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Silent Cal Finally Gets His Due Back Home In Northampton

August 5, 1986

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (AP) _ Native son Calvin Coolidge may have gotten a bum rap from the town where he started out in politics, says an organizer of events in his honor.

″It was something I just could never understand - why we had a native son and we never seemed to give the man his due,″ said former Northampton Chamber of Commerce President Russ A. Kotfila.

Coolidge, the nation’s 30th president, wasn’t honored in his own town until 1983 - 50 years after he died - when Kotfila decided it was high time Northampton started bragging about its link to history and began the Calvin Coolidge Annual Commemorative Celebration.

He blamed the half-century of neglect on Coolidge’s unassuming manner.

″It was easy for people to forget about him,″ Kotfila said Monday.

In this year’s weeklong Coolidge celebration, the late president’s son John Coolidge and his wife will lay a wreath next Sunday at a monument to his father on the courthouse lawn.

The observances began Sunday with ″The I Do Not Choose to Run″ foot race and an ice cream social featuring former First Lady Grace Coolidge’s favorite coffee ice cream, butterscotch sauce and powdered malted milk concotion.

But most of the week is devoted to educational programs about Coolidge, who was famous for not saying much. One show is called ″More Than Two Words.″

Coolidge was born in Plymouth, Vt., in 1872, but moved to Northampton to practice law after graduating from nearby Amherst College in 1895. He was mayor from 1909 to 1910 before working his way up to Massachusetts state senator, governor and vice president. He became president in 1923 upon Warren G. Harding’s death, was elected president in 1924 but did not seek a second term. He and his wife, Grace, then retired to Northampton.

The local library began collecting his papers in 1920 when he was nominated for the vice presidency, and in 1939, six years after his death, a bridge built across the Connecticut River was named in his honor, but that was about all of the local recognition he received until 1983.

″When we first started this whole thing, someone said, ‘Anne, you can’t resurrect a man after 50 years.’ Of course, he was wrong. We aren’t the only ones responsible for resurrecting him. President Reagan is one,″ said Anne M. Driscoll, another organizer.

Director Blaise Bisaillon of the local Forbes Library, which has a collection of Coolidge’s papers, said Reagan’s speechwriters frequently call to verify wise sayings attributed to Coolidge which Reagan is fond of quoting.

″He just represents all that is the strength that people like to think is uniquely American,″ he said. ″If there is any figure in American history who was undeniably honest, it was Calvin Coolidge. He was as pure as the Vermont snow.″

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