(Not So) Great Presidential Moments


- Last, dying gasp of 9th US President William Henry Harrison, who died in April 1841 after just one month in office due to developing pneumonia after his lengthy inaugural address.

- Interestingly, his grandson, Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd US President, delivered the briefest inaugural address, saying simply: "I accept ... now let's get out of this damn frigid Washington air!"


With the inauguration of the 44th President still fresh in our minds -- although the oath of office administered by Chief Justice John Roberts was such a jumbled mess of words that it is unclear whether Obama was sworn in as US President or as the next vice chairwoman of the Daughters of the American Revolution -- I thought it appropriate at this time to begin a series of short entries entitled "Great Moments of the Lesser Presidents."

By lesser presidents, I'm referring of course to the Van Burens, and the Taylors, and the Fillmores, and the Pierces, and the Tafts, and the Warren G. Hardings. You know ... all the guys that aren't on Mt. Rushmore, and aren't on any form of US currency, and are completely and utterly forgotten when schoolchildren try to recite in order the US Presidents. (In fact, they're sometimes even forgotten by the folks who write the textbooks.)

You know, the forgotten presidents who are only remembered in the obscure townships in which they were born, like James Buchanan, who was born in Cove Gap, PA, where each April 23, on his birthday, a pie throwing competition is held to symbolize nothing of any great significance.

So, without further delay:


Great Moments of the Lesser Presidents

This week's entry concerns our 30th President, Calvin Coolidge - "Silent Cal" - known for his habit of taking a nap in the afternoon and for saying so few words when he was awake.

Despite his conservative word count, he was considered perhaps the wittiest of the US Presidents, choosing his meager number of words to deliver real zingers! In fact, it is believed that he invented the "Knock-Knock" joke one afternoon after napping in the Oval Office. According to records held at the National Joke & One-Liner Museum, Coolidge awoke that afternoon and immediately buzzed his secretary on the intercom, saying "Knock, knock."

"Who's there?" replied the secretary.

"Z," was the President's response.

"Z who?" asked the secretary.

"Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...." came the reply from the Oval Office. Apparently Coolidge had fallen back to sleep.


President Coolidge was known for saying so few words that there's a famous story of him one evening attending a Presidential dinner party that goes something like this: A female guest at the party approached the President and said that earlier in the day she had made a bet with a friend that she could get him to say more than two words.

To which Silent Cal's reply was: "You lose."


This installment of Great Moments of the Lesser Presidents was brought to you by the United States Peanut Butter Council (USPBC), which asks you to forget about all the warnings you've been hearing recently from the FDA and to make yourself a PB&J sandwich today!


Jack Sheedy


Next week's installment: Franklin Pierce, 14th President, delivers his inaugural address from memory ... without notes, without cue cards, and without actually swearing to the oath of office due to religious reasons. So help me God!

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