Kash, C.M. Coolidge, Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, Cash*, who is this guy you ask? Well, because of my extensive research, while planning my book on Coolidge, entitled On the Tail of C. M. Coolidge…. The Life and Times of Cassius Marcellus Coolidge ©*, I can definitely tell you this: he just happens to be the “world’s most famous unknown artist” and as you will learn, he also lived a very dynamic life! Take note! This meandering road I’ve traveled while discovering “Kash”, has sometimes been pretty bumpy. So my friends buckle your seat belts because; the tale of how this Renaissance man, and his lovely daughter Marcie, came into my life is EASIER TO BEGIN THAN IT IS TO END THE BOOK!
The day that Kash Coolidge entered my life was actually one evening a few years back. As it so happened during that fateful evening I, along with our beautiful canine companion Sadie, was just being lazy lying sprawled out under the ceiling fan in the center path of the den floor. Sadie and I were the best of friends and we were just lying there munching on some popcorn while we were watching a rerun of a funny television show. It was then that the smell of popcorn lured my husband Mark into the room, claiming as he interrupted us, that he just wanted to pass through. Me, and my gal pal, we claimed our turf! We just stayed where we were and looked brazenfaced up at him. In our lazy and stubborn mood we were just daring him to ask us to move. (Sadie’s beautiful brown eyes were saying, “If you make me move, your house slippers are mincemeat”.) Of course Mark couldn’t help but give in to our blockade and was forced to zigzag his way through as he carefully stepped over me, and our gal pal Sadie.
While doing this bit of balancing act Mark said, “some one needs to write a book about that guy”. Without missing a toss ofpopcorn toSadie I said, “who, what guy”? He then said, “the guy who painted those pictures of dogs playing poker, there on the TV show”. Without giving it a second thought, to this I replied, “oh well, I will”. Thus with this bold comment, my years of trials and tribulations began between, “ Cash, Marcie and Me”.
As far as writing goes, I did have a little bit of experience writing a couple of tit for tats for local reading but, an undertaking such as this had always been my “someday” dream. Like everyone else taking on such a project, I have had my obstacles. My first problem was how do I, while living in the southern region of the U.S. research someone whose personal life was virtually unknown, and who was born and raised in the great north. Plus, “ Kash” happened to have been born over 150 years ago, to boot.
Add the fact that I own and work in a small printing business with my husband and I also had a part-time job at a local bookstore. If you can imagine, those particulars and my current job requirements have put a bit of restraint on my spare time to say the least. But also a hindrance was the fact that I am an old school type of person, and I was not very computer friendly. Just give me a pen and some paper to write on, and an old bookstore to rummage through on a cold and rainy Saturday morning and I’m happy. But, the problem with that was I wasn’t finding very much information to guide me in my discovery concerning Cash. Remember I live about 2,000 miles away from his hometown and also I had very little personal background to go on.
What’s a girl going to do? This question hit me especially hard when I was diagnosed with cancer. Listen to your body folks! I was lucky! My proactive doctor and my skilled surgeon went after my aggressive cancer and, with given grace I am still here. So what’s a girl going to do? Well I’ve pressed onward.
HOPE’S JUST AROUND THE CORNER
I was settling in for the long haul, and one of the first things I decided that I had to do was to make myself a sizable workspace. So to begin this process I went out and bought myself a comfortable, but cheap, office chair. Of course I had to have a place for my chair so, I took over the seldom used living room and in there, I set up three big fold up tables into a U shape, that way I figured that I could roll from table to table. This was a good decision, because ever since then these tables have been serving as a spacious and sturdy desk space. The room now, along with having the tables, is lined with nine bookshelves. I love books and I have been pretty lucky that my heavy- duty plastic shelves have not collapsed due to my numerous research books, maps and other materials that I have gradually collected and piled onto them. Importantly, my endless supply of storage bins have proven to be useful in keeping my written works and research away from doggie’s chew. (Sadie could shred paper better, and as fast, as a paper- shredding machine)
Of course by creating my work/writing space in the living room left me with no choice but to create a maze of long phone wires to run to my now necessary hand me down computer. So, first of all I ran a long phone cord up the far wall of the den, then across the ceiling and around the room and finally through the velvet curtained door of the den to reach the living room where it was then passed through a freestanding book- shelf to reach my old computer. Functional? Yes! But it was really the dog bed behind my office chair that finally made my room complete. I may be knee deep in books and research materials and it isn’t as pretty a Coolidge picture but it’s been “my space”!
As far as research goes, to be honest I did solicit the assistance of my husband to help me gain information into some of my initial contacts. To complicate things, I didn’t have a cell phone nor did we have a long distance provider for our landline so, I went out and bought myself some phone cards. Lift off! I could now begin calling and talking with various individuals across the nation.
This turned out to be a pretty entertaining experience because, I got to talk with some mighty lively characters and, because of the rapport between some of us, many of the conversations would get long and carried away. At first we might be talking about “Kash” and before you knew it some of our conversations turned into what you might call just plain ole friendly “kitchen talk”.
Also while doing my outreach I have written letters and numerous e-mails to various people and places and, to all of these helpful people and those in my future, I am continuously and personally grateful.
Mark, my husband, then went into his Sherlock mode. Thanks to him, one of my initial contacts was a very generous gentleman, who as it turned out happened to know Cash’s daughter Marcie, and ever since then I have been very grateful that he gave me a way to contact her. Yes, at this time Marcie was an older youngster and as you can surmise, Cash had to have been a younger oldster when she was born (wink, wink, that is another story).
In the beginning I was very apprehensive about contacting Marcie. But once having her phone number in hand: early one weekend afternoon I planned my introduction. I waited until Mark was taking a nap and while it was just Sadie there to listen, I took out the list of questions that I had previously prepared to ask Marcie. I then carefully and in order of importance laid my notepads out in front of me along with several pens (in case one stopped working) and I nervously called. After all, I was cold calling the daughter of the world’s most famous unknown artist and I was not sure what to expect.
Well, after introducing myself and we entered into our conversation I had no further need to be nervous because, Marcie was a very charming lady, and she graciously talked with me. Boy it was a good thing that I had bought a phone card with a lot of minutes on it because Marcie and I easily talked and talked and laughed and laughed and talked some more. Also through time and on an irregular basis there were many other calls. Some of my calls were not long or detailed for I would sometimes make a quick call just to ask her how she was doing. As it so happened, after some time of calling and sending greeting cards (I always sent her cards with cats or funny animals on the front), Marcie asked me to come for a visit and to stay with her.
Of course I accepted her invitation and I was so excited that I was actually going to go to California and meet Marcie in person that I couldn’t stop grinning. Some years ago I had previously lived in both San Francisco and Culver City, California, and I had also driven the most southern parts of the state so; my feet were going to be firmly grounded into the territory and my hopes were going to be high in the air when that big jet airliner sat down near the beautiful blue waters of San Diego, California.
What to Pack! I didn’t even know what to pack for my journey. Questions that probably only a woman might think of kept popping into my head! Questions like: what is her lifestyle? She sounded casual but would I be too casual for her liking? When I took her out to dinner would I need to dress up?
While doing my packing I double- checked my inventory! Money and charge card yes and yes. Camera, note pads, pens even my magnifying glass, packed! I was ready to meet Marcie in person, or so I thought. I sort of had an idea but I could never have been totally prepared for meeting this little piece of dynamite named, Marcie Coolidge.
Upon arriving in San Diego and after parking my rental car on Marcie’s short and narrow street, I nervously walked the sidewalk that ran along the flowering natural landscape of her front yard. It didn’t take me long to reach the steps of the setting porch, and then it was only a couple or three bounces and I was up the steps and on the porch and at her front door. I was really there! So I knocked on the screen door and out popped Marcie. There she was all five feet or so of her and she greeted me as casual as she came.
In the bright of day I couldn’t help but take notice of her big smile and the fact that she had eyes like her daddy’s and I knew then, that I was at the right house. In fact, she looked so much like her Dad that their similarity would have made him proud, and independent like her father, yes sir, the lady had it altogether. Even if Marcie was beyond retirement age she had a set life and you could tell that she was enjoying it.
Pinch me! For beyond my wildest dreams I was actually on Marcie’s front porch and after a quick introduction she said, “come on in”, and then held the door open for me. Just inside the door was her tidy book filled living room and to the left was her more casual sun porch. This sunroom was obviously her personal haven where she would read, watch TV and enjoy one of her favorite pastimes and that was to make needlepoint pillows.
It was in the sunroom where she offered me a place to set on her couch that had been nicely plumped up with her handmade colorful pillows. Almost all of the pillows had a cat design of one sort or another on it and had been made by Marcie herself. I sat down on the couch and Marcie sat nearby in her favorite chair whose side table was full of books and papers and whatnots. We had talked only a short while before she asked about my suitcase and when doing so she also reaffirmed her invitation for me to stay with her. (Not to be pushy, I had left my suitcase in the rental car.)
So the next thing I do is bring my case inside, and then Marcie casually lead me to and set me up in her simple extra bedroom. I had hardly set my suitcase down before she started showing me a few things of interest that she had laid out for my coming: all of which concerned her father, “Cash”. Wow, I couldn’t help it, I was humbled and feeling so privileged just to be there!
BUT HERE IS WHERE THE KICKERS SET IN...
Well, like all healthy looking women our thoughts turn to food. I told Marcie that I would run down to the nearby store to buy some snacks, drinks and etc. So, our little Marcie starts going through her fridge to make sure breakfast would be at hand for the next morning. As the inventory went along the egg check came. “Yes, we have plenty of eggs” she says. But me once being a victim of a bad egg, I double- checked the date on the carton. Then trying not to be rude I say, “ we can’t eat these, they are out of date”. “They will be ok”, she says. Me remembering my painful experience I then say, “ no we can’t, we might get sick”. So here I am, I have been here for less than an hour at the home of the daughter of the world’s most famous unknown artist and we are debating bad eggs. Well I prevailed. I now had buy “ eggs” on my list and we were both happy.
When I told Marcie that I was going to run to the store down the street, I forgot to tell her that I am one of those persons whose minute in the store turns to well, a long time for the person waiting. What Marcie had not told me yet was that a gentleman friend of hers was coming over to take us out to dinner in less than an hour.
She could never have imagined my being gone so long to a store. But, I wanted to make sure we had plenty of good eats, and I looked at everything on all the isles in my usual hypnotized state to find them.
Well imagine to my surprise when I arrived back to her house and found that the door was unlocked but nobody was at home. I didn’t know it at the time but, Marcie and her gentleman friend had left me behind, and I in turn ended up thinking that I had lost her. In the middle of my blunder I thought that she might have thought that I had gotten lost and had walked outside to find me. So I tear outside and start looking for her. I asked a few neighbors who were outside walking if they had seen her and they all had replied, “no they hadn’t”.
Oh, my goodness! Where was she! Can you imagine in my complete stupidity I actually thought that I had lost Marcie? Here I had flown over a thousand miles to meet and visit the daughter of the world’s most famous unknown artist and then thinking I had lost her! So not knowing what else to do, I take my faithful phone card to a phone booth and call my husband and in a frantic voice I tell him of my tale. He, who has even to this day always refused to go to the store with me, hardly said more than “ hum”. As I rambled on, he finally broke in between my babbling and he calmly said, “she’ll be back, she just went somewhere”.
So with my hubby’s assurance, back to Marcie’s I went. When I got there I waited on the porch and watched up and down the street then I went inside and paced around and waited and I would pick up a book off the coffee table and put it back down and look out the window. I love books but I could not even settle down to look through her interesting books, not even to refresh my memory as to the ones that I had sent to her.
So here I was, waiting for her like a parent on prom night when her gentleman friend finally drops her off. Like a teenager Marcie came casually waltzing through the front door saying “hi” and all I could say was “I’ve been looking for you”. She then went on to tell me that they were hungry and got tired of waiting for me so they went ahead to dinner. So there I was, I had missed out on a dinner that I did not even realized that I had invited to. (Egg on my face, huh.)
TOGETHER AGAIN - - -
So with her full dinner belly and my snacking to contentment, we sat down to visit. I once again sat on the comfy couch and she in her favorite chair and then the talking really began. I have to say that we didn’t only talk about her Dad, Marcie was a great independent soul and I also wanted to know her. So, there was a lot of plain ole girl talk, and we even talked about some personal things that I have chosen to never repeat in public. In fact, I’ve only told one confidential source, some of those tidbits. But after awhile of us talking it was getting late and nearing Marcie’s bedtime so, she took me into my room and opened it up for me.
THE BEDROOM CLOSET!!!!!
What was so special about the closet you say, well that is where she had placed numerous items of her fathers: including, believe it or not, a couple of original paintings. So like a couple of giddy school girls we carefully took them out of the closet, and having no other place to put them we propped them up on the bedroom floor.
Marcie was very nonchalant about it all, for after all she like cats better than dogs. But I was very highly impressed and so I clicked a few pictures. To see the actual paintings first hand and seeing Coolidge’s brush strokes and the true colors of his paintings was amazing. But even with the low lighting in the bedroom you could tell which one was the picture that Marcie, like a kid who couldn’t stay out of her fathers things, confessed that she had tried to touch up by herself by using some sort of varnish. That was also amazing.
I had a long first night at Marcie’s house. You see before we went to bed, she had handed me her Dad’s hand written personal diaries. Of course I was compelled to set up until the wee hours of the morning reading his over a century old personal notes, including his observations and thoughts about many things. A lot of his writing was in faded pencil, and that’s where my trusty magnifying glass that I had brought with me came in handy. When reading his diaries I was surprised to learn that Cassius Marcellus Coolidge wasa Mason. He had even written in one of his diaries “Royal Arch Degree Confirmed.” (Finding this out is what started me on my journeys down the corridors of freemasonry.)*
Boy that was an exciting night, and to top it all off I got to wake up with two of Coolidge’s original paintings propped casually around me! Then while I was lying there awake, I noticed that there was a nice morning light filtering through the windows that overlooked Marcie’s cactus garden in her small backyard. Seeing this, I took out my camera and tried to take some better pictures of the paintings. I am not a great photographer and my pictures are not very professional looking but that does not matter because they are still special to me. Can you imagine being given the opportunity to sleep and wake up with a couple of the original versions of dogs playing poker paintings propped a few feet across from your head. That was pretty cool if you ask me, and I have my photographs to show for the experience.
JUST A CRUISING ?!
The next evening we (together) headed out to dinner. Marcie no longer drove because it seems that someone at the California DMV had had the audacity to suspend her driver’s license: of course this was an occurrence that this lady on the go was not happy about. So anyway we head out into some rather misty weather. You know the kind that is just enough to make the streets slick. Woe is me in a unfamiliar car in a city that I am not sure of, going to a restaurant that I didn’t know where it was and here Marcie was not even sure of how to get there because, she wasn’t doing the driving.
I could have sworn that there were two of us driving behind the wheel that night. “Turn right here” she would say (and point to the right) and I would say “I can’t I’m in the far left lane and cars are coming”. We could have been Curly and Moe as we wondered the side streets of San Diego that night. After about an hour of making tracks, we did finally make it to her favorite nearby restaurant. I have to say that the journey was well worth it. For once settled, we two shorties sat in this big booth and with our legs a dangling and a swinging, we talked and ate to our content, some darned good chicken potpies. It was fine evening after all. We returned to her home and we talked and later I read and made more notes and then another copy run the next morning. But those few days flew by much too fast.
MARCIE, Cassius Marcellus Coolidge’s
She was a novelty in her own time, she was an independent woman who had built her own company and had made her own money, and she preferred cats over dogs and didn’t care who knew it.
On my return flight I clutched the box of copies and the what ever that she had passed on to me. Later on Marcie sent me a card and asked why didn’t I move to San Diego, “ the weather was much nicer”. There was another time I managed to visit her, but that time was cut much too short. Later on I didn’t tell her that I had cancer because I knew that she would worry and I couldn’t not tell her if I talked to her so I took the easy and maybe the selfish way out, and much to my regret, I just sort of dropped out.
I remember the day that I found out that Marcie was gone. That was the day when the agent for her estate returned an unopened Christmas present that I had sent to Marcie. On that day my husband and I were out in the front yard when the mail came, and I took one look at the unopened box and said “ she’s gone” and a feeling of great sadness and tears came over me because, you couldn’t help but love that Marcie.
Yes the book is coming along very well and yes I can always make room for surprises unknown to me at this time. I have over come my dread of computers: even though I still prefer the connection of pen and paper in expressing original thought. As far as publishing goes, I’ve got a thought on that one also.
For inspiration, setting on the shelves beside me I have a picture of Marcie and me taken at her home during my first visit, and also I have pictures of our late Golden Retrievers; first Ginger and now sorry to say our girl Sadie. But to nudge me on as I work I have Sadie’s younger pal, Jessie. Jessie (also a golden) is 100% goofball. One of his favorite things to do is sleep under my work chair and if I am snacking on popcorn while I am typing his favorite trick is to bump my arm with his nose or slap a paw on my arm for me to give him a bite. This of course causes me to make typos and lose my train of thought as I stop to share some kernels.
All of this, plus a picture of a Coolidge dog, are what is part of what gives inspiration to me as I round into the next century of which Cash lived. He has been a part of my life for so long, that I have learned much by learning about him and his life. When it is all concluded, you will be able to see that Cassius Marcellus Coolidge was more than just a guy who painted pictures of Dogs Playing Poker. You will see that he was QUITE A GUY!