First of all, thanks to those who were noticeably concerned by my column’s absence in this space last week. I was on vacation and it was fun time with family.
My wife and 9-year-old grandson accompanied me to Washington, D.C., for some good old sightseeing. It was a great opportunity to make some memories and learn more about our country’s history.
We visited the Smithsonian and saw all the major monuments. One of my grandson’s great-grandfathers served in WW II and another was in the Korean War, so I wanted him to see those memorials, as well.
The National Mall was packed and the weather was almost springlike. But it was the stop at Mount Vernon, on our way into the nation’s capital, that left such an impression.
Walking the same grounds and visiting the house of our first president is awe-inspiring. Known as the father of our country, George Washington was a military leader, a landowner and a patriot. But did you know that by the time he was inaugurated in 1789, he had just one natural tooth left in his mouth?
Dentist, the menace
Washington seemed to always have a quiet, somber, all-business demeanor. In the many photos taken of Gen. Washington, he rarely smiled. Was that because he always had a toothache?
The folks at Mount Vernon have a special section set aside to deal with our first president’s need for dentures. In many of Washington’s writings, he informed family and friends of pain and aching teeth.
He had many sets of false teeth made, but he never used or had a set of false teeth made of wood. Haven’t you always heard he had a set of wooden teeth? The folks at Mount Vernon say that’s just a tall tale.
As I walked through the grounds, I kept hoping one of the interpreters would exclaim “no wooden dentures and that’s the tooth.” That’s why they don’t let guys like me conduct tours.
During his presidency, he spent a week in Charleston on his Southern Tour. It was at the Old Exchange Building at the foot of Broad Street that Washington was entertained with dinners, concerts and dances.
Can’t you just imagine that some she-crab soup and/or grits would have been tasty and soothing to President Washington’s aching gums? Again, no historical record of such, just me, again, wondering.
Duty and Honor
While President Washington lacked much of a dental plan, he had definite ideas about his hopes for this country. He could have been a king, but he chose to be a citizen. He wanted nothing to do with the notion of royalty or references to Your Highness. He preferred the title of “Mr. President.”
Washington was not fond of political partisanship. He felt party loyalty was not necessary because it encumbered the ability to debate the issues freely.
He initially turned down the $25,000 salary. He was afraid it would damage the image of a public servant.
It was a quote I saw on the wall of the many exhibits on the Mount Vernon grounds that stopped me cold. Washington once said, “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respectable stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions.”
That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? And without getting all political and everything, it’s a statement that has some teeth to it.