The Beginning (43) – Childhood Memories of Trumbull – Smoking and Other Shenanigans

These are the memories of my Father and his siblings, recorded over several years. When my Uncle Dan passed away, I realized that I had better get started recording the memories of Dan’s siblings before they were also gone. I was able to have two recording sessions with my Father, Lad in California; two with Uncle Ced in New Hampshire, a three-day cruise in our boat with Aunt Biss; one session with Uncle Dave in Stratford, CT and one hand-written session (I forgot my tape recorder going up to the Island in New Hampshire, where Uncle Dick lived) with Uncle Dick. I transcribed them once exactly as they were spoken, again removing the ums, ahs, half sentences started over, etc. I then produced a final copy that was easier to read, but it still needs work getting the chronological order correct. Memories are not recorded with a date stamp. I created 75 binders for family members which include all three translations, pages and pages of photos and memorabilia and the actual recording. Now family members can actually heat their ancestors speaking. It was my first project with all the material my Father saved for me and a true Labor of Love. I hope you enjoy these memories of A Slice of Life at a different time and place. 

Trap Door on the Barn


The Maple Tree on the left with the Summer Porch to the left of the house

It was called the Summer Porch because the Maple Tree provided lots of shade and there was always a breeze there 

CED: – At the Trumbull House, one of the things we used to do, one of the high points, had to do with the little trap door over the barn.  We would open the door, tie a rope to the beam at the top of the barn, run it down and tie it to the big Maple outside beside the Summer Terrace.  We used to have a wheel on it, it would go out the door and hang from the wheel.  We’d slide all the way down and get off by the Maple tree.  A pretty fast ride, too.

Possible location of the tree and swing going “almost over the road”.

We had a swing on the upper end of the property, near the stone pillars.  We would take hold of the rope, take a run and then swing out almost over the road.  Don Stanley fell off it and broke his arm.  His father never really forgave us.

LAD – I don’t remember much about any trouble I got into.  Dick and Ced used to get into trouble.  Mother would get a call from the police, or Constable, as they were called at the time.  What their problems were I don’t remember, but they did get into trouble … Mother had to go get them a few times.

Long before we moved to Trumbull, there was a dam on the Pequonnock River, flooding all the property where the stone house is now, right up to the cemetery.  There was a mill there, run by water which came down through a tunnel.  The tunnel was about three feet by three feet and it came out of a sheer wall.  It was probably a drop of eight or ten feet to the ground.  We kids used to play there quite often; we had a lot of imagination.

I don’t know if Mother smoked as a youngster, but she must have been smoking then because I think I took two of her cigarettes.  Art Christie and I went up and crawled through the tunnel and sat at the edge with our legs hanging over the edge and smoked cigarettes.  Who should come along but Mom!  She crawled through the tunnel and gave us quite a lecture.  It was probably a few years before I started smoking, but Mom smoked with me when I first started.  Then she quit, but I didn’t.

CED – We smoked corn silk and cigarettes here and there.  Art Christie was the oldest, your father (Lad) was next, then Dan and me, the four of us.  I like to presume, and it’s probably true, that Art Christie got the idea.  I guess my Mother wasn’t home.  I don’t know how we did it or how we got to it; but anyway, we got money out of Mother’s pocketbook.  We went to Kurtz is – Mother smoked – most of her sisters smoked – of course in those days you didn’t think anything about it.  Anyway, we went to Kurtz’s and said we were buying some cigarettes for our Mother.  We bought a pack of cigarettes, I don’t remember the brand.  Right about where the cemetery gate was, there was a carriage road.  There was a fence at the end, and a field beyond, which was probably Harold Beech’s field.  But right at the gate there had been, at one time, a mill.  They had dammed up the Pequonnock River; they had a dam there, probably four feet high and four feet wide.  They had a big stone wall that pretty much went all the way to the cemetery.  Near that wall, there was a big, square hole, I guess that’s where they had the mill wheel, but that space was a perfect place to go to smoke cigarettes.  We sat at the front of that square and we started smoking.  We had a whole pack of cigarettes and we wanted to enjoy them.  Well we were merrily smoking away and Dan said, “I think I’ll go home.”  He got right up and left.  We suspected that he was getting sick, he was.  Art and Lad and I hoped he wasn’t going to make a fuss.  I guess we talked about it and decided it was time to stop smoking, so we did.  We thought maybe we ought to go down to the brook, pick up some poles and pretend to be fishing in case Mother came looking for us.  So we did.  We went down to the brook and were playing along the side of the brook, and pretending we were fishing.  I don’t know if we could have made that stick, but anyway, sure enough, about ten, fifteen or twenty minutes later, here comes Mother and gulp, gulp, gulp.  She came up to us and said, “What are you doing?”  “Uh, we’re fishing,” we answered.  “Well”, she replied, “Dan tells me you were smoking.”  What could we do?  “You know your father and I both smoke”, she said.  “I don’t like it that you boys smoke, but why don’t you just come home and smoke if you want to smoke.”  Not one of us wanted to smoke again until we were eighteen or twenty.  Not one of us.  Now, if that isn’t  psychology, good psychology … Without even being punished.

For the rest of the week I will be posting more Childhood Memories of Trumbull.

Judy Guion

The Beginning (42) – Childhood Memories of Trumbull – The Helen Log Book (7)

Following are the last pages of the Helen Log Book. They recount, briefly, a trip to Fishers Island, off the Connecticut shore near the mouth of the Thames River near Groton and Stonington.

DICK: “We spent a couple of summers on Fishers Island in Long Island Sound with the Burnham’s”.

The Burnham’s were neighbors of Grandpa and Grandma  when they lived on Larchmont Drive. in Mount Vernon.  They had a cottage on Fishers Island.  I suspect that the entire family went to the Burnham’s cottage on Fishers Island, especially since Dick has memories of spending time there.  Grandma would drive with the three younger children and Grandpa and the boys would use the Helen as their mode of transportation.




Trip to Conn.  Camp during 1931 occurs here.

Trip to L.  I.  In 1932 comes next.  Neither were written up.

Fishers Island Trip – Aug. 1933

Sat. – Aug. 5

Commodore not well.  Crew had packed the night before.  Got off to late start at 11:00.  Weather fair – sea not rough.  Had bad motor knock develop before reaching New Haven due to oil loss.  Bilge needed care every couple of hours.  Cut way out to center of Sound. Passed Faulkner’s Island going strong.  Hit bad squall off about Cornfield Point.  Trip not very eventful – night navigation as we approached the Island.  Guns heard from Island.  Turned into West Harbor in high spirits.  Found a light missing but found dock at Burnham’s about 10:20.

Sun. Aug. 6 –

Helen tried to sink, water up to carburetor in morning.

Mon. to Sat. night – spent time trying to repair Helen’s leaks.  Prepared for return trip Sunday.

Sunday – Aug. 13 –

Fog – steady wind from S.W. Helen doesn’t leak badly.  Got off quite late at 12:05.  Cut across close to Connecticut shore, followed it from Pt. to Pt. Sea rather rough.  Fog lifting, wind increasing.  Motor running perfectly.  Waves getting big at Sachem’s Head.  So large that we chugged up one side, slid down other.  If we took them head on we would have been swamped.  Tide now against us.  Finally reaching New Haven but took interminable time in passing it.  Getting dark as we neared Stratford Pt.  Waves going down a bit.  Just inside the Milford breakwater the motor, getting wet, fired only on 2 cylinders, and with tide against us we “trickled” along to arrive at French’s Dock at 10:30, too late to intercept Mr. Burnham who stopped to see if we had yet arrived.

Commodore, well this time, had acquired a most beautiful beer nose, with a two-cheek accompaniment.

This empty envelope (found in the inside cover of the Log Book), addressed to “The GuionClan”, c/o R B Burnham, Box 413, Fishers Island, NY, dated August 8, 1933, leads me to believe that Grandpa might have gone to Fishers Island with the older boys in the Helen, the first weekend, went back to work in Bridgeport (he had his own printing and advertising company) and then returned to join the family for the following weekend and the trip home with the older boys in The Helen.

This is the Return Address from the envelope.


The story of the Helen in the Log Book comes to an end.  It sounds to me as though the Helen provided, on at least four occasions, great memories and wonderful bonding time between Grandpa and his three oldest sons.

Ced provides the last chapter of the Helen and the Guion family.

“Arnold Gibson’s father, stepfather actually, was an old seagoing man.  I guess he had been in the Navy.  He had a Sea Scout troop and Dad said, “You know this boat is getting beyond us.  Why don’t we give it to the Sea Scouts and maybe they can get some fun out of it.”  He gave it to them and I don’t know what they did with it.”

My hope is that you have enjoyed reading about the adventures and mis-adventures of Grandpa, Lad, Dan and Ced during the years they owned The Helen.  I believe that memories fade and we may, without realizing it, fill in blank spaces from a different memory.  We continue to retain the new memory and that is the only thing that continues to exist.  Lad, Ced, Dick and Dave all have a few memories of The Helen.  Although each memory does not exactly match the Log Book, which was recorded at the actual time of the event by an adult, the essence of their memories ring true.

Tomorrow, the government of Venezuela joins in the paper chase prior to Lad entering their country as an alien.

On Sunday, more about Marian (Irwin) Guion’s ancestors.

Judy Guion

The Beginning (41) – Childhood Memories of Trumbull – The Helen Log Book (6)

Following is the transcription of the last two days of this momentous trip Grandpa and the three older boys took up the Connecticut River.  Enjoy.



Saturday –

Up at 7.  Whether still cloudy.  Breakfast at 8.  Broke camp at 9.  Anchor up and away at 10.  Stopped Middletown for supplies at 11.  Away again for a non-stop run at 11:45.  Motor running perfectly, lunch on board.  Slight shower.  Alfred steering in oil skins… Looks like ad for Scott’s Emulsion.  Shower clears and sun comes out.  Stop at Essex late in the afternoon for gas and water.  Motor averaging about 6 m.p.h.  Saybrook Bridge seems to be _____ as we draw inside of it the motor goes dead.  We find a spark plug points are fouled.  Alfred cleans these with knife and we are off again.  Round the point at Saybrook again at 5:10.  Motor is missing a bit, but we keep on until we round Hammonaset Point and camp for the night on shore.  In spite of temperamental motor we completed our longest single run at dusk, dropping anchor at 7:40, total of 46 miles, in approximately 9 hours with stops.

Sunday –

We were all awake and ready to get up a little after 6, but the blankets were wet with dew and the sun did not get over our sandbank until about 6:30.  Alfred went out to the Helen to clean spark points while I shaved.  Weather a bit overcast, water calm.  Up anchor and away at 9:10.  Breakfast on board.  Motor working ok.  After leaving Sachem’s Head we decided to do some real navigation and strike out into the Sound heading for Stratford Point, proceeding by dead reckoning, using the small compass we have along.

Tomorrow, a quick mention of two trips that never made it into the Log Book and then the record of a trip to Fisher’s Island.

On Saturday, more of Lad’s trip to Venezuela and the Red Tape he had to go through before he ever set foot on the Grace Line Ship.

On Sunday, more information about Marian’s Ancestors.

Judy Guion

The Beginning (40) – Childhood Memories of Trumbull – The Helen Log Book (5)

Following is the transcription of the sixth and seventh days of this momentous trip Grandpa and the three older boys took up the Connecticut River. I will continue to post entries from the Helen Log Book for the rest of the week, just to keep the story together. Enjoy.




Thursday –

After arising a little before 9 we had a flapjack breakfast, highly flavored with gasoline, bought some apples and corn from a passing farmer and cleaned.

Alfred and Ced started for Middletown for the machine shop.

We learned that the property on which we were camping was owned by L. C. Tryon, R.&.D. 1, so Glastonbury, Conn.  (See his son, Raymond).  The boys came back early in the afternoon.  The little part for the engine cost $10.50.  Weather cloudy with occasional showers, so we decided to get engine all fixed up today and start early tomorrow.  Had a marshmallow roast and retired – I in the tent and the boys in a sand bed they had hollowed out near an old stump.  About 11 PM a bad shower came up and the boys stumbled in the tent with their beds.

Friday –

Weather is still very threatening – cloudy with frequent showers.  The boys voted to stay all day if weather did not clear up.  The morning was spent doing stunts, Alfred giving a very realistic imitation of Nelly diving. (Nelson Sperling, a friend from Trumbull) a game of follow the leader (Dan) and later acquaintance with three boys from Georgia in a camp further up the river.  We played cards and during the game Mr.  Tryon called and told us his price for land was $125 for 100 feet of shore front.  Boys very anxious for me to buy, but gave no definite answer pending Mother’s desire.  Retired at 9 with intention of starting tomorrow early, rain or shine.  Showers during night – Dan slept out with waterproof canvas over him.  Rest of us in tent.

Tomorrow, the final entries for this trip.

On Friday, the story of a trip to Fisher’s Island, one that Dave included in his memories.

Judy Guion

The Beginning (39) – Childhood Memories of Trumbull – The Helen Log Book (4)

Following is the transcription of the third and fourth days of this momentous trip Grandpa and the three older boys took up the Connecticut River. I will continue to post entries from the Helen Log Book for the rest of the week, just to keep the story together. Enjoy.

This picture shows Grandpa and Lad in the back and Ced in front of Grandpa. Dan may have been taking the picture.This is probably close to their age during their trips in The Helen.



Wednesday –

Appalling discovery – our rowboat is gone!  At first we thought it had been stolen, but later we decided the tide had come up further than we had thought it would, the beach being quite flat, and while we had pulled the boat quite a distance up on the beach, we had not tied it.  The wind and tide combined had evidently done the trick.  The gloom was deep but we all took it philosophically.  Alfred and Daddy started off for Middletown with broken parts, leaving Dan and Ced to hold down camp.

We finally located a machine shop that could make the needed part and after spending the day waiting for it to be completed, we learned it would not be finished until Thursday, so we returned to camp for the night.

No boys!  There was a crazy note from Dan pinned up on the tent.  We finally discovered them in hiding and then greatly to our surprise and joy, learned that Ced had located the rowboat among some rocks downstream about half a mile and Ced and Dan had reached it by swimming the river – paddled it back.  After a hot dog supper we all crawled in our beds, tired but happy.

For the rest of the week I will continue the exploits of Grandpa, Lad, Dan and Ced on The Helen.

Judy Guion

The Beginning (38) – Childhood Memories of Trumbull – The Helen Log Book (3)

Following is the transcription of the third and fourth days of this momentous trip Grandpa and the three older boys took up the Connecticut River. I will continue to post entries from the Helen Log Book for the rest of the week, just to keep the story together. Enjoy.





Monday –

When we woke up at about 8 o’clock this morning through a combination of an ______ alarm clock from Daddy, a sneeze from Ced and a couple of woodpeckers tapping, it was 8 o’clock on a beautiful, clear, sunshiny day.

Dan and Alfred went in for a swim, Dad shaved.  Bacon and eggs for breakfast. Ced and Alfred got Helen from her nights harboring while Dan and Dad broke camp.  After landing we got away to discover Dan had left his handkerchief to dry on the rocks. Ced resolved this and we left 18 Mile River at 10:30.  The only casualty today was a skin cut  caused from a kickback of engine while Alfred was starting it.  At 10:40 we entered the Conn. River again.  At  11:45 we stopped at East Haddam for bread and water.  Off again at 12:07 saw a house on west side of river that would make a good family camp.  Lunch of sandwiches at 1:30, reaching Middletown at 2:12 or about 20 miles in 3 hrs.

Left at 2:30.  Gas line clogged.  Cleaned out in about ½ hour and away again at 3:10.  Later the sky clouded over and a shower came up. Ced donned the “oilers” and Dan and he piloted the boat while Alfred and Dad sat under the canvas cover and tried to keep the rain from leaking in with only partial success.  In half to three quarters of an hour the rain stopped, the sun came out again and we all resumed our proper stations.

At 6:10 we reached Hartford but continued on about a mile or so above Hartford for the night on a flat, sandy island, after running Helen up into a narrow, muddy channel.  After supper consisting of beef stew, canned chicken, sundry sandwiches and oranges we retired. Ced and Daddy slept in the tent, Dan and Alfred outside.

Tuesday –

Most of the day was spent on our island, waterproofing the canvas cover and cleaning out oil caps and gas line and cleaning up generally.  In the meantime we had made inquiries and found it would not be wise to attempt to go up the river, which because of lack of rain, was low, but would head for the Sound instead and if we time, go down to Norwalk to see the Kirchers.

We left Hartford at 3:30 after stopping for gas, overtook the Standard Oil tanker we had passed the previous day on way up and left ahead of her until we got just above Gildersleeve Island when the engine went dead, the make-and-break mechanism having broken.  Luckily we were directly opposite an ideal camping place on a sandy, wooded Knoll overlooking the river, approached by a sandy, wide beach.  Here we anchored Helen and pitched tent.

While we were anchoring a canoe approached propelled by an inboard motor and the owner warned us to anchor Helen far enough off shore so that the wash from the Hartford boat would not damage her.  He also informed us how to get to Middletown where repairs could be obtained.  Dan not feeling so well, so after eating a light supper he retired early, sleeping in the tent with Daddy while Ced and Alfred hollowed out a bed in the sand.  During the night a fog came up but this was blown away toward morning by a breeze.

For the rest of the week I will continue the exploits of Grandpa, Lad, Dan and Ced on The Helen.

Judy Guion

The Beginning (37) – Childhood Memories of Trumbull – The Helen Log Book (2)

Following is the transcription of the second day of this momentous trip Grandpa and the three older boys took up the Connecticut River. I will continue to post entries from the Helen Log Book next week also, just to keep the story together. Enjoy.





Sunday – “the day of adventures”

8 sleepy eyes opened about the same time on a foggy blank.  While anchored fairly close to shore it was invisible.  By the time we were dressed and had breakfast of pancakes and condensed milk, made by Chef Daniel, who later gave up in disgust and turned the job over to Chief Engineer Alfred, the fog lifted and we got away from West Rock, Hammonasset Point at 9 am.  Our course took us well out in the Sound.  It soon began to cloud up, the wind increased in volume, blew all the fog away but kicked up a choppy sea, the water took on an oily look, it got dark and we prepared for the oncoming storm, hoping to reach the Breakwater off of Conn.  River before the waves got too high.  Meantime the sky had become a little brighter.  The engine ran perfectly and we finally rounded the lighthouse off Conn.  River Breakwater and turned up the channel.  Being low on gas we headed for gas station. _____ _____up with a quart of oil and 10 gal.  of gas, the storm hit us — and what a downpour, it came through our canvas _____ in half a minute soaked Ced through to the chin and Alfred also who was steering.  After getting the engine started, Alfred pulling away from the dock, the engine stalled and Alfred worked for over an hour on it.  We found the carburetor filled with oil, which we had _____ ____ ____ first before adding gas.  We finally got this fixed and landed on a point of land before the R.R. bridge.  Here we had lunch of soup, spaghetti, sandwiches and fruit.  We unpacked everything and spread them out on ground to dry because the shower had ceased and the sun was now shining brilliantly.  After packing up again we finally got away at 3:30.  Soon though, we ran aground.  Dan, Alfred and Ced took off shoes and stockings and pushed her off into channel.  A few minutes after that, the engine gave evidence of trouble, got going slower and slower and finally stopped entirely.  We anchored in the channel inside of R.R. bridge and Alfred spent 3/4 hours tinkering, finally discovering that the intake valve had come apart inside.  We got going again at 5:45 and a short while later landed at Essex on other side of bridge where we filled up with water, bought bread ____ ____ ____ ___ .  After leaving Sound we ran up the river until we came to Hamburg Channel, marked by steak.  The combination of Hamburg and steak was too strong a suggestion for the boys so we entered the narrow channel, found a good camping site, found anchorage for “Helen” for the night through the aid of a Hartford Boy Scout.  We all helped in cooking supper, of bacon sandwich.  I slept in tent and the boys under the trees.  So ended our most adventurous day.  We even broke the rule of camping on land which forbid us to do so by ___ ____ ___.

This is a picture of how




(No picture in Log Book)

Dan looked when we made the mouth of the Conn.  River and also how he looked in the rain, lots of waves hitting, were as big as “Helen” herself.  The spray soaked us. (Dan)

Alfred turned the engine over and it started to go very slowly and only on one cylinder and we went about 15 feet upstream.  Then “Puff” and she stopped.  Lad turned it over again.  Same procedure.  Then he took the carburetor apart.  That was O.K., took off cap on valve and nuts springs and other things all out – started to take off manifold but found we didn’t have to put spring and parts on valve stem.  Put back bolts, and she went O.K. hasn’t stopped since.

Only when we shut off. (Lad)

When we stopped for gas at the mouth of the Conn.  River the water was all gone (drinking water), and I was appointed to get it so I went over to the water faucet and turned it on.  The water was warm, I let it run but it still didn’t get cold so we got it warm, there was another big boat at the dock and when we got going again, the painter from the rowboat went under the big boat bow and we had to stop the boat and then it started to rain and I stood out in the driving rain in my plain clothes and guided the rowboat around but I did get wet and had to change my clothes. (Ced)

Tomorrow, more “Red Tape” before Lad can begin his Voyage to Venezuela.

On Sunday, more of My Ancestors.

Next week I will continue to post pags from the Helen Log Book.

Judy Guion

The Beginning (36) – Childhood Memories of Trumbull – The Helen Log Book (1)

Following is the transcription of the second day of this momentous trip Grandpa and the three older boys took up the Connecticut River. I will continue to post entries from the Helen Log Book next week also, just to keep the story together. Enjoy.


The following is the transcription of the first three pages of the Helen Log Book. The infamous trip of Lad and Ced’s memories. I will continue to post the rest of this story, day by day, as it was recorded, in the  Log Book as the days go by, probably continuing into next week to keep it all together. I hope you enjoy this as much as I am. Since the date of departure was August 9, 1930, Lad, Dan and Ced were much older than Lad remembered. He would have been 16, Dan 14 and Ced 13. 

Sat. Aug. 9, 1930

Left Goodsell’s Landing in Housatonic River at 1:10 PM, having cast off after waving goodbye to her in whose honor the “Helen” is later to be named.  (Helen Peabody was the youngest sister of Arla (Peabody) Guion).

Steering a southerly course we shortly past Stratford Point Light and out into the broader reaches of the Sound.  Whether mild, water calm, sun shining through the slight haze.  Took an easterly course and arrived off New Haven Breakwater at 3:00.  Dan entertained us as the swell took the boat up and down by sitting in the bow and imitating an angel, blowing the whistle now and then as a signal to “St. Josephine” to admit him to heaven.  Boat running so well we decided to run onto The Sachem’s Head, arriving here with still some hours of daylight to spare.  Dan was all for making Hammonassettt Point.  At about this time sky clouded over, lightning and thunder and a few drops of rain. Ced attached canvas cover halfway up, beginning at stern, so that if necessary, we could go ahead in spite of rain.  In a few moments, however, it cleared up.  Water became exceptionally calm.  Alfred is lying in bow — steering with his foot.  Path of gold back of boat in line of sun.

Passed Hammonassett Point at 7:10.  Decided to go round point, anchoring in lower Clinton Harbor behind West Rock.  Dropped anchor at 7:30.

Meals: lunch – 2 PM – Chef Ced – Peanut Butter sandwich on Bread, fruit and grape B_ok.

Supper – 8 PM – Chef Ced – Clam Chowder, Potato Salad, canned beans, fruit, ___  of chocolate.

After anchoring Alfred ____ out bilge, Ced got supper and Dan removed old numbers from bow of boat.

At 8:55  _______ settle for the night, Alfred and Ced to seats in boat on either side  —  I in sleeping bag on floor in between.  Dan slept in rowboat which Alfred got ready for him by putting life preservers in bottom.

Later in the evening sky clouded over and fog whistles could be heard in distance.  Moon shown dimly red through clouds. Ced fell off his bed onto my feet sometime during the night, losing his balance in the excitement of waking up and finding Dan paddling around using as an oar the drain pipe on bilge pump.

A.D. Guion

Chief Mate

I will continue the story of this trip and more adventures on the Helen in the coming days.

Judy Guion

The Beginning (35) – Childhood Memories of Trumbull – The Helen (2)

At this point Grandpa’s “Reminiscences of Alfred D Guion” has ended  and the rest of this story will be the memories of the children as they were growing up.

CED: We had some friends named Burnham who lived sort of kitty corner to us on Larchmont Drive (in Mount Vernon, New York).  They had a cottage on Fishers Island.  We started out to go see the Burnham’s.  It took about an hour or so to get there.  When we got there, Dad talked to Rufus Burnham.  Dad was very interested in sailboats and asked Rufus if there was anyone on the island who could help us with this boat.  Rufus said, “Yeah, he lives just around the corner.”  We got him to come over and look at the boat.  It was light enough so that we could pull it up and turn it over.  He stood there, puffing on his pipe and looking at the hull of the boat — finally he said, “You came from the Connecticut shore in this?”

DICK: We spent a couple of summers on Fisher’s Island in Long Island Sound with the Burnham’s.

DAVE: I have a Log Book someplace that I should give to you, Judy.  It’s the trip, a couple of trips maybe, with the boat that Dad named the Helen.  Now, most boats seemed to enjoy themselves lying on top of the water.  Helen seemed to enjoy it most when she was on the bottom, on solid land, even though she was covered by water.  My father would get some more phone calls, “Come down and bail out your boat” or “Come down and somehow raise it up”.  It was forever sinking.  It was probably something like the infamous African Queen, probably not nearly as big but to me it was big.  It was kind of rounded like a tug boat.  It had an engine but it was not a steam engine like the African Queen but had some kind of engine in the back.  It was kind of fun for the older boys.  I don’t know what happened to the Helen but my guess is that if you drained the Housatonic River, you would probably find her.

CED: We kept the boat tied at a place (on the Housatonic River) and one day the owner called and said, “This is Mr. French.  Your boat sunk.”  It must have happened about six times.  We would go over there, drag it up on shore and dump it out.  Dad got tired of this after a while.

Arnold Gibson’s father, stepfather actually, was an old seagoing man.  I guess he had been in the Navy.  He had a Sea Scout troop and Dad said, “You know this boat is getting beyond us.  Why don’t we give it to the Sea Scouts and maybe they can get some fun out of it.”  He gave it to them and I don’t know what they did with it.


Tomorrow, I will begin posting what I can read of the Log Book. This should be interesting since I have not read it.

Judy Guion

The Beginning (34) – Childhood Memories of Trumbull – The Helen (1)

At this point Grandpa’s “Reminiscences of Alfred D Guion” has ended  and the rest of this story will be the memories of the children as they were growing up.

Dan, Dave, Lad, Dick, Ced and Biss – probably only a couple of years after Grandpa bought The Helen.

LAD: I think I was about 9 when we got the Helen.  We got her in the mid-twenties.  The thing I remember most about the Helen was having to caulk her, every seam.  It was a wooden boat and a lot of caulking had come out.  It had been up on land for quite a while.  So, we had to caulk it and then seal it with something, I don’t remember now.  We kept her on the Housatonic River at a place called French’s Marine or something like that.  It was right near the Boston Post Road Bridge.  We kept her there  all the time we had her.  Every year we hauled her out after the thaw each spring, and I’d caulk the thing from underneath.  I got pretty good at it.  If you put too much in, it would push the boards apart but it had to be enough to keep the boat from sinking.  I don’t remember how many years, but I think we had her for about five or six years.

A year or two after we got the Helen, Dad had the engine taken out of it and he put in a Ford engine, model TN.  That was a lot heavier than the one cylinder that we had in the boat, it rode down closer to the water at the stern of the boat.  It is still referred to as a fantail.  So the back sloped up and the faster we went the lower in the water it got.  With the Ford engine, we could run the boat fast enough so that the stern would be below water.  You had to be careful not to open the throttle too much.  The back of the boat was decked over and the front was decked over with just an open cockpit in the middle.  But it was big enough so we could sleep four in there.

The first major trip Dad wanted to take (in the Helen) was up the Connecticut River.  We started out and someplace off of New Haven one of the ropes fell off the bow and wound around the propeller.  We were not feeling too well anyway, it was rough weather.  We found out afterwards that there had been warnings and we weren’t even supposed to be out there.  I think Dan and I were feeling pretty seasick, but we had to do something.  We couldn’t do anything with a rope wrapped around the propeller, it wouldn’t go.  So I dove down in the water and my seasickness disappeared almost immediately.  So that’s what happened any time I got sick after that, I’d always dive into the water and get rid of it.  It worked, it worked for me anyway.  We finally got up to Essex, up to the Connecticut River, and it was getting late, so we pulled into a bay, had supper and we went to bed.  Mother didn’t come with us.  I don’t remember who it was, maybe me or Dan or someone got out of the bunk and stepped into water.  So we started investigating and there was a lot of water in the boat and the boat was way down in the water.  So we bailed and pumped and got the water out.  We found out the leak was in the packing gland on the propeller shaft.  I don’t know if we could do anything about it at the time or not, but I do know Dad had to go to work.  He left us and he was going to get some parts for the boat, I don’t remember what part it was, but it took a week to get the part before we solved the problem.  I don’t think we went any further up the river, we just came home again.

CED: As you go across the bridge from Stratford to Milford on the Post Road, on the left are some buildings at the end of the bridge.  There is a dock down below on the Housatonic River.  Just below the bridge on the Stratford side there were some fishermen’s homes.  One of the fishermen had a boat for sale.  Dad never liked to buy new stuff.  He bought this boat.  It was about 21 feet long with a round cowling.  It had an old motor, a one-lunger that went putt, putt, putt.  It was in nice shape, nice looking, a nice bow, but it was pretty old.  That’s why they sold it, and Dad knew that.  We named it the Helen.

Very soon after we got this boat, Dad decided it needed to be dressed up a bit.  He got some lumber and he got someone else to do it, and they made a canvas top.  It came up from the two ends and fastened in the middle somehow, you could walk around in it.  At the same time, he put in a Ford Marine Conversion engine which was a lot heavier than the original one.  It made the boat lower in the back.  He also decked over the whole back, with cabinets for storage.  It was pretty high-sided and very seaworthy.

Dad, Lad, Dan and I decided we would take a trip out the Housatonic and up the coast to Milford.  We were going to go to Hartford and would take a couple of days.  We started out – we found out that we had a problem and had done some caulking on it.  It wasn’t quite watertight.  There was a little storm over Long Island Sound and just about the time we got to the Connecticut River, a real storm came up with high waves.  We had a rough time of it, we really bounced around quite a bit and we were low on gas.  It had gotten fairly calm, I guess the storm was over.  We pulled over to get some gas and decided we’d stay overnight.  We had a kind of rough trip.  We pulled across the River to the other side where there was a beach and some houses.  We anchored out, put the canvas over us, made up the beds and went to sleep.  I was the first one  awake the next morning.  The sun was out and it was quite nice.  There was a small space between the canvas and the gunwale, and I was lying there with my head at gunwale height, looking outside.  All of a sudden I realized there was water just a few inches below the gunwale.  I yelled for everyone to get up.  “Hey, guys, were thinking.”  Dad had the seats made up as beds so we lifted one and the water was right up there.  Anyway, we bailed and bailed real fast and we finally got the thing so we had plenty of free board, but my mother had baked us a beautiful cake.  It was sitting in salt water.  They don’t float well and they don’t taste good after being in salt water.

Tomorrow, some more stories about the Helen, I have the log book but it has been badly damaged by water. If I can transcribe it, I’ll continue the story of the Helen. 

Judy Guion