After my Uncle Dan (Daniel Beck Guion) passed away in 1997, I realized that first-hand accounts of this particular “Slice of Life” would only continue to diminish over time. I needed to record the memories of my Aunt Biss and her brothers and share them with the family. This culminated in the idea of a Blog so that I could share these memories with anyone who would be interested in the personal histories of some members of The Greatest Generation.
Over a period of several years, whenever possible, I recorded the memories of my Dad and his siblings.
These are the memories of Elizabeth Westlin (Guion) Zabel, Grandma and Grandpa’s fourth child and only daughter.
Elizabeth Westlin Guion
I guess Lad taught me how to drive. When Lad was twelve or fourteen, I don’t remember when, he and Ced and Dan and Dad went for a walk. Dad’s eye got cut with a blade of grass or something. So Lad drove him to the hospital, even though he was under the age, too. Of course, Dad couldn’t drive because he couldn’t see. So Lad drove him to the hospital and back after they took care of him.
Lad’s memory of this event is slightly different:
When I was eight, Dad took Dan Ced and I, possibly Biss, for a walk up behind our property, past the cemetery. There was a slightly sloped hill on the lot, and all of us were rolling down the hill, including Dad. When he got up he said there was something wrong with his eyes, some dirt or something, so we went home. His eye got worse and more bloodshot and it began to hurt more so Mother told him he should go see the doctor. He was reluctant but finally consented. I asked him if I could go and he said yes. When he got to the doctors, the doctor told him that a piece of stubble had apparently pierced his eye. He sewed it up and when dad came out he could only see out of one eye, and that was blurred and watery. He asked me if I would steer the car for him. So I sat on his lap and steered the car, told him when to put on the brakes. He did the shifting and used the clutch, but from that time on, I was very interested in driving. I was only eight.
(I doubt Lad could have sat on Grandpa’s lap if he was twelve or fourteen. If Lad was eight, Biss would have been four or five, depending on the time of the year.)
We had an old Franklin Touring car, I fell out of the back seat of that one. We had a Durrant and a Dodge. I’m not sure if the Durrant was Lad’s car later or what. I can remember a Durrant, I think it was a family car, and then, of course, we had the Packard. Lad was looking through it and discovered a hidden bottom; it must have been a Rum Runner’s car back in the prohibition days. The Packard was by far the best. (I think they actually had 3 Packards). Of course, none of them had windows like they have today. You had to snap on the side curtains, you know, if it rained or something.
I started driving when I was twelve years old. We had that lot in back of the house that Dan bought. Well, that was mowed down, in other words, it was a lot at the time, and we had a racetrack around it. So I started out with a Model-T Ford, and then there was an Oldsmobile truck, so I got that.
I can remember one day, I had a flat tire. Axel Larsson was the gardener at that time because mother was already sick so she had to have somebody to take care of us kids. Astrid and Axle and their daughter Florence moved into the cottage, the Little House. Astrid was the housekeeper and Axle was the gardener. He was the one who did all the stone work around the house; he built the fireplace and did the stones lining the driveway. Anyway, the tire was flat on the truck and I was looking for a jack or something to jack it up with so I could change the tire. Axel said, “What seems to be the problem here?” I said, “I’m looking for something to jack it up with.” So he said, “Well, get that concrete block over there and when I lift the truck, you just slide it under.” So, he did. He lifted the back of the truck up and I slid it under. He was a blacksmith, and he used the hammers all the time so he was really burly up on top, even though he was kind of short. When we moved to Stratford, (After I was married and had my sons) his Blacksmith’s Shop was about two blocks away. I used to take the boys down there so we could watch Axel at work. But anyway, he fixed the flat and then I drove around the track. There is where I learned to drive, in the backyard. Of course, traffic wasn’t heavy like it is today.
When Dad bought the island from the Heurlin’s, (in 1945) I was married and had two children. I tried to talk Zeke (Raymond Zabel) into going up there. He wanted no part of it, he wasn’t interested. I figured it would be good for the kids, it would be a vacation and it wouldn’t cost much more than food and supplies. Zeke wouldn’t go. After five or six years, I finally convinced him to try it. Then I could never keep him away. Now, if only I could have gotten him to try traveling once. I’m sure it would have been the same way. Then I would have had my dream of traveling all over. I got the van, the mattress, the gas lantern and the gas stove, and then we never went anywhere, no matter what I’d say. I figured when we retired, we would just start out with no particular destination; he could bring his guns and his fishing gear. Anyplace we found a spot, if we liked it, we could spend two or three days there; if we didn’t like it, we could go to another place.
Dad was very determined to beat the Stock Market because it had done him in. He was out for revenge. He’d sit up there in his bedroom and follow the charts.(He had a Ticker Tape Machine in his bedroom) He did a lot of investing on margin. He had an estate worth over $100,000 (in 1964, worth $1,006,790.90 today) when he died, only ten years after he got out of debt.
Next weekend, I will post the Memories of Richard Peabody Guion.
Tomorrow, I will begin posting letters written in July of 1940, including the first letter from Dan (and Ced) from the Anchorage Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska.