Home Economics 101

From the pages of the May 30, 1925 New Yorker, and the pen (or typewriter) of one John C. Emery, a mildly funny bit on how Calvin and Grace Coolidge practice what they preach in terms of thrift:

I have just returned from a week-end in the White House with Calvin and Mrs. Coolidge and of course you want to know if Calvin is as economical in running his household as he is in running the government. Well, he is – or even more so. After two days with him, I thought I’d never go back to my old lavish ways. I mentally resolved to cut out smoking so many expensive cigarettes – think of it, fifteen cents for only twenty of them – but I guess my old habits were too much ingrained. Anyway, I’m smoking Pall Malls now instead of Camels.

The President’s invitation – written on the back of a used laundry list- was not to be denied, of course, and I arrived in Washington early the following Saturday morning and took a cab up to the Coolidges’ although I could just as well have walked.

Calvin himself was standing out on the porch when the cab drew up. “We’ve let the footman go,” he said in explanation. “He wanted a raise in pay.” Cal gave me a funny look when he saw me tip the driver a quarter. “If you’re going to give him all that anyway, he might as well carry your grip upstairs,” he suggested.

Mrs. Coolidge herself had tidied up the spare room – the others were all let to roomers. “I hope you’ll be comfortable,” she said as she greeted me with her heart warming smile. “The sheets are a little worn and we’re short of towels, I’m afraid. I’ve wanted to pick up some in the sales –“ “Not this year,” the President interjected. “Remember those curtains you bought for the East Room. That’s enough extravagance for one year.”

After assuring them that I would be most comfortable, I washed up – fortunately I had picked up a few bars of soap in the Waldorf-Astoria- and then rejoined the Coolidges down stairs. “What do you think?” exulted Mrs. Coolidge. “We can go for a ride this morning. Mr. Rockefeller sent us a whole barrel of gasoline, and it came a few minutes ago. My! I’ve wanted to go driving, but with the price of gasoline where it is now –“ “Walking’s better for you anyhow,” declared Calvin, “except,” and he frowned slightly, “it wears out shoe leather.”

So, laughing gayly, we went out to the garage where Calvin cranked up the Ford after some little difficulty due to the fact that the engine hadn’t been run for a long time. We had a very pleasant ride, indeed, and I enjoyed it immensely. Calvin was able to shut the engine off entirely on several hills and once we caught onto a limousine that was passing us and it pulled us several miles. We returned to the White House shortly after noon thoroughly ravenous for the appetizing wienerwurst left over from the night before. “Save your appetite,” cautioned Calvin. “We’re going over to the Hoovers’ for dinner to-night.”

Calvin had to work all afternoon so Mrs. Coolidge and I walked around through the Capitol and other famous buildings. On our way home we went a little out of our way to go through a little city park where we were able to find a complete set of the evening papers and even a New York Times. “Calvin will be so pleased,” cried Mrs. Coolidge, happily. “We stopped having the papers delivered – the cost really runs up appallingly in a year. We usually can find a paper or two in the park or on the street car, but we don’t often find a full set.”

Back at the White House, we found Calvin waiting for us in the half-dark of twilight, so we pulled our chairs close to the windows where we could read our papers without burning up a lot of expensive electricity. When it was too dark to read any more, we all went to our rooms to dress for dinner at the Hoovers’.

“We’ll walk to the Hoovers’,” said Calvin, when I joined him at the foot of the stairs. “It’s hardly more than a mile.” So off we went.

We had a very enjoyable time with the Secretary of Commerce and his wife, and those from the White House particularly ate most heartily. Calvin even slipped a couple of biscuits into his pocket to take home. I was glad that the Hoovers had their car ready to take us home; I was a little tired after so much walking. Even Calvin contemplated the soles of his shoes happily as we rode along.

In the morning we breakfasted on the two biscuits Calvin had saved from the Hoover dinner and some maple syrup which his father had sent down from Vermont. A box of sausage from an admirer arrived just as we were sitting down at the table, so this helped eke out the repast. Then we all went to church, of course. Coming home I noticed that a button was missing from Calvin’s vest, but that may have had no significance.

I had to take an early train to New York so we hurried home from church and had a simple dinner of hamburger, bread, butter, water, and a pie which someone had sent. Then I packed my traveling bag and bade the Coolidges good-bye. “Do come again sometime,” urged the Coolidges hospitably.


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