Autobiography of Alfred Duryee Guion – Uncle Eddie (9)

Alfred Duryee Guion, my Grandfather and the author of most of the letters I post, wrote his autobiography while on an around-the-world tramp steamer cruise, at the age of 75. He had plenty of time sailing slowly from port to port, to look back on his life and put it down on paper for future generations.

Alfred D. Guion - Lincoln Avenue House

Alfred D. Guion – Lincoln Avenue House

The story of my boyhood would not be complete if I failed to mention my sister’s and my favorite cousins and playmates – the Duryees – Adele, Nan and Dudley. Dud was my own age, the girls a few years older. Adele, who was three or four years my senior seemed at my age to be old. Their father, whom I called Uncle Eddie, was my mother’s cousin and although he had perfectly good and respectable parents, he turned out to be the black sheep of the family. Alcohol was the cause.

In these days we would have regarded his failure as a disease and taken medical means to correct it, but at that time no such charitable view was taken. My mother, who always saw the best in everyone, claimed that he was always gentlemanly when sober and had perfect table manners. Before he had started downhill he had met and married a charming girl named Mary Blakelock. My folks were very fond of her and so was I. She had beautiful brown eyes, a nice complexion, a jolly disposition and got along with her drunken husband as best she could while the children were little. But personal abuse, the bad example and squandering on drink the money his wife earned finally resulted in her leaving him and bringing up her family alone.

On the oldest girl, Adele, fell the principal task of bringing up the younger ones while her mother worked during the day. And to the great credit of them all, the children turned out well. It was probably this early example of the curse of drink and my father’s strong feeling against saloons that I grew up with the feeling that they were dens of iniquity, and even to this day I feel ill at ease whenever I go into a place where there is a bar.

The last time I saw Uncle Eddie was on 42nd Street, New York, where he was marching up and down with a sign strapped high above his shoulders announcing the opening of a new restaurant. Such folks were called “sandwich men”. This form of advertising is no longer used unless it is by “pickets” in front of a plant where a strike is going on.

This reminds me of an incident which happened to me years later one night when I had been working overtime at my office in downtown New York and had boarded a subway train for Grand Central station. I was the only passenger in the car with the exception of a very seedy looking bum, much the worse for drink, who sidled up to me and started a conversation. He asked what my business was and when I replied “advertising”, his face lighted up and he said he was in the advertising business to, adding, “But ain’t it hell when the wind blows”.

If you are enjoying these stories of days gone by, why not share them with a friend. They might trigger a happy memory for them to share with their family. I believe that it is the traditions and stories a family shares that hold them together.

Judy Guion


13 thoughts on “Autobiography of Alfred Duryee Guion – Uncle Eddie (9)

  1. Mrs. P says:

    Your father had a wonderful way of communicating about people in his life that weren’t successful in life. I think every one of us knows a troubled person that is somewhat connected to our family history. The trick is how to address the issue. Do you avoid mentioning them? Do you leave out anything that would put them in a bad light? Or do you tell the who truth and nothing but the truth. I like your father’s way of telling the truth but doing so in the best possible light.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      Mrs. P. – Grandpa always liked to see the best in people. That’s why he remained friends with hundreds of people, as evfdenced by the two hundred plus Christmas cards he sent each year.

  2. The encounter on the subway is a gem. People do light up when a common bond is found.

  3. gpcox says:

    I wish someone in my family had thought to do this and put everything down in black and white.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      gpcox – Every family history starts somewhere. Why don’t you record the memories of older members of your family? While you’re at it, why not record your own memories of childhood? It was a different era and future generations will find it just as interesting as we find the stories of family life in the 40’s.

      • gpcox says:

        My childhood was great, so that’s an idea; but I am the last of my bloodline – everyone is gone.

        • jaggh53163 says:

          gpcox – Any cousins? or more distant relatives? Your story of growing up in the 50’s might be of interest, too.

          • Mrs. P says:

            I agree with Judy’s line of questioning. Some of the most interesting people in my own family history were people who never married or had children. Little did they know that I would be pouring my heart over every possible tidbit of their lives with great enthusiasm.

            In my own genealogy research I met the grandchildren of my grandmother’s brothers. We do have a family connection, even if it seems distant at times.

            • jaggh53163 says:

              Mrs. P. – I had a wonderful conversation with a cousin of siots earlier today. I believe we are of the same generation, but our lines seperated several generations ago. We have the same great-great-great-grandmother and grandfather, Clara Maria de los Delores Marina de Beck Guion and Elijah Guion 2nd. think he found me while doing research on Clara’s grandmother and found my post about her, her mother and her grandmother.
              I have also been in contact with another distant cousin. Our family lines split in the 5th generation from our original ancestor, and we are descended from brothers.
              A third connection, through Facebook, comes from a distant cousin.
              This is really exciting.

              • Mrs. P says:

                I have seven connections with living people and discovering each one was, somehow, very exciting to both of us and I think of them often. I discovered a relative who has physical documentation on our family history and then later wrote three books on out family genealogy lines and I felt like I hit the lottery. The person you met on line was/is probably thrilled to have made your connection, and I think this would be true for Gpox as well.

                Watch out…if we look hard enough, we might discover a common relative between us. ;)

  4. Gallivanta says:

    That’s a great story about his meeting with the drunk on the subway.

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