Happy Presidents’ Day. This is my favorite POTUS, Calvin Coolidge.
Famously introverted & taciturn, there are nevertheless quite a few quotes attributed to “Silent Cal”, & more than a few funny stories told about this gentleman. For instance:
- When Coolidge started at Amherst, he apparently didn’t make much of an impact. In fact, one of his fellow students said of him that he was “splendidly null; apparently deficient in red corpuscles. There is no motion above the waist when he walked. His arms hung immobile.”
- The first time Grace Goodhue (the future Mrs. Coolidge) saw Coolidge she was watering flowers at the school and happened to look up and saw him standing at the window shaving in front of a mirror, wearing only long underwear and a derby hat. She had a great laugh out of it. Coolidge later said that whenever he shaved, a lock of unruly red hair got in the way, so he used the hat to hold it down while he washed his face and lathered up.
- The night before their wedding, a party was held. One of Grace’s friends arrived late and saw Coolidge standing very quietly in the corner alone. Knowing that Grace taught the deaf and dumb, she said “Is that young man standing there by himself in the corner one of your pupils?”
- Not long after their marriage, Coolidge handed Grace a bag with fifty-two pairs of socks in it, all of them full of holes. He told her there would be more later. She asked him if he married her just to get his socks mended. He told her: “No, but I find it might handy.”
- Coolidge wrote of his wife Grace in his Autobiography, “We thought we were made for each other. For almost a quarter of a century she has borne with my infirmities, and I have rejoiced in her graces.”
- As governor of Massachusetts, Coolidge had a state senator come up to him complaining that another senator had told him to “go to hell.” “I’ve read the law carefully, senator,” Coolidge told the deeply hurt legislator. “And you don’t have to go.”
- On August 2, 1923, John Coolidge woke his vacationing son and daughter-in-law at the family home in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, to tell them of President Harding’s death from a heart attack. Coolidge knelt, prayed, and went downstairs. Although the old house had no phone, it was soon abuzz with reporters. At 2:24 a.m., with the newspaper men settled and a copy of the Constitution retrieved, the elder Coolidge, a justice of the peace, administered the oath of office to his son by the light of a kerosene lamp. Soon after, Calvin Coolidge went back to bed as the 30th President of the United States.
- "I think the American public wants a solemn ass for a President, and I believe I’ll oblige them."
- "No man ever listened himself out of a job."
- Soon after Coolidge took office, he received his first paycheck which was “delivered with a flurry” by a messenger from the Treasury Department. Coolidge told him solemnly, “Call again.” (Coolidge’s salary as President was $75,000 per year.)
- Early in his Presidency, Coolidge woke up in a hotel room to find a burglar going through his pockets. He asked him not to take his watch chain because it had an engraved charm on it he wanted to keep. Coolidge talked to the man for a while. He was a college student and didn’t have any money to pay for the hotel or to buy a ticket back to college. Coolidge asked him for his wallet back and counted out $32, gave it to him and told him it was a loan. He told him to leave the way he came in to avoid the Secret Service. (The loan was said to have been repaid later.)
- Talking to strangers was always difficult for Coolidge. Consequently he wasn’t thought to be much of a dinner guest, despite the efforts of hostesses and guests to get him to talk. One hostess said he spoke so infrequently that every time he opened his mouth a moth flew out. It was said that he ate with “sad sincerity” with all his attention focused on his food. During one of the many official dinners Coolidge had to attend as president, a woman remarked at how he must be tired of attending so many. “Yeah,” Coolidge answered, “but a man has to eat somewhere.”
- As President, Coolidge had to make many appointments. An advisor objected to one of his proposed appointments saying that the man was a “son of a bitch”. Coolidge said “Don’t they deserve to be represented too?”
- Mrs. Coolidge’s most famous portrait was painted by Howard Chandler Christy showing Mrs. Coolidge in a long red dress with their “white doggie” Rob Roy. Christy suggested that Mrs. Coolidge wear red for the painting for contrast, but the President liked a white gown better. Christy said “If she wears the red dress, we’ll have the blue sky and the white dog to make red, white and blue. Coolidge said “She could still wear the white dress and we’ll dye the dog.”
- On July 4th, Coolidge’s fifty-fifth birthday, some cowboys presented him with what Coolidge called a “cowboy uniform” with “CAL” lettered on the chaps. The photo is one of the more famous ones because there was such incongruity between the President’s image and the outfit. The others in the photo clearly had a great laugh out of it. … Coolidge had also been photographed in an Indian headdress that had been given to him. Several people told him that he shouldn’t do such things but he told them “I don’t know why you object. The people have given me these costumes to put on. Why shouldn’t I have my picture taken with it on to please them?” They said “Because it makes people laugh.” Coolidge said “Well, it’s good for people to laugh, isn’t it?”
- "Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business."
- After Coolidge announced he didn’t intend to seek a second term of his own, he and Mrs. Coolidge had lunch in Woodstock, Vermont with the famous theatrical figure Otis Skinner and his wife. Mrs. Skinner said to him: “I wish it were you that we were able to vote for in November! It would be the end of this terrible Depression.” Coolidge said ” Yeah, but it would be the beginning of mine!”
- In retirement, Coolidge received a great deal of mail and many invitations to speak. Many letters gave suggestions to him about how he could save the country. He said “People seemed to think that the presidential machinery should keep on running, even after the power has been turned off.”
- Upon hearing of Coolidge’s death, Dorothy Parker reportedly remarked, “How can they tell?”
(all of this copy-pasted shamelessly, more here & here & here)