This is a continuation of a series I have composed including my Grandfather’s Reminiscences and the memories of his children.
Alfred Beck Guion
Alfred Duryee Guion
In 1884, the year I was born, that part of Fifth Avenue, New York City, where my parents lived, was “uptown”, which meant somewhere above 59th Street at that time my mother could recall looking out of their dining room window and seeing cows feeding in the nearby pasture.
My grandfather, Joseph W. Duryee, of which I stood in awe, had only one eye, having lost the other in babyhood through the carelessness of his nurse allowing him to crawl to an open fireplace and falling on a hot coal. He was a lumber dealer during the 1860’s and quite wealthy. His residence on 42nd Street, near the present Public Library, was said to be the first in New York in which a private elevator was installed for his sick wife. He had several brothers, all quite prominent socially, one brother being a general in the Civil War and head of the crack Seventh Regiment. During the “draft riots” in the city, my mother recalls looking out of the window and seeing a Negro hanging from a nearby lamppost. My grandfather had a brass Cannon mounted at the head of the stairs for protection from mob violence.
As a little boy I can remember riding in the big four-wheel family coach drawn by two high-stepping horses, with Dan, the coachman, in uniform on the box, en route to the Central Park Zoo. Horse cars in New York then were the only public conveyances outside of “Hansom Cabs” although a new “cable car” was being tried out. I felt very proud when, as a small boy, I was allowed to visit my aunts alone at grandfather’s house on 97th Street. This all ended when he was taken sick with the “dropsy”. By this time also his lumber business had failed which practically wiped out his entire fortune.
From the time I was three years old until I was married, we lived in Mount Vernon, a small suburb some 13 miles from Grand Central. My only sister Elsie was born there in a house on 11th Avenue. Soon thereafter, we moved into a brand-new house which my father had built in a newer part of town known as Chester Hill. Here I spent most of my childhood.
Next weekend, I’ll be posting information about the house that Grandpa spent his childhood in with his parents and his sister, Elsie May.
Starting tomorrow, my posts will be from letters written in 1945 while all five boys are serving Uncle Sam. Lad and Dan are working in their respective fields in France, Ced is in Alaska at a military airbase, Dick is in Brazil and Dave is ready to ship out to the Pacific. We won’t have a letter from any of the boys until Friday, when Lad writes home.