PRESIDENT #30 – CALVIN COOLIDGE

We did make it to Calvin Coolidge’s house (and town) after we clarified my fuzzy childhood memory at OMITM.

His boyhood home

Just the location itself makes Plymouth Notch worth visiting. The town (almost all of it dedicated to Coolidge) is nestled among the rolling hills of central Vermont. By the time we found the site, the skies had cleared and the late autumn afternoon could inspire perfect-poetry-writing moments (if I wrote poetry, which I don’t). You’re not only visiting his boyhood home, but also his birthplace, his church, the cheese factory and his neighbors’ houses. He is buried in the town cemetery.

I took this picture of the site’s webpage just to show you the extent of the what you see. If you’re traveling with children but hesitate to visit “old houses,” this site has plenty of outdoor space.

This is the place where Calvin Coolidge’s father was justice of the peace and where Coolidge himself took the oath of office. The Coolidges were vacationing there when Harding died of a heart attack/stroke/poisoning out in California and in the light of a kerosene lamp, he took the oath of office from his father (a notary public).

Calvin Coolidge is best known for his lack of words and for his New England demeanor: hard-working, frugal, steadfast and practical.

Stories about his  “silence” include the lady who, at a White house dinner party, told him she had bet her friends she could make him say more than two words.  His answer?  “You lose.”

He told a reporter (who couldn’t get Coolidge to answer any questions): “If you don’t say anything no one can call on you to repeat it.”

When asked what his first thought was when he heard that Harding had died and he would be president, Coolidge replied, “I thought I could swing it.”

Coolidge decided not to run for a second term. Some people thought he simply did not want to. Others thought he could sense the coming financial crisis. So the Republicans nominated Herbert Hoover – who won.  When Hoover didn’t have the success his party wanted him to have, they went back to Coolidge and suggested he reconsider running for president again.  They felt he could end the looming Great Depression. Coolidge responded, “but it would be the start of mine.”

Coolidge died while putting together a puzzle of George Washington.

CONGRATULATIONS AND BEST WISHES

This morning I headed north for “Niece” Mickayla and Stephen’s wedding. (Mickayla isn’t really my niece; we just consider ourselves related because her grandmother was a Weddle).

This picture of them was not taken today, because I wanted to be fairly uninstrusive with my camera and we were sitting quite a distance (with several people in between) from where they were sitting.

Because of Mickayla’s Jewish heritage, the wedding had many Jewish traditions. The cantor was Michael Wechsler, a professor at Moody.

Some of the traditions incorporated were getting married under the chuppah (canopy) which symbolizes the home they are to establish.

Mickayla also walked around Stephen seven times; the seven circles representing the seven days of creation and symbolizing creating a new life together.

They also included the sheva brachot or seven blessings which bless the Lord for who He is and His creation of marriage.

At the end of the ceremony, they broke the glass symbolizing the destruction of the temple and also the permanence of marriage.

The reception was held at the same facility as the ceremony and we were ushered into a beautifully decorated banquet hall for a great meal – and some bottle dancing.

So excited for Stephen and Mickayla as they begin a new chapter in their lives.

A NIGHT AT THE COUGARS

Tonight about 50 members of the Ministry Resource Department – and our families attended the Kane County Cougar Game. (I’m ahead of schedule – usually I make it to two games per summer, but this is already the second one I’ve been to this season.)

The Cougars had lost eight in a row – but managed to win tonight against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Appleton).

We got our name announced over the public address system – and managed to have them wish Tami a Happy Birthday, too.

So here are some scenes from our night at the game.

THE SIDE TRIP

The next President is Calvin Coolidge whose house is in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. But before taking you there – I want to go on a side trip.

————–

The first true roadtrip I remember taking was the summer between first and second grade. Before that, we had made trips to my grandmother’s house in New Jersey or to Thousand Islands in upstate New York, but this time we were going on a TRIP! Our destination – Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

I was seven and my memories of that trip are vague – except for a couple hazy recollections.

First recollection was our stop at Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine. My recollection of this adventure is not so much BEING there, but the ramifications of being there that happened when I went back to school in the fall. (Another time. Another story.)

Second I remember that we were there during a hurricane or at least the fringe of a hurricane. One evening the rain came down so incredibly hard, that Mom (who did all the driving because Dad was legally blind) pulled into the parking lot of a drugstore/grocery store/strip mall.  I can’t exactly remember WHERE we parked, but I remember sitting in the car, playing Old Maids as the rain pounded down on the roof.

Third I remember going to see The Old Man in the Mountain. This was a series of five jutting cliffs in the White Mountains that looked like a man’s face. He was first spotted (at least in recorded history) in 1805.  My seven-year-old brain was curious about seeing a man carved out of a mountain. I remembered it being a narrow road with lots of cars and people and the day being overcast, so we didn’t really get a clear view.  Which in my young mind, made the figure even more mystical. The picture above is from a postcard we bought that day.

I think because I HAD the postcard, the memory of that day stuck in my mind: standing there on the road, straining to see the face of man through the mist.

But I didn’t go back to New England as a child. A few years later, we moved to the Midwest and our trips tended to be further west.

We did take the kids back one year, but our trip through the three states was a breakfast in Maine, lunch in New Hampshire, dinner in Vermont – we can-check-those-three-states-off our list type of trip. No major site-seeing on that day. Though I thought about the OMITM, I knew it wouldn’t happen THEN.

Then in 2002, Ken and I were asked to speak at a conference in Portland, Maine and we took some extra days to actually see the area a little bit, but there were so much we wanted to see, we had to greatly limit ourselves.

We left Maine and were heading West and I said, “I really want to go see The Old Man in the Mountain.” Ken knew the story of my vague memory and knew that somehow this was important to me.

“I thought you wanted to go to Coolidge’s house,” he said.

“I do, but I also want to go back to the mountain. I want some clear edges to my hazy, misty memory.”

We checked on the map – 70 miles out of our way. But we’d see some new country and The Old Man in the Mountain.

So – we did it. The road was now wide and a few cars were in the parking lot. We got out and hiked around the base. This day was cloudy, too, but we could see him without any problem. My picture now had clarity.

Seven months later on May 7th, 2003 between the hours of midnight and 2:00 a.m., the Old Man collapsed.

After 200 years, he is no more.

FUNNY

As anyone who has been around any kid knows, the latest trend is SillyBandz.

These are rubber bands in shapes of animals, letters, spaceships, etc. Kids wear several at a time – as bracelets – which create bumpy, colorful jewelry. But when they take the rubber bands off, the bands return to their original shape.

One store in our neighborhood sold out 100 packages in three hours.

Anyhow – Lauri, my Pennsylvania friend gave a couple of the bracelets to each of the kids whom she teaches in preschool.

A couple days later one little boy came back with a band on his arm, but it was a different color than the others and Lauri didn’t recognize it.

“Did you get some more bracelets?” she asked.

“Oh, no,” he said, “My brother traded me one of his for one of mine.”

“What did he gave you?” Lauri was puzzled.

“A potato.” The boy announced, taking off his bracelet.

And proudly showed Lauri a regular, old rubber band.

NEVER HURTS TO ASK …

So, today we went to Olive Garden and as we were eating, the manager came around (spreading good will and cheer as restaurant managers like to do) and asked how everyone was doing and if we liked the food.

We assured him that we were fine and that the food was fine. So then he asked if I cooked and I said I did, so he said that if I liked the dish I was eating – the recipe was on their website.

I did like it and it was the type of dish I liked to make. Kelli said she had been on the website and had seen the recipes.

Then the manager gave us his card and said if there was anything else we wanted all we had to do was ask.

The 6yo was not about to let that pass.

“Can you give me free ice cream?” He smiled.

Not sure THAT was the request the manager was expecting – but he finally replied, “I think I can do that.”

And that is how the 6yo got free ice cream, not only for himself, but for his two sisters.

Truly, never hurts to ask 🙂

RANDOM PICTURE, RANDOM THOUGHTS ON THE WEEK

1. Crazy week.

2. Have a young friend who is working in Scotland with Greater Europe Mission. She posted some pictures on FaceBook tonight. One of the Starbucks (I think in Glasgow) had this on the signboard:  Question of the day – In what American state is the Grand Canyon located? (I wonder what you got if you knew the answer.)

3. I have another overdue book. At least I’m consistent.

4. I really don’t like it when you go to a business to have them do something and the person there tries to talk you in to doing something you don’t want to do.  If I wanted to spend three times as much money, I would’ve come in with the plan. Just listen to me and do what I ask. I’m the client.

5. My neighbor’s 10 year old is having a slumber party tonight – Ten little boys running around the neighborhood.

6. Attended a very elegant high tea today  (I was invited by a special lady) with shrimp cocktail, little tart-sized quiches, hot scones and delicate cakes.  I drank iced tea, but soft drinks were also served. When the sweet, efficient, friendly server refilled my ice tea, she did so with diet coke. That first swallow was quite a taste sensation – especially since I was expecting iced tea.  (Imagine half iced tea, half diet coke.)  But not wanting to embarrass the server, I managed to keep it quiet.

7. OK. This is funny, but also a little scary. The dog knows how to open the back door. Yes, literally, how to open it. He jumps up and unlatches it and then walks in and wags his tail as if to say, “Here I am!”  How did he learn this? We did not give him back-door-opening lessons. Did he just watch us for the past six years, all the time thinking, “I can do that.”  I’ll have to take a picture of him to prove it.

8. I refuse to put the AC on before June.

PRESIDENT #29 – WARREN G. HARDING

1. Warren had a cane collection – he displayed it in the foyer next to where he and Florence were married.

2. He was the only president elected on his birthday.

3. The Hardings had the lst indoor plumbing in town.

4. Florence’s parents raised her son (from her first marriage) with the stipulation that she would have no say in how he was raised.

5. The Hardings had no children of their own.

6. As an adult, the son moved to Colorado and tried running a newspaper and then went on to farming. He died young from the effects of alcoholism.

7. A grandson (or great grandson) still lives in town, but refuses of to visit the house.

PRESIDENT #29 – WARREN G. HARDING

As a young man Warren Harding and two friends bought the Marion Star (Ohio) for $300 and went into the newspaper business. He was a good- looking man. In fact, someone told him that he’d make a dandy-looking president.

But Warren was happy with his life. During the day he’d run the newspaper and at night, he’d play poker.

Florence DeWolfe, a divorcee, met Warren and actively pursued him until he agreed to marry her. For many years she worked with him on the paper and many credit her with making the paper an eventual success. Most people considered Florence the real boss and Warren simply the one out front.

But wait a minute, let’s look at Florence for a couple paragraphs.

When Florence was 19, she became pregnant and supposedly eloped with the neighbor boy – however, no official marriage license has ever been found so there’s a question whether they were really married. After splitting with the neighbor, she gave piano lessons to raise her son – until she met Warren and convinced him to marry her.

Although, Warren was already a Mason, an Elk, a Rotarian and a member of the Chamber of Commerce and people liked him, Florence wanted him to be even more important. She went to work. She decided Warren should publish his paper daily instead of weekly. She forced him to become a public speaker and soon he was speaking around the area. Even though he thought he was a good speaker, he really wasn’t and often tripped over or mispronounced words. He liked alliteration and in one speech made the statement: “Progression is not proclamation nor palaver. It is not pretense nor play on prejudice. It is not personal pronouns nor perennial pronouncement. It is not the perturbutation of a people passion-wrought nor a promise proposed.”

The author H.L. Mencken said in response to Harding’s speeches that his style was “rumble and bumble, flap and doodle, balder and dash.”  Someone else said, “His speeches leave the impression of an army of pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search of an idea.”  Still, he was tall and he was handsome and people liked to be around him. He entered politics and soon was elected into the state senate, then as LT. governor of Ohio and from there to the U.S. Senate.

Members of the National Republican party noticed him and decide that he could be chairman of the National Convention with the sole purpose of keeping Teddy Roosevelt from being nominated. It didn’t work.

Four years later his friends sitting in a “smoke-filled” room decided that Harding should be president himself and manipulated him into being nominated. He won on the tenth ballot. When asked if there was anything embarrassing in his past, he said “no,” but later, after he was nominated, it was discovered that he had been having  an affair with a wife of one of his best friends, Carrie Phillips. The two families had often traveled together and socialized.  (Carrie is a whole other story.)  When the affair was discovered, Florence was understandably irate, but this wasn’t the first time she had discovered her husband cheating.

Meanwhile, Florence took over the campaign. Having worked on her husband’s newspaper, she understood how reporters work and she got him lots of publicity. Also, because of Hardings looks – he got the ladies’ vote. In fact, this election was the first time ladies COULD vote. His theme was to get America back to the time where people gathered on front porches and talked with neighbors and he had an addition built onto his own porch in Marion where he gave many campaign speeches. Over 600,000 people came to hear him speak from his porch – including Mary Pickford, the first of celebrity endorsements. The campaign was also the first with radio coverage.

Harding’s presidency is mostly known for it’s scandals. Problem was, all those poker-playing friends from Ohio came along with him to Washington D.C.. Though  prohibition was in effect, Harding spent his nights having poker parties upstairs in the White House. The alcohol flowed.  Even he admitted that being a president took more than good looks. Although he started with some goals in mind, things quickly began falling apart. Not only were their political scandals but another mistress showed up – Nan Britton. According to a book Nan wrote, she and Harding had a child. In the course of his presidency his black hair turned white. The world was too much with him.

In 1923, he and Florence headed west on a speaking tour and while in San Francisco, he died.

Some say it was a stroke.

Some say it was a heart attack.

Some say his enemies had poisoned him.

Some say that Florence had had too much of his unfaithfulness, and she poisoned him. She did refuse to allow an autopsy and immediately burned all his papers.

So I guess we’ll never know.

PRESIDENT #29 – WARREN G. HARDING

Oh, wow, now this is a president with a story – but not necessarily a good one.

Most people who list presidents in order of effectiveness, put him at the bottom.

Maybe because his presidency was filled with scandals like Tea Pot Dome.

Or maybe because he did things like lose the White House china in a poker game.

Maybe a little bit of both.

The difference between Harding and a president you might think is even worse – Harding didn’t really do anything. According to our tour guide, the highlight of his presidency was dedicating a statue of Simon Bolivar in Central Park.

I’ll tell you more about him in the next couple days.