As I Knew Them – Part III

When we last left Sen. James E. Watson’s memoirs, he was rhapsodizing about the effect Coolidge’s first message to Congress had on him, and how he recognized the new president’s performance as impressive and perfectly suited to the needs of the country at the time. For this installment, I’ll turn to a more light-hearted anecdote from the Coolidge White House.

Speaking of breakfast, I may say in this connection that President Coolidge served better breakfasts than any other incumbent of the White House in my time. He always had a cereal, cakes with Vermont maple syrup, sausage and bacon, all served up with a good strong coffee and thick cream. He served more breakfasts than any other president and usually had from eight to ten senators at a time, and on other occasions a certain number of the House of Representatives.

I had a very laughable experience at one of these breakfasts. The President permitted his favorite dogs, white collies about as high as the table, to stay in the room while meals were being served. On this particular occasion, one of these dogs came up to my side, and I patted his head and stroked him, after which I looked around to speak to my neighbor on the left. Instantly the dog reached over and “lapped” my two sausages out of my plate, gobbled them up, and demurely stood wagging his tail for more. When I called attention to it, all the senators roared. I told the President that I thought he ought to teach his dogs better manners than to forage off the senators, and that they ought to get their food from the members of the House instead.

The President, without batting an eye, said: “Waiter, get Senator Watson four more sausages and bring him four more pancakes,” so that the dog did not keep me from getting enough food at that meal.

When only a small company were present at dinner, these dogs always came in and wandered about and under the table while the meal was in progress. The President took sugar in his coffee, and after the contents had been consumed, he always held the cup down at the side of his chair and permitted the dogs to lick the sugar out of the bottom.

Will Rogers, after having had one of these meals with Coolidge, told his audience in the theater that night in his inimitable way of the experience. He said that the dogs got so much and there was so little on the table that he thought for time that it would be necessary for him to get down on all fours and crawl up to the President’s side in order to get enough to eat. This produced great laughter, that part that referred to “the little on the table” vastly amusing the crowd because of its inferential reference to Coolidge’s vigorously abstemious habits.