A Puritan in Babylon: The Story of Calvin Coolidge

By William Allen White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
In Which Our Hero Takes His First Faltering Forward Steps Toward the Big Wide World

WHEN Calvin Coolidge came to Northampton in September, 1895, he made the final break with his past. His father and grandfather had been farmers and peace officers in and around Plymouth Notch for seventy-five years. His grandfather had entailed a piece of land for the youth, and the neighbors remember that his father was saddened by the boy's departure. Yet the father must have known when he took Calvin down to Ludlow with the calf that autumn day ten years before, that his little boy was lost to Plymouth and to Vermont. He hoped that the boy would "keep store"; preferably a drug store. Calvin demurred: "Well, you wouldn't want me to sell rum, would you, father?" And the slick answer turned away the elder man's wrath.1

Calvin Coolidge came to Northampton after spending a summer vacation on the farm following graduation. He has recalled that he read Walter Scott's poems during one of his vacations. He was an industrious boy. His education did not stop when he passed out of the front gate of Amherst. And it is well to note that in those post-college days he was reading "Shakespeare and Milton and found delight in the shorter poems of Kipling, Field and Riley."2

But when he set out definitely to make his fame and fortune in the big world, he gave up childish things. First of all he records that he had his college haircut shorn. The law was the dignified Delilah that took his carroty locks. Then, accompanied by an Amherst friend, he walked into the

____________________
1
Story printed in the newspapers at the father's death; revived when the son died; still currant in plymouth.
2
"Autobiography," p. 73.

-45-

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