Old enough to vote
the Spirit of Tehachapi
Sometimes one finds themselves doing things that make people say, “Why would you want to do that?” For instance, I, not long ago decided to memorize, in chronological order, our forty-four presidents. . . and I did it.
I sort of had a headstart for I was born when Calvin Coolidge was President. Old “silent Cal” was famous for metering out his spoken words as if he had to pay for each of them personally. Of course, I was never aware of his term of office as Herbert Hoover was sworn in as President the following March 4th, 1929 when I was only six months old and wasn’t interested in politics. Nor was I ever aware of Herbert Hoover being blamed for the country’s problems after the crash of ’29 plunged this nation into the depression that followed. Later on, though, I simply remembered who was elected next. That cut fifteen out of the forty-four Chief Executives that I had to learn. Of course, George Washington was easy; everyone knows that!
In November of 1932 my mother brought home a picture of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and said he was the new President. I was four and very excited except I didn’t know why except that everyone else seemed so happy. I recall, in later years, people rehashing that election campaign quoting Hoover as saying that if Roosevelt were to be elected, grass would grow in the streets. Then Roosevelt had replied that if Hoover were to be elected there wouldn’t be any streets!
By 1936, when I was eight I recall someone calling to my mother, “Maude! Did you vote?”
She had replied, “Yes, and I voted right, too!” My parents were Democrats so I gather she voted for FDR. He ran against Alf Landon that time. I, even at that young age, was enthralled by Roosevelt’s “golden tongued orator voice.” It was almost musical the way he spoke each word as if it were a precious jewel to be pronounced correctly and handled carefully.
In 1940 when I was twelve and in the 7th Grade at Tehachapi Grammar School, Roosevelt ran against Wendell Wilkie. Mr. Wilkie was a corporate executive and had never held a public office. Our 7th Grade teacher, Mr. Clinton, was a Wilkie man and actually extoled his merits to us, his 7th Graders. I wonder if Mr. Wells, then our principal, knew that.
My objection, formed in my twelve year old wisdom, found that when I saw Mr. Wilkie in the newsreels that the BeeKay Theatre always ran before the movie, he was violent in his speech and used an explosive manner. His hair fell over his eyes and he shouted rather than speaking. I didn’t like him. Then, when he lost and my parents listened to his concession speech on the radio, he spoke gently and promised his support of Roosevelt. My father, said, at that time, “If he’d have talked that way in his campaign, he’d have won.”
Earlier that that year I recall my mother talking about a Reader’s Digest article entitled, NO THIRD TERM FOR ROOSEVELT. There probably was one about his running for his fourth term later in 1944 too, but I never read it..
By this time we school students remembered no President except Roosevelt. So in the fall of 1944, when I was sixteen, he ran against Thomas Dewey. There again, I did not like Dewey’s looks because he had a Hitler mustache. He, I believe, was a brilliant man, but this was during the wind up of World War II and he had the same mustache style as Hitler! I never remembered what he said about the state of our union, but, oh, that mustache! Ah, my sixteen year old wisdom. Other of my high school classmates were not as politically ignorant as I was but it’s amazing at what one
Of course, we were shocked when, on April 12, 1945, it was announced at Tehachapi High School that our President had died. Just one month before victory in Europe and four month before the surrender of Japan and the end of World War II.
Harry Truman, the Vice President, took over the reins and knew his way around Congress. The thing that bothered me most was his flat sounding way of speaking without any vocal inflection. He got the point across. He was no golden tongued orator but he was an honest man. I never got to vote for him even though he was elected in his own right in 1948, as I was only twenty that year.
I read that early in Truman’s term, he called Herbert Hoover who was staying at a hotel in Washington, D. C. He asked Hoover, “Mr. President, I was wondering if I could call on you at your hotel today?”
Hoover immediately replied, “Oh, no, Mr. President, it is I that should come to you!”
Truman replied, “ That’s what I thought you’d say. I have a limousine on the way over to pick you up!”
That was the beginning of what future presidents called The President’s Club whereby the former presidents would get together and talk things out. There is a book entitled, The Presidents’ Club by
Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. It’s worth reading. Old “give ‘em hell Harry” started it.
Since I had only been twenty in 1948, the first president I was to vote for was Eisenhower. He was a Republican!
Through the years I gained a little more knowledge and was able to look beyond physical traits and mannerisms of those who seek election in our land. I did enjoy President Kennedy’s New England accent. It brought one up with a start in contrast to Lyndon Johnson’s Texas drawl as he assumed office. By that time I had gained a smattering of knowledge and listened to what those men had to say.
Just the other day someone said to me, “Let me make this perfectly clear!” I laughed and said, “Nixon used to say that!” The reason I laughed is because he took so long making it perfectly clear that I would lose track of the issue. Fortunately there are more knowledgeable people handling our country’s affairs than I.
I guess my next memorization fete may be the thirteen colonies or better yet, the 2nd and 3rd verses of the Star Spangled Banner. No one knows those!