Nov 3, 2015

Visiting Pres. Coolidge's hometown

Plymouth Notch is a very small town nestled in the quiet Vermont
countryside and is now a Vermont State Historic Site and the entire settlement is a Historic District. There is a Coolidge Museum & Education Center plus a restaurant, general store, a few other buildings, and an operative cheese factory. The village is virtually unchanged since the time when Coolidge lived there. Even though he spent most of his adult life elsewhere he often returned to the old homestead and never lost his fondness for Vermont and its people.

In the Museum Center we learn more about the life and times of Coolidge through interactive displays that personalize him for us.  A spry 80-year-old docent, Bill Tenney, gave us a guided walking tour of the village. Coolidge became president upon the death of Warren G. Harding, who died suddenly in 1923.  Coolidge took the oath of the office of president in the parlor of his
boyhood home by his father who was a Justice of the Peace. After officially becoming president he is reported to say, “Guess we
better have a drink.” With his wife, father and a few others they went across the street to Florence Cilley’s General Store where they toasted the occasion with Moxie. Moxie is a one of the first mass-produced soft drinks. It is not as sweet as modern soft drinks and it is still sold in the General Store. The store was built by Coolidge’s father and was in the Coolidge family until 1917. The post office was in a former carriage house
attached to the general store and was operational until 1917. Coolidge worked there at the general store and later became a partner in the business. As a boy Coolidge had regular chores such as filling the wood box and caring for the animals. During
that time families had a variety of enterprises to support themselves. The Coolidge family was no exception, besides the General Store, post office, and a small farm, the Plymouth Cheese Factory was founded by the Coolidge family. It was a way to handle the milk produced by the local farmers. On the second floor an exhibit details the story of cheese making in Vermont.

Historians have not always been kind to Coolidge but I love some of his quotes. “No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.” “Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong.” A plaque in the museum that has part of one of his famous sayings, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.”  Coolidge was dubbed “Silent Cal.” His terseness became legendary. One contemporary quipped, “He can be silent in five languages.” My favorite tells of a young lady who told the president that she had bet a friend she could make him say more than two words. His response, “You lose.” Coolidge, commenting on his quiet nature said, “I have never been hurt by anything I didn’t say.” He is buried nearby in the local cemetery with other family members. No big
elaborate tomb for a president who was considered frugal.

I developed an appreciation for Coolidge’s dry Yankee wit and frugality. The journalist, Walter Lippmann, said the political genius of President Coolidge was his talent for effectively doing nothing. What would he think of today’s government?