he's just staying with us for a week, so he got to come experience the mansion and governor, too.”
On the steps of the west entrance to the three-story building, Charla Hurt, a volunteer with the nonprofit tasked with managing the mansion, spelled out the details.
Built of limestone in 1927, the 14,000-square-foot building is of Dutch Colonial architecture, but its red tile roof gives it a Spanish Colonial accent, she said. There are four bedrooms and three baths on the second floor, where the first family lives.
Stairs-only access to a third-floor ballroom brought about its closure several years ago. The family dines and entertains on the ground level, while the basement houses laundry, storage and media facilities.
“Everything that you see in the mansion stays in the mansion,” Hurt said. “The funny thing about that is, when one family moves out they take the pictures out of the picture frames and the new family puts their pictures in them.”
Inside, Carson pointed at the Oklahoma state seal, sewn into the living room carpet. A bold golden chandelier, circa 1850, hung from above, and an enormous glass “Punchbowl of Oklahoma” — a replica of the bowl saved from the USS Oklahoma before it sank at Pearl Harbor — made his lower jaw drop in awe.
“Please don't touch anything, do you understand me?” a mother reminded her children while the tour guide showed off a portrait of the Rev. John Atkinson.
“This is the most important painting in the house, done by Gilbert Stuart,” she said as families gathered around the first family's wooden dining room table. “He's the one that did the portrait of George Washington that hangs in the White House, the one Dolly Madison saved before the fire in 1812.”
Clifford, somehow, already had made his way into the arms of dad, Merl Kardokus, himself impressed by a bust of Will Rogers sitting on the fireplace mantel.
In a circle that looped through Fallin's home office — “considerably smaller than the one she has in the other building,” the guide noted — the tourists came back around to a roped-off kitchen. His stuffed red dog long forgotten, Creed Kardokus, 3, found the stairwell.
“Mom, can we go upstairs?” he tugged at her arm, but the tourists realized at the same time someone else had joined the mix.
Wearing a white blazer atop her blue Septemberfest T-shirt — first gentleman Wade Christensen in tow — the governor paused for a picture and a handshake before pushing politely through to her private quarters.
The guests whispered as they headed out the east doorway and onto another lawn. A concrete path was filled with families venturing from one station or activity to the next.
“I wanted her to open up the pantry and show me so I could take a picture,” one woman said to her friend.
Just beyond the path, Carson found what he was looking for.
“Oh man, the pool!” he shouted. “The panhandle is a hot tub! I knew it. Preston was right!”