Grandpa continues his story with memories of his early years at the Chester Hill house in Mount Vernon.
For a few months I attended a private school run a couple of old maids, later being one of the first pupils attending the opening of the new grammar school. Revisiting it in later
years, I marveled how the big doors had shrunk in size, and the doorknob, which I had remembered up so high as to be difficult to reach, had now been lowered considerably.
My father liked sea trips, one summer he took me to Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy with its tremendously high tides. On the voyage I saw my first whale. Later he took me to Newport News and Richmond Virginia, on the old Dominion line.
Papa was quite active in Masonic affairs, being eminently successful in this as in most other projects that interested him, was generally very popular, a good entertainer and storyteller, and was prominent in the local Episcopal Church of the Ascension where he was a vestryman.
He worked for a brokerage firm on Wall Street and was quite conscientious, so much so that in years of panic (today we would call it depression) losses of his clients, as well, I
suspect, as of his own, worried him to the extent of bringing on heart trouble. He died in his forty’s from angina pectoris, leaving a heavily
mortgaged home and comparatively little life insurance. A Masonic friend of my father’s kindly stepped in and negotiated the sale of the Lincoln Avenue house for smaller house on Dell Avenue, with a small cash surplus. It entailed a considerably lower standard of living. My mother, who had a sunny, even-tempered disposition, made the best of things. After my grandfather died, my aunts, Mary, Lillian and Lizzie (who preferred to be called Aunt Betty) came to live with us and helped share in living expenses. Some years later, their wealthy “Aunt Mary Powers” died and left us some of her household possessions. My Aunts Mary and Lily later died of a stroke and Aunt Betty got a job in a candy store in New York City, strangely enough just a few doors from where my grandfather had lived in his heyday. Her boss liked her so much that she eventually became manager of the store, the cashier and finally Manager of Mandel’s Restaurant, the leading one in Grand Central Station. He afterwards assisted her in setting up a little novelty shop of her own in Grand Central Station which is still running under another name. After many years she sold out when she became too old to run it. My sister Elsie went in to help her run it in later years but they finally decided to sell it and retired to California. But I am getting ahead of my story.
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.
Next Saturday, Grandpa tells us about traveling around the city when he was a child.
Tomorrow, we’ll find out how things are developing for Archie and Mary in the next segment of Mary E. Wilson’s Autobiography.
Next week, we’ll be back in early 1940, with Lad working in Venezuela and all the other children at home in Trumbull.