Tag Archives: The Helen
Early Years – Memories of Alfred Peabody Guion (5) – The Helen – 1922-1938
After my Uncle Dan (Daniel Beck Guion) passed away in 1997, I realized that first-hand accounts of this particular “Slice of Life” would only continue to diminish over time. I needed to record the memories of my Aunt Biss and her brothers and share them with the family. This culminated in the idea of a Blog so that I could share these memories with anyone who would be interested in the personal histories of some members of The Greatest Generation.
Over a period of several years, whenever possible, I recorded the memories of my Dad and his siblings.
I am beginning with the Memories of my Father, Alfred Peabody Guion, the oldest, and will continue each weekend with his Memories. Then I will share the Memories of his siblings, oldest to youngest.
I think I was about nine when we got The Helen. We got her in the mid-20’s. The thing I remember most about The Helen was having to caulk it, every seam. It was a would 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. Who is right near the Boston Post Road Bridge. We capture there all the time we had her. Every year we Hall her out after the thought 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 leaking. 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 T And. That was a lot heavier than the one cylinder that we had in the boat, it wrote down closer to the water at the stern of the boat. It is still referred to as a fan tail. So the back sloped up and the faster we went, the lower in the water it got. With that 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 in the front was decked over with just an open cockpit in the middle. But it was big enough so we could sleep for 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 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, maybe she did I don’t remember. In any case, she wasn’t there when we were sleeping that night. 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 part 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.
Tomorrow, more of the Early Years with Memories of Alfred Peabody Guion.
Memories Of Early Trumbull – More Stories About the Helen (7)
CED – 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 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 are going to go to Hartford and it would take a couple of days. We started out – we had found out that we had a problem and we 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 had kind of a 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 that we had plenty of free board, but my mother had baked us a beautiful cake. It was sitting in salt water. It didn’t float well and it didn’t taste good after being in salt water.
We had some friends named Burnham who had lived sort of caddy corner to us on Larchmont Drive. They had a cottage on Fishers Island. We started out to go to 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 a 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 Fishers 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 it 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 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 it.
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’ve 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 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 we’ll have more on Ced’s
Coming of Age Adventure and next week, we’ll jump back to 1940 when Lad is working in Venezuela and Dan and Ced have just arrived in Alaska.
Life in St Petersburg – Coming Home, “Laddie” and The Helen – May, 1935
It sounds like Aunt Biss is a bundle of contradictions, which is so typical of a 16-yr-old girl. The whole situation Biss had been dealing with since her mother died has made it exceptionally difficult for her.
3:15 PM E.S.T.
I haven’t written to you as soon as I should have but I only have one stamp. I thought perhaps one of my brothers would send a letter and then I could write two letters at the same time for I didn’t want to waste a cent. This month is going so slow but I guess it doesn’t make any difference for I don’t know when I will be able to come home. Aunt Anne is hoping that she won’t have to stay here through the summer but she is afraid for fear she will – I hope not!
I stayed up until two o’clock (your time) this morning writing letters but I still feel like writing for it seems to make everyone seem closer to me up there and they don’t feel so hopelessly far away. Thanks ever so much for that ‘Young People” program that you sent to me. You better
get into the habit of writing to me again for I am going to write once a week – I promised and so far I have kept my promise. You certainly are a very busy man! We had a lot of fun on Easter and got up to go to the sunrise service. The Easter Bunny left me a basket of candy eggs, bunnies and chicks and also hid some colored eggs all around in the yard. I suppose you will be going on that planned picnic someday soon, maybe even tomorrow. I am waiting anxiously for a picture of the house with the lilacs around it – if you can I would like a picture of the front of the house taken from the road. How is Helen (the boat) getting along? Have you heard or haven’t you seen Skippy lately – he still owns her doesn’t he? It is so hot down here that the perspiration is streaming down my face. I have been feeling pretty cheerful lately and yet especially lonesome. I can’t explain what I mean but I am quite homesick and lonely for Trumbull and for the Maple tree and for the piano and yet I feel light and free and it is quite easy to look on the cheerful side of things. I am glad Alfred’s birthday party was such a big success and I think it is too bad that the rest of the family couldn’t have been there.
I saw ”Laddie” the other day and hope to see “Dog of Flanders” when it comes out again – I can see it today for I am financially embarrassed and I sadly fear I couldn’t have seen “Laddie” if it hadn’t been for Aunt Anne. The whole family went. My music lessons have been going along very well. There is a little boy sitting on my lap –Kent – do you remember him? He has been trying to keep me from writing – he is holding my left hand so I can’t hold onto the letter. Poor Boots is so hot that he doesn’t know what to do – he just roams from one spot to another – sighs, lies down and within five minutes is looking for another place. That is what I would like to do myself! I think I’ll give him a bath to cool him off.
Tomorrow, we’ll have another Guest Post from gpcox, who writes about the vehicles, civilian and military during the WWII era. It’s sure to be informative so I hope you’ll drop in.