A President Who Honored His Father and Mother or From Hailstorm to Vermont

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One of the prettiest rooms Ray and I saw in the Massachusetts State House was the Senate Reception Room on the third floor. Between the round table in the center of the room and the row of chairs in the back, you can see two of the four columns which help support the barrel ceiling. Each column was carved from a single pine tree!

Senate Reception Room
Senate Reception Room

The Massachusetts State House has only two full-length portraits. One of them is a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. It is on display in a room on the second floor.

Portrait of Lincoln
Portrait of Lincoln

Our guide said that one hand is behind his back because portrait painters charged extra for each arm and leg they painted, thus the expression that something costs an arm and a leg.

The other full-length portrait in the State House is of President Calvin Coolidge. Notice that both his hands are showing — well, maybe a hand doesn’t count if it is hiding behind the other hand.

Portrait of Calvin Coolidge in the Senate Reception Room
Portrait of Calvin Coolidge

Our family has a special affinity for President Calvin Coolidge. We all learned more about him after Mary Evelyn did an independent study of the Presidents during one of her last years of homeschooling. Coolidge became her favorite President. At Mary Evelyn’s request, we traveled to the Coolidge birthplace in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, for her senior trip.

I love the story of how we got to go. We had planned to leave on her senior trip to a different location on September 14, 2001, following her graduation in May. However, the tragic events of September 11 caused us to postpone it. We made a short trip to the Smoky Mountains instead, but we still planned to take her some place special.

Mary Evelyn graduated two years after we started Notgrass Company so money was tight. In 2002 a heavy hailstorm hit our town. It would have never occurred to us to seek an insurance claim for hail damage to our old Suburban; but when one of our friends who had a brand-new car got a good settlement, we called our insurance company, too. To our amazement, the adjuster told us those hundreds of almost unnoticeable tiny dents on the roof of our vehicle added up to $2,000 in damage. He also said that if he were us, he wouldn’t repair the van, but would put the money in the bank. We did just that until we loaded up our Suburban with a tent and other supplies and headed north for Plymouth Notch (it was on that trip that we made it to Malone, New York, to visit the childhood home of Almanzo Wilder).

President Coolidge was elected to public office twenty-three times in his sixteen-year political career. All but his last two positions were in Massachusetts where he had moved after graduating from Amherst College. Calvin Coolidge served as:

  • Representative to the General Court
  • Mayor of Northampton, Massachusetts — two terms
  • Massachusetts State Senator — four terms
  • Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts — two terms
  • Governor of Massachusetts — two terms
  • Vice President of the United States — partial term because he became President upon the death of President Harding
  • President of the United States — one partial term and one full term

Once when someone asked Calvin Coolidge if he had a hobby, he answered, “Holding office.” In every position Coolidge held, he served with integrity and did what he believed was right.

One of the many reasons that I respect President Coolidge is that he had a life-long love and respect for his parents. His mother died when he was only twelve years old. Of that loss, he later wrote, “The greatest grief that can come to a boy came to me.  Life was never to seem the same again.” His father continued to rear his son with help from Calvin’s grandmother.

Coolidge’s father John Coolidge served in public office while his son was growing up. Young Calvin occasionally visited his father at the capitol in Montpelier, Vermont. When President Harding died, Calvin Coolidge and his wife Grace were visiting his father who was then serving as a justice of the peace. When John Coolidge was awakened in the middle of the night with the news that President Harding had died, he went upstairs to the room where Vice President Coolidge and his wife Grace were sleeping and awakened them. They all went downstairs; and, in the middle of the night, John Coolidge administered the oath of office to his son by the light of a coal oil lamp.

Sometime later Coolidge wrote to his father:  “I am sure I came to it [i.e., the presidency] largely by your bringing up and your example.” May we live lives that our children want to emulate and may we show our children how to honor us by honoring our own fathers and mothers.

Honor your father and mother
(which is the first commandment with a promise),
so that it may be well with you,
and that you may live long on the earth.
Ephesians 6:2

I copied the two quotes by Calvin Coolidge from the article “Recalling Calvin Coolidge: A Man of Noble Character,” by Jerry L. Wallace, published by the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation.

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