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How a president’s vacation briefly transformed Plymouth – Brospar Daily News

On the morning of August 16, 1924, the President of the United States slept for three and a half hours in a boxcar beside the Ludlow railroad. Calvin Coolidge has returned to his childhood home near Plymouth for a two-week break to escape the heat and stress of Washington.

It was Coolidge’s third visit to Plymouth last year. He certainly hoped the man would avoid tragedy. During his first visit in August 1923, then-Vice President Coolidge was awakened by his father, who told him that Warren G. Harding had died and was now President. Eleven months later, Coolidge returned to bury his youngest son, Calvin Jr., who died of blood poisoning after a blister infection.

In the Ludlow train carriage, just a month after Calvin Jr.’s funeral, Coolidge, his wife Grace and their surviving son John got up early, had breakfast and were driven to Plymouth. Their convoy was traveling at 20 miles per hour, about half the top speed of the new Ford Model T, the president’s preferred speed, according to a newspaper. With them was a group of Secret Service agents and journalists. When the caravan reached Plymouth, it did not turn left into the village. Instead, he turned right and stopped at the cemetery, where the Coolidges paid their respects to Calvin Jr. and the president’s mother and sister.

In the summer of 1924, Calvin Coolidge sat in a hay wagon while helping his cousin with farm work. Coolidge Agriculture’s press photos helped reinforce the president’s image of seriousness, hard work and people. It is perhaps unsurprising that Coolidge allowed these photos to be taken. He was campaigning at the time. Photo via Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum/Forbes Library in Northampton, MA

When they arrived in the village, only about fifty people had witnessed the arrival of the president. Even though newspapers published his general travel plans, Vermonters seem to have been caught off guard by his early morning arrival. Over the next few days, however, people from across the state and region will be flocking to Plymouth. The peace sought by the President can only be maintained through the distance imposed by Secret Service agents.

Coolidge lived with the president’s father, John, whose house was just down the road from Seely in Florence. Fifty-two years ago, Coolidge was born in a house adjoining this store. Now a conference room above the store serves as his presidential office. When reporters asked Coolidge’s secretary, C. Bascom Slemp, what the president had planned for his first day off, he could provide few details. Slap said the president wanted to relax and visit family and old friends. However, Coolidge could keep in touch with Washington because the telephone and telegraph lines were connected to the conference room.

Despite the growing crowd, Secret Service and state and county officials managed to keep order. A journalist from the Barre Times described how a driver after entering the village encountered “a traffic cop (sometimes two at the height of the traffic jam) silently waving a wig to give way. From the traffic cop around the corner, the motorist was overtaken by a clever handling system until he found himself with the car parked on a ranch in the small village.

President Coolidge met some of America’s industry leaders outside his childhood home, with Harvey Firestone on the left, Henry Ford on the right and Thomas Edison with a hat in the center. Also pictured are First Lady Grace Coolidge, the President’s father, John Coolidge, and Firestone’s son, Harvey Jr. Photo via Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum / Forbes Library in Northampton, MA

The reporter remarked that there was nothing to see in Plymouth, just a few houses and a grocery store, “unless you turn your eyes sharply to the right you will see a cluster of buildings and a chapel of the other side of the street. On the other side of the street. Across the Street This group of buildings is the temporary White House of this country.

The Coolidges attended the church service on Sunday, August 17. Hundreds of people filled the building to join them. Afterwards, the Coolidge family walked to their makeshift home, while village tourists flocked to the grocery store and the newly opened tearoom and gift shop to buy postcards and other souvenirs.

Coolidge tried to make coming home as normal as possible, sitting around his father’s house reading or visiting guests. Edward Blanchard, who owned a farm near John Coolidge’s home, mentioned that he had difficulty harvesting crops due to an illness in his family. The president, who was free the following afternoon, volunteered to help.

Journalists gather in Calvin Coolidge’s hometown of Plymouth Gorge in 1924. The President carried a wooden sap barrel, which he signed and gave to Henry Ford for his Museum of American Innovation project in Dearborn , Michigan. The bucket never entered the museum. Today it is part of the collection of the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts. Photo via Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum/Forbes Library in Northampton, MA

Coolidge often did household chores while visiting Plymouth. It probably reminded him of his childhood. But the rain washed away the plan. Despite his quest for normality, Coolidge lived in an aquarium. The Rutland Herald wrote that Secret Service agents had established a “dead line” 10 yards from the house that no one could cross without permission.

Journalists from telecommunications services were among them. Americans learned from them about the president’s recent activities, which are limited because it is a holiday. Audiences read him huddled with running mate Charles Dawes in the upcoming fall election; it received information about Germany’s successful renegotiation of reparations for its role in the Great War, and it hosted inventors Thomas Edison and Henry Ford and tire magnate Harvey Firestone – three of whom recently became companions of travel.

But the public wants to know more, reports Brattleboro Reformers. “A lot of people outside of Vermont will be disappointed if reporters don’t report that the president is eating breakfast pie next week,” the paper quipped, joking that breakfast pie is considered an actual Yankees logo.

President Calvin Coolidge inspects cameras used to film First Lady Grace Coolidge. Photo via Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum/Forbes Library in Northampton, MA

The Herald reported that advisers had recommended the president hold a grand Japanese-style event on the grounds “with half the state present in honor of their illustrious countrymen”, but “Quiet Executive Kibosh” was placed in the propaganda plan, like several other similar projects, he renounced it with a word. “

Instead, Coolidge and his wife will host a simple public reception Aug. 23 on his father’s lawn. The event opened the floodgates. To accommodate the expected crowds, the State Highway Patrol changed the route from West Bridgewater to Plymouth one-way in the hours leading up to the event, then changed direction in the hours after. Thousands of cars raced down the road and parked in the fields surrounding the village. Estimated crowds ranged from 10,000 to 20,000.

From 3 p.m., the president and the first lady greeted the crowd that meandered through the village. “For two hours,” wrote the Vermont Standard of Woodstock, “people continued to pass, saying their well-rehearsed greetings.” Afterwards, they lingered as long as possible to watch “they knew it was impossible. review the scene.

Workers sort White House mail in the conference room above the Florence Seeley General Store and Post Office in Plymouth Canyon, Vermont. During his visit, the room was also used as the President’s office. Photo via Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum/Forbes Library in Northampton, MA

“The patriarch of the nation has come to Plymouth,” Standard continued. “These grandkids miles away were raised by their parents and told their grandkids one day when they shook hands with Vermont President Calvin Coolidge and his wife.”

Ludlow factory workers, who had just left the barbershop after a half-day on Saturday, also showed up. During the reception, the president’s father sat in a hammock on the porch and smiled at his famous son. For Coolidge, it all had to be vague. It is estimated that the Coolidges were greeting 50 people every minute. At one point, Grace, known for her dashing attitude, noticed a boy rushing up, too late to say hello. “She stopped him and shook his hand,” Standard reported. “It was not a special event. She’s done it a hundred times. She sometimes hung up and the usher from the Secret Service had to tell her about it.

First Lady Grace Coolidge speaks with deaf inventor Thomas Edison at a party in Plymouth Canyon, Vermont. Photo via Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum/Forbes Library in Northampton, MA

Grace is natural in the crowd, greeting many tourists by name. It must have been harder for a president known for his taciturnity. For some of his old friends, it was just as embarrassing. “Not many people call the president ‘Cal’,” the Herald reported. “A man said after coming through the reception line that he had a hard time saying ‘Mr President’ because he had known him all his life and had always called him ‘Carl’.

The Coolidges ended their stay in Plymouth on August 28. As they left town, they visited the family cemetery again, then drove 12 miles to Ludlow to board the waiting train to return to Washington.

Every Coolidge eventually returns to Plymouth Canyon in their time forever. When Calvin Coolidge died in 1933, just four years after leaving office, his body was taken back to Plymouth to be buried in the family cemetery. His simple tombstone bears his name, dates of birth and death, and the seal of the President of the United States. Grace followed Calvin in 1957. Decades later, John died in 2000, joining them aged 93.

President Coolidge stands outside his home in Plymouth Canyon, Vermont, during his summer visit in 1924. Photo via Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum/Forbes Library in Northampton, MA

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