Warren County Historical Society Presents …


The Digital Version “REWIND”

June 15, 2017


Growing Up in Glens Falls, Part 2

by Marion Cunningham Brown



In our last Rewind column, we met Marion……where she described her home and family growing up in Glens Falls at the turn of the last century.  We continue her story here with introductions to her relatives, her thoughts on schooling, holdiays, and more.


 Marion’s story continues…


Colonel John Lovell Cunningham (1840-1924)

     Grandfather lived with us – or did we live with him?  I never thought to ask but now I wish I knew.  Father called him “Bomp” as we kids did, or “Colonel.”  He called Father “Brown” which seems rather formal to me now, but I’m sure there was a lot of mutual respect, even though they may not have had a lot in common.  When Father bought our farm Grandfather said “My stars, Brown, what do you want to do that for? It’s folly!”  Father went right ahead, and named it Folly Farm.  Maybe he thought Grandfather’s formal flowerbeds were folly, too.  I’ll never know.

     Grandfather was born in Hudson, NY where his parents had landed from Scotland.  The family moved to Willsboro, on Lake Champlain, when he was small.  He began reading law at 18, graduated from Albany Law School in 1861, practiced in Essex for a year and then enlisted in the 119th Volunteers.  (My brother) Hubert especially loved to hear his war stories:  how a southern family had nursed him through typhoid fever and saved his life, and how he met Abraham Lincoln at the photographer’s in Washington and watched one of the famous Matthew Brady photographs being taken.  He wrote about his experiences in a book:  Three Years With the Adirondack Regiment, which he had privately printed and sent to all his comrades-in-arms.

     He came out of the war a Colonel and went to work for the infant Glens Falls Insurance Company.  He was its president for many years and kept a desk there until the day he died.  When San Francisco had its great fire and earthquake in 1906 he went out as a representative of “the Glens Falls” and settled every claim in full, which nearly bankrupted the company but won it instant national recognition.

     Grandfather was a LEADING CITIZEN in capital letters.  He was the official greeter of visiting dignitaries (Ulysses Grant among them), and the town speaker at Memorial Day celebrations.  To this day I feel guilty at missing a parade; surely Grandfather is looking down disapprovingly at my lack of patriotism.  I do make sure we fly the flag for him.

     He loved his garden and whatever I know of gardening I learned from him.  The names of his flowers I have remembered always; the names of those learned since are easily forgotten.  I am sorry to say that along with the beds of spring bulbs, the sweet peas and sweet William, the alyssum and nasturtiums, the cosmos and gaillardia and zinnias, he also fancied cannas and salvia and balsam, which were not my favorites even then.

     Grandfather took a dim view of borrowing and charge accounts.  His rule was:  if you don’t have cash on hand don’t buy it!  Mother would come home from Fowler’s Store with an armload of goodies.  Look, Papa, do you like my new coat?  Grandfather would harrumph and say “Did you pay for it?”  Well, no, I used my charge account, of course.  Another harrumph from her father.  Is it any wonder that I can still talk myself out of almost any purchase?

     If Mother was a stickler for cleanliness, Grandfather was a stickler for godliness.  He taught Sunday School (we all did at one time or another), was long an Elder and for years he and Uncle Tom Coolidge were greeters at the doors of the old Presbyterian Church on Warren Street.  In addition to church and Sunday school and Wednesday night prayer meetings we had family prayers in our living room every night.  We all took turns reading from the Bible and then knelt in prayer.  This was fine with me except when the neighborhood kids came to get me to play on summer nights after supper.  They would come to the side porch, look in the screen door and there we would be on our knees.  I was sure that nobody else in the neighborhood had family prayers and like all kids I didn’t like to be different.  When I rebelled a little at all this conspicuous godliness Mother would say, “Marion, someday you will appreciate your Christian heritage.”  How very, very right she was.



The Grandparents I Never Knew


Elizabeth King Baker Fowler Cunningham

     Grandfather’s wife died of typhoid fever just two weeks before their sixteen-year-old son Hubert, whom she had been nursing through the same disease. Mother said she was a very wise and able woman, much respected and often consulted  by local businessmen for her good judgment. In Andrew Jackson Taylor’s “Reminiscences” I found the following paragraph: “Aunt Elizabeth King Baker Fowler was termed a born lady. Her loveliness and grace illumined her home, her counsel was of value to her husband and family, enabling him to start and keep a goodly fortune acquired during life.” (That little record book of the Baker family, by the way, is a most interesting account of the first Baker I know of coming to Schroon Lake on horseback, clearing land, then going back to Rhode Island to bring his family).

     Until very recently there was an elderly woman in the Presbyterian Church who remembered my Uncle Hubert and was always ready to tell me what a handsome and promising young man he was. Those two deaths coming so close together must have been a terrible blow to Grandfather.

     Mother at that time was in a Boarding School in New York City. She left with no regrets and came home to be with her father. Miss Peebles’ School was not the place for a natural, out-going girl like Beth Cunningham, and she must have been quite a trial. When her cousin, Albert Fowler, came in from Yale to take her to the opera, Mother was given a minute inspection by the headmistress and told to “remember the honor of Miss Peebles’ school.” Mother dew herself up and said “What about my own honor, Miss Peebles?” and swept out the door with Albert.

     She and her father went to live for awhile at the Rockwell House, a fine little hotel run by their good friends the Rockwell’s. It kept the name long after the Rockwell’s left and eventually became The Towers before it burned down.

     Father graduated from Williams College in 1890 and went to work at Mr. Kendrick’s lumber mill, and was soon made a partner. He and Mother were married in 1900 and Grandfather insisted that they start their married life in their own home. Hubie was born in 1902 in a house on the corner of Church and Berry streets, and they soon after moved back with Grandfather at 14 Berry, where I was born in 1907. When I was three we traded houses with the Fowler family at 90 Ridge Street and Auntie May Fowler and her brother Irving took our house. The other Fowlers were all married and scattered. More of them later.

Thomas Brown and Marion Walker Brown

     I never knew either of my paternal grandparents. Father’s father, Thomas Brown, came over from Scotland (East Kilbride, now part of Glasgow) with his father, William, after his mother died. Somewhere in the family, I hope, is a sampler made by Agnes Montgomery when she was eleven. Have I given it to anybody??

     Thomas settled in St. Lambert, across the St. Lawrence from Montreal. He married Marion Walker, a Canadian woman in Montreal and they later moved to Niagara Falls, where he was a jeweler and a silversmith. He made the lovely coin silver spoons marked MB for his wife, with T Brown on the back. Now they belong to another Marion Brown and I treasure them.

     A wholesale jeweler from New York City with whom he did business, knowing that Thomas was not in too good health, suggested that the family move to Palmer Falls, New York (now a part of Corinth) where he owned a felt mill in need of a manager. After a series of burglaries in the mill Grandfather was challenged, one evening when he was working late, by the new night watchman. Being deaf he didn’t hear the “Who goes there?” and was shot and killed. I have the long newspaper article about the shooting and trial. My aunts said that the young man did all he could all his life to make up to my Grandmother for his tragic mistake. She was left alone with six small children and must have been a stalwart woman. I wish I had asked more about her. I do have the desk that was in Grandfather’s office at the time, and much of the furniture that was in their parlor in Palmer Falls, passed on to me by the Aunts.

     I believe the girls were the oldest: Agnes, Margaret, and Lillian. The boys were Thomas, Arthur, and Father, Little Willie with golden curls. He used to tell in disgust how his mother refused to cut them off until he was much too old and they caused him great embarrassment. For a long time I had one of them wrapped in yellowing tissue paper, passed on to me by the Aunts, who adored him. I hope I will come across it again.

     After their mother died Aunt Maggie and Aunt Lill moved to Glens Falls so that Father could have a good education at the Academy. Aunt Oggie went to New Haven to teach school and live with a Sinclair relative from Canada. She died of cancer when I was too young to remember much about her.

     Aunt Maggie seemed to be the head of the household at 14 Church Street. She was very capable and quite stern. Aunt Lill and Uncle Art were too gentle to be the heads of anything. I think Lillian was Father’s favorite sister; he loved to tease her and she loved it. Aunt Maggie wasn’t very teasable. They both looked after Uncle Art when he cam to live with them after his wife died. He had married (Adelia Lincoln) the daughter of a surgeon in Wilton, N.Y. After a series of painful miscarriages the doctor gave her drugs and she became addicted. All this was spoken of in hushed tones when I was little and I never heard the whole story until I was quite grown up. They were also very secretive about Uncle Art’s frequent trips around the corner for a round of beer at the Globe Hotel. All I knew was that he often had a rather unusual (to me) fragrance about him. He worked for Kendrick & Brown, and while the Aunts took loving care of him he must have had a dull life and a very sad one.

Fourteen Church Street

     Their house at 14 Church was my second favorite for growing up in. It was home for Hubie and me when our family was away and even oftener when they weren’t. It was a large frame house, very ordinary on the outside but inside a wonderful place for exploring. Upstairs at the back with funny small windows under the eaves were two rooms seldom used except for storage, and us. They were fragrant from the straw matting on the floors, and the drawers and cupboards were filled with treasures. Even then I loved old things. The pale green painted bed I always slept in there went to Beth when she was little, then to Elektra and now back to the farm. I also have the rosewood commode and tall chest that were in Uncle Art’s room and two large ottomans and three small chairs that I made needlepoint covers for while I was waiting for Steve to be born. We also have the whatnot that was Grandmother’s and the desk that my Father made intricate carving for. The Aunts loved to tell me how everything was placed in their mother’s parlor. Mixed in with the nice old things in both their home and ours was a lot of pretty ugly “modern” stuff. I am surprised that even as quite a small child I appreciated the difference.

     They were all so dear to us, these loving, gentle people; they spoiled me terribly. Without fail there was my favorite chocolate cornstarch pudding when I at there and no chocolate pudding I have ever eaten since tasted the same. Julia and I struggled with the problem, making it from scratch with cornstarch,  but even she couldn’t get the same flavor.

     The Aunts slipped up only once, when they made a birthday cake for me with caraway seeds in the frosting. I manfully ate every bit of my helping so their feelings wouldn’t be hurt, but I have NEVER learned to like caraway! Almost every Sunday night we all went down to “the other house” for supper and the tall stack of homemade bread I was allowed to toast over the fire and slather with butter was ambrosia.

     We often had Thanksgiving dinner with them, and I would run at once down to Uncle’s hideaway in the cellar to help him crack the butternuts that always ended our meal.

     Downstairs the pantry was my favorite hangout. Shelves from floor to ceiling held hand painted china, very old handle-less cups, ruby glass, cut glass – such treasures! Some of these have found their way into my home, too, and I hope some day into yours.

     It was my sad-sweet task to clear the house when Aunt Lill, the last one, died. I wish I had kept more things from it: No one else in the family cared about them, but the antique dealers had a field day; they even pounced on the old tin bathtub with the cherry rim in the bathroom. The storeroom was filled with hatbox after hatbox of hat trimmings, buttons salvaged from old dresses, yards of tatting and pieces of old lace. Each spring the Aunts retrimmed their hats and made over old clothes into new. No wonder I am thrifty (my husband has another word for it) with all that Scots blood from both sides of the family!


     In our house the emphasis on Easter was entirely religious, as probably it should be. I don’t ever remember hunting for eggs or giving Easter gifts, so never missed them. We usually had some new spring clothes as a matter of course, and did hope that the weather would cooperate so we could wear them to church.

     The first rite of spring had been the arrival of swatches of material from McCutcheons in New York. I was allowed to choose several samples of gingham for my school dresses and when the material arrived we took it to Mrs. Smart on Chester Street. She was painfully thin and homely, very kind and a wonderful seamstress. She loved to embroider my “best” dresses, and it was very exciting to go for the final fittings.

     On Memorial Day and July Fourth there were the parades, right up there with Grandfather, then hours of speeches in the park. I don’t seem to remember much about Halloween, but May Day was terribly exciting. For days ahead we made frilly little baskets of paper, most with long streamers, and on the great day filled them with candy or arbutus. In the late afternoon we would run to neighbors’ houses, leave the basket on the doorstep or doorknob and run quickly away before they could get to the door and see us. It was nice innocent excitement – too innocent I guess to have survived, except in a few places.

     Ah, but Christmas was the magic time! I wish every child in the world could have the memories of Christmas past that I have. First there was the balsam tree in the parlor, so tall we needed a ladder to trim it. The same loved trimmings went on it every year; at the end of each branch was a tiny candle, to be lit for only awhile on Christmas Eve and, in our insurance-oriented family, very carefully watched. Cookies and milk were left on a little table by the fireplace, handy for Santa (and Father). Hubie and I went to bed but not to sleep. One Christmas I remember especially. When our bedroom was partitioned I drew the side with the fireplace, which had the same fuss as the one in the parlor downstairs. Father came in to kiss me goodnight and remind me to be sure and listen for the reindeer on the roof, and watch the fireplace in case Santa came through on the way downstairs. He knew right well I couldn’t stay awake long, even on Christmas Eve. Hubie always said I could sleep across the handles of a wheelbarrow. But I swear that on that night I did hear the reindeer. It must have been my parents because in the morning, there in my own room, was a beautiful dolls’ house that Father had had made for me at the mill, and a small white rolltop desk, both of which were the joys of my childhood. I would give a great deal to have had the dolls’ house for my children, but it was given to a friend when I grew up. I did my homework at the little desk for years, and kept treasures there, and there was an episode connected with it which I shall never forget.

     Mother never cooked. When we teased her about it she said she’d never learned because she never had to, and that running that big household was job enough, which I’m sure was true. But when spring cleaning came around Mother was right in there scrubbing and airing with Bridgie and Katy, scarf around her head and big apron tied around her. One spring morning before I went off to school Mother warned me that they were “doing” my room that day. I begged her not to touch my desk; it was all in order and closed up and I didn’t want it violated. Somehow that seemed terribly important to me. She promised on her word of honor, but when I returned from school the desk was open and the contents in a mess. My tears were bitter; I felt that never again could I trust the word of a grownup. I had learned how devastating a broken promise may be to a child.

     Well, now to Christmas morning. We all had to go downstairs together and I must say our parents were very good about getting up early enough. Going into the parlor for that magic first look we found that many, many presents has been added to the pile already there – obviously from Santa. There were always books for me: a new Dutch or Japanese Twins, a Goop Book, Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare or the newest Bobbsey Twins. After opening some of the most interesting looking packages we adjourned to the dining room for pancakes and sausage (Grandfather always preferred sausage gravy to syrup on his buckwheat cakes), then back to more presents.

     At noon we either had the Aunts and Uncle Art for dinner, or went to Auntie May’s. She lived in the house where both Mother and I were born, but having moved to Ridge Street at three my only memories of it are the years when she lived there. One great attraction was a wide framed band of family photographs that went along two walls of the dining room, at convenient eye-level for children. The cousins always gathered around it first thing to see who had been added since last year. There was Joe Fowler, son of Uncle Coolidge from Bronxville; Johnny and Ned, sons of Aunt Edith Rawson, and Nesta, Bob, Emily and Charles, children of Aunt Ernestine Adamson, all of Glens Falls.

     After an enormous dinner Auntie May would gather the children around her and read us a story; then she would pass out costumes, assign parts and we would act out the story. I loved being Little Red Riding Hood, with red hooded cape and a basket of goodies. It all must have been pretty hilarious but it kept us out of the grown-ups hair for most of the afternoon.

     Then home to the best part of the day, for me. Looking back on it I think I enjoyed Christmas night even more than the other festivities, even presents. Father stirred up the fire in the fireplace and I curled up on the sofa with dishes of salted nuts and a pile of new Christmas books beside me. Just having the fire was a treat, because I don’t remember having many except for company or holidays; the fireplace took such enormous logs you didn’t start a fire on a whim. (Unlike my memories of Aunt Edith’s house next door to Auntie May’s, where there was always a small, cheery fire in the grate at any time of day. But they also had several serious chimney fires, so I guess you can’t have it both ways).

     I should probably explain that all these “Aunts” were Mother’s Fowler cousins, and the children were our second cousins. The Brown Aunts were our only real Aunts.

Other Relatives

     It was to 14 Church Street that most of the Brown relatives came to visit. Uncle Tom and Aunt Carrie and their Thomas came from Lyons Falls, where Uncle Tom was head of the paper mill. Young Tom was my only first cousin and we were almost as close as brother and sister.

     Sometimes we took the trolley to Glen Lake and circled the lake in a little steam launch, with a swim afterward. We took the trolley, too, to Lake George Village, surreptitiously bought copies of the Police Gazette and Captain Billy’s Whizbang and read them all afternoon on a bench in the park by the lake.

     When he was at Williams and I at Vassar he used to bring his roommate over to double date with me and my roommate, and when he married his childhood sweetheart and lived in Bronxville I used to stop by Lord & Taylor’s where he worked on Fifth Avenue to have lunch with him. He had three beautiful children and died much too young, as it seems too many of our family males did.

     We had a slew of Canadian relatives that the Aunts kept up with – but unfortunately I have lost track of all of them.

     A long newspaper clipping in the Aunts’ files tell of a very grand-sounding tea given by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Ahearn to introduce their daughter Lilias to society in 1907. The long guest list was headed by Sir Wilfred and Lady Laurier, followed by many more Sirs and Ladies and a lot of Honorables.

     From the yellowed newspaper clippings I gather that Janet Walker Watson was the oldest; she died in 1914 at 83 and must have been my Grandmother’s sister and the “Aunt Janet” I heard about as a child. She was survived by a brother Arthur and a sister, Jessie Watson Henderson, all of Montreal.

     Margaret Ahearn, wife of Thomas Ahearn of Ottawa was the daughter of the Alexander Flecks of Montreal. She died in Ottawa in 1915 and was survived by four sons and a daughter.

     It would be interesting sometime to pursue these further. There are some interesting clippings in the files – they all seem to be prominent citizens and substantial people. By the way, keep all obituary notices of the family – they are a wonderful source of genealogical information!

     The Fowler family from Chestertown was immense and complicated. Here it is as brief as possible: Elizabeth married Col. Cunningham, as you already know. Jennie married William Shedd of Jamestown, NY and produced our Cousin Bessie. She was one of Mother’s favorite cousins and visited us every summer until she died, long after I was married. Jennie was a beauty in her youth and a spoiled lady in her old age. When Cousin Bessie fell in love with a lawyer late in life her mother raised such a fuss that Bessie refused to leave her. Her fiancé quite understandably refused to take on Jennie too, and then he died very suddenly before Jennie did, so Cousin Bessie never had her marriage.

     Byron Baker Fowler married Julia Cheney, and though she died before I knew her, “Uncle B.B.” lived on in the house with her two sisters.

     I often visited there with Mother. It was – and still is – a beautiful home: the second house north of Horicon Avenue on Glen Street. A brick-floored terrace in the back looks down a long lawn to an Italianate pergola at the end; but to me the great attraction was the peacock chairs on that terrace. Sitting in them made one feel like a queen.

     Uncle B.B. owned and ran Fowler’s Store for years, often standing at the door to hand out lollypops to children. He was a dapper little fellow, always beautifully dressed and smelling of cologne.

     Cousins Mary (Auntie May), Edith and Ernestine were daughters of Joseph Fowler, Fowler sisters, and all as different as could be. Aunt Ernestine Adamson  was a gifted poet and writer. Her rhymed stories of some Glens Falls Industries were read at our early Historical Association, witty and marvelous; I hope they are preserved in the Library. Auntie May was the closest to Mother of all the cousins. She gave classes in literature and poetry at the Library, loved nature, dressed beautifully, was active in her church and the community and was altogether a fine person.

     Cousins Irving and Albert were the sports of the family. Irving was reputed to have one of the very first cars in Glens Falls; one you entered from the back! And the family has named a right-angled curve on Ridge road “Cousin Albert’s Curve,” because of the times he and many others have come to grief there. (He was Uncle B.B.’s son and Mother’s beau when she was in boarding school).


     The old Glens Falls Academy on Warren Street was one of the first schools in town, established many years before the public school system. Father graduated from it, then Mother and the Fowler cousins. But when I was ready for kindergarten the school had moved into a fine new building on Chester Street, and although Hubert was going to it the family thought it was too far to walk for a little tot so I was sent to the Ridge Street school, just across May Street from our house. (The school is gone now and a fire station is there instead).

     I had the most perfect teacher to introduce a child to the world of school: lovely red-haired Miss McGinn. Except for the fact that I loved her and loved school I remember only one thing about the whole year – that I was sick in bed the day the class made butter, but my heartbreak was almost overcome when Miss McGinn brought me a little bowl of the butter and some crackers.

     First grade was presided over by Miss Phoebe Mills, not young and not lovely and very cross, but probably a fine teacher. The only thing I remember about her was that she kept a thimble on her finger so she could make a loud tapping on the window when she spied pupils walking on the grass. It was a sound that could chill your heart.

     By second grade I was deemed old enough to walk to the Academy, which I did four times a day up to and through high school. No rides in the family car for us! Our family was by no means the first to have a car but even people who did, seldom gave their children rides to school. In winter we walked most of the way to school on top of huge ridges of snow piled up along the sidewalks. I can’t believe we have that much snow nowadays.

     I also remember coming home from school through the kitchen to see what we were having for lunch. If it was rice I wanted to walk right back to school, I hated it so much. I was a terribly picky eater and Father had decided that I absolutely must learn to eat vegetables. He started with rice; it could ruin my whole day.

     I finally learned at camp to eat everything by the simple method of eat or starve.   The Academy was financed largely though the generosity of the Hoopes and Hyde families. It had the reputation of being quite exclusive, but fortunately it was far from that. In their wisdom the Hoopes brought in promising young students from the surrounding countryside, I’m sure helping with their tuition, so we had a fine mix. The faculty they provided was the best. I started Latin under Dr. Downs, of Harvard (from sixth grade on) and he made it so interesting that I kept on with it right through college. Mr. Sears, the headmaster, was really part actor, so Ancient, American and English History were wonderfully painless. His wife taught all the English classes and gave us a good grounding in grammar (although I still split infinitives without realizing it) and we went through Shakespeare pretty thoroughly and memorized reams of poetry.

     It was the Sears, too, who coached all the school plays and showed them to packed houses. I had good parts in all of them and loved it, though I can still have nightmares about going on stage without knowing my lines.

     All in all, schooldays were pretty happy, at least until I went to college. I did really want to leave home, and I think Vassar was just too large for a shy girl – a big puddle for a very small toad.

Folly Farm

     Another joy of my childhood was the farm Father bought on the Luzerne Road. It looked across fields to Prospect Mountain, and from the pasture we could see down Lake George to Fourteen Mile Island.

     Father had lumbered there in the winter and fallen in love with the place. Telling Mother that he was building a pigpen he put up a small pre-fab cottage, one room with a porch and a connecting passage to the small kitchen in a separate building.

     Mother was surprised, all right, but probably not too pleased. I can understand now how she must have felt about it. She had to do most of the work with no conveniences at all. Getting there in the first place was certainly not half the fun. We climbed into the two-seater among piles of picnic baskets and extra clothes, giddy-upped to Prince and Molly and drove a good ten miles to the farm. If we went by trolley it was still pretty complicated, with all our belongings. It let us out at Bloody Pond, which was still a long mile to the farm over a road that was always inches deep in either sand or mud. I was only about four when we first went there but I trudged along without a whimper, I was so happy to be going to the farm.

     At the end of our own woodsy road was the cottage with its long table made of one piece of wood that Father was so proud of. There were benches for the table, a couple of chairs and a cot. In the kitchen was an enormous stove with a reservoir for heating water. The pump was up by the farmhouse where the Walkups lived, and the outhouse beyond that. If we were there on a Saturday night, which we often were, pails of water were brought down from the pump, heated in the reservoir and poured into the big tin tub on the kitchen floor. There Hubie and I took turns having our baths by the light of a kerosene lamp.

     Father had a tent put up by the cottage, with a curtain down the middle to separate the sexes. Fortunately the only overnight guests that I remember were the Aunts and Uncle from Church Street, who loved the place as much as I did. Sometimes, too, we slept in the farmhouse with the Walkups. All I remember of that was emptying the slop pails in the morning.

     For me all this was just fun; in fact it was sheer heaven. Too little to do much of the work I just enjoyed the picnic meals, the long walks in the pasture and woods, and all the farm animals. Hubie and I dammed up the brook and made a swimming pond; we cut saplings in the woods, put their bottoms in a circle and tied their tops together for fine teepees.

     When we came just for the day we usually brought a family with children, which was fine for us but a lot of work for Mother. She was a wonderful sport about it for several years but finally, probably after one of those Saturday nights, she said to Father, “Yoc Brown, when we have three good bathrooms at home why should we put up with this!” Hubert had got pretty tired of picking potato bugs off the potatoes and he was ready to quit, too, so that was the beginning of the end of Folly Farm. I think Father must have already been feeling unwell, but he said we would buy a cottage at Lake George instead. He never got to it.

     I have often regretted that I did not inherit Mother’s outgoingness, but I am everlastingly grateful that Father passed on to me his love of the countryside and all nature, the wilder the better. It has been an unending source of joy and comfort.

     As I look back on it, the end of an era was at hand for me. In the spring of 1921 Mother and Father went to the West Coast on a trip sponsored by the N.Y. State Lumbermen’s Association. They had a private car on the train and stopped at the Weyerhaeuser Mills and other points of interest to them along the way. Father was already having chest pains, especially in the high altitudes, but he never let Mother suspect it. She enjoyed every minute until they got home and Father collapsed.

     He died on April 21st and everything changed for all of us. The carefree days were over, I had lost a loving friend, and all the ills of teenagers caught up with me: bad complexion, soggy hair, self-consciousness. I hated myself and became a nagging pest. Poor Mother could do nothing right in my eyes and must have gone crazy, having every word and deed constantly corrected. I became a dreadful child.

     By the middle of high school things began to improve somewhat. My skin cleared, boys discovered me and I became more tolerant of myself and others. I had a sweet and delightful schoolgirl affair with the school athletic hero, which worried Mother no end. I wish she could have realized how innocent it all was. In the middle of it I went reluctantly off to summer camp on Cape Cod. Homesick and lovesick, I didn’t make a very good camper.

     When Grandfather died three years after Father, Hubie had graduated from Williams and was working in Boston. (Hubie graduated in the afternoon of the evening I graduated from the Academy. Mother made both ceremonies). I was ready for college (Father had entered me at Vassar soon after I was born) and when I went off Mother would be alone in the big house. Bridgie had retired to live with her sister in California and Katy had married. The house would never be the same again.

     Just at that time the Queensbury Hotel was being built downtown and Mother decided that she and I would move into it when it was finished. Then she began the Herculean task of emptying that enormous house. It is an illustration of the great help I must have been to her when I say I cannot remember one thing about the process. I was too self-centered to have a qualm about leaving the place where I had spent 15 halcyon years. Ah, youth! I was punished for my selfishness when over the years I would wonder what had become of a particular treasure. A lot of my favorite things disappeared: books, pictures, even my beloved Rosemary, the rag doll that the Aunts spirited away just before every Christmas and returned with a newly-painted face and a whole new wardrobe. I would give a great deal to know what Mother did with her, but I don’t deserve to know. A lot of the more valuable things Mother gave to friends “on loan” but later when she had another house and could have used them she refused to ask for them back.

     Most of the furniture I never missed, but I do remember begging her to keep the little low rocker that is now in our bedroom. She did keep some of the nicer old things to furnish our little apartment in the hotel: the sideboard they bought on their honeymoon in Virginia because Father loved the wood and which is in our dining room today; the little oval sewing table he gave her as an engagement present, and the drop-leaf table the Aunts let them have when they were married, which became our dining room table when George and I were married and is now in our living room. Those are the only pieces of furniture that I can remember that survived my childhood (except the ones from 14 Church Street) and I hope they will go on to our children and grandchildren and be cherished forever. (There are also some fine old pieces from George’s family which he has promised to tell you of when he writes about his growing up).

     Of all the houses the family lived in when I was a child, not one is left standing. Ninety Ridge Street was sold to Louis Brown (no relation) and subsequently was torn down to make way for a Grand Union Store, which flourished for a while and at this writing is empty. Gone are the great elms, the house, the barn, the garden, everything – even every blade of grass is under the parking lot. There seems to be one brick wall of the cowshed at the far end of the property.

     The house where Hubie was born is gone, and the house where both Mother and I were born, and Aunt Edith’s house next door, were torn down to make way for the new Civic Center. There isn’t even a Berry Street anymore! The Queensbury Hotel is still standing; long may it flourish.

     This is a good place to end the “Growing Up” part. It could be a rather sad ending but for the fact that by great good luck a man very much like my father came along and my life began a long and happy second phase, every bit as fortunate as my childhood. That will be a new chapter.


     We thank the Folk Life Center at Crandall Public Library and City Historian Wayne Wright for making this manuscript available to be reprinted here.




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