For My Children and Grandchildren
These memories were put on paper during three or four waves of nostalgia between 1964 and 1967. The postscripts were added a little later. When I once started writing it seemed as if I could not stop; it simply flowed out of me with scant attention to spelling, punctuation and sometimes order of phrasing. Consequently, C. J. C. has been of tremendous help as editor and supporter.
My excuse is, of course, that I have lived through enormous changes. Also I was fortunate enough to have been brought up, during my early years, in a small intelligent backwater of security and peace.
As the Exxon T. V. "ad" says, "We should like you to know."
S. E. C. 1974
S. E. C.'s Chronicle
The Early Years 1898 – 1912
Life for Theodore and me seemed always busy, exciting, and immensely interesting though quite different for each of us. Theodore's interest was in man-made things - everything from clocks to chemical formulas. He had to know how things worked. He loved to take things apart and put them together again. He taught himself through the years the skills of plumber, electrician, carpenter, mechanic, cabinet-maker. I admired his knowledge and his abilities but preferred the less intellectual pursuit of just loving to be alive.
I loved the out-of-doors - earth, sky, water, mountains, birds, flowers, animals - especially animals. I belonged to the natural world and loved it with passion even as a very small child. I accepted it as it was.
Yet often through the growing years Theodore and I would team up, he to invent and I to taste the fruits of his inventions, sometimes disastrously. I shall never forget one early summer day about the turn of the century, when we were at Putnamville and Mother's "Cheerful Workers," her ladies' sewing society, were coming from Salem on the electric cars for an afternoon party. Theodore had announced to me that he was making a watering-cart out of a baking-powder can. I admired greatly the watering-cart which in dry weather
dampened the streets of our little town where we lived in the summer. Bright yellow with red underbody and wheels, always freshly painted, it was drawn by a pair of fat, shining chestnut horses whose three inch high manes were cut like those in a Greek relief sculpture. They wore harnesses decorated with gleaming brass studs and their tails were often braided with strands of red cloth. They moved with slow, royal dignity in the continuous round of subduing dusty streets. I thought this a beautiful sight.
So when Theodore announced he was making a watering-cart I had to "go and see" immediately. Its construction had started with a hole in one end of the shiny can. I wondered whether the hole was going to be large enough and pushed into it the forefinger of my right hand. The fit was snug, so snug that the jagged edges on the inside gripped my finger when I tried to pull it out. I can clearly remember the dawning horrid thought that I should not be able to get that can off. Also I was afraid of Theodore's wrath when he would discover that I had been meddling with his work. Panic swept over me. I rushed to my mother, who was busily preparing for her party, and weeping, I asked her if I should have to wear that tin can on my finger all my life. The ladies arrived in the midst of her patient cutting it away with her best shears. Needless to say Theodore was furious.
Our summer home in Putnamville was a tremendous outlet for vigorous physical and mental energy of children. We loved our beauti-
ful old house in Salem, but the garden was small and quite fenced in, and, like many eighteenth century houses in New England seaport towns, the sidewalk was directly outside our windows. There was a certain coziness about this during the winter months when the window shades were drawn and the shaded mantle gas-lights, turned low, made a really beautiful soft light. We could hear the footsteps of people passing on the brick sidewalk outside but we ourselves were quite unseen and private in the security of warmth and snugness. As I sat on the old window seats, Stevenson's "Lamplighter" would run through my head, even at an early age, for we knew and loved "The Child's Garden of Verses."
But real joy came to me (I think it mattered to me more than to the others) with the coming of early May. Usually by May tenth, my mother's birthday, the big moving van would have arrived to transport her piano and other precious pieces to our country house for the next five or six months' stay. The distance was only five and a half miles. The automobile age was in its infancy and for the first years the trip was made by horse and carriage, electric car or steam train. Now the suburbs have engulfed the area, and I barely recognize it. Neat streets with pleasant houses and lawns wind about where once Mr. Lovelace's cow pastures and blueberry hillside used to be. They have invaded the tennis court, the horse paddock, the field of timothy grass, my mother's cutting garden, the field where Mr. McCarthy used to grow his cabbages on land rented to
him by my father. The house and barn and perhaps an acre of land still survive, bereft of the softening, embracing, graceful elms. I scarcely recognize it. The old farmhouse behind us down the grassy lane is now a handsome suburban house, the grassy lane a neat gravel driveway. The great cow barn across and up the road a bit is empty now, a shabby ruin. I do not wish to stay.
But all this is ahead of my story.
My first memory is of being hastily snatched from the woolen carpet covering the nursery floor of the Salem house and my nurse saying crossly, "You naughty girl, you are much too old to do such a thing." Three, perhaps? The curtain is hastily drawn again. The next memory is a flash picture of my mother, father, brother and me standing by the glass doors leading to the garden. In my father's arms is a small black cocker spaniel puppy. My father (or mother) is saying, "How about Captain Sigsbee for a name?" (The battleship "Maine" had just been blown up.) So Sig or Siggy it was until he died, an elderly gray-chinned admirer of my father.
Beginning with the summer when I was four years old in 1898, memories come flooding fast. Life really began then in the freedom of a White Mountain valley, Waterville Valley, where my family went for a month's vacation. I must have been like an ecstatic puppy, so joyful and so real are those memories. I discovered an unbelievably beautiful world of enclosing mountains, wild rushing river, myriads of pollywogs, captive little green snakes, a sandbank chute,
prize red pigs, white fairy Indian pipes, unblemished white fungi, mysterious forest trails, and most of all the four-horse stage which brought passengers, baggage, supplies and mail fourteen miles up into the valley - the only contact with the outside world. Then and there began my passion for any and all kinds of Horse.
In short order I made friends with the driver - a shadowy memory now, but I think his name was Alec. Whenever possible thereafter, I greeted the stage at the hotel when it stopped to discharge its passengers, climbed up beside Alec who would let me take the reins and with his guidance drive the horses to the stables. Some years later, when I was nine years old, I won over the driver of a stage -coach in the Scottish lake district who allowed me to sit beside him all day long while the Scottish mist dripped from our hats and even ran down our necks a bit.
We went to Waterville for two summers but memories merge here. I remember stepping into a yellow jackets' nest in a ditch and (plastered with cool mud) lying in the porch hammock of our little cottage while people came to sympathize. I remember the horses of the stage starting unexpectedly while I was climbing to the driver's seat, my falling and thinking the heavy wheel had run over my leg. I now doubt that this was so since my leg was only bruised. I remember that my knees were in a constant state of rawness from my falling down on the gritty gravel paths of the valley. But these disasters only pointed up the joys of this Golden Age. Other memories of other
years are of happy, interesting, important times but they remain in a dimmer light beyond the focused clarity of those two mountain vacations. Waterville became my Arcady with or without reason, probably because I did not return there until I was grown up. Last summer, at the age of nearly seventy, I returned for a few days. I took the trail of a mile or so to the Boulder, a famous huge fellow around which the Mad River flows. (I have a faded photograph of Theodore and me in 1899 standing in front of its sheer face with the water of the river flowing about our legs.) Sitting now on a rock I removed my sneakers and socks and dabbled my legs up to the knees in the cold mountain stream. The music of the rushing river, the song of a white-throated sparrow, the water swirling about my legs, the smell of fir balsam, the sight of delicate pink wood oxalis nodding above the river bank gave me a sudden sharp stab of recognition. I was a child once more for a few moments, passionately embracing the natural world with all the warm emotion of the one-time five-year-old. "You surely have come full circle," I smilingly told myself.
When I was five - or was I just six? - Father bought five acres of land and a large white house built about 1820 at the top of a hill in that part of Danvers called Putnamville. The house and lawn were shaded by stately elms which edged the property. Standing on the banking (as we called it) you could follow the road with your eye down two humps of the hill to a bend at the bottom where the road began to lead straight as a string across the plain to the town.
Along the plain were then scattered two or three farms and three or four pleasant, more distinguished houses where now there is an endless row of suburban homes. The situation of our house was of real importance, for from the embankment you could watch the straining of both carriage and work horses toiling up the hill. Up this hill also came herds of cattle and flocks of sheep on their way to a slaughterhouse a mile or more away. I remember many times trying to plot the kidnapping of one of the little lambs following its mother to its untimely end, but I was never able to carry through the plan. I remember being specially fascinated by a whistling work horse which frequently went by and which had had a tracheotomy and now breathed through a metal button inserted in its neck. Then there was Colonel Appleton, an elderly, mustachioed, pith-helmeted man of great military bearing, who used to ride by on his handsome dock-tailed horse. I was particularly angry with people who docked their horses' tails, but Colonel Appleton only amused us. The horse's tail was bound to the end of his riding-crop which he continuously flecked to shoo the flies away. On this banking good dog Rover, of setter extraction, would patiently sit waiting for the return of horse or pony or, later, the chugging automobile which would bring his family home.
Up this hill, also, very slowly would come the country trolley car once every hour, occasionally in the fall, because of fallen leaves, unable to make the grade without the motorman sanding the
tracks, shovel and bucket always being kept on the front platform of the car. In blueberry time the cars would be swarming with people, young and old, almost everyone provided with a shiny metal bucket. At the end of the carline, a mile or so away, they would scatter into the pastures for the day, returning on the cars late in the afternoon with pails full of blueberries and with small children asleep in their arms.
Father and Mother made immediate alterations to the newly acquired property. The fence along the road was replaced by a border of shrubs. The barn was detached from the house, moved back, and changed into a useful stable and carriage house. A wide veranda was built outside the dining-room, which opened onto it through French doors. Vegetable and flower gardens were laid out, vines and trees were planted, and later a tennis court was built. But that first summer there was no bathroom.
All day long I lived at the well-kept dairy farm across the street. It was owned by a Mr. de las Casas who loved the old colonial house, in which he established a tenant farmer named Mr. Landers, and to which he would frequently come. Mr. and Mrs. Landers as well as Mr. de las Casas became our friends. No one could have been more patient with children than Mr. Landers and his hired man, Roy. I followed them everywhere like a dog. I rode on hay loads, corn stalks, manure. I rode on the field drag, behind which clouds of dust rose to settle on our bodies. I followed the plow and rode the plow horse.
I helped remove stones from the fields. I fed hens, drove in the cows, pitched hay down the horse mangers, and when all was finished sat in the sun in the great barn door fondling Gip, the bull dog, and the numerous barn kittens. Then it would be time to go home. My mother soon learned to accept the bodily condition of her child. During that first summer, each night I stood or sat in the laundry tubs (which were piped with running water) while I was shampooed and scrubbed and made acceptable once more. Soon my attire became nothing but sneakers and overalls, and for two or three summers I lived in dirt and bliss.
On hot days Theodore and I would bring down the old fashioned "tin hat," fill it with water from the hose, after placing it at the foot of the sloping bulkhead door which we wet with the hose to make it slippery. Then we would slide down the door to splash into the cool water in the old tin hat. This was splendid fun.
Father was sweetly trusting and gullible about horseflesh and used to pay much too much for what always seemed to turn out unworthy. Our first horse, a bay, was bought from our Salem grocer. We owned him for only part of a summer, for he was as slow as a snail and also was a balker, sometimes refusing to budge. The next horse was a tall long-legged gray. He covered the ground well, but when he had recovered from the boredom of being a delivery horse, his spirits became so high that he developed the trying habit of kicking to free himself from carriage and harness. Father bought a heavy kicking strap but
even then his heels were on display too often. This horse gave Father and me a fright one day. We were returning from Salem. Going downhill Gray fell down and began to struggle to get free. Father jumped out and sat on his head while I freed the harness from the carriage and backed the carriage away. From then on I was certain I could be master of the Horse. But our next horse and the next I could do little about. They both were very pretty, but the bay with a double mane and thick tail was a stumbler, and the white one, though a good roader, used to crib, filling her stomach with air which gave her colic. Dan used to pull her to her feet, jump on her back and make her run until her stomach ache had subsided. A wide strap around her neck seemed to do no good. Next came a bay named Mabel which Father bought from a friend of Mr. Landers. Mabel was sure but slow and disappointingly unexciting.
When it was time to buy the next horse I knew more about horseflesh than Father did. I was nine or ten when a beautiful bay was brought for inspection. He was a bit chunky of body but quietly spirited, eager and gentle. I prayed "Please," and Father said "Yes." We named him "Duke" and we loved him for years, even turning him into a saddle horse when I had outgrown my pony. He and my pony became inseparable friends. I used to slide down his hay chute to talk to him and to stroke his nose, and he always seemed glad to see me come.
By the time of the First World War the automobile had largely crowded out the horse and buggy. I grew up with the automobile just
as my children grew up with the airplane. Ours was one of the early cars in our neighborhood, bought in 1906, but it was a second-hand 1903 Cadillac. It was a one cylinder car which looked for all the world like a fussy old lady with bustle and parasol. Its back seat rose above the rest of the car like a throne. It had side entrances rather than ones through the rear like some, but no doors and no windshield. It was covered with brass - brass trim, brass side lamps, brass search lights, brass levers, brass horn. It was not reliable because of frequent flat tires and slipping clutch,* but for the first time we were able to see what was beyond the five or ten mile radius of our known world away from train and trolley tracks.
My early world, then, was very small and intimate. It seemed peaceful and secure. You absorbed the belief of your parents in the long sure upward progress of mankind. You had not the slightest inkling that you would be married in wartime to an army officer. War and torture the human race had outgrown. Life was like the slow meanderings of a placid meadow stream; there were no rapids. Possibly it was a bit dull for grown-ups but I hardly think so. Conversation, reading aloud, music, friendly visiting, games prevented that, and in the winter community interests absorbed much time. As I look back at my parents' friends, I think of them as remarkably interesting
* Theodore says it was driven by a long chain similar to a giant bicycle chain. I remember that now, and I remember the gigantic heaving of the car prior to putting it in gear.
people, most of them alert and knowledgeable in one way or another. In any case, life was surely never dull for me, a child. One had time to claim kinship with Mother Earth, to learn to know her and love her, time to find what eyes could see and ears could hear and nose could smell. You braved the elements in long woolly under-drawers and high skating boots which I do not recommend, for my legs were chapped all winter. Our wool gloves never covered our wrists properly so that they always were rough and red. The only leggings available in those days were black knitted tights which you wore under your skirt and tucked into the tops of the shoes. These and the long underwear often were soggy with melted snow. Ski trousers had never been thought of and would have been unladylike, anyway. How foolish all that seems this present day! You tramped for miles with skates or sled or toboggan. You walked long distances to school, even with eyes and nose adrip, in sun, rain, snow and icy winds. You were as undisturbed, undistracted and free as a young colt in spring. You were in reality a young animal taking life and all it had to offer for granted - all this until adolescence brought the slowly dawning consciousness of the uncertainties and burdens of adulthood.
In Putnamville a lane ran along the side of our property to the house where the Lovelaces lived. They were an elderly couple, country folk, who had bought or inherited the house which had once been a colonial homestead. The lane was canopied by our wineglass elms and a beautiful old white birch. It looked like a grass-grown
country road, and a stranger turning into it by mistake would find that it completely circled the house and led him quickly out to the main road again. On our side of the lane was our lawn and the hay-field of timothy grass growing taller and thicker than I have ever seen elsewhere. On the other side of the lane were woods partly concealing an octagon house (we called it "the inkwell") in which Mr. Jodrey lived, who knew more about poultry than anyone else we knew. My brother and I, when we were old enough, would buy his Silverlace Wyandotte eggs and hatch them under one of our broody hens. Later we changed to Rhode Island Reds which were better layers, but I considered this a great come-down in our association with hens. The Wyandottes were so distinguished looking that we used to name them for people we knew, but the Rhode Island Reds never seemed worthy of that honor.
A path from our house through the hayfield led to a gate in the wall opposite a door of the Lovelaces' house. I never saw anyone use this door, but it was impressively guarded by two wooden dolphins about four feet high whose scales and teeth were all carved from one piece of wood. They stood on their chests with their tails flung up in a reversed letter "S," so that their open mouths were close to the granite step on which they rested. They were painted dark red with appropriate colors for eyes and tails and I think each carved scale was outlined in a lighter shade. At either side of the doorway tiger lilies grew. I loved looking at this doorway; it seemed
Oriental to me and I used to wonder if I should ever go to China.
Mr. and Mrs. Lovelace were very elderly and quite uncommunicative, but they were always kind and tolerant of us who, I am sure, were rather annoying at times. They used to sit in a small summer-house near their picturesque well with its little roof and its bucket drawn up by turning a handle, winding the rope neatly around the thick wooden spindle. They always seemed to have leisure, though I fancy their labors were done before I had left my bed. For Mr. Lovelace had a very good vegetable garden in the pasture where he kept his cow, half an acre or more completely encircled by a stone wall. There must have been a gate leading into it, but I do not remember one. There was also a well-kept outhouse which fascinated me because we had a bathroom. The Lovelaces were generous with its use and never told me to go home when I asked to go there. I liked the wallpaper samples and pictures from calendars pasted on the walls. I remember particularly a bright pink complexioned lady with a very short neck swathed in pink tulle who was wearing a large red rose behind one ear.
The house was an old New England homestead, well proportioned and well built. It was one of the oldest in the neighborhood, though friends of ours lived about half a mile away in a splendid old lean-to built at the very end of the sixteen hundreds; and the farmhouse across the street was lovelier, and probably older, with the old fireplace, its oven, and paneling in the downstairs rooms still intact. An out-
side flight of stairs led to a door in the upper story of the Lovelace house, and there their widowed daughter lived with her two sons a little older than I. I liked these boys very much. They were gentlemanly and well-mannered and never bothered us when we did not wish them around. Roy I liked particularly. He was always helpful when I needed aid in catching my rabbits or finding the chickens. His skin tanned in the sun each summer to a lovely biscuit brown. But I think it was his feet which really fascinated me because his toes added up to the sum of twelve. His brother I thought a little pert. He had a turned-up nose inclined to freckle. He would stand aloof, hands in pockets, with a half humorous, half quizzical expression on his face. Still I liked him.
A wide gate led from the lane near one end of the house into the larger pasture. The Lovelaces rented this land to Mr. McCarthy who lived a half a mile away. His son was station master of our tiny local flag station where bright flower beds tended by him won prizes from the Boston and Maine Railroad. Every morning and every evening Mr. McCarthy, driving his old cream-colored horse and trailing two or three cows behind his cart, would come and go from this pasture. He was a taciturn man and I who worshipped all horseflesh, especially cream-colored horses, asked him only once if I could ride with him. His horse was too old to walk faster than the cows. It was a leisurely trip and I wondered what Mr. McCarthy could be thinking about during his silence. Finally I asked, "What makes those
patches on your horse where there is no hair?" Mr. McC. replied with one word. "Moths," he said, withdrawing into silence once more.
Before long I was familiar with all the wood-paths, brooks, the hill where high bush blueberries grew and on the top of which the Judge Whites built their cabin. I could even find my way to Oak Knoll, where Whittier had lived with his cousins in his latter days, through the woods a good three quarters of a mile away. But I did not need to stray so far afield with so much of interest right at hand and with a three hundred acre farm across the road. I remember particularly the excitement I felt one day near Mr. Lovelace's vegetable garden, where I was cutting a barberry branch to make a bow and arrow. Suddenly I noticed a partridge not six feet away, sitting quietly on a low limb of a small tree. We knew we saw each other but each of us waited minutes for the other to make a move. She held out longer than I. I had the same experience at other times with a quail, a yellow-billed cuckoo and a scarlet tanager. I think these meetings were the beginning of my interest in birds. The elms were a great attraction to the orioles where they built their deep, swinging horse-hair nests high above us. Their lovely song still makes my heart leap up. They always arrived on May tenth, my mother's birthday, - or so we thought.
At one time we had, among many pets, a tame crow named Jim. He was found by my brother and George Benson while still a nestling. He used to sit on a limb of one of the apple trees, ducking his head and
hunching his shoulders each time a pair of outraged vireos, who were nesting there, zoomed down in quick succession, just missing his head. I remember his enormous appetite, for we had to feed him before he could fly. He would sit on our shoulders pecking away at anything bright we were wearing and talk to us in soft, gutteral sounds. One day he was missing. Auntie had seen a boy go up the road with a basket on his arm quite early in the morning but she had thought nothing of it. Jim never came back.
We always had some project afoot. For a while Theodore was interested in the various creatures we tried to raise: chickens, guinea fowl, pheasants, ducks, geese, pigeons, rabbits. The pigeons were strictly his; the rabbits were mine. We cooperated on the others. One summer we raised three white geese, the story-book kind. One of these became madly attached to Auntie who often would sweep up the grass clippings and leaves on our lawns. I wish I had a photograph of this little old lady (she seemed old to me) dressed in black, looking a good deal like the elderly Queen Victoria, carrying her broom around, always followed by the softly gabbling goose. She was ten years older than my father. She had inherited the Broad Street end of the Salem house with my father and always lived with us. My father died in 1911. She died of cancer a year later.
Two or three years after my father and mother were married in 1891 they purchased the Summer Street end of the house from the other heirs, changing the old house once more into a single home. This
was the oldest part, built in 1762. It had, and still has, a beautiful front hall and staircase. These and the mantel in what we called "the music room" are all of McIntire design. The front doorway is often reproduced in books of photographs of old Salem houses.
Aunt Alice always lived in the Broad Street end of the house, though she had meals with us. Theodore and I, I am afraid, were not always kind to her; she seemed queer to us in contrast to our beautiful young mother. We loved to play practical jokes on her in an effort to upset her fixed habits. I often wish I could tell her that I really loved her because she was always kind and generous to me. She it was who gave me a large azalea every birthday down through the years, and saw to it that it was at my place for breakfast. I should have missed it sorely had it not been there. She gave me my large stockinet doll, my riding boots and half of the pony and cart I had so longed for. I never went into her bedroom, and only went into her sitting room when invited. Sometimes I slept in the big double bed there with a stiff hair mattress and a soft feather bed on top of that. In the morning the feather bed would be removed and the hair mattress thrown over the footboard, making a tunnel through which I loved to crawl.
This room was full of fascinating things from a child's point of view: onyx paper weights, figurines, an iron donkey which threw a little darkie-boy over its head when you pushed a button, a mahogany board holding beautiful colored agates which I played with by the
hour. A large engraving of the Madonna of the Chair hung over the bed and on another wall an engraving - perhaps a Guido Reni- of Christ wearing the Crown of Thorns with drops of blood running down his agonized face. I remember, also, little treats of a navel orange and a piece of sponge cake, and of sitting - or trying to - in her slippery lap, too stout to hold a child comfortably, while she read me children's stories from the Christian Register.
Her bedroom upstairs in the third story was so full of possessions of sentimental value that we never once went beyond the locked door. She had a dressmaker and a seamstress come regularly who made her handsome voluminous black or gray taffeta or satin dresses, always trimmed with ruching, lace and sequins, the bodices painstakingly boned and lined. Many of these she never wore, but when she was dressed in one she looked very impressive, handsome and Victorian, I associate the making of these with a certain embarrassment. Miss Parsons, the seamstress, used to use many needles threaded with basting cotton, one after the other. One day I asked if I could help her thread her needles. She gladly consented. After much effort on my part I carried to her about a dozen threaded needles only to receive a round scolding. I had carefully tied a knot in each thread at the needle's eye, as we were shown to do with wool in our kindergarten. I never offered to help Miss Parsons again.
Auntie wore a false piece on her front hair in the morning while her sparse but pretty soft white hair was being crimped on
hairpins underneath. I never saw her use it in the afternoon. She was always late to meals, annoying all of us, especially Hannah, the cook, and Ellie, the "second-girl." She had to have special dishes prepared for her because she would not touch many of the foods the rest of us ate and liked. It must have been very hard for Mother and I am sure Father was many times pulled apart by split loyalties, rather sadly.
I think of my father now with enormous respect. His kindnesses were myriad. My mother's family said he was the kindest person they ever knew. He never failed to help where help was needed. He had cared for his two invalid parents for years, was tied to an eccentric older sister who depended upon him for everything. He tried to keep the family peace, took my mother's family into his home so that there always was a Crowninshield aunt or aunts or grandmother there, helped to support them (for Grandmother Crowninshield was left a minister's widow with five young daughters when Aunt Margaret was only six months old), paid for Aunt Margaret's education at Wheaton and for the singing lessons (she sang beautifully), ran two large houses systematically and carefully, took his useful place in the community, tried (oh, so hard) to be a good husband to an intellectual wife not so well endowed domestically, and who was fifteen years younger, tried to understand a gifted, rather wilful son and a carefree, unseeing daughter who did not yet comprehend the burdens he bore. He finally broke down in what was then called nervous prostration, a terrible
two-year illness slowly developing before that. He finally took his own life. My heart is wrung with the thought of the help denied him but available today.
But I must finish about Putnamville. How can I shorten this and yet tell all I need to tell?
I think a very special joy was the drives with the family after supper through the peaceful, darkening countryside, sitting beside Father on the front seat of the commodious carry-all, with only the light from the carriage lamps, the flashings of fireflies, and sometimes moonlight sifting through the trees to light our way. Then there were trees to be climbed, apples to be tasted - a dozen different varieties - the ridgepole of the barn to be assaulted (Theodore climbed the cupola, but I never quite dared), the large arborvitae trees to hide in, the barn loft to play in, the swing, hammock and parallel bars to do stunts with, the great Norway spruce to be scaled with thumping heart and ruined clothes and Stevenson's "Up into the cherrytree" running through my head. I had to climb until "farther and farther I could see," way above the barn and lower trees until I could see the church spire in Danvers a mile or more away. Another great joy was Rover. He had been given to Theodore, a ball of long soft fur when about two months old and I was nine, but from his arrival on July Fourth, when he and I were somewhat timid of the fireworks Father always displayed for friends and neighbors, we were
inseparable partners for years and years.
The one drawback of being near a dairy farm was the swarm of flies we had to contend with. We had flypaper everywhere in sheets or in hanging curls. Sometimes these would be quickly covered with flies. One of our half-grown kittens sat on a piece of flypaper one day and then ran wildly across the lawn with it sticking to her rear. All we could see was a sheet of flypaper, with a tail waving above it, rushing away. We had to remove the stuff with kerosene.
Those flies, I am sure, were responsible for a serious illness I had when I was seven years old. It had been a very hot day in late July. The Gortons had come to play with us and we played Run Sheep, Run hard until our heads were soaking with perspiration. To cool off we climbed an apple tree and tasted the apples which were far from ripe. After supper I went across the street to sit with Mrs. Landers in her lawn swing. Suddenly the world began to spin around me and I felt horribly ill. I stumbled home on wobbly legs and remember nothing more until I was conscious of being in my mother's bed with a nurse all in white bending over me. The doctor called it dysentery. It was during this illness that Dr. Kittredge, our beloved Salem doctor, bought his first automobile and Father had our first telephone in the country installed. I remember that the number was "seven, seven, ring eleven" (you said it that way). It was a clumsy looking instrument screwed to the wall with a crank to ring "Central." Almost the first message which came over it was that President McKinley
had been shot. This is my impression, anyway, though I have not checked on the dates. I was a starved little girl not able to take anything at first. I remember how good the warm milk toast and the broth tasted, when I finally could take food, and especially the sherbet which Theodore made for me each day in a tiny ice cream freezer. Then one day my naughtiness returned. I got out of bed and ran on very wobbly legs through two or three rooms before the distracted nurse caught me and carried me back to bed.
One day during the next summer I went with Mother through the blueberry pastures to Mrs. White's hill where she had invited her sewing "circle" to a picnic lunch. The Whites had built a pleasant cabin with benches outside around an outdoor fireplace, and there the Salem ladies settled down. I knew that there was a handsome year-old colt which roamed that hill, unbroken but gentle enough. It had long been my desire to feed him some sugar while I petted him, all of which I did. He insisted on following me when I started back to the camp. It never occurred to me that the ladies would not be delighted to see him. When the colt and I arrived in the clearing there was a mad scramble for the cabin. Mrs. White flashed daggers at me so the colt and I went away. I think I went home rather than to face more disapproval.
I had dreamed of owning a pony for years and told so many people that I was surely going to own one some day that I think that made it come to pass. How well I remember that fresh June morning when I
woke to realize that my own pony was in the stable. I was eleven years old. I had dreamed of brushing him and braiding his tail and mane with ribbon and then taking him out to munch green grass. I rose very early, took Jackie (he was named before we bought him) by the halter rope down to the timothy hayfield, feeling sure he would henceforth follow me with gratitude like my beloved Rover. No sooner had we reached the field than he wheeled around, kicked me soundly in the stomach and went galloping away. Tears stung my eyes, but then my ire rose, and from that day on we had constant battles over balking, over trying to throw me, over watertroughs, over anything he wanted to do and I did not. He was a beautiful little beast, half Welsh, half Shetland, with an indomitable spirit which I learned to respect, admire and love. Riding or driving him, I would follow behind the family carriage. He insisted upon staying so close that often he would bump his nose when Duke came to a sudden stop. But he never would do otherwise. His real affections were centered in Duke whom he loved with all his loyal, worshipping small heart.
I had a few chores to do, picking strawberries, cutting sweet peas and roses for the house, helping to shell peas, caring for animals, making beds. Occasionally Michael would be too busy to cut the lawns and we would be asked to help with them. One time a bit disgruntled at the thought, I harnessed my pony to the lawnmower. Everything went very well until we hit a snag. Jackie started to run with the mower banging at his heels. First one trace broke and
then the other, freeing him to dash wildly away. Fortunately no real harm was done, but I never tried that again.
After I acquired Jack I bought from Carter White a Spanish nanny goat, a pretty creature with a little harness and a two-wheeled cart. I have a photograph of Rover sitting on the seat with a cap on his head while small Bunny Putnam holds the reins. But pony eclipsed Nanny, although I had them both for some time; in fact Jack was a member of our family until he died in 192 9 when he was about twenty-seven years old. He had been passed on to my sister when I grew too old for him. After that, children of friends used him for a while. Finally he gave our own children a few summers of fun, though by that time he was no longer handsome or spirited.
Theodore, as I said, was always inventing and building. I remember particularly a kind of cable car and a roller coaster. For the cable car he ran a stout wire from rather high up in the Porter apple tree down to a lower limb of a tree some distance away. On this he had rigged a block with two wheels or pulleys which could travel along the wire. Through the block he bored a hole and attached a rope, two or three feet long, which held a short horizontal bar or seat. We would climb the tree, straddle the bar, hold on to the supporting rope and let go. The resulting ride was short but quite breathtaking and most successfully exciting until our parents persuaded us it was not safe.
The next experiment was a roller coaster which he built with the
aid of his friends - a wooden track running from a platform to which we climbed by a short ladder to enter a two-seated wooden car. Down we would go with heart in mouth, the chief trouble being that the car often came off the track giving its passengers bumps and bruises. Our parents persuaded us this also was dangerous.
As we grew older Theodore's friends came more and more often. Rifle practice became their sport, with a target out by the tennis court. I was not in that group very much but I practiced with Theodore's rifle and one day shot a red squirrel in the top of the black walnut tree. I was so disturbed and amazed that I had actually shot him that I think I never shot at an animal again - until recently when I shot a rabbit here in our Belmont garden. I took the little dead creature to Michael, our handyman and friend, and asked him to bury it for me.
The boys were beginning to be mischievous adolescents. One Saturday in the fall, late in the day, they greased the electric car tracks most of the way up the hill. The poor motorman was desperate, got out of the car and endeavored to round up the culprits. I had not participated but I warned the boys that the motorman was on the lookout for them, that they should be innocent looking and not get caught. I think they were really afraid that the police might investigate. They never bothered the carline again.
Except once, when my cousin Faelton Perkins was visiting us. We thought it would be splendid fun to make a dummy and stand him beside
the white post. This we did one evening, putting a joss stick in his mouth and tying a rope around his waist which we strung over a limb of an elm tree above. When the car came up the hill it stopped for the supposed passenger to get on. Nothing happened so the motor-man leaned out to investigate. It must have dawned on him that the figure in the dark was a dummy. In any case, when the car came back the motorman was ready, leaned out and tried to hook the dummy with his switch stick. But we were also ready. We were lying on our stomachs behind the hedge with the rope in our hands. Theodore gave the rope a tremendous pull; the dummy flew up into the elm tree and both motorman and we gave a roar of laughter. The motormen and conductors - there were only two of each - were really our friends, We rode with them to Salem and to school each spring and fall. I wish I could remember their names. I am sure Theodore can.* One motorman was very jolly, always cracking jokes about "Punkinville" and playing Yankee Doodle on the bell which he banged with his foot. Was there ever more fun than sitting on the front seat of an open trolley car driven by a friendly motorman?
There were not many children near at hand to play with except Roy and Webster Blanchard, but Mother was very good about letting our friends come to visit. I remember many giggles and night-time talks in the big painted bed in the downstairs guest room when Rebecca
Two of the four were Mr. Lyle and Mr. Porter.
Pickering or Kitty Pew or some other girl came to visit me. But there were many interesting grownups in the neighboring houses who often came to our house to spend an afternoon or evening to talk, take a drive, or to sing. I remember the pungent smell of cigar smoke drifting into my bedroom while the grownups sat on the wide veranda below my window, the men smoking and the ladies twirling joss sticks to keep the mosquitoes away. At the foot of the hill, Mr. Watts, a delightful Englishman, and his humor-loving New England wife had built a charming house full of interesting mementos from his wide travels. He and others would come to sing while Mother played the piano. My Crowninshield grandmother had a good voice. Mother has told me that she sang in this group also, but I do not remember it because pernicious anemia made her an invalid when I was still a little girl. I barely remember her when she was active and well. The Whites, the Wattses, the Fowlers, the Misses Lander - Salem ladies who bought the house half way up the hill - were frequently there. The Lees, the Brookses, Professor Morse as well as other friends came often from Salem.
I remember well one evening, when I was sitting just inside from the covered front porch, that a bat lighted on my arm. They say bats do not bite, but his hooks gripped and I, terrified, let out a murderous yell. I remember Professor Morse dashing in from the porch terribly concerned, and shouting, "Good God, what's the matter? A bat, is that ALL?"
Mr. Frank Lee - Francis Lee - was a great wag. He was always chuckling over his own numerous amusing experiences. He could imitate sounds of animals and birds, invent spur-of-the moment riddles, tell exceedingly tall stories to a delighted audience. I remember one evening a group of friends were sitting on the wide veranda which overlooked the lawn and Mother's garden. The white phlox shone in the moonlight. Mr. Lee asked, "Why are the Brownes like the Bethlehem shepherds of old?" A long pause. "Because they watch their flocks by night." His sister was Alice Roosevelt's mother. When Alice was married to Nicholas Longworth Mr. Lee came back from the White House wedding with a long amusing story about his borrowed top hat; and after going to England he circulated among his friends a photograph of himself and Queen Victoria having a cosy tea together - a trick of blending two photographs. One day we took him to see the big dairy barn nearby. The farmer, who kept no pigs, was quite excited to hear one grunting in his barn. He was rather disappointed, I think, to discover Mr. Lee instead of a pig.
My memory of the Misses Lander centers around one event. They were rather elderly, intelligent, musical maiden ladies of the old school. I thought them rather forbidding, but I think now they were merely shy with children. Mother was very fond of them. One day they came to call. That was the day I chose to be rude to my mother in front of them. I cannot remember what I said, but it was bad enough to embarrass my mother. Children then were supposed to treat grownups with
great deference. After the ladies were gone Mother talked to me very seriously. She told me I must go down to the Lander house to apologize to Miss Helen and Miss Lucy for my rude behavior. (I probably was eleven, or possibly twelve.) That was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Miss Helen Lander came to the door. I blurted out my apologies to her with Miss Lucy hovering in the background. I think they tried to hide their smiles. Anyway, I was sent home with a cookie.
Before long the carefree days were over. Since my sister was born when I was ten, I was cautioned over and over to be quiet, to learn to be more thoughtful, not to bang around so. Almost for the first time I had to consider others. I was growing up. Later Father's illness caused a pall to hang over the family, voices became lower, friends came less often. Finally one day in May, 1911, when I had gone to Pittsfield for the weekend to visit Anna Hathaway at Miss Hall's School, Father took his own life. After that, life was never the same. Soon Hannah, Ellie and Michael all left us because it was not the same for them, either. They had loved him. Mother let me buy a polo pony with money I had earned barreling and selling windfall apples. We stayed in Putnamville that summer, but our hearts were no longer there. Mother, more crushed than we knew, was lonely and restless. She decided to sell the house, send many of the things there to the Perkinses in Bridgewater and spend the summers with them
for the present.
That fall, with the aid of a young lad, I drove over the road with the horses to Bridgewater where Uncle Charles used them to drive to and from work. A young fourteen-year-old, named Walter, who was trying to fill Michael's place, led Texas, my polo pony, while I drove Duke. Walter sat, with legs dangling, on the back of the one-seated run-about. We went by the way of the Salem-Lynn turnpike, across the marshes, through Revere, Charlestown, past the North Station in Boston, all along Tremont Street, Columbus Avenue, Blue Hill Avenue to Milton where the horses were put up for the night. In Charlestown Duke, terrified by the elevated trains thundering above us, sank spread-eagled flat on the cobblestones, while Tex broke loose, wheeled up onto the sidewalk and nearly crashed into the large plate glass window of a saloon before we were able to catch him. Somehow we reached Milton quite whole. Walter then returned to Salem. Uncle Charles Perkins met me next day to help me get the horses to Bridgewater. I was seventeen.
I have never forgotten driving our caravan down Tremont Street past the Common. Even then this seemed rather unusual. I often think of this trip when I am shopping at R. H. Stearns's. Duke finally went to live with friends of Uncle Charles, and the following year I sold Texas. Jackie remained in the family to give pleasure to Rebecca and much later to our children and the cousins during summers at Chocorua. He died old and tired and quite ready to go.
But Putnamville was only half of my life and it became even less so as I grew older, for I began to be hungry for my friends and looked forward with eagerness to visiting them, especially Kitty Pew in Rockport. More about those visits later, for now I must go back to early years in Salem.
How can I tell all I wish to without becoming a frightful bore? I shall put it on paper, nevertheless.
Our Salem house was altered during the summer of 1900 after Father had bought the house in Putnamville. I remember it as it used to be quite well - the inconvenient picturesque old kitchen and pantry ell, the inner windowless room through which Pat, the furnace man, had to go to reach the cellar stairs and where Theodore and I, alone at early supper, sloshed lemon jelly through our teeth with giggles and joy. I remember the dining room which opened from it with soft orangy wallpaper and steel engravings of famous people on its walls; the carpeted front parlors divided by sliding doors; the very steep stairs leading to the third story. All these were entirely changed, most changes for the better, yet I have regretted that the kitchen ell and the dining room, as lovely and large as it came to be, had to lose their eighteenth century character and become more of 1900 in feeling.
However, the front hall set the atmosphere for the whole house. Its low stud, handsome paneling, carved twisting balusters and wide hand rail which swept around the open upper front hall in gracious
line, the arches of doorways and of the upper hall window with its window seat, remained untouched and quite perfect. It is in my opinion, the more beautiful twin of the hall in the King Hooper Mansion in Marblehead.*
The 40 Summer Street part of the house had been the original part built in 1762 by my great-great-great grandfather, Thomas Eden. He lived only six years longer in which to enjoy his house, dying at the early age (it seems to us moderns) of forty-eight. A little later the Broad Street end was added to accommodate various Smiths. (Theodore thinks the whole house dates from 1762. I must check on this.)
Sarah Eden Smith, Captain Thomas Eden's daughter, lost her husband Captain Edward Smith at sea as did her daughter, Mehitabel. The elder widow had her widowed daughter and her little granddaughter come to live with her in the Broad Street end of the house. Father said he was told that his great-grandmother, who died in 1833, used to sit at the window hopefully waiting for her husband who never came.** Mehitabel Smith had married a Jesse Smith of no relation whose father, also Jesse, had been a member of Washington's bodyguard.*** I remember Mehitabel's daughter (the little girl) as a very lame old lady, Cousin
The stair rail carving is identical with that in the Derby Mansion.
** Jesse Smith II, a lieutenant in the Navy, lost in the U. S. S. "Hornet" in a hurricame in the Gulf of Mexico in 1830.
Jesse Smith III, died at the Cape Verde Islands of yellow fever
in the early 1840's. Frances Ver Planck has his portrait - a young midshipman in the U. S. Navy.
Sarah Smith. She had been a pupil of William Morris Hunt and was an excellent artist. She gave me some sketching lessons when I was about twelve, but I was always afraid of her, probably because of her crutches and her high cracked voice. Because I bore her name she left me when she died in 1907 six dainty old silver spoons, six Windsor chairs, and one of the bureaus her grandmother had had made for her two daughters, Mehitabel and Sarah. Sarah was my great-grandmother. Her portrait, painted by Charles Osgood about 1838, hangs in our dining room. I have told elsewhere about all this.
Father and Auntie bought the 40 Summer Street part of the house about 1896 from the other heirs and turned the whole into a single house. Auntie was once again able to have her privacy in her own domain. It must have been a tremendous relief for Mother and Father to be able to expand quarters for their family. I was not quite two years old.
The house seemed very large to me, and indeed it was with two front halls and its many rooms. It was a wonderful place in which to play hide-and-seek. My special hide-out was behind the flounces under the great four-poster bed* in the guest room. There I used to hide when I had been punished or frightened or wished to be alone or just to play a game. I remember one day, when I was eleven, Father had taken Theodore and me to Boston to see Ben Hur (I think). As we turned the corner into Summer Street we saw an ambulance in front of our house.
Dr. Kittredge was waiting for our return to have permission to take *Frances Ver Planck now owns this bed.
Mother to the hospital. As she was brought downstairs on a stretcher, I fled to my secret hiding place, which I had not visited for a long time, and it was not until I heard the horse clopping down the street, taking my mother away, that I realized she had had no goodbye from me. I ran like a hare after the ambulance crying loudly. It stopped to let me climb up to kiss Mother goodbye. She had a ruptured appendix and was in the hospital three long months at death's door. It was only by a miracle that she lived. As I write these words, it is only by a miracle that she is still alive at nearly ninety-nine, again hanging on by that thread of indomitable will.
The back stairs, after dark, always filled me with alarm. I was almost sure something was following me up those two flights of stairs to my room. I think this was caused by the two gas jets, open flames turned rather low, which flared and flickered making moving shadows on the walls. The cellar, too, was a place where evil lurked. This well could be where ghosts and witches walked. Later the cellar lost its sinister aspect when Theodore's chemical experiments were relegated to a little room there with a gay "T.C.B.'s Shop" painted by him in red on its window. Another "T.C.B." still exists on a window pane of the second story hall, engraved there by him with the edge of a diamond.
I loved our front hall. Theodore and I used to slide down the broad banister much to Father's anxiety, I think, because of the beautiful carved rundles, yet he never prohibited us from doing so.
(Long before the days of play-yard gymnastic equipment and jungle-jims, he had built for us in Putnamville some parallel bars, swings and gymnastic aids on which we played for hours.) I was well acquainted with the front hall. A punishment, which I never minded, for being too strenuous, noisy or unruly was to sit on the stairs for five minutes. I could time myself by the grandfather clock* whose smiling friendly face I learned to know well and whose loud tick-tock counted off sixty seconds of each minute. This clock told the phases of the moon so that sometimes a full moon's jovial face would smile down on me.
Father, before church every Sunday morning, would wind up the two great weights in preparation for another week of ticking seconds. All the clocks in the house were wound then, and all the clocks would announce the hour and half-hour in various voices, deep like the grandfather clock or tinkly like the black marble and bronze ones in parlors and library.
I loved Sunday morning. Somehow everything seemed a little different - polished shoes, best clothes, Father in his cutaway and Mother often supervising the dining room for expected dinner guests. Even the chirping sparrows outside sounded differently, chirping against the church bells. Sometimes I would go to church, probably not so often as I think I did because we always went to Sunday School from twelve to one o'clock, but I liked church better. Father, with
*Now owned by the Bradfords.
his silk top hat and cane and Mother holding up her best long skirts, which otherwise would sweep the sidewalk, made me feel proud and important. I must have wiggled a great deal - in fact my baby name was Sally Wiggles - because there would always be made available pencil and paper to keep me quiet. Father was a warden or deacon, and later Aunt Margaret was the soprano of the choir, so I felt the North Church was very much our church. Carey and I went to a service there last fall after many years and I was again thankful that the rather beautiful and unusual 1830 Early English Gothic church had been among my early memories. We treasure the thought of having been married there.
I went to kindergarten, and later to school, at Miss Howe's. Classes were held in one large room on the third floor of Hamilton Hall, now the supper room. This is a happy memory. Miss Howe commuted from Boston every day. She was a born teacher, strict, fair, rather modern in her choice of curriculum, homely with crossed eyes, short, straight backed, apt to wear bright green or red flannel shirtwaists with flat brass buttons, a broad belt from which hung an ample purse-bag, over her heart a gold watch hanging from a watch pin, and over her ear a gold chain attached to her gold glasses. We did not quite like her, but we respected her and I suspect she understood children better than they understood themselves.
I went to Miss Howe's School until I was ten. It soon moved into Studio House on the corner of Summer and Chestnut Streets. I
remember with joy being introduced to Greek myths by Miss Howe's sister, Mrs. Winchester, pretty and sweet, whom we all adored. Also I found excitement in using compass and ruler with which we constructed various geometric figures on paper, and much happiness in using paint brush and water colors. We sang a lot and often, loudly bellowing, "Men of Harlech in the hollow," and occasionally we were allowed to sing some amusing jingle which ended in a near riot.
I remember kindergarten most clearly - the well framed butterflies and moths hanging on the wall, one a huge Polyphemus moth with the great "eyes" on his lower wings. We learned to make butter in small churns, to set a miniature table with miniature plates, forks, knives, spoons, fruits, meats and vegetables while Fraulein Liebert tried to teach us their names in German. We modelled objects from cool smooth clay kept in a large jar in the supply closet. We made strings of colored beads and wove reins of colored wools. I loved it all.
I think Theodore had to be disciplined more often than any other child. I remember one day he was very naughty and Miss Howe, in desperation, locked him in the supply closet. After a long silence she went to let him out and found a lighted candle on the shelf and a grinning happy boy busily sticking the colored beads all through the clay in the great jar. He was then sent home. I rose in wrath at this punishment and marched home with him. Ideas of discipline change with each generation. In Father's, it was the dunce cap and
switch; in ours, the closet or bed. I am sure we were rather an unruly pair- Although I never remember being locked in a closet, I remember Theodore was several times. I well remember when he kicked a panel out of the nursery closet door, crawling through the opening with a triumphant smile on his face.
I have a photograph which Betty Coggin sent to me a few years ago of the members of Miss Howe's School while it was still in Hamilton Hall. There were nineteen of us. The girls all are wearing some kind of hat - flat sailor hats, scoop sailor hats, ruffled hats, hats trimmed with high stiff bows, chiefly according to age. Totty Benson is wearing a ruffled bonnet which I vaguely remember as red trimmed with white. The boys are all wearing round cloth sailor caps or snug fitting little caps. It was as unthinkable to go to school or even play out of doors without a hat as it was not to wear long-legged underwear and high boots in the winter months. Both boys and girls wore long black stockings. In the photograph my sailor hat is on the back of my head probably held on by an elastic under my chin. I seem to be the most disheveled of them all. The photograph was taken on the steps of Hamilton Hall. Outside was a wide strip of asphalt instead of brick for a sidewalk. This made a splendid place to play hopscotch or jump rope. A horse chestnut tree shaded this area and added to our joy in the Fall when the splitting burs fell to reveal the lovely smooth rich brown nuts within. We collected these and sometimes made chains by stringing them on stout thread.
When I think of the chestnuts the image of Mr. Wentworth comes to mind. He was the janitor and lived in rooms on the ground floor. He was darker than the chestnuts with very white teeth, and he was kindly and friendly.
Hamilton Hall was built in 1806 and named, of course, for Alexander Hamilton, who, in spite of careless modern explanation, never danced there. The architect-builder was Samuel McIntire whose designs and carvings so enriched Salem's architecture in that period. It remains one of the most treasured buildings in Salem. I do not wish to try to describe it here except to say that it and the South Church which stood directly across the street, but which burned down in 1903, made Chestnut Street with its great merchant houses one of the most distinguished streets in America. How marvelous it would have been if the church could have been rebuilt exactly as it had been, for it was probably the most beautiful of all the Federal New England wooden churches.
We went to dancing school in Hamilton Hall for years because dancing school seemed to be more of a party than a class. The girls wore wide hair ribbons and wider sashes to match, and patent leather slippers with one strap; the boys, patent leather pumps with flat bows, Eton collars, broad ties and tight, above-the-knee-length dark blue trousers and coats to match. We felt very handsome. Miss Pitman, gray-haired, plump but exceedingly light of foot, in her ankle-length light blue accordion pleated silk skirt, carrying a fan, made
it all seem quite festive. She wore a suspicion of rouge on her cheeks which in those days seemed almost naughty to us. The last half-hour was usually spent dancing one of the two square dances we learned: the Portland Fancy and the Lancers - or often we danced a German, and always the finish was a wonderful grand march. When I see the Frug or the Watusi today my heart goes back to the little boys - later the big boys - gravely placing a hand on their tummies and making a deep bow before the little girls - later the big girls -of their choice. The floor of the old hall, supported by chains, would begin to heave ever so gently when we began to dance the polka or the schottische, and the three great gilt mirrors (still there) would reflect the kaleidoscope of gay colors of dresses, hair ribbons and sashes.
I loved Hamilton Hall. It stood diagonally across from our house in the same block with nothing between except our garden, the Coggins' woodshed and another small garden. Often at night I could see the shadows of dancing couples flit by the lighted Palladian windows and I could hear the music drifting across the space between.
The shed roof belonging to the Coggins, which I just mentioned, I speak of rather shamedly. The Coggins, Mrs. Raynor Wellington's family, were lovely people, kindly and patient - patient because we and our friends loved nothing better than to climb the various slopes of the various roofs of their ell and woodshed which stood directly at the foot of our garden behind our little "barn." As we
grew older, we grew bolder, and I remember with shame one day helping some older boys carry good sized stones up to the shed roof to throw down at the Coggins' garbage pail while Billy shook his fist and swore at us. Dear Billy - who as a little boy, not quite old enough to go to kindergarten, stood on the sidewalk outside his house to greet me and to say he wished he could go too; and who a few months after he had graduated from Harvard in 1916 was carried to his death in a Boston trolley car which plunged through an opened drawbridge near the South Station in Boston.
Fires in Salem were often serious. I can feel my heart pound at the memory of the first blast of the bellowing fire alarm which Often woke me at night to make me lie rigid while I counted the number of blasts from its cavernous source. Any number in the fifties or a second alarm would bring me tumbling out of bed to see if I could see any flames. Too often the lurid light of a night fire would be visible, and then with a dry mouth and a pounding heart, I could not sleep again until I heard the two blasts of the all-out signal. I experienced too many serious fires ever to have peace of mind when there was one in Salem, and perhaps I was not so foolish after all because most of Salem did finally burn down in 1914 when Mother, Rebecca and I were abroad. The two I remember with real fear were when the South Church burned and when Mechanics Hall, our only theatre, hurled firebrands in a strong wind over our little section of the city.
The South Church was being prepared for its one hundredth birthday about Christmastime in 1903.* Members of the parish had been decorating it all day. Father, as was his custom, took Siggy, his black cocker spaniel, to walk before supper. This time I asked to go with him. As we passed the South Church, only a block away opposite Hamilton Hall, we saw through the basement windows a mass of firey, roaring flames. There seemed to be no one else in the neighborhood, yet someone else had seen the flames because just then the fearful fire alarm blew, and it was our own box, number fifty-six. In two or three minutes swinging around the corner at the head of Chestnut Street, a quarter of a mile away, came the fire engine. We could see the reflected glow on the billowing steam and hear the drumming hoofbeats of the galloping horses. I had seen this sight many times before and I think it is the greatest sight I shall ever see - the gleaming engine, with sparks showering from it, drawn by three great black horses abreast, each with four white feet and a white nose, plunging right down the middle of the beautiful wide street arched with towering elms. I always felt exultant, as if I were watching St. George slay the dragon. This was "our" engine, "our" horses from "our" engine house. I had even been in "our" fire station at the time of a fire alarm and had watched "our" horses trot out from their stalls, when the gates flew open, to take their
I may be wrong about its centennial. The clipping says it was built in 1805.
places under the harnesses which then dropped on their backs. I had watched the firemen slide down the brass pole from above,.snatch up their rubber coats and hats, snap one or two buckles on the harnesses and jump on the fire engine even then leaving the station. I am sure that anyone who has seen the run of a horse-drawn fire engine thinks of it as the most dramatic sight he will ever see.
This time a second alarm followed by a general alarm sounded almost immediately. The spire of the church was one hundred and sixty-five feet tall. If it fell outward across the street it would fall across Hamilton Hall. If it fell to either side it would fall across houses. The only way to prevent a terrible conflagration was to make it fall within the church.
Father and I went home to warn the household of the great danger. Apart from packing up some silver and personal papers there seemed little one could do but wait. Before very long we could see from our third story windows that the spire was beginning to burn. The heat became so intense that we closed the windows. I remember watching the flames as long as I could bear it, finally getting a little history book (I was only nine) to read aloud to Mother about Christopher Columbus. I really hated Christopher Columbus because it seemed as if everyone wished to read about him to me, but this time he came to my rescue. Finally we went back to watch the spire fall. The hoses had been played on the fire in such a way that, like a great tree, the spire fell within the ruins of the church.
Sparks flew up and out all over the neighborhood, but other hoses were ready, and neighboring roofs had been wet. The excitement was over, the beautiful old church was gone and Salem was so much the poorer.
I wish I could note that the parishioners rebuilt the church in the old design. Despite petitions from many leading citizens, they refused, fearful of another fire. They built a suburban-looking stone church, an anachronism in that location . Mr. Francis Lee, a great wag and a friend of my parents, who lived in a beautiful Chestnut Street house (later bought by Frank Benson, the artist), remarked that it looked as if one of the Newtons had flown over Salem and laid a church. Years later the Chestnut Street Associates bought the church, pulled it down and turned the site into a little park. Only last Thursday, Rosie Putnam took me to a lecture in Hamilton Hall and to lunch there. She told me that there was great pressure to turn the park into a ball field. If only a Mr. Rockefeller could rebuild the church and help the Chestnut Street Associates maintain this handsome street!
Whenever I feel discouraged about the present world (and goodness knows there is enough cause right now) I am apt to remind myself of the social make-up of Salem as I remember it. Anyone who has read Marquand's "Point of No Return," a satire about the "upper-uppers" and "middle-uppers" and "lower-uppers" - social distinctions in old Newburyport - will understand a little of how it was in Salem about
1900. Wealth seemed to have little to do with social acceptance there. New wealth was almost a hindrance unless the person or family passed the test of cultural acceptance. An ornithologist or traveler or scientist or musician or artist or teacher of broad interests usually was socially acceptable. Yet there was the inner core of people - usually descended from old first families - who seemed to decide who was really acceptable: whose children would be invited to dancing school or children's parties; who would be invited to join one of the three "sewing societies;"* who would be invited to the three annual "Informals" and to the two very formal "Assemblies," held in Hamilton Hall. I can think of three or four families in really straightened circumstances, who participated in all these things. Of course there were fringe families sometimes included, sometimes not. There were families whose children were accepted but the parents were not. The area of the city in which they lived had a little to do with it, those in North or South Salem usually without the pale because of being comparative new comers, not belonging to Old Salem. All this is interesting to think upon.
Where these acceptable people really did fail was in their relation to the immigrants. Only one block away from our house were
The oldest and most venerable to which Mother belonged: "The
The next oldest to which Aunt Rebecca Putnam belonged: "The
The younger set belonged to the "Thread & Needles." Daughters
usually were elected to their mothers' club.
three streets where I never dreamed of going. Creek Street, which was mockingly called Greek Street, Gedney Court and High Street. Not many years before, these streets had been gardens of old houses or narrow ancient lanes, once charmingly quaint perhaps (Creek Street followed the creek which flowed through my great-grandfather Cox's garden) but into which the Greeks and Italians, who worked in the mills, overflowed. Norman Street where we did go and where Cousin Sarah Smith lived and where the large Cox mansion was, in which the numerous Coxes, including my grandmother, were born and grew up, was even in my childhood being turned into a slum neighborhood. These slums have gone, having been cleared for business or parking areas, and all the original quaintness and greenness has gone also.
As far as I know, few people did anything for these mill people until Aunt Rebecca Putnam in the teens and twenties started a small settlement house in the old high school building across from our house on Broad Street. Mother was interested in working girls -largely shop girls - and for years worked hard for the Women's Bureau, a home for working girls, and was its president at one time. Father was interested in the hospital and in boys, and had much to do with the Salem Fraternity, a forerunner of the Salem Y. M. C. A. But the mill workers, as I try to remember, seemed to be forgotten. I forgot to say that both Mother and Father were interested in the beginnings of the Associated Charities.
I grew up literally ignoring many of our neighbors - uneducated
Irish living just up the street in what happily now are redeemed old houses, even neighbors across the street who went to the wrong church and with whom my parents had only nodding acquaintance. However, other neighbors across the street who also went to the wrong church were our friends. I never quite understood. I suppose this was common practice in old New England, but I squirm a bit to think how blithely we went our own rather selfish way. Next door to us lived a Miss Pickering, to whom I paid very little attention although she and her old mother lived barely thirty feet away. Sometimes I would see the old lady sitting near her bedroom window without her wig, her head as smooth and round and shiny as a billiard ball. Perhaps in some future life I shall have a chance of giving her some small word of friendly greeting.
These neighbors must have been sorely tried with the unruly Brownes. Mother was the disciplinarian and was very uneven in her handling of us, especially of Theodore. She could be very severe, but later tried to make up for the heavy hand with too soft forgiveness. Theodore was difficult without question. He was precocious, bright and willful. Often they would clash, as persons very much alike usually do. There was also a strong bond of affection and admiration between them. This sometimes would be hard for me and I grew older often feeling inadequate in their presence. Fortunately for me I could easily escape to friends, animals and the out-of-doors. Father never interfered. He was naturally a peace-loving man. The
only times I remember seeing him lose his temper were when the Parker boys climbed our newly painted fence to hurl bags of water at our newly painted back door and when, in Putnamville on a very windy day, someone lifted the rock from the platform of the smaller kite reel which then was pulled by the great kite across Mr. McCarthy's cabbage field, uprooting cabbages on its way.
Father loved to fly kites with us. He showed us how to fly great kites six and more feet tall with a mile or so of kite string wound on a great reel. This was truly exciting sport, especially when the kite strained and dipped at its tether a mile away above the Burleigh woods. I often wonder why kite flying is no longer a popular sport.
Father was generous with us about his library - so-called. It was filled with fascinating things: the Franklin stove, books, framed autographed letters from famous people, old silhouettes, Indian trophies, swords, muskets, old prints and engravings. The John Brown pike hung horizontally above the pictures. This had been given to Grandfather Browne who had been an abolitionist and had participated with John Greenleaf Whittier in helping escaped slaves on their way to Canada. John Brown was no relation, nor did Grandfather know him, but he admired him. The Browne Bible was there, brought from England by Elder John Browne to Salem in 1628 or 162 9 and in which was entered down to the present the births and deaths of direct descendants. All this is told elsewhere in the Browne
history. Father's chair was a large mahogany leather-upholstered rocking chair. How well I remember sitting in his lap while he rocked me back and forth. He used to crack walnuts for us under its rockers ever so carefully so that the shell would be cracked just right. I never remember being told to leave this room although it was his own special precinct with his desk there where he worked a great deal. One of the first Christmas gifts I ever bought for him with my allowance was a hideous (I then thought it beautiful) cast iron paperweight representing three cigars. Father always kept it on his desk although the sight must have been painful. That Christinas, too, I bought for Mother a little round gilt picture frame - very cheap looking, I fear - into which she slipped a picture of Father and v/hich she kept on her bureau for years. I must have been about nine.
Much of Salem, when I was a child, was still very much of the past. It was changing character rapidly from the sleep of post-shipping days to the hum of cotton mills. Large sections of the city had become Irish or Italian or Greek or French Canadian. The very oldest and quaintest part - down-town Salem near the wharves and Derby Street - had been forsaken because of the immigrant push. Town politics, by the time I was eight or nine, had fallen to the Irish, and by the time I reached High School, three years or so later, the once excellent schools were engulfed by political appointments. Such is the history of New England towns which have become
My family had a good deal to do with this change because Uncle Frank Cox (great-uncle), who built the Victorian house at the corner of Summer and Chestnut Streets, was for many years president of the Naumkeag Steam Cotton Company. I have spoken of him earlier - a tall, gentle, gracious man whom the whole family loved. Little did he perceive what was happening to the Salem he loved - the myopic malady of the eighties and nineties.
But much remained the same also. I think I am setting this all down because I regret greatly that my father had not done so with his memories. So much interesting local history, amusing anecdotes, word pictures of old Salem and its characters were thereby lost forever. My memories seem pallid in comparison. Yet I do remember Mr. Nye, our piano tuner whom one would never meet now. He came once or twice a year, a rather old, stringy man, bald with baggy clothes, watery very light blue eyes and delicate hands with long fingers. A fringe of white hair hung down over his coat collar. I was never sure his eyes ever really saw me. Certainly he never spoke to me even though I liked to watch him if I happened to be at home. After he removed his old hat and coat he would put on a skull cap, open his black bag of tuning instruments, dismantle the piano and then start a steady hour or so of hitting the same note or trio of notes until we all wished to cover our ears. His conversation consisted entirely of. "Yes's" or "No's." Just before he left he would play
a succession of delicate trills or runs, apparently satisfied with the result of his labors.
Another person I well remember, although his shop disappeared before I was very old, was Mr. Welch, the bird man. He had a diminutive shop on Essex Street, completely filled with bird cages and birds of various kinds. The clamor was incessant. Small yellow canaries fluttered and sang inside their small Hartz Mountain wooden cages - dozens of them. Other birds in larger cages peeped, squeaked and croaked. Parrots blinked their baleful eyes at you and sometimes suddenly addressed you with "Hello there" quite unexpectedly. Mr. Welch was old, bald and wore a skull cap also. Underneath beetling white eyebrows a magnificent hawk nose protruded like a great beak. He was deaf. When he spoke it was through his beak nose. He sounded for all the world like his parrots. We had a cage of canaries when I was a small girl and for years Auntie kept one, yellow with black wings, so visits to Mr. Welch's shop were frequent.
Miss Plummer's shop on the opposite side of Essex Street and a little nearer "the Square" was very important to our family. How often I was told, upon returning from school, to run down to Miss Plummer's to buy a spool of thread or buttons or hooks and eyes or Belgian lace trimming or pins and needles. Miss Plummer's shop was even more diminutive than Mr. Welch's - not more than ten feet wide with shelves and counter on one side and tiers of drawers and glass cases on the other. Somehow she always seemed to have what one
needed from sequins to safety pins. She even carried little old-fashioned wooden, jointed dolls about six inches high and any hair-ribbon or sash I might need for dancing school. She herself is a shadowy memory, but I do remember her spare angular figure, her little tightly knotted bun at the back of her head which quite belied the kindly, patient woman. Salem missed her when her shop was absorbed by the department store.
Weber's department store was a product of the new age of the eighties and nineties. It was - and probably still is - in the most central location in Salem, in Town House Square. It had show windows. A heavy brightly polished brass rail protected them.
Someone told me that when it was below freezing if you touched your tongue to the railing it would stick there. That was too much for Miss Curiosity, so one winter day I leaned over and licked the brass rail. Stick to my
tongue it did. I was anchored to that horrible metal right in the main square of Salem with
everyone there to see. This disgrace was too much, so I wrenched my tongue away, probably
leaving a coating of skin behind. Anyway, my tongue was so sore for a week I could hardly eat.
At the corner of Summer and Norman Streets was "Mr. Hale's," an old New England store, dark and smelling of kerosene and vinegar.
He sold groceries from shelves and from various barrels, and a large cask of sour pickles stood in the middle of the shop handy to the school children, who would, for a penny or two, pull out a whole cucumber pickle and devour it with relish. This I could never do. There was the candy counter, protected from greedy hands by a rounding glass cover, displaying Salem Gibralters, Black Jacks, rock crystal candy made on a string, various cheap sugar candies and my favorite, red licorice sticks. I think it was not the taste so much as the delicate sharp point one could produce by judicious sucking. Mr. Hale was short, bent and tired looking. We did not trade there regularly, but it was a convenient place to send us to buy something that might have been forgotten from the daily grocery order at Whel-ton's Market.
Before 1901, when we had our first telephone - 431 ring 2, the grocery man would come to the door for the order and deliver the proceries later in the day. This was the method in Putnamville and even at Chocorua in 1915.
Mr. Hale's store, the interesting old house next to it, later belonging to George Benson, Doyle's Mansion,* Creek Street, the Todds' house, the elm trees have all gone to make way for a business area. Fine houses on upper Summer Street, which once supported a coachman and a stable of horses, are now largely shabby rooming houses. Only our part of Summer Street has remained in good hands. The Eden house
*A superior boarding house where several of our older friends lived.
(ours) stands rather starkly forsaken by any softening graciousness of the ancient elms and quaintness of surroundings.
I wish I could make a word picture of Salem as it was before 1906. It still had its aristocratic crust which, as I look back, lent lustre to an already quickly changing world. Its schools were still excellent with genteel, well-educated teachers, some of whom were my parents' personal friends. It had an active local intellectual life, quite separate from Boston, with lectures, concerts and theatre. Its previously good city government was just beginning to be undermined by Irish politicians and graft. Its First Citizens were still gentlemen and Yankees, and usually well-to-do. Almost every family you were acquainted with had two maids or more. Nursemaids were common. Many houses had a stable in the garden with a coachman to drive a handsome pair of matched horses, and Mr. Charles Sanders used to drive his pacers in a light two-wheeled gig or sulky. The houses of these people were large, well kept and rather impressive. Today on Summer Street two or three of these have become shabby-looking rooming houses, as I have said. The world is probably a happier place for the many, but the lustre has gone. The David Littles, the Richard Wheatlands - to me wonderful families - moved to Boston about 1912 or so, a trend already begun as early as 1850 by the Peabodys, Saltonstalls, Endicotts, Lees and other well-known families.
I had a great deal of freedom when I was growing up. My second cousin, Rebecca Pickering, who was four months older than I and with whom I used to play a good deal, did not. She and her brother John, about three years younger, had a nursemaid tagging along until she was ten or eleven. This I thought very silly. I persuaded Rebecca a few times to escape from Josephine by climbing over back fences which Josephine could not climb, and I was rather scornful when later I came upon them weeping upon each other's shoulders from remorse and relief. However, we did have good times together. Some very happy memories are those of playing inside and outside at 18 Broad Street, the lovely old Pickering house and garden. Out-of-doors we played "horse" endlessly or "house" or croquet or baseball. Inside we played "farm" in Rebecca's room by drawing in chalk on the brown linoleum floor railroad tracks, roads, fields, and building with blocks railroad stations, barns and houses. Our imaginations must have been very active because I always loved this pastime. John, three years younger, used to play with us often. His father, Cousin John, often ended the afternoon play with an exciting hunt and chase around the upstairs bedrooms until I was sent home to calm down and let the Pickering household settle into peace once more. Cousin John was very strict with his children but he also had a good sense of humor and loved to joke with them. He never could let them decide anything for themselves, even as to what clothes to wear or whether they should wear rubbers. Several times I led them astray by persuading
them to eat the forbidden cherries and Bosc pears in their garden. I remember especially the day Cousin Anna invited me to go to Salem Willows with her and the children. While we were waiting to go I enticed Rebecca into eating some cherries. Shortly we were called into the house to have glasses of milk before we went. At the Willows, while having an exciting ride on the Merry-Go-Round, both Rebecca and I were seized with cramps. Fortunately Cousin Anna found privacy for us behind a redoubt of the old fort where at both ends we could rid ourselves of cherries and milk. I bravely confessed that I had been the culprit.
For a child cooped up in a city through half the year, with only a small back garden to call her own, warm spring evenings brought tremendous joy. After supper, which was almost always at quarter past six, some friends and I would sit on the granite steps of our front door, hatless and coatless, talking together, smelling the earthy promise of summer and freedom and savoring that new joy. There we would sit playing jack-stones or bouncing rubber balls on their long elastics until our families summoned us to bed.
Spring, too, on Saturdays brought games like Hare and Hounds and Run Sheep Run. Hare and Hounds we played with a vengeance, marking our trails with chalk or torn newspaper over back fences, through private gardens, and sometimes even over shed roofs. I remember with a pang my devoted dog Rover, who accompanied me everywhere and who
often would wait hours while I played inside friends' houses. One day, too heavy to boost over an extra high fence beside the Grace Church, I rushed on leaving him behind and forgot all about him until hours later when I went back and found him still waiting beside the fence.
Rover was the dog of dogs, as all devoted dogs of one's childhood seem to be. Still he was extra special - handsome (part Irish, part English setter), utterly devoted, eager to please, gentle, quiet and easy to teach. He carried basket or umbrella in his mouth. He. never could judge the space needed to maneuver an umbrella past tree or post and he always seemed puzzled when it hit. I used to dress him in goggles, cap and pipe, put his paws on the steering wheel of the car and make him sit there until I told him to get down. I could put a piece of bread on the tip of his nose and he would look crosseyed at it until I signalled him to toss it up and catch it in his mouth. He was a wonderful dog, though no one thought him as wonderful as I did. He died at Uncle Charles Perkins' when I went abroad for the year of 1913-14, and I grieve still not to have been able to say goodbye to him at the last.
I must not forget what fun two or three of us had a few times when I hitched Jackie to the toboggan by extending the pony harness traces and reins with rope. We knew this to be a dangerous pastime because Jack's heels were just where we would be if we allowed the toboggan to slide into them. I remember no accident on our long
trips out into the country, but I do remember tremendous excitement at skimming over the snowy roads so close to the ground, at times slewing on the icy surface. Our toes and heels were the brakes and we must have used a good deal of strength and some skill in keeping clear of those iron-shod spiked heels.
The Healey family loomed very large in our lives. When I was about five we went to Topsfield one day to call on Dr. and Mrs. Putnam, Uncle Alfred's parents, who were at a boarding house on a lovely hill on the Newburyport Turnpike, then a simple country road. I fell down and badly scraped my knee. A tender young Irish girl ran out of the kitchen to pick me up. She comforted me and bathed my knee. That fall the employment office sent a prospective maid to Mother to be interviewed. It was the same young Irish girl, Hannah Healey. She came to us and was with us twelve years. I loved her dearly. I wish I could repeat her wonderful warm Irish brogue. She used to sing me songs in Gaelic. She came running to Mother one Sunday when the Sunday roast had disappeared from its platter. "'Tis that Sig," she said, "He's the divil, he is. He's big and fat-like and pantin' wid t' weight o' it."
Hannah sent to Ireland for her brother, Dan, who became our gardener (too confining a word) during our five or six months' stay in Putnamville. During the remaining months he had a room in our tiny barn in the Salem garden and took care of several furnaces and
sidewalks for us and our friends. He was delightfully paddy-Irish and a little slow in the head, and he had the same kind, patient disposition which Hannah had.
One hot day he was weeding in the vegetable garden. Mother, whose ideas were definite and original, suggested he put grapevine leaves in his hat to keep him cool. He objected, saying, "Oi'd be lookin' foolish-like, oi would, wid leaves stickin' in me hat."
Hannah next sent for her sister, Ellie, and then for another brother, Michael, and later for another brother, John. John never worked for us but the others all did at one time or another. Michael followed Dan as our furnace-man-gardener and Ellie was our second maid for years. Ellie had a temper and could grow white around the mouth with pursed lips, and Michael was inclined to be dapper with a clipped moustache and checked suits on Sundays, but they were all helpful, loyal and devoted to Father. Dan became the gardener for Mr. Watts, who built for him a little gardener's cottage when he married a truly superior woman. They had one child, a son named Matthew who was a bright boy and who became a graduate of M. I. T. John worked as an orderly for the Salem Hospital, a position gotten for him by Father, who was a trustee. When Father died they all left us, Hannah and Ellie going back to Ireland and Michael becoming a miner in Montana earning ten dollars a day, a fabulous sum in those days. He came to see us once, wearing a loud checkered suit and a diamond stickpin in his tie. It is much to our discredit that we finally lost touch with them all.
I tell this because this was the early history of so many young immigrant Irish. Perhaps the Healeys were especially fortunate. Every Sunday morning in Putnamville Michael, Hannah and Ellie, all in their best clothes, would climb into the freshly washed Democrat wagon with Duke in a freshly polished harness, to drive three miles to the Catholic church between Danvers and Danversport. Should you look for that church now you might find its ghost under Route 128.
When I was nine Father took us all to the British Isles for two months. I had known early in the winter that I was going abroad quite soon because a girl at school, who noticed a wide separation between my front teeth, had said that if I could put a penny between them it meant I was going abroad that year. I could and I went. It was a happy time for all four of us - that summer of 1903. I am still amazed that I remember so much of where we went and what we saw: the castles, cathedrals, London City, boating on the Thames with English friends, Edinburgh with its castle, Scottish stage-coaching in Scottish mist, entrancing Scottish cattle, Welsh rivers, Welsh yellow roses on gray stone walls of houses, Welsh mountains and a trip up Mt. Snowden by train. I even remember some picture galleries in London and especially Rosa Bonheur's "Horse Fair."* We went to Devon and saw wild ponies on the moors and we went to Land's End. At St. Ives we walked out beyond the town. I remember how Theodore and I spent hours trying to answer Mother's rhyme riddle,
*I must check this. Probably another Rosa Bonheur. The "Horse Fair" is in the Metropolitan Museum.
"As I was going to St. Ives I met a man with seven wives." etc.
It must have been a happy carefree time for Father and Mother also, because ten years after I was born small Rebecca entered the world. She was a very beautiful baby and grew to be a beautiful child and woman. From then on my life had to change, to hold a little consideration for others. The new baby was quite delicate at first and I had to be quiet now and could not bang around the house any more. I grew more and more independent of family and more and more dependent upon outside contacts and friends.
Several more memories: the pearl-handled knife, for instance. I was with Father one day at the hardware store and saw a pen knife for sale which I coveted. It had a lovely mother-of-pearl handle, two blades and a nail file. Father bought it for me, urging me to be careful when I used it. I took it proudly home, started whittling a stick and promptly gave myself a deep jab in the fleshy part of my leg just above the knee. The gap was wide and deep and most bloody and probably should have had a stitch or two, but I never told anyone and so was able to keep my knife. It was later borrowed by a girl in school I disliked, named Gertrude Blood. I supposed she wished to sharpen a pencil, but she cleaned her nails with it instead. Florence Ball, a colored girl with very frizzy hair who sat next to me (we were all B's), saw I was distressed, asked Gertrude for the knife, then handed it to me. Since then I have always liked colored people.
At ten I began music lessons - piano. Miss Charlotte Nichols, who lived with her sister in the beautiful Pierce-Nichols house on Federal Street, was my teacher. I had my lesson before school and I often would arrive before Miss Charlotte had finished breakfast. I remember that during one of those waits I crawled and hid way under her beautiful grand piano and that she had to haul me out. Later I took violin lessons from Mr. Arthur Luscomb and dabbled at it way through to the winter of 1913-14 in Berlin. Mother had been my accompanist and had prodded me on. I had no determination or even desire to go it alone. How is motivation achieved anyway?
Theodore and I had measles quite severely when I was twelve. Mother put me in her room and Theodore in the four-poster in the guest room (my hiding place) and each day she sat in the hall between the two rooms reading David Copperfield to us. She must have read hours and hours in all because I think she read a good part of the book to us.
She read aloud well. Occasionally she would read aloud in the evening to Father and their friends. I remember her reading "Garibaldi and the Thousand" to Lees and to Putnams. The Lees and one or two other couples sometimes came for an evening of whist. They always called one another "Mr." or "Mrs." or "Miss" So-and-so, rarely using first names except for childhood friends.
It was after we recovered from measles that Father took Theodore and me to New York for three or four days. This was a big event for
us. We stayed at the Park Avenue Hotel near 32nd Street. At that time it seemed to us rather grand but now it has gone into oblivion. Professor Morse had given Father a letter of introduction to a Mr. Isles who lived there. He was a literary figure and belonged to the Century Club. He took great interest in us, as did the staff of the hotel who worried lest Father was keeping us up too late. But Father's idea of a good time for us in New York was to forget about bed hours and to do and see all we could. This suited Theodore and me very well. He took us to see the Battle of Port Arthur at the Hippodrome, terrifyingly real with live men and horses careening around the huge stage amid explosions of gunfire, the men brandishing drawn sabres until I thought all heads and arms would be hacked off. We went two times in the evening to the theatre, though now I do not recall what we saw there. (In Boston we had already seen Ben Hur and Joseph Jefferson in Rip Van Winkle.) We drove in Central Park, visited the Natural History Museum, rode on a horse-car (the very last one, I think) down by the Battery where we jolted over cobblestones to get around the end of a stalled freight train. This made Theodore and me feel very superior because we knew of no horse-cars in Salem or Boston. It was a wonderful trip. Mother at home with small Rebecca must have been envious after hearing all we had to tell her.
I have not spoken of "Professor" Morse, Edward S. Morse, who was a close friend of my parents, especially of my mother, a friend of his
daughter. Mr. Morse came frequently to sae us or to have Sunday supper with us since he had been a widower for many years. Unconsciously, through the years this unusual, gifted, uninhibited man brought a sense of wonder, of joy, of humor, of caprice into my world and into our otherwise more usual household. Auntie never did understand or like him, with the result that he ignored or teased her. He was the product of the explosion of fresh thinking sparked by Darwin's theories - a zoologist primarily, who had had a brachiopod named for him when only a lad of seventeen. He had been one of Louis Agassiz's assistants, often quarreling with him and with the other assistants. He was largely self-taught, playing hooky from school to wander among the tidal rocks of Portland where he was born. He was misunderstood by his rather devout Baptist parents. He must have been a very trying son.
He was interested in almost everything he saw or heard, and wrote pamphlets on various subjects continuously. He was a minor astronomer and wrote a fascinating book on Mars. He was a student of anatomy of man, bird and beast. (I remember a human fetus preserved in a jar in his study.) He had been for a series of years a professor of Zoology at the Imperial University of Japan and proudly wore the imperial decoration in his lapel. While in Japan he made an extensive collection of Japanese pottery, which is one of the treasures of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. He was the author of a fascinating two volume diary (now treasured by modern Japan) called "Japan, Day by Day," written in Japan in the late 1870's and early 1880's, illustrated on nearly every page
with his delicate, skillful sketches at first hand. He was for years curator of the Peabody Museum in Salem. Today the Japanese are building an institute of Zoology in his honor at Enoshima Island, the place where he first taught Japanese students Zoology while studying brachio-pods gleaned from the waters at hand.
Mr. Morse was my friend and paid as much attention to me as if I had been an important grown-up. This was his greatness - to be always the same person to young and old, the obscure and the famous, the poor and the rich. When I was a little girl, I was enamoured of horses -played Horse, watched Horse, dreamed Horse, drew Horse, played the Horse guessing game for hours with Auntie of "What color horse will come by the house next?" Professor Morse would find my attempts at drawing Horse and quickly sketch in the skeleton, often with the neck bones protruding beyond the nose or the backbone protruding beyond the tail, pointing out that I had not observed their proportions carefully. My horses were chunky creatures.
I listened long and silently to his wonderful talk and his humorous stories, and sometimes we would be taken to one of his lectures at Academy Hall where he would illustrate his lectures by drawing with both hands at one time. He was far from modest, sometimes boasting about the famous people he had met around the world, and used to say that a chain of four people removed from him would include almost all living people.
I remember one of his illustrations in talking about the stars.
Place a dime on Boston Common and call it the sun. Place the point of a pin six feet from it and call it the Earth. With a giant compass draw a circle, using the sun as the center, which would pass through Cleveland, Ohio (I think it was) and there find the nearest fixed star. His interest and excitement about the world were very contagious and perhaps a little naive from a modern point of view, but for people with whom he came in contact, he was like a fresh breeze.
He was one of the most uninhibited people I ever knew, denouncing the church in front of ministers, shocking the staid and conventional for sheer amusement, falling in with children in their tricks and pranks. If I met him on the street he would grab me in his arms and swing me off my feet, giving me a resounding smack. Two or three times, when he met me with friends, he would take us all to Stoddard's Bakery, buy us cream puffs and walk down the street with us, all stuffing cream puffs into our mouths with glee. At our dinner table sometimes he would grab all the napkin rings, put them in his eye sockets, on his ears, crease one onto his upper lip, put one on top of his head and rise carefully, parading around the table without losing one, sometimes stopping to boo at us or Auntie. Or he would bang on the table and yell for his supper. Of course we would all double up with laughter.
He was a wonderful, delightful man who never quite forgave me for marrying a theological student with a Baptist minister for a father. However, I was on Essex Street in Salem one day with Father Chamberlin
when Mr. Morse came hurrying down the street. It was the one and only time they met, and at the end of the two or three minute meeting I could see that they both had enjoyed each other.
I have several things he gave to me - his book, "Chinese Homes," an autographed photograph of his portrait by Frank Benson, Totty's father, a piece of Aunt Jenny Brooks' embroidery for an engagement gift and the mahogany tray framing some more of Aunt Jenny's work, now in my guest room.* I also have two or three little pieces of pottery he gave Mother and, valued most of all, "Japan Day By Day" which she passed on to me.
He stayed youthful physically until the last few years, not dying until he was in his nineties, running up steps two or three at a time, playing tennis with gusto, or racing after us in play. I did not see him much during his last years when he had grown repetitive, always chilly, and a little complaining, so earlier memories remain clear and bright.
The Morse Auditorium at the Boston Museum of Science is named for him and was given in his memory by his daughter, Mrs. Russell Robb. How I wish we all could live as fully, as freely, as gaily as he. Fortunately he was born in exactly the right era when the scientific world was still young and largely unexplored.
*Aunt by courtesy. The Brookses were close friends of Mr. Morse and of Mother.
Another great joy in my life was in knowing the Pew family. For several years Kitty was my best childhood friend. The Pew family was unique, but it is hard to explain or even know why. Colonel Pew - as he was in the earlier years, later General - was a successful lawyer who had been colonel of the 8th Regiment in the Spanish-American War. He had remained very active in the National Guard subsequently. The Military was an absorbing interest with him. His great desire was to have a son to whom he could teach all the masculine skills he had acquired like fencing, boxing, riding. This he never achieved, so Polly, the eldest, who was more like her father than the rest, became his pupil. In her room were fencing foils, wire masks, boxing gloves, dumbbells, and she was the horsewoman of the family. She always dressed mannishly with a jaunty tip to her stiff boater hat. Men, I think, were a little afraid of her. She never married.
Mrs. Pew, on the other hand, was one of the most feminine people I ever knew, more so than any of her four daughters, though the three younger ones had a good deal of her wry charm. She was soft of voice, gentle, dainty, firm about noise and manners, and had a delightful elfish way of telling amusing stories. She was a devoted Episcopalian and brought up her children to be carefully schooled in Episcopal ways. It was a more conventional household than ours with a sweetness and feeling for good manners which ours (in my youthful mind) lacked. I always felt a little clumsy and boorish in comparison. The children all had set duties which they performed without hesitation and with a
good deal of family loyalty and pride.
Mrs. Pew's insistence on afternoon tea and her feeling that the proper way to eat an egg was English fashion from an egg cup, and not cleaved apart as we did, and that the house should be quiet and peaceful for grown-ups' enjoyment, also Colonel Pew's love of his garden and Mrs. Pew's gentle domesticity all made for me a picture of what home life should be, and I loved it. Meals were usually gay and full of banter, but at a word shrill voices were suddenly dropped. Their summer house in Rockport is the setting in which I think of them because that was where I visited them. Although I loved Putnamville I longed for the summer companionship of bathing, fishing off the cliffs, building farms and villages on the beach, going to evening picnics on the rocks with a group of young and happy children.
Yet behind the scenes among the girls was an interest in the sensational, the unusual and the mysterious. They told ghost stories in the dark after we had gone to bed, read detective stories by day. It was there I was introduced to Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps I was more impressionable than they because often I could not go to sleep for the fur rising on my spine. I would go home believing in ghosts, which would be unthinkable in our house. It was this imaginative atmosphere which was different and let loose for me a sneaking interest in the sensational and the mysterious.
The Pews were not above playing pranks. One May I went with the girls to Rockport, before the house was open for the summer, for a
long weekend house party. Polly was to guide us and Colonel Pew v/ith his old orderly were to see that we were fed. We walked from the station in Rockport to the house at Land's End, two or three miles, and on the way Polly spied a large "For Sale" sign which immediately called forth a plan in her head. She persuaded us to help her carry it to the back of Turks Head Inn, the summer hotel next door which, of course, was closed. She knew of an unlocked third story window on the fire escape. We carried the sign up the fire escape, through the window and down into the hotel lobby where we propped it up in front of the manager's desk. Just then we heard footsteps approaching outside on the long veranda. We fled upstairs, our sneakers probably muffling our tread but which to us sounded like ear-splitting squeaks and creaks. With hearts pounding we stole down the fire escape and, apparently unseen, ran home. I think we never trespassed again.
In the evening, after a good hearty army meal, Colonel Pew told us stories - wonderful stories - while we huddled around a blazing open fire. During the day we went to the beach. Mrs. Pew had asked us not to go wading because of the cold water, but we all got wet playing tag with the waves. Polly then suggested that we could dry our stockings by pounding them between stones, which we did. Much to our dismay we found their undersides riddled with holes. We went stockingless from then on.
On another visit in the summer the girls kept going for a short swim and then lying on the beach or rocks alternately. No one had
warned me of seaside sunburn since I already had a country brown, but when we got back to the house Mrs. Pew had to cut the boy's bathing-suit I was wearing from my scarlet body. I remember I had to be sent home on the afternoon train to be doctored. I ran a fever for several days.
Visiting still another time, Kitty and I slept on two cots in the attic. We had gone to the hotel, contrary to Mrs. Pew's orders, to buy a small box of chocolate peppermints. I remember the sound of rain on the roof as we ate several pieces of candy in the dark. In the morning we looked to see how many pieces were left and saw little white worms crawling about in the box.* Kitty, who had a much greater sense of an ever watchful and disapproving Providence than I, was sure it was punishment for not obeying her mother. She never could turn me into a conventional believer, in spite of taking me to Lenten services with her. I had too much of my Unitarian minister grandfather's blood in my veins. Even in those early years my heart told me that small observances were not what mattered. The beauty and wonder of life all around me - especially the out-of-doors - gave me, perhaps, what Kitty found in her church.
The Pews kept a spirited horse and light runabout at the Turks Head Inn stables. Polly, three or four years older than we, used to drive her father to the Rockport station each morning and meet him each evening. It was my ambition to drive Silvertip. He was black, but he not
*Kitty now is Mrs. Angus Dun, wife of the retired Bishop of Washington.
only had four long white socks and a white nose, but also blue eyas and a white tip to his long tail. And he was nervous... definitely he was not my father's idea of what a horse should be. We were not allowed to drive him alone until we were thirteen or fourteen. Polly was away and he needed exercise so we were permitted to take him out, but "not to Gloucester." We did not go to Gloucester - quite - but we had gone on the Gloucester road which for a short distance paralleled the railroad tracks. Much to our alarm, on coming home, we met a train at exactly this point, with its whistle shrieking. Alethea was driving. Silvertip plunged like a wild animal and went racing away toward home with the runabout swaying from side to side like a whiplash. First Kitty helped Alethea pull on the reins, and then all three of us, trying to saw the bit in the horse's mouth. Finally we got Silvertip under control, or I might not be here to tell the tale. We were badly scared young things.
I also played with Kitty in Salem. As little girls, in kindergarten, she and I one day sat on a curbing covered with coal dust in front of a stately Chestnut Street house to which coal had just been delivered. We blackened our faces, arms and hands and then parted company, already late for lunch. Theodore had been sent out into the garden to find me and I, knowing I should not be warmly welcomed in my blackened state, hid behind the fence and when he came near I rose up like a young ogre to scare him. Instead, he summoned Mother and I was duly spanked, soaped and put to bed. Mrs. Pew told Mother later
that she had heard Kitty ask me what my punishment had been. I told her. "That's funny," she had said, "Me too. I guess that must be the punishment for children who blacken their faces and are late to lunch."
The Pews were really an original crew. One day I went to play
and found that they had been making wine. They had picked their purple
grapes, taken off their shoes and stockings and had trodden the grapes in an old wash tub. They then strained the juice and had given some to their aunt, Miss Louisa Huntington, who was visiting them and who said it was delicious. They had been reading about treading grapes -in the Bible, perhaps?
Kitty, I know, stimulated my imagination. One time when she was visiting me at Putnamville we drove over to Ryalside, a country area near the foot of Folly Hill. There we found much tall goldenrod growing by the roadsides. Its tasseled brilliance gave us the idea of weaving the stalks through the spokes of the wheels, the pony harness, and wherever we could find a slot to hold it. We produced a golden carriage and a golden pony with two extra long goldenrod feathers waving above his ears. We thought this so beautiful a sight that we paraded up and down through Danvers Square trying to attract everyone's attention.
As we reached our teens we became interested in clubs. Kitty and Alethea and I formed a club called the "Slumgullian Suicide Brothers." As far as I can remember its sole purpose was to initiate other girls into it - first Mildred Nason, Ellen Rice, and then Totty Benson. Our
sign was a drop of blood splashed oil paper which was the membership card given each girl after initiation. We became quite adept at pricking our fingers. The initiations were the stiffest we could think of. Ellen, who was fat, had to crawl between every leg of a gateleg table. Totty had to tell her aristocratic, rather terrifying Chestnut Street aunt that her cocker spaniel was too fat. Mildred had to stop a street car, put her foot on the running-board, tie her shoestring and then motion to the motorman to go on. There were more, but I do not remember .
The Pews' attic was where the club held forth. It was also a wonderful rainy day place to play. Its steep stairs made a splendid toboggan chute down which we would speed on an old mattress, but after somebody's head got badly banged, that was stopped.
Mrs. Pew, I think, felt her girls were becoming too tomboyish and needed to be led into quieter activities and skills. Anyway, she persuaded Mother and Marguerite Little's mother (Marty was Harriet Pew's best friend) to send us all to the French convent in South Salem for sewing and embroidery lessons. I remember a Sister Alexandra taught us - or tried to. She was a quiet, pleasing, gentle nun who won our hearts and with whom we behaved like genteel young ladies. But I do not remember that we developed much skill.
Later Mrs. Williams, Osgood Williams' mother, held a sewing class at Mrs. David Little's. There we were put through the usual lessons of learning the art of sewing with a good deal of firm discipline -
darning, patching, making button holes, feather stitching (which I had always done for Mother's dusters as a labor of love) hemstitching, simple embroidery. I certainly was not the star of the class (Marty Was), but those lessons paid off well, and I have always been grateful for them.
When I was eleven Kitty had a large handsome stockinet doll given her and I was filled with envy. I had never much cared for dolls. Theodore and I used to vaccinate their kid bodies with needle pricks and blue crayon, and we would stuff tapioca pills into their china mouths, followed by a teaspoon of water. I had never treated them gently. But now, at eleven, the maternal instinct was stirring over something beside animals. So I appealed to Auntie who gave me a doll just like Kitty's. Rebecca was a year old or so and had already outgrown her baby clothes. These exactly fitted my doll. We named our dolls Kitty Browne and Sally Pew. The memory still remains with Kitty because to this day she signs her letters "Kitty Browne."
And I must not forget the doll house. The Pews, in Salem, had a wonderful doll house. I had one, also, but not so well equipped. Father, when he went to Boston, would often bring home to me some little piece for it. Theodore made the stairs. I loved it, not so much because of playing with it as for making things for it from rugs to little curtains. When Rebecca Bradford was here last Sunday she spoke of this summer's visit to the Peacock Inn at Rowsley in Derbyshire. Instantly I remembered the cakes of ice in my doll house refrigerator had been
pieces of quartz on the path in the Peacock Inn's garden, which I had selected and brought home in 1903.
There was a lively, friendly group of young people growing up in Salem. We did many things together as a large group of girls and boys which broke down into smaller groups for lesser activities. We skated, we coasted on "doublerunners" on down-hill streets - both very exciting and dangerous. (Doublerunners were made from two sleds with a long board connecting them, pivoted on the front sled for steering. They could carry several people.) We tobogganed. We met at different houses for talk and hot chocolate. In the spring and early summer we played baseball, tried rifle practice, shot with shotguns at clay pigeons (this was a Benson and Gifford sport). Two or three or four of us rode horseback together. We had numerous parties at each others' houses - simple supper followed by the game of Hearts, which we all liked, with prizes for the winner and the booby.
There were a few house parties I remember, one for some girls over Hallowe'en at the David Littles' at their summer house at Proctor's Crossing. The house was large and draughty, and the ghost stories we told magnified banging doors and creaking stairs. We did not sleep very much. Another was at Putnamville in our so-called bungalow (the Hodgson portable house, later moved to Chocorua) for four or five girls with their horses kept in our paddock. The earlier one at Rockport in May when I was twelve I have told about, but the one I remember most was in our large house at Putnamville over Hallowe'en when I was about
fourteen. Theodore and I put our heads together over that one and thought up all sorts of spooky things. The most scary for our friends was requiring each one to go alone at night into the dead corn field where we had set up a witch's cauldron with a blue light inside, guarded by a witch scarecrow. Even I nearly panicked when the night wind rattled the dead corn stalks.
When I was sixteen. Cousin Sally and Cousin Mary Pickering, Rebecca's aunts, loaned their guest cottage in Ogunquit to Rebecca for a house-party lasting four or five days. There were seven or eight of us, chiefly from the Misses Allen's School in West Newton, where Rebecca went for two years. The aunts furnished meats and groceries, but we were to do all cooking and housework. I remember I made an enormous bread pudding and enough hard sauce to feed a regiment. We ate soggy bread pudding for several meals and threw away the rest. Because I was accustomed to horses I was allowed to drive Bob, the Pickerings' blind horse, to the beach so that the girls could go swimming. While they bathed, I drove up and down, not realizing that a tidal river at the head of the beach was rising rapidly cutting horse and carriage off from the mainland. The water became two feet deep or more. The horse, feeling the cold water and not being able to see, refused to ford it. Only when a concerned man came to my aid and helped me coax Bob across, did my heart stop its wild beating. It was then that I learned the meaning of responsibility.
In the winter a few times we had sleigh-ride or "pung-ride"
parties. Once in a while someone or two or three would plan to hire a large open pung drawn by two horses and bedded with straw for us to sit on. We would try to choose a still winter night with a moon shining on new white snow. Each of us would contribute a small sum toward the expense. I can think of no greater fun than this - a group of fifteen or eighteen young people sitting snugly together on the straw or, when cold, running behind to get warm. We usually sang all the way - every song we knew. Once or twice we stopped at the Berry Tavern in Danvers Square for cups of steaming hot chocolate. The last pung ride I ever had was when I was a freshman at college. Sally Bradford, Gamaliel Bradford's daughter, asked a group of us to Wellesley Hills to supper, followed by a pung ride around through Wellesley and back. But even then the coming of the automobile had made the roads somewhat bare and no longer good for sleighs or pungs. It was "not like it used to be."
"Punging" was a sport I pursued with great enthusiasm because it had to do with horses and the out-of-doors. Most stores made their own deliveries - by horse and wagon. In winter pungs were used, long, open box-bodies on four runners. The sound of jingling bells was very enticing, though I think Theodore was immune. After school, if conditions were right, two or three of us might pung for an hour or two, jumping onto a back runner or sitting on a siderail or sometimes climbing up inside. It depended upon how friendly and forbearing the driver might be. If that particular pung did not go where we wished, we would
leave it and hop onto another. We used to pung all over the city in this way and sometimes into the country as well. Occasionally we would not be welcomed freight and a long whip lash would fly out at us. Sometimes we would have our sleds or toboggans with us. The rope attached to them could easily be slipped through runner or cross bar and we would pile on. A fast horse could make this kind of ride very exciting because we were so near to the ground with snow spraying over us. I thought this a splendid pastime. For Rebecca Pickering this was forbidden sport and I felt sorry for her.
As we grew older some of us, always headed by the four Giffords,* made an annual trip on the nineteenth of April by canoe down the Ipswich River from Middleton to Ipswich. It was a paddle of forty miles with two carries and took all the hours of a long day. I think one automobile, sometimes two, had to be driven to Ipswich first and left there. The trip required a good deal of planning, but it was an annual happiness I shall never forget. The boys paddled and the girls provided the food. We used to stop for lunch at an island in the marshes in Topsfield. The buds usually had just burst and everything smelled of spring. I can remember, however, one very cold day and one rainy day, but usually it was sunny and warm.
On the island were a good many gray birches. The boys taught us
A truly fine foursome of motherless children, three of whom met tragic deaths before they reached the age of 35. An older foursome, by the same parents, included Walter Gifford who became president of the American Telephone Company, and later, Ambassador to Britain.
how to swing them - a glorious ride which Robert Frost tells about in one of his poems. I remember stout Ellen Rice being marooned in the air on a birch which bent over only half way. After much screeching from her and shouted directions from the boys she was able to climb out on it far enough to make it bend over to the ground. It always amazed me to see the birch tree spring back to be upright again. As a high school freshman I had to learn, "Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain," etc. I think those simple joys were similar to ours.
I do not mean to say that we were entirely innocent, but so innocent compared to the brittle sophistication of the mid-twentieth century. It was the innocence of ignorance of the problems of the world at large. And we were happy - at least for a while. I remember one afternoon at the Seamans's, where several of us had gathered to cheer Dick who was convalescing from having had a reef taken in his enormous protruding ears. (His nickname was "Donkey.") One of the boys playfully pulled Mary Harris onto his lap. This was rather daring and we all laughed as she sat there. Just then Mrs. Seamans opened the door. I shall never forget her look of astonished disapproval or our embarrassment.
At fourteen and fifteen I became sex conscious and had my first "crush" on a handsome, mannerly boy named Nat Harris whom I only knew in dancing school. Unfortunately Kitty Pew had chosen him also, and since she was the better dancer and it was obvious that Nat preferred Kitty to me, I had my first disappointment in love.
About the same time Dick Seamans developed a liking for me. He
sent me violets and gave me a silver pin to hold them to my belt. He made a punctured brass lampshade for my room, and came often to call, all of which amused my parents greatly. Since he was three or four years older than I and already a Harvard freshman, I was rather impressed, but had only a few flutterings of the heart. And when I never finished embroidering a Harvard pillow for him, his ardor cooled somewhat. We always remained good friends, however, and for a few years, even when he was engaged to Nathalie Gifford, he always took me to the Harvard-Dartmouth game. His widow, Nathalie, had been a riding companion through our teen years. She and I had lunch together the other day at the age of seventy-two.
Dick's brother, Robert or Bobby, was Theodore's friend. He and Theodore and Charles Fabens were not interested in girls. They were young scientists making chemical concoctions, building wireless apparatus, stringing telephone lines to each other's houses. They had minds full of ideas not at all interesting to girls. At this time Theodore went his way and I went mine, pursuing the out-of-doors, horses, birds and friends. (Bob's son is Dr. Robert Seamans of NASA fame, and Dick's son, Jim, is a senior vice president of Raytheon.)
When I was fifteen Father developed a depression about which I have already written. The next years are full of sadness, frustrations,
longings. I left the Salem High School in the middle of my junior year
to go to a small Boston school, whose headmistress, Miss Mabel Cummings,
Soon moved to become the Brimmer School, which now is the Brimmer-May School.
was a friend of Mother. It was very evident that I should never make college without more prodding and better teaching. For two and a half years I commuted to Boston, reaching Salem again about three o'clock for a late lunch. My great desire was to escape - escape from family, studies, demands. I would gobble lunch, get into my riding clothes, saddle Duke (later the polo pony, Tex) and ride out into the country with horse and dog for companions. It was a lonely kind of life for an adolescent, yet I think it helped me over a hump until I finally left home for my freshman year at Radcliffe which, I think, was the happiest year of my life.
About E. C. B. and C. C. B. — May 10, 1972
In reading this over at a later date I feel that I have not given an adequate picture of my mother. Perhaps I overemphasized the importance of my father to me; we really were not consciously that close. It was only after his death that I began to realize what he had been like and I have tried to draw him from an obscurity which he did not deserve. He was not a strong character, but he was a remarkably patient, kind and loving person.
I did not mention the headaches that plagued him the last three or four years or his resorting to "headache powders" and bromoseltzer, all of which I was only vaguely conscious of. It must have been a long, long strain on my mother. A fifteen and sixteen-year old is oblivious of such things, or nearly so.
I never knew anyone quite like my mother. She belonged to that group of women, young in the 1890's, who realized they had minds and intellectual capacities to be developed. She was largely a self-educated woman, but she absorbed knowledge and retained it by means of a remarkably retentive memory and a tremendous thirst for books. She never pursued small talk. Her mind was what one would once have called masculine. I was always impressed how quickly she drew people up on to her plane of interest, and if they had nothing to contribute, she would launch into a monologue about something she had read and absorbed and thought about at length. It was always worth listening to. After she became very deaf and cut-off from group conversation, sometimes this
monologue could be trying.
She was not a quickly sympathetic person. She was often critical of people, especially if their opinions differed from hers. At times she seemed to be the most unlikely person to harbor an active elfin, rare imagination which attracted her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren and enabled her to bend herself to changing times. She grew -or changed - with the generations. Often she filled us with delight with her little jingles and rhymes, and occasionally a poem of rare insight. I have collected a few of these under another cover. For instance, when she was ninety she wrote a poem to all of her descendants, wondering where she would now be if she had lived backwards. One of her real poems is so full of grief and hurt that I can hardly read it. It must have been written during Father's illness - or at his death.
Within depths where the lonely soul
Baffled by tongue which cannot say
The need for strength
Far greater than its own
To meet the grief and death
That have beset the way,
Comes mystic Strength
Lifting the grief and fog.
Shall there be doubt
It is the Strength of God?
C. C. B.
No matter if the rhyme is not right - this was the strength which carried her through ninety-nine years of sorrows and joys, and burdens on young shoulders almost too great to carry. This is why we all respected her and loved her in spite of her faults. She was a Spartan woman. Today Elizabeth called her "a great lady." She was.
Postscript - Fall 1967
It is hard not to add some present day thoughts to this Chronicle. I think I shall.
The world seems to be beset with all manner of difficulties. Often these problems beat so constantly against one's mind and heart, because of constant exposure through newspapers, magazines, radio, T. V., that it is difficult to keep one's equilibrium of measured, well-balanced thought and outlook. When I become depressed by the state of the world, Carey reminds me that his and my generation was pampered and protected by a false impression of peace and security, gleaned through a belief in steady sure Progress-toward-a-Better-World. Almost every generation, he reminds me, had had to face upheavel of one kind or another.
However, I still remain an optimist. I really do believe the world is growing better, that these upheavals and social revolts are the ever present birth pangs of a better world. The human race fumbles and bumbles, is often misled, often reels up the wrong alley, but I believe it will always be searching for a better world, and in the long, long run will find it.
In my lifetime so much of consequence has happened to improve the lot of the "Common Man," for instance. He has acquired a much more dignified status; he has access to better education, better health, better housing, better working conditions, to recreation, vacations, to mobility in his own car. He is streaming from urban slums to the
suburbs. He goes hunting, boating, fishing, camping. His wife has been freed from the scrubbing board, oil lamps, ice refrigerators, from coal, wood or oil stoves, from brooms and dust and moths and silent, lonely days. It is possible that in the near future everyone of any worth or ability at all will be thus free. It is heartening to know how much effort is being made to achieve this.
This is what the young generation do not see. Their view is myopic, as ours was at that age and every young generation that ever has been. It cannot be otherwise because they are denied perspective and the backward look. They see the present terrible things war does to us, they sense hypocrisy in conventional manners of dress and thought and action, they revolt against parental authority, thinking they know and see more clearly and better. They feel that their own particular generation has been chosen for such a revolt. What they cannot believe is that each new generation has always been radical and the upholder of new ideas, of new solutions. Their sons and daughters will critize them for what they did not see or do. Of that one can be absolutely sure. One can also be sure that, as the years go by, they will discard some of their present ideas and beliefs, strengthen others, thereby enriching and seasoning and testing and adding to the accumulated wisdom (I hope it is wisdom) of successive generations.
Perhaps now it does not sound very important because it is all so taken for granted, but my generation thought and talked and sometimes worked for women's rights and woman suffrage, even marching with banners
and posters through the streets of Boston - all over America and in England. It worked against child labor and for shorter hours of work and for better working conditions in the factories. I marched too!
It was my generation and the previous one whose social conscience revolted against powerful, selfish aggregations of wealth. (Ex: John D. Rockefeller) It was my children's generation which first saw industry assume a sense of responsibility for its retired employees, for education, for health.
I do not have to enumerate the contributions of successive generations from Charles Dickens' time of poor debtors' prisons and lunatic asylums to the present day. A little imagination carries us quickly back to realize what a terrific debt we owe to the generations now gone. Perhaps it is like the frog trying to jump out of the well -three feet up, two back, but he is one foot up for the better. I hope the new generation will add a sense of the sin of racism and the conviction of the futility of war.