Have you noticed that humor is not only culture specific, but time specific? So often, Marash Girl, in telling a joke that her father used to tell, and thinking it hilarious, will have to footnote the joke by saying, "It's a joke from the 1930's." Like the joke about the mother hitting her son over the head with a loaf of cake. (See http://marashgirl.blogspot.com/2011/10/remembering-halloween.html )
Visiting Diamond Sue in Eastham yesterday, Marash Girl was presented with a joke book published by SImon & Schuster in 1946, a book Diamond Sue had found at the recycle center: Louis Untermeyer's A TREASURY OF LAUGHTER consisting of humorous stories, poems, tall tales, jokes, boners, epigrams, memorable quips, and devastating crushers. As you can see, even some of the words in the subtitle have, since the publication of the book, changed in meaning. Nevertheless, the Eastham gathering agreed that it would be fun to read through some of the old jokes. What King Arthur found funny was that the jokes folks found funny enough in the 1940's to be included in this anthology, sitting in a summer house in Eastham in 2012, we could barely smile at!
But the joke about Calvin Coolidge was a joke Marash Girl had heard since she was a child, a joke told by her often joking father. Here it is taken directly from the anthology, almost as if, when Untermeyer included the joke, it was a direct quotation from the jokester Peter who had, in fact, met and shaken hands with the laconic President Calvin Coolidge:
One Sunday, after returning from church to the White House (where his wife was confined with a cold), President Coolidge was asked by his wife whether he enjoyed the sermon.
"Yes," said the President.
"And what was it about?" asked his wife, trying to engage her husband in conversation.
"Sin," answered President Coolidge.
"But what did the preacher say about sin?" she persisted.
"He was against it."