Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Alarmy
ca. 1923, Plymouth, Vermont, USA — John Coolidge, the father of President Calvin Coolidge, listens to his son’s acceptance speech over the radio. With Mr. Coolidge are (from left to right): Mrs. Guy Mayo, Verna Mayo, Florence Cilley, Colonel Coolidge, Flora Smith, Ruth Aldrich, Aurora Peirce, and John Reed. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
“My father seemed to like to work in the shop, but did not go there much except when a difficult piece of work was required, like welding a broken steel section rod of a mowing machine, which had to be done with great precision or it would break again. He kept tools for mending shoes and harnesses and repairing water pipes and tinware. He knew how to perform all kinds of delicate operations on domestic animals. The lines he laid out were true and straight, and the curves regular. The work he did endured…”
Rendition of the 1923 Homestead Inauguration (Guido Boer)
“…Where succession to the highest office in the land is by inheritance or appointment, no doubt there have been kings who have participated in the induction of their sons into their office, but in republics where the succession comes by an election I do not know of any other case in history where a father has administered to his son the qualifying oath of office which made him the chief magistrate of a nation. It seemed a simple and natural thing to do at the time, but I can now realize something of the dramatic force of the event…”
“…At his advanced age he had overtaxed his strength receiving the thousands of visitors who went to my old home at Plymouth. It was all a great satisfaction to him and he would not have had it otherwise. When I was there and visitors were kept from the house for a short period, he would be really distressed in the thought that they could not see all they wished and he would go out where they were himself and mingle among them. I knew for some weeks that he was passing his last days. I sent to bring him to Washington, but he clung to his old home. It was a sore trial not to be able to be with him, but I had to leave him where he most wished to be.” — Some of Calvin Coolidge’s reflections about his father, Colonel John Coolidge
Happy Father’s Day to all the good men who have risen to the great responsibility of raising children, whether they are family by blood or spiritual bond! May we, the fruit of all your efforts, be living tributes to your honor, continuing the kind of works that endure.
“National Flag Day has been observed for some years by official direction on June 14. It is the anniversary of the adoption by the Congress of the flag of the United States. We do honor to the Stars and Stripes as the emblem of our country and the symbol of all that our patriotism means.
“The stars and the red, white, and blue colors have a significance of their own, but when combined and arranged into the flag of our nation they take on a new significance which no other form or color can convey. We identify the flag with almost everything we hold dear on earth. It represents our peace and security, our civil and political liberty, our freedom of religious worship, our family, our friends, our home. We see in it the great multitude of blessings, of rights, and privileges, that make up our country.
“But when we look at our flag and behold it emblazoned with all our rights we must remember that it is equally a symbol of our duties. Every glory that we associate with it is the result of duty done. A yearly contemplation of the meaning of our flag strengthens and purifies the national conscience.” — Calvin Coolidge, June 12, 1931
What do you see when you behold the flag? Do you see unprecedented freedom, remarkable achievements, and lives given to the slow, still unfolding, journey toward ideals? Do you see generations of sacrifice or just lost opportunities? Do you see the flaws and seam lines but miss the beauty of the form, as the fragile fabric combines very different parts into something new altogether? Do you see privilege and rights but miss responsibilities and obligations? To paraphrase Cal, borrowing a little from Abigail Adams’ famous reminder, “Don’t forget the duties” woven as they are into the very materials which comprise the United States themselves. Coolidge saw something more than just a rag on a pole. He saw that what kept the flag aloft each new day was a constant and selfless focus not upon what each of us is owed by someone else but upon what each of us owes others. It is through that emphasis that we continue to carry the the flag’s central meaning and, though of many pieces, join in holding it together.
The caption for this postcard is partly incorrect, of course: The woman seated across from Coolidge is not his mother but an older sister of his mother, aunt Gratia Moor.
National Spelling Bee finalists, June 4, 1926
When the oldest members of what we now call the “Greatest Generation” were yet infants and young children, the “old folks” of their time shared a glimpse of themselves, their memories growing up, and some of their experiences for posterity. They did this through the wonderfully new medium of talking pictures, sharing a brief look across seven or eight (and for some, even nine or ten) decades. They were in the same generation as President Coolidge’s father and grandfathers. For those who could look back on the preceding century, coming into the world just as the 1820s were winding down, there remained much to share. Life may not have been easy but it was life, beautiful and precious all the same. For them, it was the War of 1861-1865 under which many passed from childhood to maturity, forever shaping who they were and what they would become. They come from everywhere, California to Florida, New York City to Chicago, having watched these places go from quiet fields and unpaved paths (traversed by horse and buggy) to pavement and car, expansive skylines and bustling developments. It is a timely reminder that we are not as far from the big events of history as we may sometimes feel. Take a moment and listen, perhaps even reminisce with or appreciate again those in our memory who have shared a little of themselves with us.