11/27/03 12:00AM By Cyndy Bittinger
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(Host) According to commentator Cyndy Bittinger Thanksgiving had special significance for Calvin Coolidge.
(Bittinger) It is not often that the White House has a descendant from the Pilgrim Fathers, but in Calvin Coolidge it did.
His forebears sailed with Governor John Winthrop to the new Massachusetts Colony in 1630. John Coolidge began his life in America as a farmer in Watertown and was a deputy to the General Court. His descendants migrated northward to Plymouth, Vermont after the Revolutionary War. The first town buildings were log houses which were still standing when Calvin Coolidge was a boy, though by then they were used as shelters for domestic animals.
Thus when President Coolidge spoke of the pilgrims with reverence, he was speaking of his own family line.
"If at any time our rewards have seemed meager, we shall find our justification for Thanksgiving by carefully comparing what we have with what we deserve. The little band of Pilgrims who first established this institution on the shore by Plymouth Rock had no doubts. If their little colony of devoted souls, when exiled to a foreign wilderness by persecution, cut in half by disease, surrounded by hostility and threatened with famine, could give thanks how much more should this great nation, less deserving than the Pilgrims yet abounding in freedom, peace, security and plenty, now have the faith to return thanks to the author of all good and perfect gifts."
The holidays were also a time to spend with family and our 30th U.S. President wanted to draw them close by.
For Thanksgiving, in 1925, Calvin Coolidge invited his father to the White House. He offered a fine meal and the best medical care of the capital. Since his father was suffering with heart disease, this seemed a good idea.
The president had written, "You and John and I are all that is left. You have worked hard for me and I do not want to put any more burdens on you. The House is open and the invitation given, every medical or other attention are at your disposal."
The tough old Vermonter refused. Earlier in the year the 79 year old had traveled to his son's presidential inauguration by horse to the train station in Ludlow and then on to Washington, D.C., but now he was slowing down.
Calvin wrote his father, "Fearing we may be disappointed in our wish to have you here Thanksgiving we are sending you a few things and wish you a most pleasant day."
In Plymouth, the older gentleman sat down to a dinner of chicken fricassee, stewed onions, mashed turnips, cranberries, creamed potatoes, rice pudding, apple and mince pie, and milk.
A box of assorted fruits was sent by the White House.
Calvin accepted his father's decision but wrote, "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."
Coolidge continued, "It costs a great deal to be President."
This is Cyndy Bittinger, documenting the Coolidge legacy in Plymouth.
(Host) Cyndy Bittinger is executive director of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation.