It was a small house and I suppose, the few occupants within would not have made much of an impact on the world of national politics.
Politics were never a general discussion around the supper table. Meals were not much talking and more just eating. But there was a few times when the subject of the President of the United States came up and my father,over his cup of Folger’s instant coffee, would voice his opinion.
His opinion, usually accompanied by a disgusted snort, centered on Herbert Hoover from my earliest recall. I remember his disgusted, “car in every garage, a hen on every table” as being Hoover’s biggest lie. Of course, my father tailored every quote to his own liking. I don’t think Herbert Hoover cared if there was a hen on every table or not.
FDR was another subject. Dad did not say much, because he had two brothers and God only knows how many nephews and cousins off fighting World War 11, so apparently it was a sign of patriotism to support the President and if you couldn’t say anything nice , say nothing at all.
Harry Truman was another matter altogether. My father did not like him, the First Lady was ugly to the core and his daughter could not play the piano, no matter what the President had to say…and he was a damn fool for making such a racket about it. He had no use, whatsoever, for any of them. Subject closed.
He liked Ike. Maybe because the President had been in the military… I am not sure his reason and usually he did not have to have a reason.
There was quite a revelation in the kitchen one day when Dad started singing the praises of a local Senator. I stopped short because I had never heard him pass out praise quite as enthusiastically as this. Edmund Muskie. He was a good man.
“Beryl, but he’s a Democrat,” my mother protested. “Don’t matter, he’s a good man. Says what he thinks and does what he says he’s going to do.” Subject closed.
Not quite. “No one is going to be better than Margaret Chase Smith,” my mother muttered as she shifted the dishes around on the cupboard counter top. “Maybe so,” Dad conceded,” but watch this Muskie guy.”
Well, politics never did play that big a part in the Martin household. There were those few discussions. I was in high school when Russia’s Stalin died. I still remember that I thought we were free at last. There were no more countries wanting to make war with us. I felt like there was a safety net all around me. No more worries!
Dad was more interested in local politics and town meetings than the national scene. He was contented to hear that Harry Swift was still a selectman; Roy Millett still the road commissioner. He read the town report muttering at some of the items on the agenda and occasionally I heard “damn fools think that is going to pass?” and my mother hushing him up.
One of the few times I saw my father upset at the national level was three years before he passed away. I was married and living on the farm in Maine. I was in the kitchen and the four kids were all in bed. As soon as I saw his car drive in, I switched on the kettle for his cup of coffee.
He came in, sat in his favorite blue rocker, balanced the cup of coffee on the nearby windowsill. I pulled out the cherry/ivory plastic covered chair from Sears at the kitchen table and we exchanged a few words on the weather and how it was getting colder. He sat his coffee cup down, put both hands together and shook his head. “I don’t know what the world is coming to, Muff,” he said, ” He was the best President I have ever seen in office and they had to go shoot him. Damn sad.”
There wasn’t much to say after that, but for the first time I saw my father as a vulnerable person. He could not believe that someone would shoot the President in his lifetime…if that, what next?
His feeling of safety had left him. Some things stay the same…different times, different circumstances, but still, some things stay the same.