The Beginning – Reminiscences of Alfred D. Guion (13) – 1884 – 1964

The following memories are quotes from “Reminiscences of Alfred D.  Guion, written in 1960 while he was on a four-months “around the world” freighter trip.


                  Alfred D.  Guion at the Dell Avenue house

How eager I was to do my job right!  How earnestly I strove to please my boss and carry out his orders better than anyone else.  I took great pride in my work and resolved to overlook no opportunity to get ahead.  Overtime was cheerfully given although we received no pay for it – only 50 cents supper money.  It bothered me because the clerks ahead of me knew more than I did.  I began to suspect that their education was broader than mine.  I attempted to compensate for this by getting the boss’s secretary, who was friendly toward me, to teach me shorthand.  Mistake #2.  I would have been much better off if I had paid for proper instruction at a shorthand school, as eventually I did that anyway, and it was doubly hard to unlearn what I had been taught wrongly, although with the best intentions in the world.  I learned from this that the cheapest is not always the best and realized the truth of my father’s frequent admonition: “What’s worth doing at all is worth doing well.”  However, I labored away faithfully at it until one day the boss consented to try me out.  I was slow but he was patient and not long afterwards he told me his friend in the big Mutual Life Insurance Company, across Nassau Street, needed a private secretary and he had recommended me.  Mr. Farley was quick-tempered and impatient with my shortcomings, but I gradually improved.  At that time, the big insurance companies, of which mine was one, were undergoing a severe investigation, in the prosecution of which Charles Evans Hughes made a name for himself.  Mr. Farley died and my next job was with American Smelting and Refining Company, Purchasing Dept., as a full-fledged stenographer.

Just about this time with much ado, the first subway in New York was opened and on opening day I rode it from Grand Central Depot to City Hall, the entire length.  I was unaware that I was going through my teenage problems stage.  As I look back I realize that while I was not a “goodie-goodie” person, I secretly aspired to lead a noble life.  I had a deep respect for womanhood.  I clipped out, and put in a scrapbook, inspirational articles and resolved each day to acquire some new item of knowledge.  How much my early church training had to do with all this I don’t know, but as I grew older I became more occupied in church activities, first as a choir boy, then a Crucifier, Director of a boy’s association called the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, then Superintendent of the Church School and finally as assistant to the minister at the Sunday morning church service as a Lay Reader.

Tomorrow and for the rest of the week, I will continue posting the stories about grandpa’s early life written in his own words. 

Judy Guion

The Beginning – Reminiscences of Alfred D. Guion (11) – 1884 – 1964

The following memories are quotes from “Reminiscences of Alfred D.  Guion, written in 1960 while he was on a four-months “around the world” freighter trip.


One of Spot’s tricks

One day I acquired from our washwoman 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, beg, shake hands, speak, come to heel, stay put until I called, etc. He was quite a show-off and one day I dressed him up in 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 rolls, 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 medals 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 the 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 confidence 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 still 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, Mount Vernon running about neck and neck on total points with its nearest competitor and on the decision of this race hung the balance and my role therefore, assumed undue importance.  Anyway, my schoolmates in their enthusiasm, hoisted me on their shoulders and, being the hero of the day, escorted me all the way home.

For the rest of the week I’ll be continuing the story of Grandpa in his own words.

Judy Guion

The Beginning – REMINISCENCES of Alfred D Guion (10) – A Colt Repeating Rifle – 1890’s

Alfred D Guion


        As Lincoln Avenue was the home of my childhood and boyhood, 71 Dell Avenue, Mount Vernon, was the home of my youth and early married life.  There I emerged from High School, started a business, married and began bringing up a family.

It may have been the fact that my mother had to live very economically that the value of the dollar was early impressed on my growing mind and the advantage of a savings account became important.  My mother paid me ten cents a day for cleaning ashes from the furnace and stoking it in the winter time, and once a week rolling the ash barrel from the cellar door at the back of the house to the curb in front for the ash man to collect.  I took great pride in watching my savings account grow, which enabled me eventually to acquire the thing I treasured even more than a new bike – a Colt .22 repeating rifle.  For several years I had pestered my mother for permission to buy a rifle of some sort but she firmly refused, saying I was too young.  My best friend and pal, a boy of my own age named Ted Utz, had the same desire and eagerly we sent for and pored over catalogs of all the manufacturers of firearms in the country.  One could buy in the hardware store at that time, a cheap, inaccurate single-shot cal.  German rifle called the Flaubert, which we spurned.  The king of them all was the Colt, so when I reached the age of 16 set by my mother as O.K., I sent the $18.00 for it and spent many happy days with my pal hunting squirrels.

We liked to get out to the woods at daybreak, but Ted was a sound sleeper, so on the night before a hunt when he went to bed, he tied a string to his big toe and hung the string out of the second-story window of his room, so that I could pull the same soon after daybreak when I arrived and so did not have to disturb his family to waking him.

I wore my first pair of long pants on Easter Sunday.  I can distinctly recall on my walk from home to Sunday School on that morning the feeling of certainty that in every house I passed someone was peeking out of the window to stare at my new pants.  Besides, I had spilled egg on them at breakfast.

fr: Ella Duryee Guion, Elsie Guion; back: Alfred Duryee Guion, Aunt Mary and Aunt Lillian

With my mother lived my three aunts and small sister, so I early felt my importance as the only “man” in the family.  With my father gone it was up to me to take care of my mother and this developed into a serious responsibility, resulting in several years in succession of my using my savings taking my mother on my 2-week vacation to various summer resorts as my father had done.  One summer’s vacation I spent in Maine.  A school boy friend, Arthur Morris, had become a minister and was assigned to a little church in an isolated fishing village just above Bar Harbor, called Steuben.  After leaving the train at Bangor, a little single-track branch line seemed to have had its winding track laid so as to curve around larger trees in its path through the thick woods.  I was told that a big bull moose, the day before, had angrily bucked the locomotive.  It killed the moose but also stopped the train.

Arthur had sort of been adopted by a typical, hardy, New England, independent but kind-hearted middle-aged widow, known to everyone as Aunt Ada, at whose house we lived.  It was rumored that Art was eventually to be her heir, but I later lost track of both.  Letters to them were never answered and I never knew what happened to either.

Tomorrow, the next section from Voyage to California, by John Jackson Lewis, transcribed from his diary and Journal from 1851. 

On Sunday, I’ll continue the story of the camp rev.  Elijah and Clara Maria de los Dolores Marina de Beck Guion, and thier daughters and their families living in the San Francisco Bay area .

On Monday I’ll begin posting letters written in 1943, the year that lad and Marian marry. 

Judy Guion

The Beginning – REMINISCENCES of Alfred D Guion (9) – Church Picnic and the Measles – 1890’s


         Possibly the Church of the Ascension, Mount Vernon, New York

          Our church, the Church of the Ascension in Mount Vernon, New York, early occupied an important place in my life.  Both parents were active workers, my father as a vestryman and my mother as a member of the Ladies Aid and other church societies, and of course, we children attended Sunday School regularly.  From this same church my father was buried with a big Masonic funeral, later my mother, and here also I was married and most of my children were baptized.

The big church event of the year from my boyish standpoint was the annual Sunday School Picnic.  On the day appointed, Mother put up a box lunch, took along some blankets, extra jackets and sweaters, and we all assembled at the church where trolley cars, in sufficient number, were waiting to transport the whole group to some seaside vacation, usually not more than an hour’s ride away.  Games of all sorts were played, sack races, three-legged  races, high and broad jumps and regular foot races.  From one of these I proudly brought home a bronze medal for winning a foot race.  Then, tired but happy, the trolley took us home.

I had measles in 1893 at the age of nine.  I remember the year distinctly because while I was in bed the postman delivered a copy of Harper’s Young People, which I preferred to Youths Companion, and on the front cover was an interesting illustration and story about the Chicago World’s Fair, then in full swing in Chicago.  I was tired of staying in bed and this was something interesting to occupy my mind, but my mother mercilessly pulled down the window shades in spite of violent protests, so that it was too dark to read, which she said had to be because “it was bad for my eyes”, until I recovered from the measles

The interval between moving out of the Lincoln Avenue house and carpentry work on the renovated Dell Avenue house was finished, we spent in a rented house, and while there I contracted Scarlet Fever.  The day before I was sick enough to have a Doctor, I felt extremely tired and listless, and that night I had a horrible dream.  The facts of themselves were not so bad but the realism was terrifying.  I was on a very large globe, the service of which was so slippery I continually fell down each time I started to stand up.  No matter how many times I tried it was no use in the prospect of never being able to regain standing position was horrifying.

The house, of course, was quarantined, and my patient mother was my nurse.  The only after-effects, which sometimes are quite serious following the disease, were, in my case, severe earaches which apparently left no permanent injury.  Even now at age 75 my hearing is normal.

While I failed to realize it at the time, my father’s death put an end to carefree boyhood days in made me take a more serious view of life.  The idea gradually grew in my mind that as the only “man” in the family, it was my duty to do what I could do to support it.  Soon I was to leave my childhood spent in the old Lincoln Avenue house to start a new chapter in the Dell Avenue house where I spent my teens and early manhood.  How little anyone event, large as it looms at the time, really matters much when viewed from the long stretch of a person’s years.

Tomorrow, I’ll post the first of section of Grandpa’s  story at the Dell Avenue house in Mount Vernon, New York.

On Saturday, another excerpt from the Voyage to California by John Jackson Lewis, about his trip from New York to San Jose, California in 1851. 

On Sunday another segment of My Ancestors about the Rev.  Elijah and Clara Maria de los Dolores Marina de Beck Guion.  The Rev.  Elijah, as an Army Chaplain, has been transferred to the Presidio, in San Francisco, and eventually all four daughters, with their families, moved to the San Francisco Bay area.

On Monday, I’ll begin posting a week of letters written in 1943 when Lad and Marian’s lives are becoming more entwined. 

Judy Guion

The Beginning – REMINISCENCES of Alfred D Guion (8) – A Bloody Nose and a Black Eye – 1890’s

The following memories are quotes from “Reminiscences of Alfred D.  Guion, written in 1960 while he was on a four-months “around the world” freighter trip.

                     The new Grammar School in Mount Vernon, NY

If this is to be a truthful account of my boyhood, I now come to an incident of which I am heartily ashamed.  It happened early in my grammar school days.  I was rather a reserved quiet type who did not enter readily into the rougher sports and for that reason was not generally popular.  There was an aggressive, rather bullying type of youngster, taller and heavier than I, who evidently took a dislike to me and made things rather rough.  Being of a sensitive nature, this bothered me and instead of shrugging the matter off as some youngsters might, it kept building up day by day until it must have shown in my attitude.  It came to a climax one noon recess over a game of marbles or some other trifling thing, resulting in Emil informing me as the noon bell rang that he would wait for me and “get me” when school got out that afternoon.

Frankly, I was afraid and when the closing bell rang, I hung back and tried to think of some question to ask the teacher to delay matters.  It was no use and as I finally went out the door there was Emil with a gang of ten or twelve cheering boys.  I panicked.  I had three or four schoolbooks strapped together and heaving them in Emil’s face, I started to run toward home, which was about four blocks away.  Off I went with Emil and the yelling band after me – a Fox with hounds in full cry behind.

Sometime during the chase I came to my senses.  It might have been pride; shame for the cowardly way I was acting; realizing how far I had fallen from the ideals my family had preached; the fact that running would do no good; that sooner or later I’d have to fight anyway.  Perhaps it was a combination of all, though none very clear-cut.  The net result was that I decided to quit running then and there and fight to the last ditch even if they had to carry me home on a stretcher.  So I stopped on the lawn of Chivvis’s house right across the street from mine and faced my foes.

The boys all gathered around in a circle to watch Emil knock the tar out of me.  And I guess he did.  I know afterwards I had a bloody nose and a black eye.  But now I was determined no power on earth could make me quit.  On and on we slugged it out – it seems for hours- and whenever I got knocked down, which was frequently, and one of the boys would ask me if I’d had enough, I replied, “No!”,  and went after Emil again.

I don’t know how many times this happened but often enough so that after a while the boys saw no more sport in the thing – just a dogged determination on the part of one badly beaten kid to refuse to give up.  We both finally became so weak that neither of us could punch anymore and upon my still refusing to admit I was licked, the boys forcibly separated us and he and his gang went their way and I, with one or two whose sympathy I had belatedly won, went to my home, someone having restored my books.

Next day at school Emil and I shook hands.  He admitted he had me all wrong and I told him I was sorry for the cowardly act of throwing my books at him.  From that day on, Emil and I were very good friends and continued so for a number of years until he died in his early youth, the cause unknown to me.

I’ll continue the week with more stories from Grandpa’s REMINISCENCES of Alfred D Guion.

Judy Guion

The Beginning – REMINISCENCES of Alfred D Guion (7) – Drunk Uncle Eddie – 1890’s

The following memories are quotes from “Reminiscences of Alfred D.  Guion, written in 1960 while he was on a four-months “around the world” freighter trip.


The story of my boyhood would not be complete if I failed to mention my sisters and my favorite cousins and playmates – the Duryees – Adele, Nan and Dudley.  Dud was my own age, the girls a few years older.  Adele, who was three or four years my senior, seemed, at my age, to be old.  Their father, whom I called Uncle Eddie, was my mother’s cousin, and although he had perfectly good and respectable parents he turned out to be the black sheep of the family.  Alcohol was the cause.  In these days we would have regarded his failing as a disease and taken medical means to correct it, but at that time no such charitable view was taken.  My mother, who always saw the best in everyone, claimed that he was always gentlemanly when sober and had perfect table manners.  Before he had started downhill,l he had met and married a charming girl named Mary Blakelock.  My folks were very fond of her and so was I.  She had beautiful brown eyes, a nice complexion, a jolly disposition and got along with her drunken husband as best she could while the children were little.  But personal abuse, the bad example and squandering on drink the money his wife earned finally resulted in her leaving him and bringing up her family alone.  On the oldest girl, Adele, fell the principal task of bringing up the younger ones, while her mother worked during the day.  And to the great credit of them all, the children turned out well.  It was probably this early example of the curse of drink and my father’s strong feeling against saloons that I grew up with the feeling that they were dens of iniquity, and even to this day, I feel ill at ease whenever I go into a place where there is a bar.

The last time I saw Uncle Eddie was on 42nd St., New York, where he was marching up and down with the sign strapped high above his shoulders announcing the opening of a new restaurant.  Such folks were called “sandwich men”.  This form of advertising is no longer used unless it is by “pickets” in front of a plant were a strike is going on.

This reminds me of an incident which happened to me years later one night when I had been working overtime at my office in downtown New York and had boarded a subway train for Grand Central Station.  I was the only passenger in the car with the exception of a very seedy looking bum, much the worse for drink, who sidled up to me and started a conversation.  He asked what my business was and when I replied “advertising”, his face lighted up and he said he was in the advertising business too, adding, “but ain’t it hell when the wind blows”.

During the rest of the week, I’ll continue more of Grandpa’s Reminiscences of Alfred D Guion.

Judy Guion

The Beginning – REMINISCENCES of Alfred D. Guion (6) – Mistakes and Misadventures – 1890’s

The following memories are quotes from “Reminiscences of Alfred D.  Guion, written in 1960 while he was on a four-months “around the world” freighter trip.

Alfred D. Guion – self portrait

Most boys of my age at that time took great delight in sneaking into a neighboring cornfield, gathering some dried, brown, corn silk, and making up our own cigarettes.  But on one rainy Sunday when my parents were in church and my sister and I were in the house alone, we found on the mantel shelf a package of my father’s Sweet Caporal cigarettes.  We each took one and lighted it.  When we saw through the upstairs windows our parents coming home we hastily put out the cigarettes, hid the stubs and tried to act nonchalant.  Unfortunately we hadn’t foreseen that the telltale smoke still lingered in the room and adroit questioning as to what male visitors had called, (no woman in those days ever smoked cigarettes), soon brought out the truth.  Why no spanking resulted in this case either, I never could understand.

It may have been this incident that later induced my father to take me aside for a serious talk on the evils of smoking for a growing boy.  He exacted no promises of me but did say that if I did not smoke until I was 21 he would give me a gold watch.  When he died a few years later and I inherited his own gold watch, I felt doubly bound by the obligation and kept faith in spirit and letter.

Alfred Beck Guion – Grandpa’s father

Ella Duryee Guion, Grandpa’s mother and his sister Elsie

My father was apt to be short-tempered at times, energetic, quick to form opinions, intense in his feelings, forceful and eloquent in expressing himself and alert-minded.  In any social gathering he usually outshone the rest by his personality.  My mother had a placid, easy-going disposition, always seeing the best in everyone and much loved by all who knew her.  I recall one time, however, when, for a brief space, she was quite out of patience with me.

It was the custom in those days before automobiles were in common use for the white-collar worker to be granted a 2-weeks vacation, which in the case of my family usually took the form of boarding for the 2 weeks in some small country hotel or farmhouse either near the mountains or the seashore.

One year as our vacation had ended at a farmhouse in upper New York State, the morning had come when we were to leave for home.  My mother had saved out my best bid and tucker for the homeward journey, the big trunk holding all our clothes had been carefully packed, the huge leather strap that went around it had been tightened and buckled, and the husky hired man had come to take it down the stairs to the buck board en route to the railroad station.  Breakfast was not quite ready and I was told I might go out and play in the yard near the house but NOT TO GET MY NICE CLEAN CLOTHES DIRTY.  Right in front of the house was a little brook spanned by a foot-bridge.  I avoided the bridge itself but stood just at one side of the muddy bank to watch little chips of wood I threw float downstream.  I slipped and fell into the brook, getting up all wet and muddy and went back to my mother.  This time it was she and not my father who told me a few things.

Tomorrow and for the rest of the week, I’ll continue Grandpa’s story in his own words.

Judy Guion

My Ancestors (30d) – Rev. Elijah and Clara Maria de los Dolores Marina de Beck Guion – The First Two Daughters Marry – 1860’s

Last June I  read about a Challenge, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, and I was intrigued. I decided to take up the challenge. Some Ancestors may take more than one week, but I still intend to write about 52 Ancestors. I hope you enjoy reading about My Ancestors as much as I am looking forward to researching and writing about them.

(1) Clara Maria de los Dolores Marina de Beck Guion; (2) Alfred Beck Guion; (3) Alfred Duryee Guion; (4) Alfred Peabody Guion; (5) Judith Anne Guion

All during the girlhood’s of my mother and aunts, the slavery issue was coming to a head.  New Orleans had the biggest and worst slave-market in the nation — the one that Lincoln saw as a young man, and never forgot — but here was one moral issue on which the Rev.  Elijah Guion sided with the South.  Northerner as he originally was, he took his Bible literally, and it happened that at the height of the pre-war controversy, an event occurred that made real history, and is part of our family story.

This was the publication, in the north, of a pamphlet by an Episcopal Bishop, entitled: “The Bible View of Slavery.”  It went through seven editions, was read throughout the Church, created a storm of controversy in the North, and was hailed with equal satisfaction in the South.  The Episcopal Church was the only  Protestant Church that didn’t split into a “North” and “South” church during the Civil War, and this pamphlet was the reason.  It was written by the Bishop of Vermont, who was the Rt. Rev.  John Henry Hopkins, DD., L1.D. — one of the most outstanding patristic scholars and polemical writers of the Episcopal Church, and its Presiding (Senior) Bishop during the last years of the war.  Bishop Hopkins was my grandfather.

This pamphlet (it still is to be found in old Southern libraries) amounted to a justification of slavery on Biblical grounds, while deprecating its cruelties and abuses.  It’s argument was simple and abundantly documented: slavery had been an institution in Biblical times; the Bible referred to it without condemnation; the Bible was the Word of God.  Here was the perfect “out” for Southern Episcopalians, who normally were kind to their slaves; in the North, of course, it created a storm, which the “Fighting Bishop” had undoubtedly expected and probably loved.  This doctrine, uttered by the outstanding polemist and perspective presiding Bishop of the Church, had a wider following even in the North then today’s history-books commonly recognize; and its result in the South was to hold the Episcopal Church together despite the war.  Bishop Hopkins became Senior or Presiding Bishop in 1865, and the culminating moment of his life was at the first post-war General Convention, when he welcomed the Southern delegates into the still-united Church.

The Rev Elijah Guion fully endorsed the Hopkins pamphlet and preached its doctrine at St. Paul’s.  In one other respect he offended his Confederate congregation, and his rigid adherence to ritual, whether doctrinal or inwardly pro-Union in its motivation, cost him his job about the time of Lincoln’s assassination, as shall be seen.  Meanwhile, a prime instance of his rigidity in his domestic capacity was causing trouble and in fact, real tragedy, at home.

This came about in connection with the engagement and marriage of my aunt Clara, eldest of the girls.  The French custom, by which marriages are arranged by the parents, existed to some extent in New Orleans; it appealed to Guion, who was a dominant man.  As Clara’s husband he selected his friend, Stephen Gay, a man of his own age, by no means Clara’s choice.  Gay had been married before and had a son, Harry, as old as his intended bride.  Clara was heartbroken; she resisted the marriage up to the moment of the ceremony.  My grandmother resisted it too, but Guion was adamant and for once she lost.  Guion performed the marriage ceremony himself.

Clara was dutiful; she bore Gay four children, two of whom, my cousins Florence and Eleanor, survived.  But it was an unhappy marriage and ended in Gay’s leaving, shortly before Eleanor was born.  By that time the Guions were in the West, and Clara rejoined them, her life wrecked.

I recall her, 20 years later, as a silent, sad-faced woman whose only consolation was religion.  Parental authority hadn’t worked.

Second to marry was Josephine; this was a love-match.

Up in Far-North Vermont, the thirteenth and the youngest child of Bishop Hopkins, Frederick Vincent, had studied science, especially geology, at the University of Vermont, from which he graduated in 1859.  Previously he had been educated at the Bishop’s Church school, at Rock Point,  near Burlington; like all Hopkinses, he had been trained in music, he had painting talent, and an inventive, inquiring mind.  He was perhaps 17 when the “Bible View of Slavery” was published; he shared that view, the more intensely because of the controversy that raged about the Bishop’s august head.  In 1861 the Civil War broke out; in New England the abolitionists were in full cry.  Rather than fight in a clause in which he religiously disbelieved, young Hopkins left his home, made his way to Pittsburgh, and proceeded to get him an open boat and float down the Ohio River, toward the South.

He floated down the Ohio and down the Mississippi too, landing months later at the waterfront of New Orleans, exhausted, starving and broke.  The details of that trip were never revealed — we know only the beginning and the end, must imagine the rest.  This was early in the war and the river still was open, but Vicksburg was fortified and he must have passed it somehow.  How he ate, lived, slept, survived at all, we do not know.  He made this trip alone.

He seemed to have had it in mind to take refuge with a clergyman named Hawley, a Vermonter and marital relative, who had a church in or near New Orleans.  This was stated by Hawley’s daughter, Mrs. Marion Canfield Hawley Swan, whom Ed and I knew in California years ago.  Hawley gave young Hopkins shelter and care, then sent him to the Rev. Mr. Guion, who received the fugitive into his home. — my mother, aged 19, petite and charming, and of rather Spanish appearance, was now the presiding daughter of the household, her elder sister having married.  On September 15, 1863, at the height of the war, Frederick Vincent Hopkins and Josephine Beck Guion were married.

This time, Guion didn’t oppose.  Apparently he helped the young man to obtain employment, first as a teacher of science in New Orleans, then as a geologist for the State of Louisiana, in which capacity he made the first geological survey of that state and published some still-remembered reports.  The couple moved to Baton Rouge, where in 1866 my eldest sister, Clara Leoline, was born.  My father became Professor of geology at the University of Louisiana.

Next Sunday, I’ll continue the story with how Rev. Elijah Guion lost his position at St. Paul’s in New Orleans and the marriages of his two remaining daughters.


COLONIAL ORIGINS of the CALIFORNIA GUIONS, An Informal Genealogical Study by Ernest Jerome Hopkins, finished in 1952.

Next Sunday, I’ll continue the story of the Rev. Elijah, Clara and their large family in New Orleans.

Tomorrow and next week, I’ll continue the story of Grandpa, Alfred Duryee Guion, from the beginning with “Reminiscences of Alfred D. Guion,” written in 1960 while on a four-months “around the world” freighter trip.. This is his story, in his own words, beginning in the early 1880’s, when he was a child in Mount Vernon, New York. 

Judy Guion

The Beginning – REMINISCENCES of Alfred D. Guion (5) – The Insides Sort of Erupted – 1890’s


Alfred D. Guion - Lincoln Avenue House

      Alfred D. Guion at the Lincoln Avenue House

          In the top drawer of my father’s dresser, where among other things he kept a pomade stick for his hair, brilliantine for his mustache, Orris root, etc., he had a small 22-cal. Chased pearl-handled revolver as well as a Harrington and Richards five shooter for safety sake because our house was on the outskirts of town and was occasionally visited by tramps looking for a handout. The fancy little firearm intrigued my boyish fancy and while I had been repeatedly told never to touch either of those revolvers, one day, when my idle hands found nothing else to do, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to take it apart to see how it worked.

So down to the coal cellar, where I wouldn’t be observed, I went, with it and a screwdriver. I got the faceplate off without much trouble when suddenly something snapped and the insides sort of erupted. I had planned to take each part out carefully observing the order, so there would be no trouble in assembling them again, but this scattering of parts all over the place was a tragedy. What a hopeless feeling! I tried frantically to fit parts in again but it couldn’t even get the side plate back. Now, what to do?

I knew I was in for a good spanking. Disobedience did not set very well with “Papa”. I thought of not putting it back and hiding it somewhere but knew it would be missed and lying would only make matters worse. With shame and trembling I sought out my mother and told her the whole sad story. She decided the only thing to do was to wait until my father came home from the office that night and make a clean breast of things. What a long, fearsome afternoon that was! We children, Elsie and I, always rushed to the door with mother for the homecoming kiss as soon as we heard his key in the lock, but my greeting that night somehow lacked enthusiasm. Perhaps because my mother interceded I escaped a spanking that time, or perhaps they decided I had learned my lesson, which I had.

My parents did not believe in frequent or promiscuous spankings but we knew we would get one when we deserved it, and then not a slap or two, but pants taken down in my case, and the back of a hair brush vigorously applied enough times to create a healthy respect for the punishment. I recall one time I deserved it and so reported to my father some months later. I had done or said some minor thing which was wrong, in a fit of ill nature, and was warned if I did it again I’d get a spanking. Feeling ugly and defiant I deliberately did it again. Down came my britches, whack when the hairbrush, and I can remember the strange feeling of all the ugliness and ill-nature completely evaporating during the process. I knew I had deserved it and felt it had done me good. I often thought of this episode in bringing up my own children, and never since have agreed with those who think it is wrong to spank children under any circumstances. The old Bible admonition, “spare the rod and spoil the child” is still true.

Tomorrow, the next segment in the Voyage to California by John Jackson Lewis about his trip from New York City to San Jose in 1851.

On Sunday, more of the story of Rev. Elijah and Clara Maria de los Dolores Marina de Beck Guion and their family.

Next week, I’ll begin posting a week of letters written in 1943. Life is getting more interesting for Lad and Marian in California. 

Judy Guion

The Beginning – REMINISCENCES of Alfred D. Guion (4) – Rough Riders and Railroads

The following memories are quotes from “Reminiscences of Alfred D.  Guion, written in 1960 while he was on a four-months “around the world” freighter trip.

Another exciting time I recall was the announcement of the blowing up and sinking of the. U.S. Battleship Maine by the Spanish in Havana, Cuba harbor, the declaration of war against Spain and the slogan “Remember the Maine”, Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, the charge up San Juan Hill, the destruction of the Spanish fleet and Dewey’s victory in Manila Bay, culminating in a stupendous, triumphal parade in New York for this great national hero. “You may fire when ready, Ridley”. My whole family went. We had secured seats in a wood reviewing stand erected on Fifth Avenue. The city was thronged with people, much like Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Somewhere, somehow, in the seething, pushing crowd, I got separated from my parents. As I searched in vain here and there for them I realized that I was lost. I almost panicked but had sense enough to realize my folks would go home by way of the Grand Central Station (that was the old station, not the present structure) so with fear and wildly beating heart I got there somehow and there, at last, I found them.

Incidentally, it is interesting to recall the method of handling incoming passenger trains it Grand Central Station in those days. There really were “brakemen” on the railroads then. An incoming train, when it reached the switching area in the station yard, would be dispatched from the locomotive at exactly the right instant. The locomotive would immediately speed up before the train could follow on the same track, and an alert tower man would throw the switch and the train would glide off to another track. Naturally, the speed of the train at this breaking point had to be carefully judged, because if to slow its momentum would not be enough to carry it to the passenger unloading platform some distance ahead, and if too fast it would be brought to too sudden a stop by hitting the big bumper at the station end of the track. So each brakeman would rush to the car platform and by alternately turning and releasing the brake wheels, which manually controlled the brake shoes, the train, in a series of jerky movements, was finally brought to a halt at the platform. It was remarkable how few or poor landings there were under the circumstances. I’m getting off and walking to the end of the platform, one was besieged by scores of “Hansom cab” drivers, each carrying his whip and soliciting “fares” to various parts of the city, and all adding to the chorus of “cab, cab, cab.”. The Din and excitement of it all made one realized he had finally arrived somewhere.

I recall keeping a picture album in which I pasted pictures of Mellin’s food (for babies), Baker’s chocolate, Pears soap, Sapolio, Pearline (washing powder). Advertisements in the papers and magazines featured Smith Bros. cough drops, Redways Ready Relief, Sloan’s liniment, Carter’s little liver pills, Lidia Pinkham’s pink pills for pale people, Adam’s chewing gum and a round chip gum called Faultless Pepsin Chips. The Sunday papers were beginning to run conic sections featuring Buster Brown, the Yellow Kid, Mutt and Jeff, etc. Ice cream sodas were a new, delightful treat.

My father seldom drank any alcoholic beverage stronger than beer. One hot summer day both father and mother had beer at the evening meal. It looked so cool and bubbly. I asked for some. My mother said “no” but my father said, “Oh, let him have a taste.” What a disappointment! Instead of a nice sweet taste I had expected it was bitter. To this day I don’t like beer.

As a boy I had frequent colds which worried my mother.  The invariable remedy was Scott’s Emulsion of Cod Liver Oil and I can distinctly recall the label on the bottle depicting an old seafaring man dressed in oilers and hat carrying a huge fish on his back.

Another incident I recall was trying to be kind to a little kitten we had been given.  I heard my mother say that kittens liked to be where it was warm, so I figured the oven of our kitchen coal range would be just right.  Fortunately it was between meals and the fire was low.  My mother heard the meowing and find a located poor little Kitty, none the worse for its experience, and while because of my good intentions I escaped spanking, I learned a lesson in the value of good judgment.  I used to bite my fingernails.  I stuttered.  I was frequently punished for teasing my little sister.  All in all I guess I wasn’t a “sweet little boy”.

Tomorrow, I’ll finish the week with one more installment of REMINISCENCES of Alfred D. Guion.

On Saturday, another section of voyage to California by John Jackson Lewis, about his trip to San Jose in 1851. 

On Sunday, I’ll continue the story of My Ancestors, Rev.  Elijah and Clara Maria de los Dolores Marina de Beck Guion, and the marriage of their two younger daughters. 

Judy Guion