The following memories are quotes from “Reminiscences of Alfred D. Guion, written in 1960 while he was on a four-months “around the world” freighter trip.
The story of my boyhood would not be complete if I failed to mention my sisters 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 failing 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,l 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 St., New York, where he was marching up and down with the 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 were 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 too, adding, “but ain’t it hell when the wind blows”.
During the rest of the week, I’ll continue more of Grandpa’s Reminiscences of Alfred D Guion.