Coolidge Trip
August 2007

Unfortunately, during the course of the winter former President Gerald Ford passed away at the age of ninety-three. After a state funeral, Ford was interred at his presidential museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I hoped to pay my respects the following summer. However, when the time came it was decided that I would visit the closest of my seven remaining presidential burial sites: Calvin Coolidge's in Plymouth Notch, Vermont.

Since we were driving up north anyway, the whole family came along so we could tie in a visit with my mother's Aunt Rose, who had a cabin by a lake in Maine. We spent several fun-filled days swimming, watching the variety of animals that roamed past the cabin, and spending quality time with Aunt Rose. The drive from Maine to Vermont was the antithesis of fun, however, as my sister argued and complained for nearly the full five hour duration. She calmed down somewhat when we arrived at the Summit Lodge in Killington, which was noted for the Saint Bernards that lived there. Knowing his niece's love of dogs, my Uncle Craig had recommended the Summit to my parents, and Olivia was rather docile while she pet a particularly large canine named Otto. The respite was short-lived, though. Once in the hotel room she instigated an argument about sleeping arrangements, which was particularly aggravating since there were more beds in the room than occupants.

The tension carried over into the next day, which made our visit to the Calvin Coolidge Homestead District difficult to enjoy. Nonetheless we tried to make the best of it. The four of us started at the visitors center before we explored the other Coolidge-related buildings, such as the house where the president was born. The birthplace was attached to the rear of a general store, which Coolidge's father, John, ran when the president was born in 1872. Among other sites to see in the historic district was the local church, situated right next to the Coolidge Homestead. Vice President Coolidge was sleeping at the homestead in August 1923 when he was awoken with the news that Warren Harding died and he had ascended to the presidency. In the early hours of the morning, his father, a notary public, administered the oath of office by lamplight. The kerosene lamp and bible used in the proceedings remained in the parlor of the house, which looked as it did in 1923. We also toured a cheese factory that John Coolidge co-founded and which was still in operation.

My family ate lunch at the Wilder House Restaurant, which was the childhood home of the president's mother and the site of her wedding to John Coolidge. After our meal was over and we finished touring the various buildings in the historic district, we returned to sit and relax on the porch of the general store. The scenery was beautiful but difficult to appreciate because of Olivia's distracting and incessant misbehaving. The visit to Plymouth Notch was nearly impossible to enjoy as a result, and at that point I started nagging my parents about driving to the cemetery so we could see the president's grave and go home. They insisted on remaining on the porch for a while to take in the view, which led to me nagging and insisting more and more. When just about everyone had finally gotten on each other's nerves, we loaded into the van and headed toward "Silent Cal's" final resting place.

It was a short ride to the cemetery, which was located less than half a mile from the historic site's parking lot. The Coolidges were buried right by the road, a convenience that saved us from the long search that often accompanies grave hunting. Flanked by the headstones of his wife and sixteen-year-old son,
the president's marker was unassuming, just as he had been. Apart from the presidential seal that adorned its top, there was nothing remarkable about it. I posed for some photographs by the Coolidge family plot and my parents even sat with me for a few pictures, which mostly eased the tension between us. Next I said some remarks for a traditional presidential graveside video before we loaded into the van for the three and a half hour trek home, during which my sister continued to misbehave.

It felt good to have one less president grave to see, but I was more occupied with the thoughts of how thankful I was that this almost insufferable trip was over. To date this was the last presidential burial site the four of us visited together.

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