Random Thoughts

A new holiday

... let's hear it for Millard Fillmore

by Jerry Norton

"Presidents' Day" has recently been recognized and I would like to propose a remedy for this vague day which was created in order to provide a three-day holiday for government employees. The names of "The Father Of Our Country" and "The Great Emancipator" have been expunged, leaving only one national observance which bears the name of an individual.

In a spirit of public service your writer proposes that we once again establish the dignity of this office with the creation of a day which will bear the name of a President. To this end may I humbly suggest the person so honored be my all-time favorite, our thirteenth Chief Executive, Millard Fillmore.

I know ... there are many among us who would treat this suggestion lightly, as this rather obscure President has been, by a few, lampooned and made the subject of considerable derision. I, however, am prepared to make the case that this gentleman should be enshrined in our pantheon of American greats. In support of this bold suggestion, I herewith submit the following little-known facts:

President Fillmore was instrumental in the introduction of indoor plumbing for the White House - namely the sit-down bathtub which greatly enhanced the personal hygiene of its occupants. This noteworthy stroke provided for the later installation of the flush toilet which rendered the chamber pot obsolete and lessened the work load for the help in that stately building. This is not to say that Fillmore personally invented this device - that system, of course, belongs to one Sir Thomas Crapper who obtained the invention and the pattern from one of his much older employees.

Fillmore's further achievements include the installation into the White House of the cooking stove which replaced the open hearth in the preparation of meals for its inhabitants. It should also be noted that he dispatched a Navy exploratory expedition to the islands off South America in search of guano (an agricultural fertilizer derived from bird droppings) which enhanced both the quality and quantity of American farm production. So you see he was a driving force for our health and comfort on both ends of the American digestive tract.

One last kudo for my hero --- one of his efforts is still being enjoyed in today's economy because he sent Commodore Perry to Japan to open trade with that medieval society. As a result of that visit you are now privileged to tool around New England in your state-of-the-art Toyota.

He was altogether a hail fellow and, if he had not gotten mixed up in that Compromise of 1850 slavery thing, he might have received better press down through the years. Anyway, he's my guy and it's time we all got on his bandwagon.

Incidentally, my second choice for this honor would be Fillmore's successor and New Hampshire's favorite son, Franklin Pierce.


March 7, 2008


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