This is a picture of the house my great-grandfather built in the late 1890’s on Lincoln Avenue, Mount Vernon, NY. The following pictures were taken in 2013 when my cousin Arla and I took a road trip to Mount Vernon and were able to find the house and actually visit with the current owner. Many of the details Grandpa recalls in his Reminiscences, written in 1960, are no longer there or visible in the present house.
Lincoln Avenue House, Mount Vernon, NY, taken in late 1900’s
Fireplace in Lincoln Avenue House taken in 2013
Detail of Fireplace and green stone hearth in Lincoln Avenue House, taken in 2013
Wood detail around fireplace in Lincoln Avenue House, taken in 2013
Original Tile entryway in Lincoln Avenue House, taken in 2013
Stained Glass Window on Lincoln Avenue House, taken in 2013
Same old place
Usual day, Jan. 24, 1943
Same three boys:
Once upon a time there were three little bears, a Laddie bear, old man river bear and a ceddie (not teddie) bear. And it came time for them to leave the old cave and go out into the cruel world and fight for Uncle Sam. So they all went off and left a little bear behind (of course they left more than that but then that would spoil the joke). So off they chugged in their little gas wagons, being modern bears, and one went race- tracking where Japanese beetles had once bored (Lad is at Camp Santa Anita, California where the horse racing track is now being converted from a Japanese Internment camp to an Army Base) and another went up to see his aunt aureora borealis (Ced is in Anchorage Alaska) and the third into a lion Den of his own choosing (in Lancaster, Pennsylvania) training for surveying and map-making). What happened is still unwritten history and will be continued in our next installment. Meanwhile Dan is home on a 10 day furlough and airing, hanging his close on the proverbial hickory limb to get rid of the odor of soft cold gas with which his army quarters are permeated due to heating fuel.
My other two boys have joined the ranks of strong, silent man, emphasis on the silent part, but that hope that springs eternal in the human breast buoys me up so that with unabated zeal, I will hie me to box 7 tomorrow with the usual, expectant enthusiasm and peer into its depths for the well-known envelope.
Tomorrow most of the stores ann public buildings in Bridgeport will be closed following the proclamation of the new governor urging one day a week closing of buildings to conserve fuel. Not such a bad idea going to Alaska, Ced, to keep warm. Dick severed his connection yesterday with Producto (a manufacturing plant doing war work in Bridgeport) and is now a gentleman of leisure until the Shelton draft board summons him to partake of its plentiful beef steaks, butter and other delicacies which we civilians once used to enjoy.
Aunt Betty is now resplendent with a new set of teeth and smilingly asks to be remembered to you each individually. David is busy at this moment with preparations for a farewell party to be given here by his young people’s group for Elliott Knecht, who leaves the paternal home for induction tomorrow.
I forgot to mention in last week’s letter that I went to New York to see Sylvia married to her English aviator husband, at the church of or rather Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where in my boyhood, I had seen her mother married. I got there early and found there was going on a great funeral in some foreign language (I believe Czech) by the Greek Orthodox Church for the noted scientist and inventor Tesla. At the reception afterward I saw Mount Vernon folks I had not met for 30 years or more. Sylvia’s husband goes back to Canada to teach young aviators and may later go to England and take his new wife with him.
Next week, after the Russians capture a few more towns, MacArthur sinks a few more ships and planes, and MacArthur chases a few more of Rommel’s Army (and we lose a few more ships to Hitler’s submarines), I will continue this missive and try to answer all the questions in the letters I expect to have received by that time from youse.
Tomorrow, one more letter from Grandpa. On Saturday and Sunday, more letters from Biss to her Father, from St. Petersburg, Florida, where she is helping her Aunt Anne.
My grandfather, Alfred Duryee Guion, married my grandmother, Arla Mary Peabody, on March 27, 1913. After a honeymoon trip to Bermuda they returned to New York and spent the first few days fixing up an apartment they had rented in the Bronx. My grandfather continues the story in his autobiography. I’ve also added some memories from the older children.
ADG – Both Arla and my mother were very fond of each other, and both being easy to live with, we decided it was better for the new baby to get out of the big city so we moved back with my mother on Dell Avenue. Little Daniel soon joined the family and for several years things ran along uneventfully.
October 31, 1915
My dear folks,
Many hearty congratulations to you upon the arrival of another little son. I hope you are doing nicely Arla and will soon be up and around. Have been dreadfully negligent and corresponding, but things have been so upset. We moved to Brooklyn on Friday, owing to the work I am in at Vitagraph. Have been very successful so far, and hope to be able to work in stock. Hoping to be able to see you soon. With best love to all,
LAD – I was born in New York City in 1914 that I lived in Yonkers for short time. When I was about one, we moved to 91 Dell Avenue in Mount Vernon, New York. My
mother, Arla, was 19 years old when I was born and she was the oldest Peabody girl. Burton was ahead of her. Then there was Arla, Helen, Kemper, Anne, Dorothy and Lawrence. There were seven of them. I don’t remember much about my Dad in Mount Vernon or Larchmont. He was always busy working.
CED – In about 1918 or 1919, Dad bought a new Franklin touring car. My mother used to drive Dad down to the station and he’d go into New York City where he worked. Then she’d come back home. She would go back and get him later. One day, she backed up to turn around after the train had pulled out and ran up on a hydrant. The wheels of the Franklin were about 20 or 21 inches. She got out of the car and there it sat up on the hydrant, all out of shape. She stood there and looked at it, she said everything was skewed, the doors, the frame… And that was a wooden frame of course. She had to get help to get it off there. We moved up to Trumbull in that car. I guess Dad decided to sell it shortly after we moved to Trumbull.
ADG – After I had been with the Celluloid Company for about five years my boss was offered and accepted a job with a large die manufacturer. I was offered the position of Assistant Advertising Manager of the National Aneline and Chemical Company, which I accepted. The Advertising Manager was a sneering, sarcastic individual who evidently resented my being assigned as his assistant, which created the sort of atmosphere in which I found it difficult to do my best creative work. However, the salary was generous and my growing family made it unwise for me to take too independent an attitude.
It seemed about time also for my increasing brood to have a home of their own. We finally decided ona lot in Larchmont Gardens, and with the money I had saved, I bought one of the first “redi-cut” homes on the market and with the help of my father-in-law, who was Construction Superintendent on the New York Central, aided by one of his workmen on this free days, the house was erected. The garage, to hold the Franklin car, I built myself with the aid of friends and neighbors on weekends and holidays, in a sort of old-time building-bee fashion.
LAD – When I was five, Dad and Mom were building a house in Larchmont. They had a contractor build it and it was on Landsdown Drive in Larchmont Gardens. I accompanied them, well, maybe three or four times when they went out to look at it. Mom told the carpenters what she wanted changed. She was quite conscientious about what she wanted. It took four days for the workers to build our garage. The neighbors put theirs up in one day. Later, a strong wind came up and blew down the neighbor’s garage but ours stood strong.
ADG – With the exception of Dave, who was born in Bridgeport Hospital, all our children spent their early years in Larchmont. Dan was a mischievous little him. I recall one time when baby Cedric was taking his afternoon nap on the screened porch; Dan procured a bottle of shoe blacking and proceeded to paint Ced’s face with it. You can imagine his Aunt Dorothy’s shock and surprise when she glanced in and saw our baby son with a black face. On one occasion I walked into the kitchen and found Dan sitting on the floor by the refrigerator busily breaking eggs on the linoleum. Lad early showed interest in mechanical things and was always quite a help in fixing things around the house.
ADG – On one summer’s day Arla and I motored to Mount Vernon to visit mother Guion, leaving the children in care of their Aunt Anne. Ced, who was playing on the window seat in his upstairs nursery, somehow loosened the window screen and both he and it fell to the ground below, Ced landing on his head in the flower bed. Anne at once phoned us and I recall breaking all speed laws and safety regulations speeding back to Larchmont. Apparently no harm resulted and in a short time the youngster was playing as usual.
CED – I don’t remember much about the Larchmont house on Landsdown Drive. I do remember that milk was delivered by a milkman with a horse and buggy. Landsdown Drive was on a hill and at the bottom was a creek. One day the horse and wagon went down the hill faster than usual – they went bouncing down the hill. I don’t remember if the horse went in the brook or not. I was pretty young at the time, about four maybe.
BISS – The only memory I have of Larchmont is a day picture of the living room. It had a fireplace and it seems to me a piano or something, but I’m not sure. My impression is of hardwood floors but I can’t remember what the furniture looked like. I was four when we left there.
LAD – When I started school in Larchmont, either kindergarten or first grade, I went to school in a horse-drawn sleigh in the winter. I just remember being awfully cold. In the warmer months, Mother drove me to school. Dan probably started school there because he was only a year and a half behind me.
Next Saturday I will continue A Tribute to Arla with more memories from her children and the story of how they arrived in Trumbull.
Next week I’ll be posting letters written in 1942. Lad is coming home and Dan, Ced and Dick remain in Alaska.
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:
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.
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.
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.
In last week’s post, Grandpa and Arla had purchased a lot in Larchmont in a new development called Larchmont Gardens and built one of the first “redi-cut” houses on the market, with the help of Arla’s father, Kemper Peabody, a construction foreman for the New York Central Railroad. In this post, I’ve included some early memories of the older children.
A.D. – We had chosen our lot in Larchmont primarily to be “out in the country”, but the place was growing rapidly and became a thickly settled community. It was getting difficult to find sleeping accommodations for frequent guests, five children and their parents. Then, too, the boys were active little tykes, and like children the world over, frequently got into trouble, like rooting up vegetables in neighbor’s garden, running around his house carrying a raw carrot leaving a yellow streak on his new paint. If my neighbor had boiled over and said some harsh things I would have felt better, but he took it too good-naturedly so that I felt doubly worse. We had, from time to time, offers from those interested in buying the house for considerably more than it had cost us, and all these were contributory causes for looking for a larger place further out in the country.
LAD – I think our neighbor had a garden in the backyard with green beans growing. Dan and I each took two or three green beans and walked around and around his house, the beans rubbing on the house, wearing them down until they were short. Then we threw them away and got some more beans. So Roger (Batchelder) was kind of upset about that.
When we moved in, there were two houses on Lansdowne Drive, ours and another one at the top of the hill. When we left in 1922, they were probably eight or ten houses.
I don’t know why but my father started calling me Lad and gradually it got to be my nickname.
When I started school in Larchmont, either kindergarten or first grade, I went to school in a horse-drawn sleigh in the winter. I just remember it being awfully cold. In the warmer months, Mother drove me to school. Dan may have started school there, he was only a year and a half behind me.
Once in a while, we had to walk home from school. I went across the street from the school where there was a fire hydrant on the corner. Just for the fun of it, I jumped over the hydrant. Well, for some reason or other, there was a short in the power somewhere and I got an awful shock. I’ve never forgotten it so I’m always cautious when I come to a hydrant.
CED – I don’t remember much about the Larchmont house on Lansdowne Drive. I do remember the milk was delivered by a milkman with a horse and buggy. Lansdowne drive was on the heel and at the bottom was a Creek. One day the horse and wagon went down the hill faster than usual – they went bouncing down the Hill. I don’t remember if the horse went in the broke or not. I was pretty young at the time, about four maybe.
BISS – The only memory I have of Larchmont is a big picture of the living. It had a fireplace and it seems to me a piano or something, but I’m not sure. My impression is of hardwood floors but I can’t remember what the furniture looked like. I was four when we left there.
A.D. – Before anything definite materialized along these lines, however, and epidemic of chickenpox turned the Guion ménage into an amateur hospital, and to make it even harder for Head Nurse Arla, Dad also got the bug, while it seems a laughing matter to relate, don’t let anyone tell you it’s any fun for an adult to have chickenpox.
Tomorrow I’ll continue Grandpa’s story with the events leading up to the move to Trumbull.
On Monday, I’ll begin posting letters written in 1941. Lad is coming home after two and a half tears in Venezuela and Dick is delivering himself and a car to his brothers in Alaska.
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.
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.
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