Memories of Arla Mary (Peabody) Guion (1) – 1892 – 1933

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:

                          Alfred Duryee Guion @ 1913

Up 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.

                 Arla Peabody as The Virgin Mary

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

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

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Venezuelan Adventure – More News From Lad – January 18, 1939

This is the envelope used by Grandpa to sent the following note to Lad.

 

I have no idea what this note is referring to but thought it was intriguing.

*********************************************************************************

Caracas, Venez.

Jan. 18, 1939

Rec’d 1/26 (Grandpa wrote this)

Dear Dad:-

I received the check yesterday evening.  Thank you very much and I don’t think that I will have to do it again as long as my job holds out.

Mr. Human went to La Guayra today to meet two men coming down from New York and he told me last night to start packing my things.  Friday at 4:00 A.M. we are scheduled to start for the field camps.  That will be 3:30 E.S.T., so you shall probably be dead to the world.  I too, perhaps.  Caracas is not such a bad place after one gets to know it’s customs and I rather enjoy the work at the Fair Grounds.  Mr. Human and I get along quite well, and I am beginning to learn enough Spanish to have the Peons help me over there.

Monday and Tuesday I worked at the Fair Grounds and today I stayed in Caracas to do some shopping around for T.H. Jr. and to register with the Venez. Gov’t.  as an Alien intending to remain indefinitely in Venez.  Tomorrow I spend at “La Paraiso”, where the Fair Grounds are situated and also one of the numerous residential sections of Caracas, and as briefly stated, leave Friday.  I am going along only to learn the roads and perhaps bring the back the Camionetta and the trip should last about 6 or 8 days and then T.H. wants me to stay in Caracas a few months with him.  Probably until the Fair is completed.  After that, who knows?  He says that the sooner I learn Spanish the sooner I can get me a job that will make some money for me so I am plugging away.  I bought a Spanish Grammar which I hope will help along with the book I brought from The States.  Wish me luck anyway.

As Biss may have told you I moved from the high-priced 3rd class “Dump” and am now in the Hotel Alemon where German is the standard language, but I can make myself understood with Spanish and it isn’t too bad here.  It is a very nice room and quite

The rest of the letter is missing.  It makes me wonder what else Lad wrote.

Tomorrow and Sunday, I will begin the story of an event that happened in 1933 and changed the lives of the Guion family forever.

Judy Guion

Venezuelan Adventure – The End of Lad’s Voyage (2) – La Guayra – January 5, 1939

      Alfred (Lad) Peabody Guion in Caracas in his Palm Beach Suit

In my last letter I believe we were about to dock in Curaçao, I shall continue on from there.  We docked at about 9:30 and by 10:30 they allowed the passengers to disembark.  The dock was about 2 miles from the center of the city so I took a taxi.  Since Curaçao is a free port and there are no taxes, everything is dirt cheap.  The two-mile ride cost me $.10 and the same back.  Both times they were nice station wagons. 1st a ’38 Chev. and back in a ’39 Ford Deluxe Most of the cars there were not more than one or two years old.  I wandered around in the city which, again, reminded me of Greenwich Village, only Curaçao is much cleaner and nicer.  After wandering around for a couple of hours, I bought another Palm Beach suit, better than the one I bought in N.Y., for only $10.00 and one of those white cord helmets and returned to the boat to watch them load and unload cargo.  They unloaded, among other things, a very large steam shovel and 27 1939 cars, Pontiacs, Buicks and Packard’s. Most of them were Deluxe jobs or special and in addition __ Ford trucks and 5 station wagons.

The outgoing cargo consisted of several thousand tons of coffee and that was about all.  This took until about 10:30 that same evening and then we weighed anchor and continued on for La Guayra.  After that I went to bed.  We were to be in port at about 9:00 so I got up at 5:30 and had everything packed and myself cleaned up and ready to leave at 8:00, when breakfast was served.  After giving the numerous but necessary tips and waiting until 9:30, we all, who were to leave at La Guayra, were asked to report to the Club Room to have our papers checked and everything put in readiness.  By the time that had been attended to, we had docked and only had to wait about 10 minutes for the gangplank to be lowered.  We got to the Customs House and had to wait for our baggage, and – since at eleven o’clock everything comes to rest for two hours – we decided, Mr. Burkhardt and I, to see if we could find someplace to eat.  Outside, we met one of Mr. Burkhardt’s ship acquaintance and he told us he knew La Guayra very well and since he had to have companions in order to enjoy a meal, he suggested that we come along with him to a seashore resort and it was decided that we go Dutch.  They have a funny custom here, at this hotel too.  There is a menu as it is called and on it is printed what you will have for dinner.  If you don’t like it, you go out and try another place.  Each meal, since I have been here, has been a native Venezuelan dish so as yet I don’t know what I do or don’t like.  Well, after the meal, we went back to the Custom H.  and had our baggage pored over.  I came through with only the loss of 5 pkgs. of Chesterfield’s and no duty on anything.  The others came through just as well accept that Mr. Frank De Costa smokes cigars, instead of cigarettes, and he had a box with him which he lost.  By about 3:30 or 4:00 we were ready to leave for Caracas and piled our luggage into a taxi in which the driver consented to take the three of us, plus baggage, to Caracas for $6.00.  The trip from La Guayra to Caracas by road is 30 miles, over a road just about wide enough for two cars to pass, if there has not been a landslide or a washout, that seems to have been hung on the mountainside for the full 30 miles.  The road, plus being steep, up grade most of the way, goes like this

etc. and boy ! the curves are sharp.  The drivers apparently are so used to them that they think they are straight and don’t bother to slow down.  By the time we got to Caracas we were tired of trying to stay on the seats of the big open Lincoln and really appreciated a chance to clean up and rest a little before supper at 7:30.  I can’t tell you what we had but I do know the meat could have been used to cover auto tires with and offered stiff competition to the rubber industry.  After supper, we walked around the town a bit and retired at 10:00.

Got up at 6:30 this AM and Mr. B. went out to start his work.  I have to wait here a few days for Mr. Human to come for me and during that time, I think, I’ll try to learn a little Spanish from my book.  Had lunch about 1:00 and wondered about town for a short while and then set down in our room to pen this note!

As ever –

Laddie

Tomorrow, a brief note from Grandpa to Lad and another letter from Lad in Caracas.

Judy Guion

Venezuelan Adventure – The End of Lad’s Voyage (1) – The Hotel Palace – January 5, 1939

      Alfred Peabody Guion (Lad) @ 1939

Written Jan. 5th

Received – Jan.  17th

(The Bold notes written by Grandpa)

          Well I am here in Venezuela and arrived here without mishap.  If you ever plan to come here, don’t just bring money, bring a bank.  It is practically impossible to buy a meal for less than $2.00 and the waiter expects at least $1.00 for a tip, which means that one pays $3.00 for a meal here that you could buy at home for a $.25 price.  And even at that the meal you would get would at least not be overcooked and the food wouldn’t be more than a few days weeks old at the most.

Another thing, this Hotel (?),  at which I am staying, is the best in all Caracas.  It is The Hotel here.  Now for a description.  In your rural training you probably saw a number of cases where the children, thinking it smart, wrote on the “Johnny” walls and although the phone numbers and learned writing here may be of a higher type, the preceding description very nicely shows what I think of the Hotel Palace.  The floors are dirty, scum and mock in the corners, fingerprints and dirty spots shoulder high all over the places where one is apt to touch with his hands and shoulders, and writing, as I said, here and there around the place.  Doorknobs missing, locks broken, doors won’t close because of warping, lights hung here and there in terrible locations on wire held in place by nails or staples, and the glass shelf in our bathroom was at one time fastened to the wall by screws but the plaster broke so now it is held by nails with the heads bent over so that they won’t go through the holes in the brackets.

Yes, they do have a tub and shower of some B.C. origin, perhaps from Caesar’s time, and it looks as if the plumber had been out on a two-week bender, just before he made the installation, and when you take a shower, even if there were a curtain, the water would spray on the floor so perhaps that’s why they don’t have one.  There are no windows in the room but in front of the door there is an 8 or 10 ft. balcony so I can at least see what I am writing here, since I have the door wide open and the sun is shining.  The bathroom has one window in the ceiling that serves for two bathrooms.  They are next to each other, with a 12 or 15 foot wall between them.  The window is about 20 ft.  from the floor.  The lower walls and floors are tile so that instead of sweeping, they come and dumped the water on the floor, swish it around with a mop and then diverted it out onto the balcony.  From there it flows through holes down to the Center Court, around which are the dining tables and from there it seeps into the ground.  This, however, is not a daily procedure.  I could continue on and on but since I haven’t a great deal of money left, I don’t want to spend too much on stamps so that will have to suffice for a description of this room No. 29 and the rest of the “Dump”.         Here are a few items of comparison as to living conditions.  Rooms $7.00 per day, Amer. Cigs. $.60 and up, shoes $15.00 and up.  Everything here is about 3 times as expensive as in the States.  This location is right in the high-class business district of Caracas.  Do you recall what Greenwich Village looks like?  Well, all of Caracas is just like that except the streets are narrower, dirtier, “hillier”, “noisier” and not room for more than two people abreast on the sidewalk (where there are sidewalks!).  However, there is one redeeming fact, Caracas, although only about 20 miles from the shore, is about 300 feet above sea level and, at that, is surrounded, by not merely hills, but real mountains going up 3, 4, 5, and 6,000 feet.  By standing about 300 feet from a 2-story building, you can see the tops of them over the buildings.  They are really very close and very high.  Well, so much for Caracas.

Tomorrow, I will post the rest of this letter by Lad from Caracas. On Friday, another short note from Lad, also from Caracas.

Judy Guion

Trumbull – Dear Sons (2) – This is a Joint Letter – January 6, 1939

Alfred D Guion (Grandpa)

Pg. 2     1/6/39

Lad, I don’t think you will ever realize how much of a burden your generous offer has lifted from my shoulders.  I didn’t want to say too much about my feelings just before you left, but just that day I had received a call from Charlie Kurtz making quite a strong bid that I do something to pay back that long-standing debt.  I explained how short of cash I was because of interest and insurance premium payments being due and the fact that outfitting you boys had left me particularly short of cash, what with the Christmas season and all.  I pointed out that I had been able to reduce the debt from $1200 to a bit over $300, but he said the latter looked pretty big to him right now.  I still have to clean up about $100 each on Doctor Patterson for Mother’s operation and the undertaker, and Miss Hawley’s unpaid bill is still some $80.00 and with what I am able to put aside from my Selectmen’s salary, plus your generous contribution, I hope I can get these all cleaned up before 1940 rolls around.  I wish I could have refused to take advantage of your unselfish action, but I would like very much to get out from under these debts that have been hanging over my head for so many years.  As I told you, aside from current living expenses, it cost about $40 a month additional just for carrying charges such as taxes, interest on mortgage, fire insurance, etc., on property which will all belong to you children someday, and when you are each in position to do so, it seems only fair that this total should be divided up between you all, each one paying one-sixth, unless of course, things with me improve so that I can take care of it all myself without any of you assuming any of the burden.  You each have your own way to make and it’s too bad your old Dad can’t arrange to let you do that unimpeded by family needs.  However, enough of this.  You didn’t go to Venezuela to be pursued financially from home.

Ced has gotten practically all the smaller pieces of wood sawn up and is now starting on the bigger trunks.  He went up to get Whitney’s engine the other day and after fooling around with the coil, finally got it to working.  We ought to have a bigger diameter saw to really do a good job on the bigger diameter pieces of wood.  However we may decide to saw what we can with the circular saw and finished off with the hand saw.

A new First Aid instruction class started at the Town Hall last night, under the direction of Joe Soucup. Ced has joined along with some twenty-two others.

New Year’s Eve, Justice of the Peace Guion joined in wedlock one James O’Brien, once known as “Buster”, to a Miss Raleigh Lineberry of Bristol.  Witnesses were his sister Adele and her husband.  While the knot was being tied Art Mantle and Arvin Zabel dropped in to see their old friend hitched.

Well, I guess that will hold until I get some more news to our Venezuelan branch of the family.

Love and kisses from

DAD

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,two letters from Lad in Venezuela.

Judy Guion

Trumbull – Dear Sons (1) – This is a Joint Letter – January 6, 1939

         Alfred Duryee Guion  in the Alcove where he typed his letters

Trumbull, Conn.

Jan.  6, 1939

Dear Sons:

This is a joint letter, as you may surmise, and is sent in the fond hope that if one of you fails to get his mail the other can supply the deficiency.

Well, here we are in an awful dilemma.  Lad has up and gone, leaving a 6-day-old infant in my charge who is destined to develop God knows what during the next dozen months.  So far outside of inaugurating a new governor in dear old Conn.,  and learning that the President has decided that we shall go deeper in debt than ever, all is quiet along the Pequonnock.

I don’t know whether you know it or not, Lad, but while the Junior Vice-Presidents of the Grace Line were passing around the trays on deck containing various and sundry colored roles of paper for streamers, Dave, Dick and Rusty were quietly gathering in supplies, resulting in a total of some 72 roles which they intend to use in desecrating Dot’s room someday when she is out.  To date, nothing has been done in that line.

After seeing you off, our voyage home was uneventful.  Got to Trumbull about dark and next day Rusty left for a visit to New York for an indefinite stay.  Received your airmail letter from Curaçao in record time.  It was postmarked Jan. 3rd, and reached Trumbull Jan. 5th, Your failure to mention anything about the stateroom leads me to believe that you were unable to obtain better accommodations.  Am glad you had so smooth and pleasant a voyage.  Have not seen Babe (the girl Lad was dating before he went to Venezuela) since but I’m looking forward to learning more details.

Your letter to Lad, Dan, unfortunately did not do so well.  As you probably have learned by this time it did not arrive until the 3rd – too late for Lad to get what you wanted.  I did send down a pair of work gloves with Lad and some mosquito netting which I hope will come in handy, and will not make it necessary to use old underwear and chasing butterflies.  I am sorry both for your sake and Lad’s that you didn’t take my advice and write sooner a list of the things that you found from experience it were best to bring, but we can’t help that now.

Art Mantle, Elizabeth (Biss) and Lad

          Today is Elizabeth’s birthday (19th birthday).  Grandma (Peabody) baked a chocolate cake but that was about the extent of the celebration.  She is out now with some of her rowdy friends, with strict instructions from her pater to get home early — for whatever good that will do.

Last night we had a very hard, long, warm rainstorm which raised the river level quite high, and washed out several of the Trumbull roads but otherwise did little damage.  Today has been quite warm and sunshiny.

Rusty has been talking Alaska to Ced and it is possible that my third son will strike north next spring.  The old roost will begin to look kinder bare if this thing keeps up indefinitely.

Tomorrow I will post the second page of this joint letter to Lad and Dan. Wednesday and Thursday, a letter from Lad and on Friday, a second half-letter from Lad and a quick note from Grandpa.

Judy Guion

Special Picture # 342 – A Short Pictorial History of the Island – 1945 – 2019

Over the years I have posted many pictures of the various views from the Island, but I thought, as this season draws to a close, to show you a little of the history of our “Special Place”, or as my younger brother calls it, “Liquid Heaven”. I hope you enjoy this little history lesson.

This is the oldest picture of the Island that I have, even though the family had been using the Island for about 20 years before Grandpa bought it. It was probably taken during the summer of 1945, perhaps right after Grandpa had purchased it. The family was going up to the Island for a vacation and stopped at the home of Rusty Huerlin’s parents, who lived in Massachusetts, on there way up. They may have even spent the night there. Lad remembers it this way: 

Sometime around 1945, we (I don’t know who “we” are, maybe just Grandpa and three of his sons.) were going to the Island and we stopped at the Heurlin’s house.  During the conversation they mentioned that they would like to get rid of the Island.  It was just costing them money and they weren’t using it.  Dad was interested in it and found out that they owed about three hundred dollars in back taxes.  Dad paid that and they gave him the deed to the Island.

This picture was probably taken in the 1950’s. You can see the Cook Cabin in the background, painted a dull brown. The canvas fly was used to cover the picnic table where my family and the four or five families that came up with us had their meals.

 

This picture and the ones following show the boats that were used during the 1960’s.  On the left is the Barge (made by hand by my Dad and his friends) and on the right, Grandpa’s original row boat, which he allowed my twin brother to convert to a sailboat.

 

This was called the Speedboat (because it went faster than the Barge) . I’m sitting in the bow.

 

This is my brother sailing his boat. To the extreme left is the back of the “real” speed boat. That one we could use for  water skiing.

 

This is the back side of the Sleeping Cabin which was built by my Dad and his friends in 1956. Before that, we had a 20′ x 20′ Army Tent and four families slept in there, each having a corner. When the 1955 Hurricane struck, it lifted up one corner of the tent and it took 3 days to get all the clothes and bedding dry. The entrance to the tent had been on the opposite side, with a short path leading to the Cook Cabin. Looking out through this door you have a beautiful view of the lake and the location of Bathtub Rock.

Here is a picture of the other side of the Sleeping Cabin. I was cleaning the moss off of the Cook Cabin roof and took this shot. The steps lead up the the Sleeping Loft. the Cabin was 20′ x 24′, with a dog trot from this entrance under the stair landing to the door in the previous picture. There are four 10′ x 10′ bedrooms on the first floor and a 12/12 pitched roof, allowing for a Sleeping Loft upstairs.

 

This Dock is the second one my Dad (Lad) and his friends made. This was the year that we were replacing it with a floating composite dock and I snapped this before it was replaced.

 

Here are the workmen installing our “new” dock. As you can see by the dates, both pictures were taken (by me) on the same day. I went up to “supervise” the installation.

Tomorrow, I will continue the story of the Guion family after the two oldest boys went to Venezuela to work for their Uncle Ted Human and send funds home to help Grandpa raise the other four children.

Judy Guion