Our 2022 Road Trip #26: Country Time with Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge's tombstone has two tiny flags and some pink flowers standing in front of it; evergreen bushes behind it.

Part 25 also led off with a tombstone, but this one is real.

Longtime MCC readers may recall one of the recurring motifs in our past vacations was the final resting places of Presidents of the United States of America. In fact, one trip was dedicated specifically to the task of spotting nine such gentleman in a row. They’re not all winners, but they went down in American history as official Presidents, for better or worse, so they count. Prior to 2022 we’d visited the gravesites of 23 U.S. Presidents in all. When last we left off, in 2021 we visited Herbert Hoover’s final resting place in Iowa and compiled a list of all the Presidential gravesites we’d seen up to that point. As it happens, Vermont has one that we had to visit before we headed home.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Since 1999 Anne and I have taken one road trip each year to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home. We’re geeks more accustomed to vicarious life through the windows of pop culture than through in-person adventures. After years of contenting ourselves with everyday life in Indianapolis and any surrounding areas that also had comics and toy shops, we chucked some of our self-imposed limitations and resolved as a team to leave the comforts of home for annual chances to see creative, exciting, breathtaking, outlandish, and/or bewildering new sights in states beyond our own, from the horizons of nature to the limits of imagination, from history’s greatest hits to humanity’s deepest regrets and the sometimes quotidian, sometimes quirky stopovers in between. We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

For 2022 we wanted the opposite of Yellowstone. Last year’s vacation was an unforgettable experience, but those nine days and 3500 miles were daunting and grueling. Vermont was closer, smaller, greener, cozier, and slightly cooler. Thus we set aside eight days to venture through the four states that separate us from the Green Mountain State, dawdle there for a bit, and backtrack home…


The day had come to leave Vermont at last, but we had a few Vermont attractions left on our to-do list. We settled for breakfast at the hotel one more time due to previous issues with local options…


…then left Waterbury and headed south on I-89 toward the tiny village of Plymouth Notch to add a 24th name to our list. That was the birthplace of Calvin Coolidge, our 30th President and the only one (so far) actually born on the Fourth of July (as opposed to the two who died on that holiday). The taciturn man nicknamed “Silent Cal” was a commercial law attorney and the governor of Massachusetts, infamously known for breaking up a Boston police strike in 1919 in a memorable manner (“There is no right to strike against the public safety, anywhere, anytime,” said he) that would influence future Coolidge superfan Ronald Reagan when he fired all the striking air traffic controllers in 1981.

Coolidge assumed the Presidency in 1923 when Warren Harding died of a heart attack (and was subsequently buried in Ohio). Despite the emotional toll of the death of his younger son Calvin Jr. during the 1924 campaign season, he won that year’s election in his own right, fending off challenges from the Democrats and the short-lived, newly formed Progressive Party. He declined to run again in 1928 and made way for Herbert Hoover, just in time for the coming of the Great Depression in October 1929, which may or may not have been caused in part by Coolidge’s penny-pinching policies. He died in 1933 of a heart attack while shaving and was buried in his family plot in Plymouth Notch. Hence our day’s big primary objective: the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site.

The Coolidge State Historic Site sign and flag by the parking lot, with the Green Mountains looming in the sunny horizon.

Apropos of Vermont, the Green Mountains loomed all around.

The experience began at the Museum & Education Center, where we pulled into the parking lot at the same time as their new cashier, ten minutes before opening. We waited outside on the porch while a a cloud of gnats ate us alive, then were permitted inside once everyone was in position and he’d been given a crash course on how to work the register. Most of the exhibit pieces in this initial building were Coolidge’s possessions, many of them gifts received during his time in office.

My wife poses with a white suit on a mannequin. Sisplay cases bedeck all the walls in the back.

Anne the history aficionado poses with a Coolidge suit.

A fan made of peacock feathers, hanging on a wall next to a pink dress in a display case.

We presume this peacock fan belonged to his wife Grace, who was a teacher at a deaf school when they met.

A jet-black top hat in a display case.

Grace gave most of his clothes to charity upon his death. Among the few exceptions was this top hat, which she gifted to a young magician. (Not a joke.)

giant radio so weird that its assorted components weren't kept in a wooden box like most old-time radios. They're all sprawled out yet connected (and in a modern display case).

Coolidge’s December 1923 address to Congress was broadcast on radio, the first Presidential address ever transmitted nationwide. Devices tuned in to it would’ve included this sprawling radio (yes, all of this is a radio) designed by Vermont technician Arthur Atwater Kent.

Big old ballot box, wood and about four feet tall, encased in glass.

A 1924 ballot box from Northampton, MA, Coolidge’s district at the time.

Bronze medal stored in a booklet. On the medal, a picture of a blimp ringed by the words "First Crossing of the Polar Sea Under Leadership of Roald Amundsen and Lincoln Ellsworth".

A bronze medal commemorating the 1926 airship expedition of Roald Amundsen, Lincoln Ellsworth, and 14 other men to the North Pole.

Charles Lindbergh's autobiography, tall and mostly brown, no dust jacket, standing upright in a case.

Gifts in President Coolidge’s collection include this autographed copy of Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 memoir WE.

An intricately carved wooden chair.

A Hungarian armchair with tooled leather. On top are statues of George Washington and Louis Kossuth, 19th-century governor-president of the Kingdom of Hungary.

Fancy fountain pen desk stored in a green onyx oval with tiny bronze plaques on it.

A Waterman fountain pen desk set given to Grace for presiding over the November 1928 dedication of Pan Am Airways.

A wooden cigar box with creature-looking pictures engraved in the lid.

A mahogany humidor personally handed to Coolidge in 1925 by Cuban President-elect Gerardo Machado.

A Babe Ruth autographed baseball in a glass case

For the sports fans: a Babe Ruth autographed baseball!

The Museum was the first of several buildings in the Plymouth Notch Historic District. Several buildings from Coolidge’s childhood community have been restored intact in one convenient spot for guided tours. Anne and I were the youngest in a group of 10, including a docent who was old enough to remember personally when parts of Vermont didn’t get electricity until the 1960s — possibly due to infrastructure limitations but also definitely because elderly skeptics of the era viewed indoor wiring as a fire hazard, or possibly as sorcery. Our guide walked us around most of the structures and invited us inside where allowed. An active road runs through the village; oncoming traffic sometimes required us to move aside like Wayne and Garth pausing and resuming their street-hockey games.

A stone monument with the names of dead soldiers, 1914-1918.

A World War I memorial along the path to town.

A white general store with tourist heading toward it.

First stop was the Florence Cilley General Store, built in the 1850s. Coolidge owned the building for 42 years; its namesake operated it for 28.

Store shelves lined with lots of stuff as if it's in business.

The shelves were lined with products (including an awful lot of Moxie soda merchandise), some of which looked new, but we weren’t offered a chance to buy any.

two-story log cabin.

Hooked to the general store is the cabin where Coolidge was born in 1872.

Standard old kitchen.

Original furnishings inside the Birthplace included parts of their olde-tyme kitchen.

a restored church with white siding and a chimney.

Next door is Union Christian Church, built in 1840. It no longer serves an active congregation, but holds occasional special events.

A church auditorium, wood paneling covering EVERYTHING. A chandelier hangs on a long chain from a vaulted ceiling; three throne-like chairs and a podium are on the small stage.

The church is much bigger on the inside.

A darkened room with normal furniture, like a family room.

In 1876 the Coolidges moved into a larger house across the street, dubbed the Coolidge Homestead. This was the very room where Coolidge took the Oath of Office on August 3, 1923, upon being informed of Harding’s death.

A two-story cheese shop, still in business.

The Plymouth Cheese Factory opened in 1890 and was in and out of Coolidge family possession throughout the years. It’s still in business today, though its proprietor was pretty snarky to anyone who offered incorrectly worded compliments.

A black sleigh parked inside a wooden garage.

A few vehicles are stored onsite, such as this ancient sleigh…

A red Subaru Forester SUV with a "Keep Cool With Coolidge" shade over the rear windshield and a license plate reading "POTUS30".

…and this more modern SUV clearly owned by Coolidge’s current #1 fan.

A big chicken coop, with all the chickens clustered on one side, probably where the feed was.

They also had a garden and a farm, which explains these live chickens.

A long address engraved on a big white plaque. It's really long.

An engraved transcription of a 1928 address Coolidge gave to Bennington College – basically a love letter to Vermont.

After the tour, we returned to our rental car and drove a mile down the road to Plymouth Cemetery, where Coolidge and numerous relatives were buried. The place is on a hillside, but Coolidge and his immediate family had front-row accommodations.

A stone staircase up the cemetery hillside. Coolidges are on the left at the first level up.

A stone staircase leads visitors up the hillside to the family, should one want to be that close.

Four tombstones in a row, with small American flags stuck in the grass in front of them.

Calvin’s and Grace’s graves, as well as their two sons’ on either side of them.

A monumental tombstone for Coolidge's grandpa at least ten feet tall.

Though Calvin was President, a much taller marker was provided for his grandfather, Vermont Congressman Calvin Galusha Coolidge.

With that 24th Presidential grave-sighting added to our tally, we headed north toward the highway that would take us west to Vermont’s border. Before we reached our turnoff, on the left was a mother/son entrepreneurial duo running a lemonade stand in their front yard. The 75-cent price tag might’ve frightened Coolidge away, but to Anne it was a fair bargain, especially at today’s grocery prices. I’m finicky about sugary drinks, so I pulled over and let her enjoy herself.

A lemonade stand with Mom and son holding green poster-board signs in front of their faces because we are internet strangers.

The American free market in action!

Anne holds up a plastic cup of lemonade in the car.

A toast to a Vermont experience nearly completed!

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my faint signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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