Presidential Landmarks Presentation GivenFeb 25, 2021 06:00AM ● By Pamela Johnson
Pictured above: submitted photo of the Kennedy convention in 1960.
Despite the doors of the library building being closed to the public, the Bellingham Library continues to host author events. Indeed, Zoom has become the way many of us access all sorts of events these days. The biggest challenge is that if we would like a copy of the author’s book, we are going to have to order it from our local libraries, or head over to that company that shares the name of a giant South American river.
David Kruh wrote the book Presidential Landmarks with his father, Louis Kruh. The younger Kruh brought a lifetime of visiting historical sites to his virtual library presentation on February 10. When David was growing up on Long Island, he regularly went with his father to nearby Sagamore Hill at Oyster Bay, the home of Teddy Roosevelt. After writing a book for Arcadia Publishing on one of his favorite spots in Boston, Scollay Square, Kruh turned to his passion for U.S. presidential history to create a pictorial and narrative history of the presidents up to the era of the senior George Bush. (Presidential Landmarks was published in 1992.)
For this library presentation, Kruh focused on the presidents who were New England natives, beginning with Quincy native John Adams. Kruh noted that until the election of George W. Bush, son of President George H.W. Bush, John Adams was the only president who saw his son also elected to the presidency.
Throughout the presentation Kruh shared tidbits of trivia and explained nuances of the American political process. The process for electing our presidents has never been simple, straightforward, or “clean,” even in the “good old days.”
Keeping with the theme of presidential landmarks, Kruh showed photos of various presidents’ homes, as well as the church in Quincy where both John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams are buried. We got glimpses of political posters from different presidential campaigns.
New Hampshire native Franklin Pierce was known as the northern president with southern sympathies, who hoped to bring Cuba into the fold as a slaveholding U.S. state. Born near the Canadian border, Chester Arthur from Vermont faced similar “birther” rumors as those that plagued President Barack Obama. Arthur became a reformer and worked to reduce the national debt. President James Garfield was a champion of civil rights, and ended up assassinated. Kruh showed a drawing conveying the events of that assassination.
Calvin Coolidge, “Silent Cal,” also came from Vermont and was known as the law and order candidate. Stories of Coolidge were particularly colorful, stressing the lengths to which he went to keep his mouth shut and his determination to work hard. Apparently when asked what his hobbies were, he replied, “Holding office.” Ironically, “Silent Cal” held more press conferences than presidents who came before or after him.
John F. Kennedy was the next New England-born president, and Kruh shared photos of JFK’s birthplace in Brookline, as well as an iconic photo of JFK in the open car that he rode in the day he was assassinated in Dallas. The JFK library, in Boston, offers a tremendous number of “landmarks” within its walls, including a section of the Berlin wall, which had been erected during JFK’s presidency.
Kruh pointed out that in 1988, when George H.W. Bush faced off with Michael Dukakis, whichever candidate had won, we would have had a native New Englander in the White House. Bush of course won the election. We saw the “summer White House” in Kennebunkport, Maine, the vacation home of the Bush family. This was also, of course, the summer White House for George W. Bush, the son, who became president in 2001. Kruh shared photos of both presidents, father and son, and noted some of their challenges: war in the Middle East, the 9-11 attacks, and the distinction of being only the second family of father and son who both served as President.
When questioned, Kruh agreed that while he knew a lot about the presidents to begin with, writing the book required a tremendous amount of research. We got the impression that this research, shared with his father, was a labor of love. What a great way for father and son to share time together doing what they love, and ending up with a book to share with the rest of us.
by Marjorie Turner Hollman, Contributing Writer