Trumbull – Dear Comrades (2) – A Halo for Dan – June, 1945

The following is Dan’s personal account of what transpired in Belgium, Holland and Eastern Europe after the German armies capitulated. A vivid picture. You can easily envision it as it is transpiring.

Dan in uniform @ 1945

And Dan, from Holland on May 6th, rec’d. June 1st. “The first inkling of the affair came on May 4th when I happened to be across the border in Belgium. We had just left the American Red Cross Club of an Army military Hospital where we had been killing time listening to a “jam session” of several musicians, patients, dressed in pajamas and bathrobe. We were on our way to our truck, on the point of departure, when we heard the first rumors – – all the German armies in Holland, Denmark and Western Europe had capitulated! We drove to our destination in the center of town and learned from some civilians that the report was true. But things were quiet in Belgium. They had been freed several months earlier – – and the war was not yet over! The town band, however, which happened to be practicing in a café across the square from us, staged an impromptu march through the streets, but it was already dark and no one turned out to celebrate except a few well primed GI’s, who were walking back to their billets, shouting and singing on general principles. We returned to Holland before dawn next morning and were surprised to see the streetlights turned on and small flags hung out – – this at 4 o’clock in the morning. The streets were deserted. May 5th. Saturday. “Gesloten” Every shop in town except the cafés were “gesloten” all day, which in perfectly good Dutch means “the joint is closed, Brother”. Every shopkeeper and his friends and relations were decked out in bright orange (for the Queen), and red, white and blue (for the Fatherland), in preparation for the grand Promenade in the streets – – to continue the spontaneous celebration that we had missed the previous night. As the afternoon waned, the holiday spirit waxed anew. Bands of youngsters waving Dutch flags and festooned with Orange trappings organized little parades through the streets, beating on drums which were improvised from 5-gal. gasoline tins. One group paraded an effigy of Hitler, hanged from a pole. More and more flags appeared from windows. Everyone wore orange. About 4 o’clock in the afternoon a crowd of civilians gathered about a group of German prisoners who were erecting a series of fence poles around a public square – – now serving as a parking lot for all vehicles. The prisoners were guarded by Yanks. The crowd was kept back by civilian police. No one said a word. It was strangely symbolic on a day such as this. I didn’t envy the lot of those subdued and muddied jerries. As the evening progressed the excitement fever mounted. Crowds swarmed through the streets, some strolling aimlessly, others marching arm in arm, singing Dutch songs. Their ardor was unclenched by lowering skies and spats of rain. When it began to drizzle steadily – I thought the celebration would suffer a slow drowning, but I was wrong. It seemed even that the rain was fuel that kindled even brighter flames of conviviality, for as the lights came on again the streets became crowded with merrymakers, men women and children, who almost brought traffic to a stand-still. G I trucks made progress only by incessant blowing of horns and racing of motors. Occasional rockets and flares lit up the murk of the clouds overhead. Along the main street the celebration reached its apex under the stimulation of a series of amplifiers which blared fourth continual music. Crowds joined hands and danced wildly in circles. Couples waltzed, rhumba-ed and jitter-bugged according to the tempo of the varying tunes. At one time recordings were broadcast of ancient speeches made by Hitler, Goebbels and Goering, while the crowd “Seig Heiled” in mock frenzy. The interminable rain continued unnoticed by all except a few glistening umbrella tops. I returned to the convent (which is our home) about 11 o’clock and the celebration was in full swing, showing no more sign of abatement than the falling rain. Today (Sunday) our menu for dinner included fine, gaily decorated cakes, baked for us by the Sisters of the convent. On each cake they had written the words, “With greatest thanks to our liberators”. You can imagine how much we are enjoying it all.”

Hearsay has it that Erwin Laufer has been permanently and honorably discharged and has gone to the camp in the Adirondacks for a rest before coming back to look for a job. I don’t know what he expects to do. He never got over to meet the girls. I saw him for a few moments one afternoon in the drugstore.

The young people in the apartment are very pleasant and friendly. There is not the same amount of visiting back and forth that there was with the Wardens. Ted Southworth and his wife Marj. (21 and tall for her age) and Jimmy Watson are their names. The boys both were in aviation but were discharged on account of their eyesight. They are still interested in flying, in fact been giving lessons when opportunity permits. They have redecorated the entire place, kitchen walls and floor and living room walls, and trim. The bathroom is next on the schedule as soon as they can be sure Carl has fixed all the leaks. They either didn’t like the oil stove or couldn’t make it burn properly. In any event, they took the whole business down and carted it down into the cellar and consequently when the balmy March was followed by a raw April and May, they have practically chopped up all the smaller pieces of fallen trees I had so laboriously gathered in one place, leaving only the bigger trunks to be operated upon by the proprietor or his sons. I think you boys would like them after you got acquainted. This in answer to Dave’s question. By the way, Signaler, did you ever get a watch, either as part of your equipment from Uncle Sam or on your own?

Lad, I suppose you and Dan have both figured out your points but you have said nothing in your letters to me on the point. Of course, Lad, when you get time it will be interesting to hear more about your trip over. Dan’s pen picture of the Dutch celebration was quite vivid and was next best to being there to see it with their own eyes.

For many weeks now we have been enjoying (?) a very spasmodic supply of hot water furnished by the old, coal-stove heater, but next week, I believe, a Sears Roebuck automatic oil water heater will be installed, and according to Elizabeth, will give satisfactory service at much lower cost than the electric heater. Tanks for the latter have not been made since the war started. And so, for today, nighty-night.    DAD

This weekend, two days of letters from Biss to her father. She is really trying to keep him informed about what is going on in her life in St. Petersburg.

Judy Guion

A Tribute to Arla (7) – 1922-1925

Arla Mary Peabody Guion with her first five children - Dan, Lad, Ced, Dick and Biss

Arla Mary Peabody Guion with her first five children – Dan, Lad, Ced, Dick and Biss

In 1922, during a family vacation, Arla found out about a house in Trumbull, built in 1756, went to see it and fell in love with it. She eventually had her way and the family moved in to their new house in December of 1922. The story continues in Grandpa’s autobiography:

Meanwhile, I was having serious commuting troubles. Each winter the trains were frequently late. This, together with the antagonistic attitude of my immediate boss at the

AD Guion Letterhead, business cards and membership cards

AD Guion Letterhead, business cards and membership cards

office, made my frequent, late arrivals at work increasingly disagreeable incidents. Also, the seven mile auto ride to and from Trumbull in all kinds of weather, the 2 1/2 to 3 hour train ride to Grand Central followed by a crowded subway ride to the Battery, and this twice a day, not only was physically exhausting but also necessitated my leaving home early and arriving home late. There seemed only one sensible alternative – to seek employment in Bridgeport. A letter campaign from New York to Bridgeport manufacturers proving unfruitful after months of vain effort, in desperation I resolved to take drastic measures. With five little ones to feed and clothe I simply had to get a job, so, burning all bridges behind me, I quit my New York job cold to wage an all-out on-site search to find something in Bridgeport. To make this step was one of the most difficult decisions of my life, but within two weeks I became Assistant Advertising Manager of the Bridgeport Brass Company and a few months later, Advertising Manager, which job I held until I left to start an advertising agency of my own.

In Trumbull we became interested in local activities. A local volunteer fire company was started in which I was a charter member. To raise money to buy firefighting equipment we ran annual carnivals which were successful for many years, and which the old Waverley Electric Car played a part.

Arla’s children shared a few memories of her in their recorded childhood memories.

LAD – I don’t have many memories of my mother. I remember that she was involved with the Women’s Club, and was very, very well-liked by everybody. We always had a lot of visitors. She was very outgoing and friendly and quite pretty. She was very active in the community. Other than the fact that Mom was involved in the community a great deal, she was a good mother. We all like her very much, got along with her.

CED – I don’t believe Mother had a single enemy in Trumbull. She was President of the Women’s Community Club, and she was very, very good to the family. She had practically all of our aunts and some of our uncles living with us in Trumbull at various times. We had a big house and most of them lived in New York City. When they had vacations and when we had holidays, they’d all come up on the train from New York. Sometimes they would drive – it would take them about four hours on the Post Road. I remember those trips too. Traffic was all over the place, stop and go, stop and go.

I always said that I knew one person in town that my Mother didn’t like. This woman had two sons who were friends with us. I don’t believe that the woman ever knew that my mother didn’t like her because this woman was very critical of other people and that bothered my mother.

My Mother was very active in town, she was very public spirited. She helped plant flowers on the green, that sort of thing.

Our house was the center for the local population. All the kids our age congregated in our house because of everything, and my mother, of course. She was very pro-social, in her own life and in ours. She was a wonderful woman. We were really one big happy family and we really had fun growing up. Arnold Gibson was part of the group; he was more a part of the family group. He was very fond of our family, and spent a lot of time with us. Arnold was devoted to my mother, too. Everybody that knew her loved her.

DICK – One of my earliest memories is Mom at the front Dutch door, talking to someone from the Red Cross. I was standing next to her and she was running her hand through my hair… It was heaven.

BISS – Dick and I were sitting on the radiator in the back bathroom and it was so cold there was frost on the window. We take one of the pieces of our Erector Set, putting it in a hole of the oil heater to heat it up and touch the frost on the window. At one point I leaned over a little too far, fell down on top of the oil burner and tipped it over. I had always been taught that if there’s a fire you run out and close the door… which I did. Dick was still on the radiator in back of the fire, and then the fire started up the curtain. I screamed for Mother and evidently she heard the panic in my voice and she responded immediately. As soon as she got upstairs and realized what was happening, she yelled for Lad to bring the fire extinguisher. As she got to the top of the stairs and started walking towards the bathroom, her very flimsy gown caught on fire and I remember she put it out. Mother then took the rug from the hallway and threw it on the fire and put the fire out, but the door was scorched where the flames had licked at it.

Dick, Dan, Ced, Lsd and Biss

Dick, Dan, Ced, Lad and Biss

Tomorrow, I’ll begin a week of letters written in 1945. Grandpa writes a very long letter to his sons, scattered around the world, which I will post Monday through Friday. 

Judy Guion

A Tribute to Arla (6) – How We Came to Trumbull – 1922

In last week’s “Tribute To Arla”, we learned about the very early years of the marriage of Alfred D Guion and Arla Peabody, including some early memories from the children. This week we will learn how Arla played a major part in the decision to move to Trumbull.

The Old Homestead

The Old Homestead

A.D. – And now having recorded some of the events in the first two decades of my life spent in the state of New York, let us look further east to Connecticut, were up to the present time, two or more decades have seen the childhood, youth and adulthood of most of my children and their families.

How did we come to settle in Trumbull? Almost purely by chance. And it all happened because of a vacation spent at my brother-in-law’s summer camp in Connecticut. One day, Fred Stanley, who had married my wife’s sister Anne, told us he had rented a little shack in the woods near Sandy Hook, Connecticut, on the Housatonic River, and as he could use it only part of the time, he asked if my family would be interested in occupying it for a couple of weeks. We were, and one summer morning we loaded up the old Franklin with beds, mattresses, clothing and food, and with five children and two adults, escorted by Fred to show us the way, we started merrily on our adventure.

Approaching Danbury, the most awful bangs, rattles and clanking left no doubt that something was seriously wrong with my car. Luckily, a Franklin repair service was located nearby and here we learned that a main bearing had burned out, which would take a couple of days to repair. By dint of persuasion, seeing our plight, the headman finally consented to put all hands to work to try to finish the job by nightfall. Fred was to go on to the camp with the children in his car and Arla and I would stay with the Franklin until repairs were completed. While I watched the mechanics at work, Arla spent several hours chatting with the proprietor’s wife, who, she told me afterward, painted a glowing picture of an old house they owned in a small country place called Trumbull, too far away for them to live in while conducting a business in Danbury, but evidently a dream of a home. She must’ve been a good saleswoman because Arla was so enthusiastic from the description given that when vacation time was over and I had to get back to work, she persuaded Fred to drive over to the place. It was a case of love at first sight and nothing would do but I must see it too and discover what an ideal place it would be for the children. I, too, was pleased with it.

It was obviously out of the question as a practical proposition because, with the job in the lower part of New York City and a Connecticut home 7 miles from the nearest railroad station at Bridgeport, itself 55 miles from Grand Central Station, only a madman would give the matter a moment’s consideration. She reluctantly agreed and the subject was abandoned, in my mind at least. As it has often been said, it is unwise to underestimate the power of a woman. Returning home from work several weeks later I found her, one afternoon, busily sketching at a table covered with several sheets of paper, and, upon inquiry, was told that she was figuring how our present furniture would fit in the Trumbull house. Seeing how serious she was, there followed several weeks of weighing arguments pro and con, ending in the decision that, for the children’s sake, I would take the chance and try commuting between Bridgeport and New York.

The Larchmont house was sold for considerably more than it cost and the Trumbull property bought for considerably less than the proceeds from the Larchmont property. We moved in one late December day. There was a furnace of sorts heating a potentially good hot water heating system, water was pumped from a nearby broke to a large storage tank in the cellar,and no lights, as a storage battery system in the barn had frozen, so we celebrated our first Christmas with candlelight under rather primitive conditions. Early the following year the local power company installed electric lights but heating and water supply still furnished problems. There were six fireplaces to supplement the furnace and firewood was plentiful. With foot valve troubles at the brook end of the water supply, water pipes freezing and frequent pump failures, it became necessary at times to draw water from the three wells on the property, until some years later when city water mains furnished adequate supplies.

In Tomorrow’s “Tribute To Arla”, I’ll share some of the early memories the children have of their mother in the Trumbull house. On Monday, I’ll begin a week of letters written in 1945.

Monday through Thursday, one 4-page-letter from Grandpa, On Friday, one from Lad.

Judy Guion

Tribute to Arla (5) – 1915 to 1922

My grandfather, Alfred Duryee Guion, married my grandmother, Arla Mary Peabody, on March 27, 1913. After a honeymoon trip to Bermuda they returned to New York and spent the first few days fixing up an apartment they had rented in the Bronx. My grandfather continues the story in his autobiography. I’ve also added some memories from the older children.

ADG – Both Arla and my mother were very fond of each other, and both being easy to live with, we decided it was better for the new baby to get out of the big city so we moved back with my mother on Dell Avenue. Little Daniel soon joined the family and for several years things ran along uneventfully.

October 31, 1915

My dear folks,

Many hearty congratulations to you upon the arrival of another little son. I hope you are doing nicely Arla and will soon be up and around. Have been dreadfully negligent and corresponding, but things have been so upset. We moved to Brooklyn on Friday, owing to the work I am in at Vitagraph. Have been very successful so far, and hope to be able to work in stock. Hoping to be able to see you soon. With best love to all,

As ever,

Fondly,

Elsa Hetzel

LAD – I was born in New York City in 1914 that I lived in Yonkers for short time. When I was about one, we moved to 91 Dell Avenue in Mount Vernon, New York. My

 Arla Mary Peabody c. 1911

Arla Mary Peabody
c. 1911

mother, Arla, was 19 years old when I was born and she was the oldest Peabody girl. Burton was ahead of her. Then there was Arla, Helen, Kemper, Anne, Dorothy and Lawrence. There were seven of them. I don’t remember much about my Dad in Mount Vernon or Larchmont. He was always busy working.

CED – In about 1918 or 1919, Dad bought a new Franklin touring car. My mother used to drive Dad down to the station and he’d go into New York City where he worked. Then she’d come back home. She would go back and get him later. One day, she backed up to turn around after the train had pulled out and ran up on a hydrant. The wheels of the Franklin were about 20 or 21 inches. She got out of the car and there it sat up on the hydrant, all out of shape. She stood there and looked at it, she said everything was skewed, the doors, the frame… And that was a wooden frame of course. She had to get help to get it off there. We moved up to Trumbull in that car. I guess Dad decided to sell it shortly after we moved to Trumbull.

ADG – After I had been with the Celluloid Company for about five years my boss was offered and accepted a job with a large die manufacturer. I was offered the position of Assistant Advertising Manager of the National Aneline and Chemical Company, which I accepted. The Advertising Manager was a sneering, sarcastic individual who evidently resented my being assigned as his assistant, which created the sort of atmosphere in which I found it difficult to do my best creative work. However, the salary was generous and my growing family made it unwise for me to take too independent an attitude.

It seemed about time also for my increasing brood to have a home of their own. We finally decided ona lot in Larchmont Gardens, and with the money I had saved, I bought one of the first “redi-cut” homes on the market and with the help of my father-in-law, who was Construction Superintendent on the New York Central, aided by one of his workmen on this free days, the house was erected. The garage, to hold the Franklin car, I built myself with the aid of friends and neighbors on weekends and holidays, in a sort of old-time building-bee fashion.

LAD – When I was five, Dad and Mom were building a house in Larchmont. They had a contractor build it and it was on Landsdown Drive in Larchmont Gardens. I accompanied them, well, maybe three or four times when they went out to look at it. Mom told the carpenters what she wanted changed. She was quite conscientious about what she wanted. It took four days for the workers to build our garage. The neighbors put theirs up in one day. Later, a strong wind came up and blew down the neighbor’s garage but ours stood strong.

ADG – With the exception of Dave, who was born in Bridgeport Hospital, all our children spent their early years in Larchmont. Dan was a mischievous little him. I recall one time when baby Cedric was taking his afternoon nap on the screened porch; Dan procured a bottle of shoe blacking and proceeded to paint Ced’s face with it. You can imagine his Aunt Dorothy’s shock and surprise when she glanced in and saw our baby son with a black face. On one occasion I walked into the kitchen and found Dan sitting on the floor by the refrigerator busily breaking eggs on the linoleum. Lad early showed interest in mechanical things and was always quite a help in fixing things around the house.

ADG – On one summer’s day Arla and I motored to Mount Vernon to visit mother Guion, leaving the children in care of their Aunt Anne.  Ced, who was playing on the window seat in his upstairs nursery, somehow loosened the window screen and both he and it fell to the ground below, Ced landing on his head in the flower bed. Anne at once phoned us and I recall breaking all speed laws and safety regulations speeding back to Larchmont. Apparently no harm resulted and in a short time the youngster was playing as usual.

CED – I don’t remember much about the Larchmont house on Landsdown Drive. I do remember that milk was delivered by a milkman with a horse and buggy. Landsdown Drive was on a hill and at the bottom was a creek. One day the horse and wagon went down the hill faster than usual – they went bouncing down the hill. I don’t remember if the horse went in the brook or not. I was pretty young at the time, about four maybe.

BISS – The only memory I have of Larchmont is a day picture of the living room. It had a fireplace and it seems to me a piano or something, but I’m not sure. My impression is of hardwood floors but I can’t remember what the furniture looked like. I was four when we left there.

LAD – When I started school in Larchmont, either kindergarten or first grade, I went to school in a horse-drawn sleigh in the winter. I just remember being awfully cold. In the warmer months, Mother drove me to school. Dan probably started school there because he was only a year and a half behind me.

Next Saturday I will continue A Tribute to Arla with more memories from her children and the story of how they arrived in Trumbull.

Next week I’ll be posting letters written in 1942. Lad is coming home and Dan, Ced and Dick remain in Alaska.

Judy Guion

A Tribute to Arla (3) – Little Lad Arrives – April, 1914

Alfred and Arla Guion have moved into an apartment in the Bronx after their honeymoon in Bermuda. Alfred purchased furniture from Gimbel Brothers and James McCreery and Company, as well as a musical instrument known as a Technola Player Piano from the Aeolian Company to furnish the apartment.

Gimbel Brothers - 1913

Gimbel Brothers – 1913

 

James McCreery and Company - 1913

James McCreery and Company – 1913              The Aeolian Company Player Piano - 1913

The Aeolian Company
Player Piano – 1913

One year later, Alfred Peabody joined the family. The following letters were received after this happy occasion.

Congratulations on the arrival of a son - 1914 J M Carr

The Park Hotel

Williamsport, Pennsylvania

4/1/1914

Dear Al,

I hope that everything is going along all right with you, and I have been waiting every day to hear that you have had your addition, and that your

wife is getting along in good shape. Things have not been any too good on the road but we are out after what we can get and I suppose I should notkick, as I am away ahead of last year, but then I have to be. I have had very little time home, in fact only a day now and then, for it keeps me on the go all the time trying to make good on what I have undertaken to do this year to earn my salary. This of all years, but I am sure of doing it, if in fact, not doing more, which will mean a little more for me. If it is possible I will do it. Hope you are making good headway with your people and I wish that you would call me up some day and take lunch with me. I will be home, I expect, on Monday and Tuesday and then I start away on a 4 to 5 weeks trip and expect to finish. Well, it here’s hoping that everything is all right and hope both will be well.

Your sincere friend,

J.M. Carr

Congratulations on the birth of a son - 1914 Josiah J. Hazem

Congratulations on the birth of a son – 1914
Josiah J. Hazem

                                                                                                                                                                                                         

John O. Powers Company

11 West 25th Street

New York

Advertising

April 21, 1914

Dear Guion,

Hurrah ! Hooray!!

I sincerely hope the “family” is getting on nicely.

It’s great to be a daddy.

Yours sincerely,

Josiah J. Hazen

Congratulations on the birth of a son - 1914 Aunt Anna

49 W. 94th

                                                                                 My Dear Nephew and Niece,                                                                                                                                                                                                    

My sincere congratulations for the birth of a son.

Hoping he will be a blessing to you both.

Sincerely,

Aunt Anna

April 16, 1914

On Saturday, July 23, I’ll be posting one more letter of congratulations from Alex Smith. It’s quite a long letter from a father to a “new” father, filled with thoughts and words of wisdom.

Tomorrow, I’ll begin posting letters from 1942. The first is from Lad, with a change of plans. During the rest of the week, I’ll be posting 3 more letters from Grandpa to his sons, both near and far from home.

Judy Guion

A Tribute to Arla (2) – 1913

In the last post, Grandpa tells the story of when he first realized that he was in love with Arla Peabody. He continues:

I got up the nerve a few weeks later to ask my mother, timidly, what she thought of her and was immensely gratified when she answered favorably. I suppose like lovers the

Alfred Duryee Guion c. 1913

Alfred Duryee Guion c. 1913

Arla Mary Peabody c. 1913

Arla Mary Peabody
c. 1913

world over, before and since, things followed a regular pattern, but it was a long time before I could believe anyone since the world began could love a girl as I loved her, simply because there had never been anyone as perfect as she. I suppose she knew how I felt long before I told her. I used to make up all kinds of excuses to visit her home, using her brothers and sisters, who were all likable youngsters, as reasons on matters concerning church, choir, Sunday school, etc. The more I saw her in her home and noticed the tactful and gentle way in which she handled her little brothers and sisters, the willing help she gave her mother around the house, the dependence and trust her mother showed her, all convinced me, aside from viewing her with the lovers eye, that she would be an ideal wife and mother, and in this, as was afterwards proven, I was right.

Some nights, even when I knew her whole family would be in bed I would walk my dog, Spot, the long distance over to her house just so I could look at the place where she lived. There was only one girl I would ever want as long as I lived. I was a “one girl man” and would remain so all of my days.

With the three years college ordeal behind me and the girl of my choice looking upon me with favor, the future looked promising. Two main objects were to be achieved. I now had a promising job with a respectable company – St. Nicholas Magazine – and a definite incentive for making good. My job was to solicit advertising for this leading high-grade children’s magazine. It seemed a natural that children in better high-class homes and pedigreed pets belonged together, so I proposed starting a “Pet Department” in the magazine. The idea was approved and I was made Manager.

Of course nothing but the best in a diamond engagement ring was good enough for my girl, so on June 1, seated side-by-side alone on the lower deck of an excursion boat

then running to and from New York City, I slipped the ring on her finger. It apparently came as no surprise and was evidently quite acceptable. For many years, when circumstances permit it, we celebrated June 1 by taking a boat ride of some sort.

 

Certificate of Marriage   Alfred Duryee Guion     Arla Mary Peabody

                       Certificate of Marriage
                    Alfred Duryee Guion
                      Arla Mary Peabody

We chose Bermuda for our honeymoon and there we spent a delightful two weeks, marred only by an accident Arla had on a bicycle caused by the fact that she was not familiar with the operation of the coaster brake with which the rental machine was equipped, so she did not know how to slow speed at the end of a long downhill grade and chose crashing into a stone wall by the roadside in preference to smashing into a horse-drawn vehicle which was blocking the road. Outside of skinned hands when she was thrown over the handlebars onto the rough stone and a few bruises, no damage resulted, but the bike was pretty badly smashed.

Back home again, we spent the first few days fixing up an apartment I had rented in the Bronx for my bride. With my savings we bought some substantial dining and living room “Craftsman” furniture and there we lived for about a year, little Lad having arrived in the meantime to add to our happiness.

Tomorrow, I’ll post a new segment of “A Tribute To Arla”, including more from Grandpa, the memories of her children, letters from friends and some unusual memorabilia.

Judy Guion

A Tribute to Arla (1) – December, 1911

How many times has one small event set off a series of events that end up changing your life, your country or your world? Can you think of a decision you made that changed the direction of your life?

In the Guion family living in Trumbull, the one event that changed everyone’s life forever was the death of my Grandmother,  Arla Mary Peabody Guion. She married Grandpa when she was 18 and he was 29 and they were blessed with five sons and a daughter, but let’s return to the beginning.

My grandfather, Alfred Duryee Guion, left school at the age of 16, after his father had passed away, to go out into the world and earn some money to help support his mother and younger sister. After several positions as a clerk, a stenographer, Private Secretary and positions in advertising, he joined the Century Publishing Company on the Advertising staff of St. Nicholas Magazine. As he writes in his autobiography:

sol-alfred-duryee-guion-at-time-of-weddingUp to this time, I had thought that someday, when the right girl came along, I should probably get married. but during these years, I had never

really fallen in love, perhaps because my standards of what an ideal wife should be were pretty high and I had not met anyone yet to seriously challenge that standard, although the young Peabody girl was frequently in my thoughts.

Then one Christmas season the church or Sunday school staged a religious play with the Nativity scene and Arla

Arla Peabody as The Virgin Mary

Arla Peabody as The Virgin Mary

Peabody was chosen to play the part of the Virgin Mary. She wore a soft white scarf over her head and carried a doll for the Infant Christ. That night as I watched her holding the child with tender contentment and a placid, dreamy look in her soft brown eyes, something inside me suddenly exploded.

I had read about “love at first sight”, but this wasn’t first sight. Here was a girl I had known and seen for several years, but apparently I had not seen her at all. This couldn’t be the same girl! Had I been blind? Here was the most enchanting person anywhere in the world. I didn’t know what had happened to me. I was in a daze. The room was crowded with people I knew but I didn’t see anyone else. I didn’t speak to anyone else. I didn’t dare speak to her: she was too far above me.

Somehow I found my hat and groped my way out the door and on my way home. It may have been cold outside. I didn’t know. All I could think of on my way home was how I could be worthy of even speaking to her. One moment I would be hugging myself at the thought that I knew her and perhaps she would notice me, the next moment I was in the depths of despair knowing that everyone who had ever seen her must have appreciated what I had been too blind to see and that I would stand a poor chance when such a wonderful girl had so many potential husbands to choose from. I prayed to God for help in making her love me. Never in my life, before or since, have I felt so overwhelmed as I did then.

 Arla Mary Peabody c. 1911

Arla Mary Peabody
c. 1911

I knew how St. Paul had felt on the road to Damascus when a bright light transformed him. In a word, quite suddenly, I was head over heels in love with Arla Peabody. She didn’t know it and I was afraid to tell her because she might not reciprocate and then life would just be a blank. The thing to do was to woo her with every wile I could command, fearful all the while that someone else would win her heart first. It was a far from happy time for me and I am afraid I must have seemed a bit strange to all who knew me.

My plan is to post  segments  of this story every Saturday and Sunday. Material will come from my grandfather’s autobiography, written in 1960 as he traveled around the world at a very leisurely pace on a freighter, the recorded memories of his children and letters of condolence written by their many, many friends after Arla’s death.

Judy Guion