The Other Mount Vernon

I posted an article a few days ago that I called The Other White House. I thought I was being rather topical by posting it on Presidents Day, featuring a bunch of White Houses that shared nothing in common with the famous one in Washington, DC except for a name. I felt pretty smug, maybe clever even, then gave myself a pat on the back and called it an evening. Except I was wrong.

A reader with the curious name "Saint Cad" brought the error to my attention:

To be pedantic, it was not Presidents’ Day in the US. It is true that Nixon tried to have the holiday name changed to honor all Presidents but it failed in Congress. The holiday is still officially Washington’s Birthday.

To which the U.S. Government Office of Personnel Management, when I chased-down their interpretation, confirmed in wonderfully bureaucratic fashion:

This holiday is designated as "Washington’s Birthday" in section 6103(a) of title 5 of the United States Code, which is the law that specifies holidays for Federal employees. Though other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it is our policy to always refer to holidays by the names designated in the law.

I suppose I could make some lame excuse that I was referring to one of those "state and local governments and private businesses" when I called it Presidents Day. However I didn’t know it was officially George Washington’s Birthday, a sad statement on my part since I’m usually the master of useless trivia. Saint Cad was entirely correct. The 12MC fact checkers will be sacked.

Mount Vernon
Flickr by clio1789 via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

I will now rewrite the article in recognition of Saint Cad, changing the title to "The Other Mount Vernon" to reference President Washington’s estate on the Potomac River (map). However I’m going to twist my usual formula. I’ll provide only a single example instead of the usual three or four. Then I’m going to make everyone sit through one of my silly travel anecdotes. That’s right. Feel free to mention 12MC deficiencies and then risk invoking storytime.

I’m being sarcastic of course. I don’t mind anyone catching my mistakes. I make lots of them so there are plenty to go around. You still have to listen to my story, though.

Mount Vernon, Illinois

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The City of Mount Vernon in Illinois is a fairly significant place with about 15,000 residents. Its history page notes that the town, "was originally to be called Mount Pleasant but, after heated discussion, the name was changed to Mount Vernon in honor of George Washington. It was common at that time to name towns after Revolutionary War Heroes."

The Interstate Highway System has been kind to Mount Vernon. It’s perched at a major crossroads, south of Chicago on I-57 and between St. Louis and Louisville on I-64. That’s why I stopped in Mount Vernon. It’s next to the Interstate. Now it’s time for the story.

I volunteered to help my wife drive from her university residence to her parents’ house back before we were married so she could come home for part of the summer. I guess her parents didn’t trust me yet because her little brother came along for the ride. Mount Vernon was about the halfway point on a two-day drive so it was convenient to stop there for the night. Her parents had made arrangements ahead of time for a motel room that they’d booked at a bargain price.

Those were the days before TripAdvisor and Street View. The motel, well, I guess one could describe it as placed on the wrong side of the tracks. It looked like a prop from an episode of COPS. It was a bit run down although not too bad otherwise, a typical 2-story vintage motel with rooms facing outward towards the parking lot and a balcony walkway on the front.

We were sitting on the second-floor walkway directly outside of our room, sipping a couple of beers on a warm summer evening after a long day on the road. We spotted a middle-aged man, highly intoxicated, weaving and stumbling his way along the sidewalk. He was heading towards a honky-tonk, a windowless cinder block shack with a solid front door. He turned to enter the bar and – WHAM! – walked straight into the wall. Fell right over. Then got up and opened the door like nothing ever happened.

We’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of the story over the years with the in-laws ("remember the time you put us up in that seedy neighborhood with the drunk that walked into the wall?").

I never said it was a great story.

That’s my sole memory of Mount Vernon, Illinois. I’m sure it’s a lovely town otherwise. I went onto Street View and I’m 95% certain I know the location although the honky-tonk seems to have been demolished. The 5% chance of slandering the wrong motel prevents me from posting its exact coordinates.

Happy Presidents Day Washington’s Birthday.

3 Replies to “The Other Mount Vernon”

  1. If you’re leaving it up to the commentators to provide more examples, I’m happy to be the first! There is a neighborhood in Baltimore called Mount Vernon. Quite a charming section of the city, and (probably not by coincidence) there is a well known monument right at the heart of Mount Vernon called the Washington Monument. I’m sure you know this, as I believe I’ve seen you mention this monument before, but figured I’d mention it for the other readers.

  2. Mount Vernon, New York, where I have occasional one-day work assignments, if I’m not mistaken is the largest Mount Vernon in the country, with a population of about 70,000. It pretty much blends into the Bronx, to the point where it’s hard to tell when you’ve crossed the city line.

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