Alfred Duryee Guion – The Beginning (14) – Introduction To Arla And His B.C.S. Degree

In this segment of his story, Grandpa introduces us to his future wife, Arla Peabody and explains why he felt it was so important to earn a degree.

 Arla Mary Peabody c. 1911

Arla Mary Peabody

I was also actively interested in a dramatic society which every year for a number of seasons gave amateur plays in which I was frequently given the leading role. In some of these plays an attractive young girl named Arla Peabody occasionally played parts. She also sang in the choir and the more I saw of her, the better I liked her in a mild way. She was modest and dignified but very popular with boys and girls alike. She had big brown eyes, a sweet smile, full of life in a quiet way and kind to everybody. I suppose I was starting to fall in love but had no realization of it at the time.

Alfred Duryee Guion

Alfred Duryee Guion

One of my fellow stenographers at the American Smelting Company was an ambitious, enthusiastic person named Alfred Thieme who felt we both could improve our lot if we had a college education – an idea which I had secretly entertained but pushed aside as hopeless because I had not finished high school. He was very urgent, however, wanting me to take the course with him at New York University leading to a B.C.S. (Bachelor of Commercial Science) degree. The prospect was grim – five nights a week over a period of three years. From then on I spent most of my leisure time studying to make up the necessary counts for college entrance, and in the fall of 1910 at the age of 26, I started in a very grueling three-year grind. During this time, however, I organized a glee club and was a charter member of the new Greek letter fraternity which has now grown to be national in scope. I graduated in the class of 1912 with my hard earned B.C.S. degree.

New York University Graduation Program - June 10, 1914

New York University Graduation Program

Going back now a few years, my father had been a very prominent Freemason, not only being Master of his Lodge but also the district deputy Grand Master. His friend and great admirer was the man who had helped my mother in her financial and housing problems after my father’s death. He, too, was an enthusiastic Mason and about the time I had reached the age of 21, he had been actively interested in starting a new Lodge in Mount Vernon, of which he was Master, and was strongly interested, principally because of my father, in having me be the first man admitted to the new Lodge. He hoped, of course, I would take the same interest in Masonic affairs and follow in my father’s footsteps, but the combination of church activities and later college commitments left little time for anything else.

Grandpa’s story will continue next weekend.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting letters written in the spring of 1945. Read about the continuing love story between Dan and Paulette.

Judy Guion

Alfred Duryee Guion – The Beginning (13) – First Job And The First Subway

Grandpa’s story continues with some advice and the opening of the first subway in New York City.

I had no one with whom I felt I could discuss so personal a matter (at such times as these a boy misses not having a father to advise him), so I finally put up to my mother the idea of quitting high school and going to work. I wish now that she had firmly said, “No, finish high school first”  but instead she told me to do what I thought best.

One is sometimes asked: “What would you do differently if you had your life to do over again?” And as I look back now this decision to quit school, an idea halfheartedly opposed by my school principal (or maybe I was so convinced this was the right choice that I paid no heed to his advice), was mistake number one, and a decision I was afterwards to regret.

So I quit school in my second year and through a friend in the church started work as an office boy at four dollars a week in a small insurance company in New York. After paying for my railway commuting ticket, car fare from Grand Central to the Nassau Street offices and lunches, I don’t imagine my contribution was of material financial aid to the family but at least my conscience was satisfied and I WAS self supporting.

Alfred Duryee Guion at the Dell Avenue house

Alfred Duryee Guion at the Dell Avenue house

How eager I was to do my job right! How earnestly I strove to please my boss and carry out his orders better than anyone else. I took great pride in my work and resolved to overlook no opportunity to get ahead. Overtime was cheerfully given although we received no pay for it – only $.50 supper money. It bothered me because the clerks ahead of me knew more than I did. I began to suspect that their education was broader than mine. I attempted to compensate for this by getting my bosses Secretary, who was friendly toward me, to teach me shorthand. Mistake # 2. I would have been much better off if I had paid for proper instruction at a shorthand school, as eventually I did that anyway and it was doubly hard to unlearn what had been taught wrongly, although with the best intentions in the world. I learned from this that the cheapest is not always the best and realized the truth of my father’s frequent admonition: “What’s worth doing at all is worth doing well.” However I labored away faithfully at it until one day the boss consented to try me out. I was slow but he was patient and not long afterwards he told me his friend in the big Mutual Life Insurance Company across Nassau Street, needed a private Secretary and he had recommended me. Mr. Farley was quick-tempered and impatient with my shortcomings, but I gradually improved. At that time, the big insurance companies, of which mine was one, were undergoing a severe investigation, in the prosecution of which Charles Evans Hughes made a name for himself. Mr. Farley died and my next job was with American Smelting and Refining Company, Purchasing Department, as a full-fledged stenographer.

Just about this time with much ado, the first subway in New York was opened  ( )and on opening day I wrote it from Grand Central Depot to City Hall, the entire length ( I was unaware that I was going through my teenage problem stage. As I look back I realize that while I was not a “goody-goody” person, I secretly aspired to lead a noble life. I had a deep respect for womanhood. I clipped out, and put in a scrapbook, inspirational articles resolving each day to acquire some new item of knowledge. How much my early church training had to do with all of this I don’t know, but as I grew older I became more occupied in church activities, first as a choir boy, then a Crucifier, Director of the boys Association called the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, then Superintendent of the Church School and finally as assistant to the Minister at the Sunday morning church service as a Lay Reader.

Tomorrow I’ll continue Grandpa’s story with the first mention of his future wife, my Grandma Arla, and how he earned his College Diploma.

On Monday, I’ll be posting letters written in the spring of 1945. We’ll read more about Dan and Paulette.

Judy Guion

Alfred Duryee Guion – The Beginning (12) – High School And The Race

My Grandfather’s story continues with his high school years and a very memorable moment for him.


One day I acquired from our washerwoman a little half breed Fox terrier pup which I named Spot. He was a bright little fellow and I taught him many tricks; rollover, play dead, chase his tail, not touch the most tempting morsel held in front of him until I gave permission, bag, shake hands, speak, come to heal, stay put until I called, etc. He was quite a show off and one day I dressed him up a little jacket and pants like a monkey, with a little hat, got out an old hand organ of my father’s that played music roles, and with myself dressed as an organ grinder, called on several neighbors who did not recognize us at first and seemed to derive much amusement from the performance until Spot’s pants fell down and we were recognized.

I now attended high school which was a long walk from our house and sometimes when I started late I would have to run part of the way to get there on time. (They didn’t take children to school on buses in those days). Possibly it was this occasional spurt of running that gave me the idea, furthered by reading of the marathon runners in Greek history. Possibly the metals I had won for distance running at Sunday school picnics had encouraged the idea.

However, I was never very active in athletics and reticent about pushing myself forward, so it wasn’t until our high school talent scout, spurred by the upcoming intercity high school athletic meet to which all of the surrounding towns sent their best contestants, persuaded me to train for a mile race. From then on I ran back and forth from high school until I felt in top condition. The great day came – the biggest event of the school year – and while nervous and none to confident,

I lined up with the contestants from eight other schools in the county. BANG! went the starting gun and we were off. I don’t recall how many laps it took to equal a mile, but my strategy for the first few was to merely keep up with the majority and save my reserve powers for the final laps. This I did and finally found only one runner ahead of me. I put all I had into it but my utmost brought me in second. However there seemed to be some controversy among the judges until it was officially announced that I was the winner, the other fellow having cut a corner on one of the laps.

This caused a bitter argument between the two top schools involved, Mt. Vernon running about neck and neck in total points with its nearest competitor and on the decision of this race hung the balance and my role therefore assumed undue import. Anyway my schoolmates in their enthusiasm hoisted me on their shoulders and, being the hero of the day, escorted me all the way home.

I was understandably quite proud of the gold medal awarded me and was bitterly disappointed when wearing it as a watch fob to a dance a few days later, it was either lost or stolen. I suspected the latter because some of the folks from the rrival school were also present and in spite of the thorough search of the dance Hall that night and subsequent ads in the local paper offering a reward for its return, nothing came of it. I don’t think my name have yet been engraved on it.

Later a vague rumor reached me that the boy who had lost out was seen wearing the medal but this was never verified. To have achieved success in a field of which I never expected either by temperament or ability to shine and have nothing to prove that it wasn’t just a fantasy was deeply disappointing and to some extent illogically disgusted me with high school and everything connected with it.

Alfred Duryee Guion at the Dell Avenue house

Alfred Duryee Guion at the Dell Avenue house

Then too, I did not get top marks in all my subjects, and this hurt my pride. I was very good in English, history and German; so-so in math; and terrible in drawing; fair in biology. Also I became more and more obsessed with the idea that my duty and responsibility was to get out and earn my own keep instead of continuing to be a burden financially to my mother; thus I would sooner be able to feel I was really helping to support my mother as it was my duty to do.

Grandpa’s story will continue next weekend.

Tomorrow, I’ll begin a week of letters that were written in the summer of 1942. Lad is training at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Aberdeen, Maryland and Dan is at Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. Ced is still in Alaska, continuing to get deferments for his work on a Military Air Field, Dick and Dave are still in Trumbull with Grandpa.

Why not share this historical “Slice of Life” with a friend or family member. They might appreciate it.

Judy Guion

Alfred Duryee Guion – The Beginning (11) – Dell Avenue

This weekend, I’ll be continuing the early years of my Grandfather, Alfred Duryee Guion. His father has passed away in his early 40’s and this precipitated a drastic change in their style of living. Grandpa is adjusting.

Alfred Duryee Guion in front of the Dell Avenue house about 1902

Alfred Duryee Guion in front of the Dell Avenue house about 1902

At Dell Avenue

As Lincoln Avenue was the home of my childhood and boyhood, 71 Dell Ave., Mount Vernon was the home of my youth and early married life. There I emerged from high school, started a business, married and began bringing up a family. It may have been the fact that my mother had to live very economically that the value of the dollar was early impressed on my growing mind and the advantage of the savings account became important. My mother paid me $.10 a day for cleaning ashes from the furnace and stoking it in the winter time, and once a week rolling the ash barrel from the cellar door at the back of the house to the curb in front for the ash man to collect. I took great pride in watching my savings account grow which enabled me eventually to acquire the thing I treasured even more than a new bike — a Colt .22 repeating rifle.

For several years I had pestered by mother for permission to buy a rifle of some sort but she firmly refused, saying I was too young. My best friend and pal, a boy of my own age named Ted Utz, had the same desire and eagerly we sent for and pored over catalogs of all the manufacturers of firearms in the country. One could buy in a hardware store at that time a cheap inaccurate single shot cal. German rifle called a Flobert, which we spurned. The King of them all was the Colt, so when I reached the age of 16 set by my mother as O.K., I sent the $18 for it and spent many happy days with my pal hunting squirrels.

We liked to get out to the woods at daybreak, but Ted was a sound sleeper, so on the night before a hunt when he went to bed he tied a string to his big toe and hung the string out of the second-story window of his room, so that I could pull the same soon after daybreak when I arrived and so did not have to disturb his family to waken him.

I wore my first pair of long pants on Easter Sunday. I can distinctly recall on my walk from home to Sunday school on that morning the feeling of certainty that in every house I passed someone was peeking out of the window to stare at my new pants. Besides I had spilled egg on them at breakfast.

fr: Ella Duryee Guion, Elsie Guion; back: Alfred Duryee Guion, Aunt Mary and Aunt Lillian

fr: Ella Duryee Guion, Elsie Guion; back: Alfred Duryee Guion, Aunt Mary and Aunt Lillian

With my mother lived my three aunts and small sister, so I early felt my importance as the only “man” in the family. With my father gone it was up to me to take care of my mother and this developed into a serious responsibility, resulting in several years in succession in my using my savings to take my mother on a two-week vacation to various summer resorts as my father had done.

One summer’s vacation I spent in Maine. A school boy friend, Arthur Morris, had become a Minister and was assigned to a little church in an isolated fishing village just above Bar Harbor, called Steuben. After leaving the train at Bangor, a little single-track branch line seemed to have had its winding track laid so as to curve around larger trees in its path through the thick woods. I was told that a big bull Moose the day before had angrily bucked the locomotive. It killed the moose but also stopped the train.

Arthur had sort of been adopted by a typical hearty, New England, independent but kindhearted middle-aged widow, known to everyone as Aunt Ada, at whose house we lived. It was rumored that Art was eventually to be her heir, but I later lost track of both. Letters to them whenever answered and I never knew what happened to either.

Tomorrow, I’ll post the story of how Spot entered the family and a High School Race.

On Monday, I’ll be posting letters from 1942. Dan has been drafted in the Army iu January, Lad has just gone in in May, both Ced and Dick are worried about their prospects of avoiding the draft. Dave is in High School and living with Grandpa in Trumbull.

Judy Guion

Alfred Duryee Guion – The Beginning (10) – Our Church And My Father’s Death

In this post, Grandpa tells us of the point in his life when things were forever changed. His childhood ends and his young adulthood begins, even though he was only in his second year of high school.

Untitled-2 7

I believe this is the Church of the Ascension in Mount Vernon, NY.  Again, it looks like a church and why else would he take this picture?

Our church, the Church of the Ascension in Mount Vernon, early occupied an important place in my life. Both parents were active workers, my father as a vestryman and my mother as a member of the Ladies Aid and other church societies, and of course we children attended Sunday School regularly. From this same church my father was buried with a big Masonic funeral, later my mother, and here also I was married and most of my children were baptized.

The big church event of the year from my boyish standpoint was the annual Sunday school picnic. On the day appointed, mother put up a box lunch, took along some blankets, extra jackets and sweaters, and we all assembled at the church where trolley cars, in sufficient number, were waiting to transport the whole group to some seaside vacation resort, usually not more than an hour’s ride away. Games of all sorts were played, sack races, three-legged races, high and broad jumps and regular foot races. From one of these I proudly brought home a bronze medal for winning a foot race. Then, tired but happy, the trolley took us home.

I had measles in 1893 at the age of nine. I remember the year distinctly because, while I was in bed, the postman delivered copy of Harper’s Young People, which I preferred to Youth’s Companion, and on the front cover was an interesting illustration and story about the Chicago World’s Fair, then in full swing in Chicago. I was tired of staying in bed and this was something interesting to occupy my mind, but Mother mercilessly pulled down the window shades in spite of violent protests, so that it was too dark to read, which she said had to be because “it was bad for my eyes” until I recovered from the measles.

The interval between moving out of the Lincoln Avenue house and carpentry work on the renovated Dell Avenue house was finished, we spent in a rented house, and while there I contracted Scarlet Fever. The day before I was sick enough to have a doctor, I felt extremely tired and listless and that night I had a horrible dream. The facts themselves were not so bad but the realism was terrifying. I was on a very large globe, the surface of which was so slippery I continually fell down each time I started to stand up. No matter how many times I tried it was no use and the prospect of never being able to regain a standing position was horrifying.

The house, of course, was quarantined and my patient mother was my nurse. The only aftereffects, which sometimes are quite serious following the disease, were, in my case, severe earaches, which apparently left no permanent injury. Even now at age 75 my hearing is normal.

While I failed to realize it at the time, my father’s death put an end to carefree boyhood days and made me take a more serious view of life. The idea gradually grew in my mind that as the only “man” in the family, it was my duty to do what I could do to support it. Soon I was to leave my childhood spent in the old Lincoln Avenue house to start a new chapter in the Dell Avenue house where I spent my teens and early manhood. How little any one event, large as it looms at the time, really matters much when viewed from the long stretch of a person’s years.

Tomorrow, I’ll begin a week of letters written in 1941. Lad is working for the Socony-Vacuum Oil Company. Dan and Ced are in Alaska and Dick will be travelling there soon to deliver a car and stay with his brothers for a while.

Next weekend I’ll continue the story of my Grandpa, in his own words, writing about his first  job in New York City.

Why don’t you tell your friends about this fascinating “Slice of Life”?

Judy Guion


Alfred Duryee Guion – The Beginning (9) – My First And Only Fight

My Grandpa continues the story of his boyhood with a lesson learned at an early age.

ADG - Alfred Duryee Guion and Elsie May Guion about 1995

Alfred Duryee Guion with their dog and his sister, Elsie

Lincoln Avenue House

If this is to be a truthful account of my boyhood, I now come to an incident of which I am heartily ashamed.

ADG - grade school, Mount Vernon, NY

I believe this is the grade school he attended. Why else would he have taken this picture?

It happened early in my grammar school days. I was rather a reserved, quiet type who did not enter readily into the rougher sports and for that reason was not generally popular. There was an aggressive, rather bullying type of youngster, taller and heavier than I, who evidently took a dislike to me and made things rather rough. Being of a sensitive nature, this bothered me and instead of shrugging the matter off as some youngsters might, it built up day by day until it must have shown in my attitude. It came to a climax one noon recess over a game of marbles or some other trifling thing, resulting in Emil informing me, as the noon bell rang, that he would wait for me and “get me” when school got out that afternoon. Frankly, I was afraid and when the closing bell rang I hung back and tried to think of some question to ask the teacher to delay matters. It was no use and as I finally went out the door there was Emil with a gang of ten or twelve jeering boys. I panicked. I had three or four schoolbooks strapped together and heaving them in Emil’s face, I started to run toward home, which was about four blocks away. Off I went with Emil and the yelling band after me – a fox with hounds in full cry behind.

Sometime during the chase I came to my senses. It might have been pride; shame for the cowardly way I was acting or realizing how far I had fallen from the ideals my family had preached; the fact that running would do no good; that sooner or later I’d have to fight anyway. Perhaps it was a combination of all, though none very clear-cut. The net result was that I decided to quit running then and there and fight to the last ditch even if they had to carry me home on a stretcher.

ADG - Lincoln Ave, House

Grandpa’s house on Lincoln Avenue

So I stopped on the lawn of Chivvis’ house right across the street from mine and faced my foe. The boys all gathered around in a circle to watch Emil knock the tar out of me. And I guess he did. I know afterwards I had a bloody nose and a black eye. But now I was determined no power on earth could make me quit. On and on we slugged it out – it seems for hours – and whenever I got knocked down, which was frequently, and one of the boys would ask me if I’d had enough, I replied “No!”, and went after Emil again. I don’t know how many times this happened but often enough so that after a while the boys saw no more sport in the thing – just a dogged determination on the part of one badly beaten kid to refuse to give up. We both finally became so weak that neither of us could punch anymore and upon my still refusing to admit I was licked, the boys forcibly separated us and he and his gang went their way, and I, with one or two whose sympathy I had belatedly won, went to my home, someone having restored my books. Next day at school Emil and I shook hands. He admitted he had me all wrong and I told him I was very sorry for the cowardly act of throwing my books at him. From that day on Emil and I were very good friends and continued so for a number of years until he died in his early youth, the cause unknown to me.

Tomorrow, Grandpa tells us about a pivotal point in his life when things change forever.

On Monday, I’ll begin a week of letters written in 1941. Lad is in Venezuela, Dan and Ced are in Alaska and Dick will be joining them soon. Grandpa and Dave will be holding down the fort in Trumbull.

Judy Guion

Alfred Duryee Guion – The Beginning (8) – The Duryee Cousins

In The Reminiscences of Alfred Duryee Guion, my Grandpa, he continues with his memories of his Duryee Cousins.

ADG - Alfred Duryee Guion and Elsie May Guion about 1995

The story of my boyhood would not be complete if I failed to mention my sisters and my favorite cousins and playmates – the Duryee’s – 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’ll call 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’ve 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 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 Street, 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”.

Next weekend 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 spend the week posting a  letter written in March of 1945. Grandpa writes a four page letter and Marian writes a letter that was included in  Grandpa’s letter to Dan. Both Lad and Dan are in France, having been drafted into the Army, Ced is still working in Anchorage, Alaska, Dick is in Brazil and Dave is sailing for some port in the Pacific. Grandpa remains in Trumbull with Lad and Dick’s wives, Marian and Jean. He is still writing letters every week, which he has been doing since January, 1939. I’m sure he had no idea when he started the letter writing campaign that it would continue for such a long time.

Judy Guion 

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

Alfred Duryee Guion – The Beginning (6) An Incident With A Handgun

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.

I recall keeping a picture album in which I pasted pictures of Mellin’s food (for babies), Baker’s chocolate, Pear’s soap, Sapolio, and Pearline (washing powder). Advertisements in the papers and magazines featured Smith Bros. Cough drops, Radway’s Ready Relief, Sloan’s Liniment, Carter’s Little Liver Pills, Lidia Pinkham’s Pink Pills for Pale People, Adam’s chewing gum and a round chip gum called Faultless Pepsin Chips. The Sunday papers were beginning to run comic sections featuring Buster Brown, The Yellow Kid, Mutt and Jeff, etc. Ice cream sodas were a new, delightful treat.

My father seldom drank any alcoholic beverage stronger than beer. One hot summer day both father and mother had beer at the evening meal. It looked so cool and bubbly I asked for some. My mother said “No”, but my father said, “Oh, let him have a taste.” What a disappointment! Instead of the nice sweet taste I had expected, it was bitter. To this day I don’t like beer.

As a boy I had frequent colds which worried my mother. The invariable remedy was Scott’s Emulsion of Cod Liver Oil and I can distinctly recall the label on the bottle depicting an old seafaring man dressed in oilers and hat, carrying a huge fish on his back.

Another incident I recall was trying to be kind to a little kitten we had been given. I heard my mother say that kittens liked to be where it was warm, so I figured the oven of our kitchen coal range would be just right. Fortunately, it was between meals and the fire was low. My mother heard the meowing and finally located poor little kitty, none the worse for its experience, and while, because of my good intentions, I escaped spanking, I learned a lesson in the value of good judgment. I used to bite my fingernails. I stuttered. I was frequently punished for teasing my little sister. All in all, I guess I wasn’t a “sweet little boy”.

ADG - Alfred Duryee Guion and Elsie May Guion about 1995

In the top drawer of my father’s dresser, where among other things he kept a pomade stick for his hair, brilliantine for his mustache, orris root, etc., he had a small 22-caliber Chased pearl-handled revolver as well as the Harrington and Richards five shooter for safety sake, because our house was on the outskirts of town and was occasionally visited by tramps looking for a handout. The fancy little firearm intrigued my boyish fancy and, while I had been repeatedly told never to touch either of those revolvers, one day when my idle hands found nothing else to do, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to take it apart to see how it worked. So down to the coal cellar where I wouldn’t be observed I went, with it and a screwdriver. I got the faceplate off without much trouble when suddenly something snapped and the insides sort of erupted. I had planned to take each part out carefully observing the order so there would be no trouble in assembling them again, but this scattering of parts all over the place was a tragedy. What a hopeless feeling! I tried frantically to fit the parts in again but I couldn’t even get the side plate back. Now, what to do? I knew I was in for a good spanking. Disobedience did not set very well with “Papa”. I thought of not taking it back and hiding it somewhere but knew it would be missed and lying would only make matters worse. With shame and trembling I sought out my mother and told her the whole sad story. She decided the only thing to do was to wait until my father came home from the office that night and make a clean breast of things. What a long fearsome afternoon that was! We children, Elsie and I, always rushed to the door with Mother for the homecoming kiss as soon as we heard his key in the lock, but my greeting that night somehow lacked enthusiasm. Perhaps because my mother interceded I escaped spanking that time, or perhaps they decided I had learned my lesson, which I had.

My parents did not believe in frequent or promiscuous spankings but we knew we would get one when we deserved, and then not a slap or two, but pants taken down in my case, and the back of a hair brush vigorously applied enough times to create a healthy respect for the punishment. I recall one time I deserved it and so reported to my father some months later. I had done or said some minor thing which was wrong, in a fit of ill-nature, and was warned if I did it again I would get a spanking. Feeling ugly and defiant, I deliberately did it again. Down came my britches, whack when the hairbrush, and I can remember the strange feeling of all the ugliness and ill-nature completely evaporating during the process. I knew I had deserved it and felt it had done me good. I often thought of this episode in bringing up my own children, and never since have agreed with those who think it wrong to spank children under any circumstances, the old Bible admonition, “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is still true.

Next weekend 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 posting a week of letters written in 1942. Both Lad and Dan have been drafted into the Army, Ced is still working in Anchorage, Alaska, and Dick and Dave are home in Trumbull with Grandpa.

Judy Guion 



Alfred Duryee Guion – The Beginning (5) – Childhood Memories

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.

ADG - Lincoln Ave, House

Going back to my boyhood days in the Lincoln Avenue house there are a few vivid recollections that have lasted through the years. One is seeing a Sunday newspaper with a glaring front page in color (not common in those days) showing an ironclad battleship being blown to bits, pieces of steel and bodies exploding in all directions, picturing the destruction of a Russian battleship at Port Arthur by the Japanese. The defeat of the sprawling Russian nation by little Japan established the latter as a world power. The newspaper, I recall, was The American, a Hearst newspaper, which with the evening Journal, was abhorred by the better class of Americans as reeking with “yellow journalism”. My father, who felt intensely on most topics and was usually either all for or all against anything, was a bitter critic of the Hearst papers and I was surprised to see a copy of the American in our house.

AD Guion - self-portrait @ 1896

Another exciting time I recall was the announcement of the blowing up and sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine by the Spanish in Havana, Cuba harbor,   the declaration of war against Spain and the slogan “Remember the Maine”, Teddy Roosevelt Rough Riders, the charge up San Juan Hill, the destruction of the Spanish fleet and Dewey’s victory in Manila Bay, culminating in a stupendous triumphal parade in New York for this great national hero. “You may fire when ready, Gridley”. My whole family went. We had secured seats in a wood reviewing stand erected on Fifth Avenue. The city was thronged with people, much like Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Somewhere, somehow, in the seething, pushing crowd I got separated from my parents. As I searched in vain here and there for them I realized that I was lost. I almost panicked but had sense enough to realize my folks would go home by way of the Grand Central Station (that was the old station, not the present structure)
(This was written in 1960) so with fear and wildly beating heart I got there somehow and there at last I found them.

Incidentally, it is interesting to recall the method of handling incoming passenger trains at Grand Central Station in those days. There really were “brakemen” on the railroads then. An incoming train, when it reached the switching area in the station yard, would be dispatched from the locomotive at exactly the right instant. The locomotive would immediately speed up and before the train could follow on the same track, and alert tower man would throw the switch and the train would glide off to another track. Naturally the speed of the train at this breaking point had to be carefully judged, because if to slow, it’s momentum would not be enough to carry it to the passenger unloading platform some distance ahead, and if too fast, it would be brought to too sudden a stop by hitting the big bumper at the station end of the track. So each brakeman would rush to the car platform and by alternately turning and releasing the brake wheels which manually controlled the brake shoes, the train, in a series of jerky movements, was finally brought to a halt at the platform. It was remarkable how few poor landings there were under the circumstances. On getting off and walking to the end of the platform, one was besieged by scores of “hansom cab” drivers, each carrying his whip and soliciting  “fares” to various parts of the city, and all adding to the chorus of ” cab, cab, cab”. The din and excitement of it all made one realized he had finally arrived somewhere.

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 posting a week of letters written in 1942. Both Lad and Dan have been drafted into the Army, Ced is still working in Anchorage, Alaska, and Dick and Dave are home in Trumbull with Grandpa.

Judy Guion