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Bert Hoover, Love Poet?

Do you ever dream, my sweetheart, of a twilight long ago,
Of a park in old Kalgoorlie, where the bougainvilleas grow,
Where the moonbeams on the pathways trace a shimmering brocade
And the overhanging peppers form a lovers' promenade,
Where in soft cascades of cadence from a garden close at hand
Came the murmurous mellow music of a sweet orchestral band?

Can this be the Hoover we know? Could this opening stanza from a passionate love poem, framed in the lobby of the Palace Hotel in Kalgoorlie, Australia, have been written by our 31st president? To Australians who nurture the legend of Hoover's early outback days, the answer is yes. The public library in Kalgoorlie attributes the poem to Hoover, as does the local Goldfields Museum.

Ostensibly written to a Palace barmaid long after Hoover left Australia, the five-stanza poem was first published and credited to him in 1933 by Australian journalist Arthur Reid. It has become part of Australian folklore and is even included in a book of outback ballads. Hoover's most meticulous biographer, George H. Nash, said he was questioned about it many times during a 1972 visit to Australia. Nash could find no original of the poem; nor could I. No one seems to know of the woman in question.

Would Hoover, married and very much in the public eye, have written these verses to an old flame? Old men, like young men, sometimes do foolish things. But nothing in Hoover's papers suggests he did. Nash concludes the poem is a hoax.

Yet Danny Drummond, manager of the Palace Hotel, says he has no doubts about the story. "Absolutely I believe it," he told a local newspaper. "We have to -- it's part of our business."

-- W.C.

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