Hundreds of Them….
I’ve always been fascinated by the stories behind history… What a person was thinking… Why they made the choices they did… How a different decision could have changed the world.
My father’s family history goes back to the persecution of the French Huguenots and their escape to this country. They settled in New Rochelle, New York, in 1687. I know a little bit about their story but my stories come from a much more recent era. My grandfather, Alfred Duryee Guion, was born in 1884, and married Arla Mary Peabody in 1913 in Mount Vernon, New York. They had five children before moving to a small town in Connecticut where their last child was born. My stories are based on his autobiography, hundreds of letters he wrote to his sons as they went off to fight in World War II, other letters from family members and friends, the recorded memories of those children and hundreds of photos and memorabilia.
The following story is taken from my grandfather’s autobiography written in the spring of 1960 while he was on a four months “around the world” freighter trip at the age of 75.
Taking a gun apart – “…the insides sort of erupted!”
In the top drawer of my father’s dresser, where among other things he kept pomade for his hair, brilliantine for his mustache, Orris root etc., he had a small Chased pearl-handled revolver as well as a Harrington & Richards 5-shooter for safety sake because our house was on the outskirts of town and was occasionally visited by tramps looking for a handout. The fancy little firearm intrigued my boyish fancy and while I had been told never to touch either of those revolvers, one day when my idle hands found nothing else to do, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to take it apart to see how it worked.
So down to the coal cellar, where I wouldn’t be observed, I went, with it and a screwdriver. I got the faceplate off without much trouble when suddenly something snapped and the insides sort of erupted. I had planned to take each part out carefully observing the order so there would be no trouble in assembling them again, but this scattering of parts all over the place was a tragedy. What a hopeless feeling! I tried frantically to fit parts in again but I couldn’t even get the side plate back. Now, what to do? I knew I was in for a good spanking. Disobedience did not set very well with “papa”. I thought of not putting it back and hiding it somewhere but knew it would be missed and lying would only make matters worse.
With shame and trembling I sought out my mother and told her the whole sad story. She decided the only thing to do was to wait until my father came home from the office that night and make a clean breast of things. What a long fearsome afternoon that was! We children, Elsie and I, always rushed to the door with Mother for the homecoming kiss as soon as we heard his key in the lock, but my greeting that night somehow lacked enthusiasm. Perhaps because my mother interceded I escaped a spanking that time, or perhaps they decided I had learned my lesson, which I had.
My parents did not believe in frequent or promiscuous spankings but we knew we would get one when we deserved, and then not a slap or two, but pants taken down in my case, and the back of a hairbrush vigorously applied enough times to create a healthy respect for the punishment. I recall one time I deserved it and so I reported to my father. I had done or said some minor thing which was wrong, in a fit of ill-nature, and was warned that if I did it again I’d get a spanking. Feeling ugly and defiant I deliberately did it again. Down came the britches, whack went the hairbrush, and I can remember the strange feeling of all the ugliness and ill-nature completely evaporating during the process. I knew I had deserved it and felt it had done me good. I often thought of this episode in bringing up my own children, and never since have agreed with those who think it is wrong to spank children under any circumstances. The old Bible admonition “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is still true.
What to Expect
I post every day and I’ll be sharing stories spanning almost 60 years. My grandfather, Alfred Duryee Guion, wrote a letter, with carbons, to his sons, away from home, every week. I began this blog with three different story lines.
- In 1939, my Father, Lad (the oldest), and his closest brother, Dan, go to Venezuela to work for Inter-America, a company hired by the government to build a road from Caracas to Maracaibo. This story line is now up to 1941. Dan returned home after about 6 months but Lad is coming home in a few months.
- Dan, a year after returning home from Venezuela,in June of 1940, travels with his next closest brother, Ced, to Alaska to earn money to send home to Grandpa, who is supporting the other children. Currently, this story line has reached May of 1942 and Lad has just been drafted.
- It is the beginning of 1942 and Dan has been drafted. Lad will be drafted in May and the War is on. This is a “Slice of Life” on the home front, through the eyes of my Grandfather, with letters from his sons interspersed between his weekly letters. This story line has reached January of 1945. Dan and Lad are both in France, Dan is just getting to know the woman he will marry. Ced is still in Alaska, working as a Bush Pilot and civilian for the military, retrieving and repairing airplanes. Dick is in Brazil, serving as a liaison between the military and Brazilian civilians working for the military. Dave, the youngest, is presently in Okinawa, filling several for the Military brass in charge.
I hope you enjoy the stories of my family, who are trying to live ordinary lives during an extraordinary time period.Please share your thoughts.
(Updated October 23, 2015)