The Beginning (20) – Reminiscences of Alfred Duryee Guion – 1884 – 1964

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. 

Only one incident during this time caused me alarm.  With the arrival of children I felt it wise to take additional life insurance but was turned down by the examining doctor because of a “heart murmur”.  I applied at it different company and was given a rated-up policy.  The incident caused me considerable concern under the circumstances and I went to our old family doctor to learn how serious the condition was.  He checked and told me he found nothing to worry about, and then said something that I have repeated to others several times since, to the effect that it is a good thing when a young person learns that his physical condition necessitates his being careful in following the ancient Greek motto of “moderation in all things” because he is apt to live longer than the person who boasts: “I’m perfectly healthy, never had a sick day in my life. I can do anything.”  For that is the person whose excesses frequently lead him to overdo with disastrous results.  A few years later I applied again for life insurance and because of my previous rejection was given an extra careful examination.  This time things were entirely normal.  Even the company who had given me the rated-up policy found no trace of a heart murmur and canceled the overcharge in premium.

Things had been going so well financially with the Century Company, so seeing the handwriting on the wall, I looked around for another business connection, and because of my combined advertising experience and college training, I secured a better paying job in sales promotion work with the Celluloid Company under a fine man as my boss.  I was with this concern for about 5 years.  One event stands out in my memory connected with this time.

Draft Registration card for Alfred Duryee Guion

The First World War was being fought to “make the world safe for democracy” in the words of President Woodrow Wilson.  Employees of the Celluloid Company had been issued nightsticks and been trained in their use if emergencies arose.  The size of my family had increased and the number of babies I had to support gave me a low rating on the draft call list.  The war finally drew to a close and then one day that those who do not live through it can never appreciate; there occurred what came to be known as the “false armistice”.  Word came from overseas that the war was over.  The whole country went unrestrainedly and completely mad.  Men, women and children of all ages and degrees, completely forgot themselves in the fervor of the moment.  With bells of all churches wildly ringing, auto horns blowing, sirens on fire trucks screeching, steam ships in the harbor sounding off and people wildly shouting in the streets, everyone for the moment went berserk.  I went down the company elevator to the street and as soon as I stepped outside the door some man I had never seen before or since grabbed my hand and shook it heartily.  Over in Washington Square, a few steps away, was a statue of Garibaldi.  In front of it a shabbily dressed Italian man with his arms raised in the air and tears streaming down his cheeks, was making an impassioned speech to Garibaldi in Italian.  No one was paying the slightest bit of attention to him – just he and Garibaldi having a heart-to-heart talk.

Tomorrow, another excerpt from a letter writen by John Jackson Lewis about his Voyage to California.

On Sunday, I’ll continue the story of My Ancestor, Alfred Peabody Guion, my Dad.

On Monday I’ll begin week of letters written in 1943.

Judy Guion



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