Calvin Coolidge, Calvin Coolidge. What do I know about Calvin Coolidge?

Calvin Coolidge, Calvin Coolidge. What do I know about Calvin Coolidge?

Right off the bat, and allowing one quick peek at the list I have here, two things:

1. He was the 29th president of the United States (30th if you count Cleveland twice).

2. He never talked.

Coolidge's famous taciturnity is recalled in the equally famous -- and likely untrue -- story involving Dorothy Parker. Parker and Coolidge were at a dinner party when she said -- allegedly -- "Mr. Coolidge, I've made a bet against a man who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you."

"You lose," Coolidge replied. Supposedly.

His (alleged) response when Ethel Barrymore asked him about his silence was, "I think the American people want a solemn ass as a president, and I think I will go along with them."

True or not, I can't help liking the guy.

I also like the way he became the chief executive. When President Warren G. Harding died while traveling in California, a messenger brought the news to Vice President Coolidge, who was visiting his family home in Vermont.

The house didn't have a telephone, or even electricity, for that matter, hence the messenger. Coolidge reportedly was sleeping when the messenger arrived, but he got dressed and came downstairs to meet the reporters who somehow, in spite of everything, had gotten the news and shown up. Coolidge's father was, providentially, a justice of the peace, and at 2:47a.m. he administered the presidential oath to his son.

Then President Coolidge went back to the former vice president's bed.

I like him more and more.

This is fortunate, because I will read some words spoken by the 29th (or 30th) president at Beehive Bookstore in Delaware on Feb. 16.

The occasion is the Beehive's Presidential Celebration, during which volunteers are reading the words of each American president, beginning with George Washington and ending on March 2 with the words of our current leader, Barack Obama.

I'd like to say I chose Coolidge because he supported the Kellogg-Briand Pact or because he was born on the Fourth of July or because he owned a raccoon named Rebecca, but I chose him mostly because Eisenhower was taken.

Not that I'm such an Eisenhower fan. I thought of him first because he was the president when I was a child. As an elementary school student in a conservative, Wonder Bread town, I thought affection for Eisenhower was global. Wasn't Eisenhower going to save us from the Adam bomb? (That's how I spelled it in my mind. I thought, without putting it into so many words, that it had something to do with original sin.)

I concede that at age 7 I wasn't a discerning participant in the democratic process. It really came down to this: Eisenhower had been the president for as long as I could remember, in much the same way as my grandfather had been my grandfather. They even looked a little bit alike. Was I to be against my own grandfather?

Anyway, my point is, I dawdled too long, Eisenhower was taken and I chose Coolidge because I like Dorothy Parker.

Now to find something snappy that he said. His speech to the Boy Scouts, in which he tells the young men all the good, manly traits they should be developing? (No mention of girls; this was 1924.) His lecture at Howard University, also in 1924, during which he said, " We may find the evidences that the black man's probation on this continent was a necessary part in a great plan by which the race was to be saved to the world?" I don't think so.

If anyone needs me, I'll be studying Coolidge lore. Did you know that when the Coolidges didn't want to be overheard, they spoke in sign language? Really, this man had many facets. Yes, he was a Republican and perhaps his grasp of history was somewhat revisionist (also I may have misunderstood what he was driving at when he spoke at Howard) but don't a quiet wit and a raccoon named Rebecca count for something?

Presidential programs begin every day -- weekdays and weekends -- at noon at Beehive Books, 25 N. Sandusky St. in Delaware.

Margo Bartlett is a ThisWeek staff writer. She can be reached via e-mail at