Massachusetts to Texas: The Bush ExperiencePosted: June 29, 2011
“He just calls himself a Texan. But he’s happy, that’s all I can say.”
President Bush spent only the first year of his life at his birthplace in Milton, at the Victorian house on Adams Street where I stopped by last Friday and met Dean, the current resident of 46 years. In 1925 the family moved to even ritzier Greenwich, CT, and then George graduated from nearby Yale and headed 2,000 miles south, where he found oil success in West Texas.
The Milton house lies a few miles up the road from the Adams birthplaces in Quincy (then Braintree), practically across the street from the Lincoln replica at the Forbes mansion, and a few towns over from JFK’s birthplace in Brookline. (Full posts on these sites are coming soon.) You could say Norfolk County has presidential history to spare; Bruce Manin of Milton’s Diamonds & Fine Jewelry shop certainly thinks so. I spoke with Bruce about Bush, the Suffolk Resolves, and the so-called “reddest town in the bluest state.” Skip below for the interview in full.
What’s your name?
Have you worked in Milton long?
Yep—been here 36 years.
How many presidents were born here?
There were four presidents born in Norfolk County, it’s the only county in the United States. You got the two Adams presidents, John and John Quincy, who are on Adams Street. Mile and a half down the road is where their big homestead is. George Bush is about 1,050 yards this way. And the fourth one is John Kennedy. He’s in Brookline, but it’s in the same county.
How do people here feel about that? How do you feel about that?
I think it’s very cool. You know, this is the birthplace. Milton, Massachusetts, is where they signed the Suffolk Resolves, which is a precursor to the Declaration of Independence, signed two years prior in 1774
Do people pay a lot of attention to that sort of history here?
Oh, around here they do! Because half the people here are straight off the Mayflower. So they really pay attention to it! We got a lot of history here! It’s nice to know, that’s all.
Why do people care so much about these sites?
The history part is kind of nice. Remember, our country is not very old. You go to Venice and all the buildings are five-, six-, eight-hundred years old. This one, the oldest thing is a couple hundred years, that’s it! So, that kind of preservation, there’s not a lot of that around, and it’s nice to see it, because otherwise you tend to forget it.
How long was George H. W. Bush here?
He was only here a year or two, from what I understand, and then he went to Connecticut, and then he moved to Texas many years later and called himself a Texan. Remember: he lived here, he lived in Connecticut, he graduated from Yale. But he’s a Texan! [throws hands up]
I got the first day of issue when he was elected president, the first day of issue stamps in the post office. That I have.
What are those?
First day of issue. When a president is—they send out the first stamps right from the post offices where Quayle and Bush were born or lived. So I got that here in Milton, that was a very cool thing.
Is the town proud to have produced a president?
Oh, yeah! Course it is! But it certainly didn’t do very much for him. The town in general is a Republican town in a Democratic state. It’s probably the reddest town in the bluest state. That’s what we say as a joke. But it is true, it’s absolutely true. This town is a very conservative town, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that it is Mayflower people here. A lot of people here, their families are right off the boat. Six generations later, but they’re still here. So, that probably doesn’t change very much.
Do many people pass through asking about the Bush birthplace?
No. Most people want to know where he is in Kennebunkport. So that’s where he is now. And again, the other thing, people think he’s a Texan even though he was born here, which I find, again, amusing. He just calls himself a Texan. But he’s happy, that’s all I can say.