Silent Cal

While Dave was camping in Algonquin Park, Sarah Maria and I spent the Civic Holiday weekend in Rutland Vermont.
After a day of outlet shopping we decided to immerse ourselves in a little Vermont history, so we went out to see the Calvin Coolidge Historical Site in Plymouth Notch.
I came away with a renewed appreciation of the beauty of rural Vermont, and of Mr. Coolidge himself.
History has not been kind to Calvin Coolidge. He has been portrayed as a taciturn, dour, pickle-faced politician who as President did even less than he spoke. In fact, he was a hard working, sincere, principled man who was rooted in the traditions of rural America from whence he came. He gave more speeches than any of his predecessors – wrote them himself, thank you very much. He would have had no difficulty spelling “nuclear” or “potato.” He cut taxes, lowered the National Debt, and during his presidency the economy boomed.
If Calvin Coolidge can be faulted it’s likely because he was old school – a horse and buggy Victorian in the age of transoceanic flight, jazz and radio broadcasts. No place could have been dearer to his heart than the tiny village of Plymouth Notch. He’d recognize it in a heartbeat.
The Notch is almost Zen-like in its beauty and simplicity. Modern fast food outlets and gas stations passed it by – it was never restored, just preserved in a time warp.
The Coolidge homestead is a rambling hodgepodge of living space, woodshed and horse barn all linked together. In its tiny sitting room Mr. Coolidge took the Presidential oath in 1923 – his notary public father administered it to him by kerosene lamp at 3AM.
Across the street is an 1840 Congregational Church, and next to the homestead is an 1890 era Vermont cheese factory. The rest of the village includes a general store, a restaurant, and some more barns and “efficiency cottages” for 1920s tourists.
In the tiny cemetery nearby Calvin Coolidge lies with his wife and sons. Cal Jr. died in 1924 while his father was president; John Coolidge lived into his 90s and survived Calvin by 67 years. The only way you could tell that Mr. Coolidge was president is by the Presidential Seal on his gravestone. That’s the way he would have wanted it, I’m sure.

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