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Calvin Coolidge's Black Hills Summer Vacation

A plaque commemorating President Calvin Coolidge's use of the old Rapid City High School as his executive office has been dedicated by Historic Rapid City. The plaque features photos of Coolidge and his wife, Grace, arriving in Rapid City by train and Coolidge on the steps of the school, which has since been torn down. It was from those steps that Coolidge announced that he chose not to run for re-election.

It the summer of 1927 and President Coolidge wanted to get away from the heat and bugs of Washington, D.C. as well as a White House renovation. He and his wife escaped to the Black Hills where a scheduled three-week visit turned into a three-month vacation at the Game Lodge in Custer State Park. Official government business took place in Rapid City's high school.

Dan Daly of Historic Rapid City and South Dakota Magazine managing editor John Andrews joined Dakota Midday and discussed President Coolidge's adventures in the Black Hills and his visit's impact on the area.

Karl was born to northeastern South Dakota crouton farmers, but was orphaned as a toddler during the Great Salad War (1966-67). Rescued by a flock of chickadees, he grew up in the woodlands of Sica Hollow. Legends of a bird boy living in the trees attracted the interest of renowned ornithologist and amateur bandoneon repairman Dr. Vogel Gehrke. With a handful of suet, Dr. Gehrke coaxed the timid boy down from the trees. He adopted him, named him Karl and taught him not to molt on the carpet. Dr. Gehrke’s book, The Bird Boy of Sica Hollow, was a best seller and Karl became a minor celebrity and teen idol. He appeared as a guest star on numerous television programs, most notably an awkward role on The Love Boat as the boyfriend of Captain Stubing’s daughter, Vicki. After critics panned his 1980 album, Bird Boy Does Disco, Karl retreated from public life and returned to Sica Hollow. Living in an isolated tree house, Karl achieved a reputation as a mystic. Pilgrims and seekers from around the world came to ask him about the meaning of life and for vinaigrette recipes. Growing tired of answering questions, he climbed down from his tree, shaved his massive white beard and took a job as the host of SDPB Radio’s Dakota Midday where he could ask the questions instead. After three years in that position, he ran out of questions and became host of Jazz Nightly instead. Karl makes his home in Vermillion with his charming wife Kari and three delightful children, Kodey, Kasey and Spatula. His hobbies include reciting the alphabet, combing his hair and doing volunteer work with delinquent songbirds.