Alfred Duryee Guion – The Beginning – (7) – Smoking Advice From My Father

This is a continuation of the Reminiscences of my Grandpa, Alfred Duryee Guion, as he was growing up in Mount Vernon, New York during the 1880s and 1890s.

Alfred Beck Guion and Ella Duryee Guion (far right) and 3 unidentified women

Alfred Beck Guion and Ella Duryee Guion (far right) and 3 unidentified women on the porch of the Lincoln Avenue house.

Most boys of my age at that time took great delight in sneaking into a neighborhood cornfield, gathering some dried, brown corn silk and making up our own cigarettes. But on one rainy Sunday, when my parents were in church and my sister and I were in the house alone, we found on the mantle shelf a package of my father’s Sweet Caporal cigarettes. We each took one and lighted it. When we saw through the upstairs window our parents coming home we hastily put out the cigarettes, hid the stubs and tried to act nonchalant. Unfortunately, we hadn’t foreseen that the telltale smoke still lingered in the room and adroit questioning as to what male visitors had called, (no woman in those days ever smoked cigarettes), soon brought out the truth. Why no spanking resulted in this case either, I never could understand.

It may have been this incident that later induced my father to take me aside for a serious talk on the evils of smoking for a growing boy. He exacted no promises of me but did say that if I did not smoke until I was 21 he would give me a gold watch. When he died a few years later and I inherited his own gold watch I felt doubly bound by the obligation and kept faith in spirit and letter.

My father was apt to be short tempered at times, energetic, quick to form opinions, intense in his feelings, forceful and eloquent in expressing himself and alert minded. In any social gathering he usually outshone the rest by his personality. My mother had a placid, easy-going disposition, always seeing the best in everyone and much loved by all who knew her. I recall one time, however, when for a brief space, she was quite out of patience with me.

Alfred Duryee Guion - self-portrait

Alfred Duryee Guion – self-portrait

It was the custom in those days before automobiles were in common use, for the white-collar worker to be granted a two week vacation, which in the case of my family usually took the form of boarding for two weeks in some small country hotel or farmhouse either near the mountains or the seashore. One day as our vacation had ended at a farmhouse in upper New York State, the morning had come when we were to leave for home. My mother had saved out my best bid and tucker for the homeward journey, the big trunk holding all our clothes had been carefully packed, the huge leather strap that went around it had been tightened and buckled, and the husky hired man had come to take it down the stairs to the buck board en route to the railroad station. Breakfast was not quite ready and I was told I might go out and play in the yard near the house but NOT TO GET MY NICE CLEAN CLOTHES DIRTY. Right in front of the house was a little brook spanned by a foot bridge. I avoided the bridge itself but stood just at one side of the muddy bank to watch little chips of wood I threw float downstream. I slipped and fell into the brook, got up all wet and muddy and went back to my mother. This time it was she and not my father who told me a few things.

Tomorrow, I’ll continue Grandpa’s Reminiscences.The story of his early memories, his marriage, the birth of his children and the death of his wife will continue each weekend. At appropriate, chronological times, I will also include early memories that I have recorded with my father, Lad, and his siblings.

On Monday, I’ll begin a week of one letter written in March of 1945. At this point, both Lad and Dan are in France. Lad is near Marseilles, on the southern shore and Dan is north of Paris, although he has found a very pretty girl he has been spending time with in Calais, about 60 miles north of Paris near the northern coast of France. Ced continues to work for the military on an airbase in Anchorage, Alaska, as a mechanic and bush pilot,Dick is in Brazil acting as a liaison between the occupying forces and the local people and Dave is on his way to parts unknown in the Pacific. Grandpa is home in Trumbull, trying to keep everyone informed of the latest news from his sons. He has two daughter-in-laws living with him, Jean (Mrs. Richard) and Marian (Mrs. Alfred P. – Lad).

Judy Guion


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