Memories, Memories

It’s happening with greater frequency nowadays. At least it seems to me to be more frequent.

I’m downstairs and need something (say the stapler) that is upstairs. I fly to the stairs and climb them as fast as my arthritic knees will allow. I reach the landing, step a few feet to the right, and enter my office. And then I stand there wondering what it was that I came up to get.

Failing to dredge that fact from my memory, I turn and trudge back down the steps. About three steps from the bottom, I suddenly remember. I turn in mid-step and retrace my steps back to the office. As I pass through the door, I spy a book that I had meant to reshelf yesterday when I finished looking up a bit of information but, sidetracked by something else, had placed on my wife’s school supplies cabinet. I grab the book and return it to its proper spot on the bookcase shelf. Then I walk over to my oak roll-top desk, shuffle a few papers, and stare into space wondering why I came upstairs.

Again failing to recall the purpose of my ascent, I begin the trek back down. Entering the kitchen, I again remember, and I make a third trip up the stairs, muttering under my breath, “Stapler! Stapler!” I repeat the word over and over until I put my hands on the stapler sitting on my desk. I then take it back downstairs and staple whatever it is that needs stapling.

That happens several times a day, it seems. It happens so often that it has long since ceased to be the topic of humorous, self-deprecating conversation.

Memory–or the lack of it–can mess with one’s mind, especially if he or she is a writer. Even moreso if one writes memoir or history.

Two or more people can experience or witness the same event, and yet each will have a slightly (or maybe even a vastly) different memory of it.

I first became aware of this phenomenon when my nieces and nephews came to visit us and asked, “Uncle Dennis, Dad told us that when you two were kids such and such happened. Is that really the way it was?”

Then I felt obliged to set them straight on what really had happened in the anecdote my brother had told them. Somehow, in his accounts, he was always the innocent victim, and I was the guilty party. In my account, it was the reverse; he was the instigator, and I was the gullible victim. Each of us remembered the same incident in dramatically different ways. And each of us is adamant that our rendition is the true and only reliable account.

The truth is that each of us tends to remember only certain details in a decidedly individualized way. We don’t remember some details at all. And we often misremember the details we do retain. That’s why it’s so important that we writers, especially those of us who are attempting to write memoir or history, study multiple perspectives before we write. Even then, we must recognize the fact that our flawed and failing memories and our biases or prejudices can mislead or deceive us as to the truth of our subjects.

Too often, historians (especially those whose writings are motivated or driven by a political or philosophical agenda) present a complex event or issue in an oversimplified way that ignores certain facts that do not fit into their scheme and present their myopic view as the only right view.

Take, for example, the issue of slavery in America. Too often, that issue is simplistically presented as a uniquely Southern institution for whom only Southerners bear blame and responsibility. In reality, it was a national issue. Had it not been for Northern shipbuilders, shipowners, and ship captains and Northern textile manufacturers who profited from the transportation and sale of slaves and used the cotton produced in the South as raw material for their goods, there would have been no demand for cotton and therefore no demand for slaves in the South. Besides, in the colonial period, there were slaves in every American colony, including those in the North. And not only black slaves but also Native American slaves. And little Rhode Island was a big supplier of slaves for the trade. The same problem is evident in the recounting of the treatment of slaves. Many slave owners and overseers were indeed Simon Legrees, but many others were not.

Too many historians also present slavery as the only cause of the war that soon engulfed the nation. They conveniently forget–or ignore–the many other issues that contributed to the eruption: the tariff, state sovereignty, the debate over federally financed internal improvements, regional disparity in representation in Congress, etc. In reality, there was no one cause of the war but many. To present it otherwise is sloppy history at best and intentional deceit at worst.

In memoir writing, memory can put one in a nostalgic mood and win the plaudits of relatives, or it can cause life-long rifts between family members who remember events differently than the writer presents them. The key is to present memories as clearly as one’s mind will allow but to do so as kindly as possible. As John Leax wrote in his book Grace Is Where I Live, “I take the stories of my people, I give them shape, and hand them down. What I pass on is truth made new–half-truth spun through kind invention.”

Now let’s see. I had one other point I wanted to make about this topic, but I can’t seem to remember what it was. Oh, well. Maybe I’ll have remembered it by the time I sit down to write my next blog post–or not.

 

Lessons from Doing Genealogical Research

I’m told that March 11 was Genealogy Day. (Yes, I know that I’m a little late in getting this date mentioned, but. . . . Better late than never!)

“Doing genealogy” can occur at several different levels, from hobbyist to obsessive compulsive. Over the years, I’ve done my genealogical research in fits and starts, so I guess that I’m more on the hobbyist end of the continuum, although some people think I slide somewhat nearer the other end. It’s all a matter of perspective–and how much time and money you have to devote to the pursuit.

My initial motivation was the result of a sudden realization that I didn’t know much about my ancestors beyond my grandparents and that the people who could best inform me were quickly passing from the scene. If I was to get the facts (more so, the human stories behind the facts) I needed, I had to act quickly. So, in the little time and few opportunities I had, I began interviewing those people.

That’s when I discovered that not all of the interviewees agreed on many essential details. My paternal grandparents argued with each other over many of those details, and, not wanting to cause a rift in an otherwise exemplary marriage, I changed the subject. They sometimes referred to the same people but by different names or nicknames, so I often got confused. And sometimes they got sidetracked telling interesting stories about some of the people while forgetting about the genealogical details that were my main objective. But the stories were so good, and my grandparents obviously had so much joy and fun telling them, that I dared not interrupt to press for mere data.

And mentioning getting sidetracked, the same thing happened to me while I was doing research on the maternal side of my family. I became so interested in tracing the steps of my uncle (Mother’s brother) through Europe during World War II that his story just about hijacked my entire time. (After all, history, especially the history of that war, is “my thing.”) But it just illustrates how easily sidetracked one can get while researching genealogy.

The benefits of doing such research, however, are great–even if (maybe especially if) one gets sidetracked while pursuing it.

The Bible says that genealogical studies can be “endless” (1 Tim. 1:4), leading us to get sidetracked from more important things in this present life. But the lessons to be learned from genealogical research are tremendous. We just have to keep our research properly balanced with the other responsibilities of life.

Perhaps the greatest lesson it has taught me is that I have what the psalmist called “a goodly heritage” (Psa. 16:6). I’ve discovered that my family tree includes a long line of Christian ancestors who were either preachers or teachers, and that line extends all the way to the present generation: an aunt and a cousin were teachers. My brother was a preacher. I was a teacher. And one of my daughters is a teacher. Seeing such continuity of calling in one’s heritage can provide a valuable motivation to make something of oneself, something of which his or her ancestors would be proud.

I can trace my heritage back only to 1735, when Charles Matthias Peterson was born in Kjolen, Sweden. One of his three sons, Tobias, was the first white settler of Poplar Creek in western North Carolina and is my direct ancestor. But those 282 years is far enough back for me to recognize the goodly heritage I have. That time span should provide enough information to keep my genealogical research going for the rest of my life, especially as sporadic as that research tends to be and as many rabbit trails as it leads me down!

I know that some of my readers are also doing their own genealogical research. I hope they enjoy the pursuit as much as I have.

 

Honor to Whom Honor Is Due

Seventy-two years ago yesterday–on February 23, 1945–perhaps the most famous war photograph in history was taken by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal. It ended up becoming the first photo to win the Pulitzer Prize in the same year in which it was taken. But it symbolizes today, not the photographic or journalistic abilities of Joe Rosenthal, but the tenacity and persistence of the American Spirit.

photolibrary-raisingtheflagoniwojima-highres-3138x2076That photo of five marines and a navy corpsman raising the American flag over Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima–and the memorial statue in Washington, D.C., that is based on that photo–represents not only the U.S. Marine Corps but also American military resolve.

But many people don’t know the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would have said. They think that once the flag was raised, the battle was over. Far from it.

The battle, which had begun when the first marines rushed ashore on February 19, was not over until the island was declared secured on March 16. In fact, another lesser known photo was taken moments after the now-famous Rosenthal photo, and it shows marines with their M-1 carbines ready to defend themselves because the flag raisers had just come under enemy fire.

No, the raising of the flag was not the end of the battle. That would not occur until after 6,851 Americans had made the supreme sacrifice and another 20,000 were wounded. The Japanese, too, fell to the tune of 18,000 killed. Only 216 of them were captured.

The Battle of Iwo Jima resulted in the awarding of more medals of honor than during any other single battle in American history. Twenty-two marines and five sailors earned that distinguished honor, thirteen of them posthumously.

In describing the battle, Admiral Chester Nimitz said that “uncommon valor was a common virtue.” Today, the Battle of Iwo Jima remains the Marine Corps standard of valor and service to one’s country, the measuring stick for how battles should be fought if they are to be won.

The surviving veterans of Iwo Jima, like all veterans of World War II, are fast disappearing from the scene. They deserve our honor, acclaim, and expressions of sincere appreciation today while they are still among us. And their determination and resolve to fight on against overwhelming odds and a tenacious and fanatical enemy deserve our emulation as our nation once again faces similarly fanatical enemies today.

Semper fidelis!

Thoughts on Inaugurations

At noon today, Donald Trump will be sworn in as our nation’s 45th president. Afterward, following the precedent set by our first president and followed by all others since him, President Trump will deliver a speech. Some people will be listening attentively to catch any statements that will give them hope for the future. Other people will be hoping to snag from his speech any statements that they might use as hindrances to his efforts to run the country. Most people will simply be watching to see what happens, what Trump does differently than his predecessors, or what fashions the ladies in attendance are wearing.

In case you might be interested, I’d like to take a quick look backward (that’s what historians do, although sometimes their look is not too quick) at some tidbits of information about past presidential inaugurations and inaugural addresses.

william_henry_harrison_daguerreotype_editFirst, consider length. The longest inaugural address was delivered by William Henry Harrison, who was inaugurated president in March 1841. His speech was 8,445 words long. He delivered it in a cold rain–without a hat. He caught a cold. It killed him one month later.

calvin_coolidge_cph-3g10777Perhaps one might think that the shortest address was delivered by the president who was best known for saying very little–Calvin Coolidge. After all, he was called “Silent Cal.” So taciturn was he that he once foiled a women who had bet another lady that she could get him to say more than two words at a White House banquet. She failed, and as she left afterward, he simply said to her, “You lose.” His inaugural address was 4,059 words, much shorter than Harrison’s had been but still much longer than many other presidential inaugural addresses.

Actually, the shortest address was delivered by George Washington at the beginning of his second term. It was only 135 words long. Too bad subsequent presidents didn’t follow that precedent! Doing so might have saved Harrison’s life.

After the inauguration come a slew of balls and parties, but not every inauguration has been marked by such levity. Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover had no inaugural balls. On the other hand, JFK had five–and attended them all. Clinton had a whopping 14 in 1997. The most expensive one was George W. Bush’s with a price tag of $40 million.

jefferson-and-adamsThe transition between the outgoing president and the new tenant at the White House has not always been amicable. In 1801, John Adams was so upset by the rancorous campaign waged against him by winner Thomas Jefferson that he didn’t even attend his former friend’s inauguration. Instead, he slipped from town even before the new president was sworn into office. (Fortunately, the two men later reconciled, and both died on July 4 of the same year.)

In 1933, the defeated Hoover rode to the inauguration ceremony with the victorious FDR, but he refused to chit-chat amicably (or otherwise) with his opponent. That made for a long, quiet ride. Hoover sat sullenly; FDR flashed his trademark grin and waved to the crowds.

Let’s hope that this time the drive to the Capitol will be friendly, the speech is short and substantive, and the whole ceremony will be unmarred by anything of consequence. And let us thank God that we live in a nation and under a system of government that allows this transition of power from one man and one political party to another man and party to be peaceful.

Last Day for Guaranteed Delivery!

DSC_0590 - CopyThe news this morning announced that today is the last day when the shippers (UPS, FedEx, USPS, etc.) will guarantee delivery of packages in time for Christmas. You might want to consider ordering a gift for that history buff in your life. Might I suggest a copy of my book Confederate Cabinet Departments and Secretaries? No batteries required!

Minds Influenced by the Same Things Think Alike

landmark-booksLast week, I posted some thoughts on two book series that had sparked my early interest in reading and influenced my careers in teaching and writing American history. I’ve since learned that I’m not the only one so influenced by the Hardy Boys series of mysteries or the exciting history recounted in the Landmark books.

Shortly after I posted that essay, Charles Moore, who has been following my blog for a while, contacted me to suggest that I might enjoy a blog post of his that he wrote a couple of years ago. I checked it out and was so impressed that I read it twice! In a gesture of friendship and for the sake of the possibility that his essay might encourage someone else to read and write stories about their own life and genealogy for future readers, Mr. Moore gave me permission to reprint his story here on my blog. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. If so, please let us know. (You may contact him or view other blog posts of his at mooregenealogy.wordpress.com.) Thanks!

MOM, MRS. MOYER, AND THE HARDY BOYS

by Charles Moore

I could spend a whole afternoon reading the Hardy Boys. I would get lost in their world, it was magical. The ability to escape in a good book is not to be taken for granted.

I could spend a whole afternoon reading the Hardy Boys. I would get lost in their world, it was magical. The ability to escape in a good book is not to be taken for granted.

I have read several blogs recently that discussed books and reading. The subject of reading is one that I think about frequently as I am always in search of something to read. For me, reading is a pleasure and a way to make time pass very quickly. However, this was not always the case. So I would like to share an event in my life that shows how memory can be woven into a family history. Here is my small example of how you can write a memoir. It is the stories about us and our ancestors that will interest future generations.

Mrs. Alice Moyer was my third-grade teacher at Broad St. School in Plattsburgh, N.Y. At that time, I did not know her first name as all of the teachers were addressed by either Miss, Mrs. or Mr. Even the teachers addressed each other in this manner. I only learned her first name years after when I read her obituary. With her death, another person has gone without me ever expressing my gratitude. Mrs. Moyer was one of the best teachers I was ever to have at any level of my education. Her influence and talent for teaching forever changed my life for the better. Such people are rare and as such leave a deep impression on a developing person.

When I entered third grade, my reading ability was not even on a first-grade level. I had major speech impediments. I had spent my second-grade year trying not to be noticed by the teacher. It is safe to say that my second-grade teacher was the exact opposite of Mrs. Moyer. Second grade for me was a nightmare. It did not take long for Mrs. Moyer to spot my problems and notified my mother.

Mrs. Veronica Moore is my mother. A child of the depression and hard times she never got a chance to finish school. I do not think she made it much past junior high. In fact, the same could be said about my father. They were hard working people that had to earn their wages with a strong back. Education was the goal for their children, and nothing was more important. “Get an education” was the mantra I was to hear over and over.

Mom and Mrs. Moyer had a meeting, and the plan was laid out. Soon I was in speech therapy and would be for the next three years. We had large classes in those days, which 30 or more students were common, with only a teacher in the room. The classes where I went to school were grouped into three sections. The division was along the student’s ability. The “A” group were, of course, the better students, the “B” group were more the average students and the “C” group were the students that were struggling. Now the teachers never called these groups by any names but it was easy for us students to figure out. Even with a large class and having to attend to the different needs of each group, Mrs. Moyer found almost every day 30 minutes for one on one reading session with me. My third-grade work load was hefty. However Mrs. Moyer, was such an accomplished teacher it was one of the best years I ever had in school.

The home front was under the command of my mother. A library card was secured for me. The wonders of the library were now mine to explore and enjoy. I got to pick out the books that held some interest for me. Mom made sure that I had time to read them. I had to do a book report on the books I read and turn them in for school. On a chart in our classroom everyone has listed the books they had read and done a book report for. While I was far from the leader, I was right in the middle and held my own. Also, mom would buy me a book that I could keep and read anytime I wanted to. This was when I ran into the Hardy Boys. Their adventures kept me buying their books for a few years. Also, I liked Tom Swift and many others. Money was tight in our house, yet they would buy me my books. I can remember mom bringing me to the local bookstore and looking and looking for that special book I was to take home.

When I was in sixth grade about to go into junior high, I tested out for reading on a high school level. I have never looked back. Reading is a habit I have kept over the years. I use libraries now mostly for research. I prefer to own my books and not borrow them. Some are like old friends that I have visited more than a few times.

This is my effort at a memoir. They need not be long or in great detail. Just write down your stories as they come to you. In a few years, you will have written a full memoir to pass on. If you wonder why bother, would you not want one from your parents, grandparents? Start writing.

The Power of a Good Book Series

Never underestimate the power of a good book series, even if it’s not great literature, to spark an interest in reading. It might just develop into a reading habit that leads to great literature or even evolves into a career.

When I was in fifth grade at Halls Elementary School, Mrs. George conducted a contest in our class to see who could read the most books. She gave each student a small envelope inside of which were several ruled 3 x 5 cards. We each wrote our name on the flap of the envelope and thumb-tacked it, cards inside, onto a bulletin board. Mrs. George then took us to the library, where we selected whatever book(s) we wanted to read for the contest. When we finished each book, we recorded its title on the index card and chose another book.

I don’t know who won the contest (it wasn’t me), but in a sense I did win because that contest began for me a life-long habit of reading. The books I chose back then not only set me on the road to reading but also helped guide my career choice. I found through that contest that I enjoyed reading books in two particular series, one of which developed in me an interest in and love of history.

hardy-boys-mysteriesThe first series, the one that hooked me on reading, was the Hardy Boys mystery series. Of the 50 or so titles that made up the original segment of the series, I ended up reading about 44 or 45 of them. The titles are still vivid in my mind, as are the cover illustrations.

These books were not great literature by any measure; they were formula books. The basic plot line was always the same: the Hardy brothers are confronted with a mystery that baffles not only the local police but also their detective father, they set about solving the case with the occasional help of their “chums,” and they solve it after having some exciting and nail-biting adventures. When the publisher began revising the books and adding new, “modern” titles, and when the TV series came out, I was disappointed because neither the new books nor the TV version lived up to the standard that the original books had set. But the books in the original series kept me turning the pages under the bed covers using a flashlight long after I should have been asleep. And they made me realize that an entire world awaited me between the covers of books.

landmark-booksThe second book series that influenced me, the one that helped steer me into a career in teaching and writing about historical topics, was the Random House Landmark series of histories and biographies. I still remember the individual titles and cover illustrations on the books from that series. It was from those books, not my history textbook, that I really learned about the Pony Express, West Point, the military heroes of our nation, the battles they fought to win and maintain our freedoms, and many other topics.

landmark-alamoI remember that the title on the spine of a book was what first caught my attention. I lifted the book from the shelf and looked at the cover illustration–for a long time. Then I paged through the book, gaining an overview of what it was about and looking at any illustrations or photos that it included. If you study the accompanying photos of some of those books, is it any wonder that I became interested in American history? In those books was excitement, adventure–and I lived vicariously the events recounted in them.

During my early years of teaching junior high students, I bought several of the old Landmark books that I found in used book stores or at yard sales to stock my classroom library. Whenever students finished a test or some other seatwork, they knew that I expected them to be busy with some other constructive work until the rest of the class finished, andlandmark-pony-express one option was reading those books. Many of the students did read them and, most gratifying to me, they voluntarily discussed them with me. When I shifted careers and left the classroom, I donated the books to a school. I sort of wish I had kept them. Looking at the covers, reading the titles, and remembering the joy they gave me when I first read them, I sort of want to read them again.

landmark-flying-tigerslandmark-d-dayUnlike the Hardy Boys series, which used many mediocre ghostwriters under the pseudonym “Franklin W. Dixon,” Random House had some world-class authors and experts in history writing the Landmark books. They included such people as William L. Shirer, Quentin Reynolds, John Gunther, Pearl S. Buck, F. Van Wyck Mason, Richard Tregaskis, Bob Considine, Robert Penn Warren,C. S. Forester, John Toland, and Ted W. Lawson. Lawson’s writing (Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo) really snagged my interest because he wrote from first-hand experience as one of the pilots on the famous Doolittle raid on Tokyo in the early months of World War II.

Yes, these two series of books hold a special place in my curriculum vitae. They helped lay a foundation for reading that has served me well over the years. Do you have a similarly influential series that you would like to share? If so, I’d be interested in hearing from you about it.

 

Another Unsung Hero of American History

IMG_0823American history is replete with unsung heroes, people who did their duty to the best of their ability and then faded back into everyday life and were forgotten.

Today, I want to focus a little well-deserved attention on another such unsung hero: Dr. William Shippen.

Shippen was born in Philadelphia on October 1, 1712. His father, Edward Shippen, was a successful merchant in Philadelphia, but William decided to buck the expectation that he would follow in his father’s footsteps, studying medicine instead. He eventually built up quite a large practice in the city. In fact, he became so well off that he was said to possess three great things: “the biggest house, the biggest person, and the biggest coach.”

But, like many other unsung heroes, Shippen had a life beyond his profession. He and his wife, Susannah Harrison, had four sons. William was active in religious activities, helping to found the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia and was active in its ministries. He also was a member of Ben Franklin’s “Junto,” which prompted his interest in educating the future generations. That interest that led him to help establish Benjamin Franklin’s Public Academy, which later became the College of Philadelphia and still later the University of Pennsylvania. He served as a trustee of the school from 1755 until 1779. (He was also a trustee of the College of New Jersey, which is now Princeton, which his brother, Edward, helped establish.) He lived an exemplary life before the community and never tasted wine or liquor until shortly before his death.

Shippen was elected a delegate to represent Pennsylvania in the Continental Congress, serving from 1779 until 1780, but then he returned to his medical practice. His son, William Jr., served in the Continental Army as the director of hospitals from 1777 until 1781.

It seems, however, that in every family–even the most honorable–are some black sheep. And so it was in the Shippen family. William’s niece, Margaret (Peggy) Shippen, married a man who was, at the time (1779), a Patriot military hero in his own right–Benedict Arnold. She liked to live an opulent lifestyle, and that might have played a role in Arnold’s decision to sell out West Point to the British enemy. In fact, Margaret had courted one British Major John Andre before she married Arnold. It’s quite likely that she introduced the two men to each other. And, as they say, the rest is history.

But one can’t control what other family members do; he can only try to rear his own children right and be accountable for his own actions. And Shippen and his immediate family remained true to the Patriot cause and were assets to their young country and the greater Philadelphia area. Shippen died at his Germantown, Pennsylvania, home on November 4, 1801, and was buried in the cemetery at the church he helped found.

Our history is filled with such unsung heroes. What they did might not, in itself, have changed the course of history, and they are long forgotten by posterity, but the combined actions of many such people made America great. I’d be interested in hearing about other such people. Since they are “unsung,” most of us probably never would have heard of them. I look forward to hearing from you!

Watch for It!

emperornortonBe on the lookout for the December 2016 issue of True West when it hits the newsstands. It includes an article about a little-known fact about the government of the United States. Titled “Emperor of the United States,” it’s by yours truly.

 

 

What Would Calvin Coolidge Think?

There are a lot of “what ifs” in history. I happened to think of one the other day while reading a little booklet published by the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation (http://www.calvin-coolidge.org). Written by historian Jerry L. Wallace and titled Calvin Coolidge: Our First Radio President, it discussed the role that radio played in helping Coolidge get his message of common-sense economy in government around Congress and the liberal newspapers and directly to the American voters.

calvin-coolidgeAs I read the information in that booklet, I couldn’t help but think of how two other later presidents used radio to get their message before the people. Franklin Roosevelt, however, presented a message that was quite different from that of Coolidge. Whereas Coolidge preached economy, savings, strict accountability of taxpayer monies, and small government based on strict constitutionalism, FDR preached the socialist doctrine of big government, deficit spending, and the welfare state. His soothing, calming voice came in the midst of America’s worst economic crisis, and Americans believed his words. Perhaps more than any other president before or since, FDR gave us the political conditions that have slowly whittled away at Americans’ economic and political freedoms.

Then, a generation later, when Ronald Reagan arrived on the scene, Coolidge’s message once again came to the fore. Reagan preached economy, strict adherence to the Constitution, and smaller government. Unfortunately, although the economy responded to Reagan’s policies, rising from the malaise that had set in under Carter to bring greater prosperity, his administration was noticeably less successful at achieving smaller government than Coolidge’s administration had been.

But all three of those presidents used radio to great advantage. Coolidge pioneered it with his extensive use of radio. (Harding had actually been the first president to address the public via radio in the spring of 1922, but Coolidge capitalized on the new medium, especially using it during the election campaign of 1924.) During his five years and seven months in office, Coolidge delivered more than forty radio addresses, at least sixteen in 1928 alone. FDR delivered his now-famous “fireside chats” during the 1930s. And Reagan introduced weekly Saturday radio addresses (not that many people listened to them!) and he made extensive use of television addresses to the nation.

But beyond the radio theme, Wallace mentions some deeply human things about the people who lived during the Coolidge era. For example, during the 1924 Democratic National Convention, Coolidge’s son, Calvin Jr., died from blood poisoning that resulted from a blister he had gotten while playing tennis. The chairman of the convention interrupted the delegates’ activities to announce the young man’s death, and “a sorrowful moan went up” from the crowded hall. They then adjourned the convention for the rest of the day out of respect for President and Mrs. Coolidge.

Can you imagine that happening by either party today? I rather suspect that some delegates would actually cheer and then use the occasion to politicize the incident. How far we’ve strayed in less than a hundred years!

As I finished reading Wallace’s booklet, I found myself asking, “What would Coolidge think of the political situation today? What would be his assessment of the political environment today?” From what I’ve learned of Coolidge, I suspect that he wouldn’t have much to say. After all, he was a man of few words. But you can be sure that he would not have wanted to be associated with either political party today! Oh that we had statesmen of such sterling character today. Will we ever have such again?