Kemper and Leila Williams hosted small, yet formal dinner parties for business associates and close friends several times a week. Quiet and reserved, Leila Williams disdained publicity and preferred intimate dinners to lavish soirees. She took great care in preparing for the events—selecting table settings from the couple’s extensive collection of linens, silver, and china purchased in local antique shops and on trips abroad; choosing fresh cut flowers, many of them shipped from the Williamses’ summer residence in Santa Barbara, to be placed throughout the residence; and deciding on a jardinière or an oriental urn along with tapered candles for the table’s centerpiece. Since there was no chandelier in the dining room, the candles served as the main source of light, adding to the intimacy of the dinners.
At the request of their hosts, guests dressed in formal attire for dinners with Williamses—women in evening gowns and gentlemen in dinner jackets. Indeed, Mrs. Williams customarily wore a long dress for dinner even when she and the general were dining alone. The Williamses prided themselves on punctuality, considering everyone’s time as important as their own. Arriving guests were ushered to the drawing room for cocktails at 6:30 p.m. After partaking in one or two martinis, manhattans, or old-fashioneds, the guests were seated in the adjacent dining room for dinner at 7:00 p.m.. The table—set with antique Italian linen runners and napkins, beautiful crystal stemware from manufacturers like Baccarat and Sinclaire, and elegant English and French porcelain—seated as many as twelve guests. Mrs. Williams enjoyed making her guests feel pampered and would not neglect the smallest detail. Ashtrays with matches and small glasses filled with cigarettes were placed on the dinner table between each guest. Sometimes small mementos and gifts were incorporated into the place setting. The butlers, Ike and Lawrence, dressed in tails and white ties and gloves, served the elegant fare.
After dinner, the guests were led to the drawing room or the upstairs sitting room for coffee and after-dinner drinks. The men retired to the general’s upstairs library to smoke, while the women remained in the sitting room talking or playing a game of pinochle or mahjong. The guests usually left at approximately 10:30 p.m.