Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Remembering the Great Maine Fires of 1947

The Camp Fire in Northern California stirred up this memory. In October and November, 1947, huge swathes of land, about 19 towns, 200,000 acres of timber land burned to the ground in a series of fires that burned through Maine from inland to the ocean in what is called The Great Fires of 47. 20 or so people died, but remember Maine was sparsely populated 70 years ago. I remember it now because my grandfather, Lawrence Stone Ireland, lost everything on my brother John’s birthday. His end of Goose Rocks Beach burned to the ground as high winds pushed the fire into the Atlantic. He was the chief of the volunteer fire department and had been on the front lines of the fire fight for almost a month. When the Saco (or Kennebunk) fire turned towards the north end of beach, his house keeper, Mrs. Kate, escaped but had no time to gather any of Gramp’s things. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

My Mermaid Sighting

Dear Electra and Lyla,

I want to tell you girls of something I saw a long time ago, that I have never told anyone! You know that I am soon to be 100 years old, so I think it is finally time to tell this story! I am telling you both because you had such a fine time playing in the sand at Goose Rocks beach where I remember your daddy in the summertime when he was growing up. Besides, you both are so lively, and have good imaginations, I think you will believe me!

It all started the evening before my birthday when I was turning twelve. I was gathering razor clams at low tide.  Razor clams are different than other clams, since you don’t dig them. They stick up out of the sand, so you have to sneak up on them and grab them before they burrow down into the sand again! I was hoping to top off the heap I already had in my clam basket. (In those days, every family had a clam basket made of oak wood, just like the lobster traps. As a matter of fact, sometimes we could find old busted-up traps washed on the beach and reuse the slats.)

The sun was just setting, about ready to drop below the horizon. It was bright orange against dark streaks of purple clouds. It looked like a scoop of orange sherbert on top of an ice cream cone!

I was on the other side of Shore Rocks, which you can only see when the tide is low.  They are almost completely covered at high tide. I was a little distracted since my stomach was rumbling for supper, and I knew that my mother would have clam chowder, Goose Rocks style, waiting for me. But even though I was hungry and my bare feet were cold, a splashing sound made me turn toward Seal Rock. It was hard to see in the dusk, so I squinted and stared out to sea.  I saw a pearly white shape on the rocks that seemed very different than the seals that usually basked there during the day.

That is when I saw her, so beautiful and mysterious! She was neither young nor old--not a woman and not a fish! Her flapping tail had caused the splashing sound that I heard. The movement made it shimmer, reflecting the low light off the water onto her silver scales. It was all so magical, I could hardly believe my eyes. I thought I was dreaming! I remember that I just dropped my heavy clam basket onto the wet sand, and sat rather uncomfortably on the handle.  I had forgotten all about dinner; I just wanted to keep watching. I couldn’t get any closer because the water was too deep, and the tide was turning.

I thought maybe it was an albino seal, or at least that is what my logical mind wanted to think. I couldn’t see too well, because Seal Rock was almost 100 yards from where I was on the beach. I was kind of hiding behind one of the taller boulders. I didn’t want to disturb her for fear she would disappear. I was peeking out, peering at the lovely apparition, when I suddenly saw her turn my way, almost as if I had called her name! I got a good look at her human-like face, and her flashing red hair that swirled just above her shoulder top.

I didn’t think she was scared--she had her head up too much to be scared.  But she was very serious, looking around and looking around as if to watch against an enemy sneaking up on her.  In the waning light of evening, her eyes sparkled. I seemed caught up in a magical moment, and I didn’t want it to end 

I was still as a little chipmunk. The truth is, I could hardly breathe!  She finally flip-flopped her way from stone to stone, to the very edge of the water. I knew the water was about 15 feet deep right there. I could show you on the map, or the aerial photograph that hangs in my room, because Seal Rock is just about at the center of all the Goose Rocks.

She dove into the cold night water and silently slipped away,

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Memories of Roosevelt Field

as told to Nancy Frazier 85 years later                                                               
March 2014

Growing up in Garden City, New York, in the 1920’s was great for boys! We were growing and learning and making model airplanes, boats and radios.   The nation was growing and learning too. Automobiles had advanced from two cylinder cars to 8 cylinder, the $25,000 prize money for the first transatlantic flight from New york to Paris had brought us into world headlines, and everybody we knew had a radio. We didn’t know what it would do for history. We only knew it was exciting to be a part of it all.   

When I was fourteen years old, and my brother Rich was thirteen, we often pedaled our bikes to Roosevelt Field after school. The bikes gave us freedom, adventure, and got us outdoors of course! Since the press was buzzing with talk about aviation history, it was a natural that we wanted to go there as often as we could. We thought nothing of biking the four miles from Hempstead High School to the airfield; we bicycled everywhere in those days. Once there, it was a quicker, more direct route home to the new part of Garden City where we lived.   

I remember taking Trigonometry that year, and it was the last class of the day. I anxiously waited for the first tones of the three o’clock dismissal bell, and then sprinted out of the building, down the granite steps between the front pillars. Rich was already there, leaning against his bike on the sidewalk. He had gotten out before me and brought my bike around from the back. I tied my books onto the rear fender, swung on with a shout to Rich, and we headed down Middle Street. The early spring air had a chill in it, but we were warmed by riding fast.

On the way over, we passed through the ruins of Camp Devens (I think that Dad was referring to Camp Mills), a training camp for WWI. Water hydrants painted a battleship gray stood like iron sentries posted every 500 feet. Piles of wrecked automobiles left abandoned to rust beside the wide roads made interesting landmarks of a bygone era. No trees grew there, only weeds, some of which sprouted between cracks like Jack’s beanstalk, reaching to over six feet high!The whole expanse covered about eight business blocks!

Pretty soon, approaching the airstrip from the western side, we would arrive at the larger Curtiss Field, once an old riverbed. In fact, a ten-foot deep gully separated Curtiss from the neighboring airstrip. It was rather L-shaped allowing planes to takeoff and land simultaneously. Curtiss had a downward take-off slope, allowing a plane loaded with gasoline to get a better start.   Ground crews and air traffic control towers didn’t exist, but a camaraderie and respect among the pilots kept things amazingly safe. Every kind of plane that existed came in and out of there, except warplanes. The Curtis OX5 was designed right there! This busy hub of wheels and motors and flight fascinated Rich and me, and most of our friends too.

But that year of 1927 Rich and I were drawn to the smaller, adjoining field. Roosevelt Field did not have as much activity, but it did harbor the now famous single engine, air-cooled monoplane called “The Spirit of St. Louis.”   We would ride all around it where it was tied to steel posts in the grassy field. We would stop, touch its smooth silvery sides, and wonder why this man named Lindberg would want to fly the smallest plane the farthest distance.   We never saw him up close, only from far away when his plane was coming in.   But I once saw a technician standing on top of the plane with a transit, making sure the compass was correctly calibrated before his fight.

We didn't see the take-off. It was a rainy, overcast day, as I remember, and we didn't think he would be able to fly and clear the trees. But he did! He did it all the way to Le Bourget Field in France, and made our little runway famous all over the world!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Gertrude Louise Banks Ireland

My Mother, Gertrude Louise Banks Ireland
March 25th 1883 - 28 April 28th 1940

My mother was quite a small woman, barely 5 feet tall and always just about 100 lbs. in weight. She was almost an introvert, but she would come out of her shell whenever any one of her 3 boys needed help. None of us had to take piano lessons, but we went to dancing school when we were four until six years old. She made sure that all of us got a college education, a huge accomplishment at the height of the Great Depression.

Her mother was Helen M. Bond whose family owned a brass foundry in Saco, Maine. Her father was Fred Banks who was the bookkeeper for the family owned Banks Brothers Lumber Company in Biddeford, which abutted the city of Saco. The two cities seemed to be one metropolis, separated only by the width of the Saco River.

My grandmother was said to be 16 years old when she got married as she was only 17 when her only child, Gertrude, was born. Fred Banks was 33. Within a year or two my grandmother got a divorce, as Fred seemed to be quite a drinker of alcoholic beverages.

The question of who would bring up my mother must have been a difficult one as my grandmother had to go to work as a seamstress in Boston. She did marry again to my step-grandfather, Charles M. Hart, on January 1
st 1902. My mother began living with them at the age of 19. Until that time she had lived in the Banks' homestead, being raised by her two maiden sisters-in-law, Nellie and Hattie Banks.

The Banks family owned a cottage right on the water at Goose Rocks Beach exactly 9 miles from Biddeford. My mother used to spend some time there every summer even after she began living in a Back Bay apartment in Boston with her mother and stepfather. Lawrence Stone Ireland, her future husband, also spent some time each summer with the Ulmer family who owned the “White Owl Cottage” about one fourth of a mile from the Banks cottage. Somehow they got to know each other, and were married on September 7
th 1910 in the first congregational church in Newton Centre, Massachusetts. 

My Dad was busy running his deceased father’s contracting and building business in Newton Center. His father had died suddenly of a heart attack in 1907 at the early age of 57. For a year or two we lived in the old Ireland homestead on Ward street with his mother, Eliza Jane Ireland and his unmarried sister Mary who was a school teacher. My father had to sell his forty-foot yacht, Yvonne, which he had built all by himself. He then built a house for us on near by Avondale road where my brother Richard Maxwell Ireland was born. 

In 1919, just before I turned 6, we moved to Floral Park on Long Island. Four of us, Rich and I, my mother and grandmother, went to New York via the Fall River Line steamboat. I slept in the upper berth in my grandmother’s stateroom, and Rich took the upper berth in my mother’s. The water was so rough that the boat could not use the Cape Cod Canal. We were hours behind schedule by the time we had sailed completely around Cape Cod and had entered Long Island Sound. The boat had heaved and yawed so much all night long with the creaking and moaning of all its timbers that I expected the boat to go bottom-up anytime now. This huge old vessel finally docked somewhere in the Bronx where my father had been waiting hours for us to show up. At a nearby dock still in the Bronx we got aboard a smaller ferry which was primarily designed to carry about 100 automobiles back and forth between Clasons Point on Long Island and the Bronx. This ferry was put out of business when the Triborough Bridge was erected in almost the same spot many years later.

About an hour later we arrived at Mrs. Hatfield’s boarding house where we all spent the next few weeks. Railroad tracks ran very close to the back door making sleep almost impossible until after midnight as trains came by every twenty minutes or so. And they all tooted their whistles because of the crossroad. About 12 of the paying guests sat down at one large round table for all our meals. I sat down beside an unmarried policeman named McCafferty who seemed to wear his uniform during all his waking hours. I happened to say to him that I did not like school and did not plan to start the first grade in September. This seemed to make him mad, and he said he would take me to jail if I did not go. I did start school, and I really enjoyed the company of so many boys and girls for the first time in my life.

In a few weeks we rented a house near the spot where my father was already building a permanent residence for us. I do not remember much about it l except that it was the only rented house I ever lived in except the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity house in Orono, Maine.

In less than one year we moved into our new house that had a back yard more than a mile in width and two miles in length. I could tell that it had once been a cornfield by the saw-tooth plow ridges every two feet across the entire property. This made it difficult for us to build a baseball field, but we succeeded and all the kids in the neighborhood used it for many years.

My mother was probably the only one who kept chickens in all of Floral Park. We had plenty of eggs, and the ones who were poor layers had their heads cut off for our Sunday dinner. I recall one time my father was not available for the decapitation, when our next door neighbor, Mrs. Donald Meek volunteered to do the job. Twice she hit the head instead of the neck. I was standing close by with another one of my father’s hatchets, and I could not resist the impulse to take a shot at it and off came the head.

Donald Meek at that time was doing both Broadway plays and acting in the newfangled movies that were shot on Long Island because Hollywood did not yet exist. His career made it necessary to get up at noon and take a walk in his bathrobe around the neighborhood. Everybody considered him eccentric, but he sure acted in many movies when he moved to Hollywood just a few years later.

By the time I had finished the fourth grade my father moved his family to 55 Brompton Road in Garden City about 4 miles farther out on Long Island. This time our backyard consisted of the only inbuilt lot in our whole area, about 60 feet wide by 100 feet deep. Instead of building a baseball field, I built a high jump and pole vaulting area complete with adjustable standards, crossbar, and landing pit consisting of a 3 feet deep hole in the ground lined with dead weeds.

When I was in the fifth grade I came in second to Johnny Miller in the high jump and he was in the 8th grade. The Australian roll, a layout style of jumping, was just becoming popular just as the Australian crawl was becoming the rage in swimming. I practiced high jumping and pole-vaulting so that I made the track team all the way through high school and college.

My mother did not have many friends in our new neighborhood. Her mother and her second husband always spent a few days with us on their drive to and from Tampa while driving from their summer home in East Dennis on Cape Cod. My father’s Mother, Eliza Jane Ireland spent one winter with us before going to live in New Orleans with my father’s younger sister, Pearl and her husband Willis Ansell.

I recall that my father’s younger brother Wallace made a visit one evening, and he startled my youngest brother Donny by waking him up in his crib.

Aside from those visits my mother saw almost no one. But she really liked our summer vacations from school because in 1925 we finally bought our own cottage at Goose Rocks, and we spent every summer there until I graduated from the University of Maine in 1936 when I went to work in a steel mill in Syracuse, New York. Our cottage was just two houses away from the Banks cottage, now owned by only Hattie, Nellie, and their youngest brother, Ernest. We visited back and forth every day, and they let us use their rowboat for a month or so until my brother, Rich and I got our own. We constantly rowed to Timber Island, the Goose Rocks, up and down Little River, and sometimes we visited far away Batson’s at the other end of the beach. We went fishing for cunners and flounders as well as trolling for Pollack. We dug clams that at that time completely filled bottoms of both tidal rivers. We went swimming most at low tide near Elephant rock a mile or so up little river where there was swimming hole over six feet deep. There was an old movie shown once a week at the casino, which had a bowling alley where we set up pins in our younger years.

When I was about to graduate from Hempstead High School. M.I.T. and Rensselaer engineering colleges had accepted me, but the recent great depression made it impossible for me to go. My mother asked me if I wanted to go to the University of Maine where the tuition for a Maine resident was only $150.00 per year as compared with $400.00 per year at the other colleges. I quickly agreed, and my parents left me off in Orono with only my trunk one afternoon in early September 1932. The only person I knew previously was Roger Hutchins from Cape Porpoise just about two miles from Goose Rocks, but by supper time I had met almost all the residents of the 4th fourth floor of old Oak Hall. I was so busy that I did not write home as much as I should even thought my mother wrote almost every week for four years at Orono. My Younger brother Rich joined me two years later and joined the same fraternity. He took electrical engineering as he was already a haw radio operator. I took general engineering as I was not sure which branch I wanted for a career.

During my senior year my grandfather said he could get me a training job at the steel mill where he had been a salesman years ago. I agreed quite eagerly as the depression was at its height in 1936, and most college graduates did not have a job to go to until after graduation. Four days after graduation my parents left me off at the YMCA in Syracuse,, New York where I worked in the metallurgical Lab plus the mill itself for the next year and a half. One Friday afternoon Lesley Hawkridge, the president of Hawkridge Brothers steel company of Boston stopped in to see me, and he offered me a chance to become a steel salesman in Connecticut, and I was to start next Monday morning.

I had been in Connecticut about a year and a half, when my mother told me she was going to have a minor operation in Haverhill. I visited her and my grandmother who would be having some bunions removed at the same time. All had seemed fine after the operation, but a few days later I got a telegram saying that my mother had suffered an embolism and was in serious condition. When I got there I met my father as well as Rich who was working in Boston, and my younger brother, Donny, who was only 15 years old at the time. For about 5 days none of us were allowed to see my mother as she could hardly breathe because her lungs were partly obstructed by a large blood clot. Heparin and no other blood thinner were not developed until a few years later. Finally, we were allowed to go in one at a time to see her. As soon as I saw her lying there I thought of Dr. Cheever, an old friend of my grandmother’s who had operated on me for 2 hernias. I remember saying, “I will be seeing you again very soon, Ma,” as I left. 

I asked my grandmother, who was sitting with slippers on, “how about getting Dr. Cheever to look at mother?” She thought it was a good idea and looked up his telephone number in Boston. The person who answered told my grandmother that he was attending a church service in Boston. I got in my car immediately, taking Donald along with me. 

About 40 miles later we found the church, and about 15 minutes later an attendant found Dr. Cheever for us. He told us that he did very little surgery do to his advancing years, but he knew of just the young surgeon who might do the job. We followed him to his office that happened to be nearby. He soon found the number, but it was busy the first time he rang. In the meantime he told me that 4 or 5 people in Sweden had survived an operation to remove such a blood clot, and this doctor was looking for such a case as my mother’s. When the second attempt got a busy signal, Dr. Cheever said he had an important meeting. But I could stay in his office until I made the call. The next time I got the doctor and he told me that he was ready to go to Haverhill immediately. I was delighted to find the surgeon so enthusiastic, but as soon as I hung up I got a phone call from my father telling me that my mother had just received another blood clot, and it killed her immediately. I called the surgeon’s home and asked if he had left. When I was told that he was still in the driveway loading his car, I asked them to stop him as the patient had just died.

If only I had thought of Dr. Cheever sooner!

My Dad

My Father was a remarkable man, and he lived a long and truly blessed life. When he died on May 20th, he was almost a hundred and one years old, and I might have entirely missed knowing and appreciating him.

I have no idea where to begin, so many stories about my Dad’s intelligence, his impeccable memory, his endless curiosity and quick whit. His golfing buddies will testify how much he loved the sport and bridge partners will swear that he remembered every card played even when he was more than 100 years old. People will tell stories about his work ethic, his writing and stamp collecting. He was devoted to his family, our mother Lee, her sister Judy, his Dad, his brothers, our Uncle Donny and Rich, Uncle Chunk, his wife Freddy, and Bill, Don’s partner, his seven grandchildren and six great grandchildren as well as his many, deep friendships.

I want to share one memory that I changed our relationship. It’s also about memories. On one of my first visits to Huntington Commons, in part to hide my trepidation about not having visited for a long time (I almost called it off and probably would not have made the trip without Ashish’s encouragement and support) plus my personal fears about not measuring up, I tried to start a fun conversation--reminiscing about growing up.

We went back to the time when he was a young dad soon to have 4 kids, a new business, and the responsibility for an extended family that included our maternal grandmother, Nana, and mother’s sister, Judy, who was suffering from TB at a time when cure was far from certain. But our family life, thanks to both Mother and Dad, extended beyond those concerns.

Our parents had a close circle of friends, other young couples in Nichols. Bif and I went up and down Huntington Turnpike, and talked about the people we grew up with and their kids. Their shared experiences included learning life’s lessons during the Great Depression and fighting a great war, raising families and building schools, bike trips on Nantucket and family summers on Cape Cod. Bob and Mary Dunning, Dick and Barbara Sargent, Les and Shirley Nothanagle, Mae West, Dave Peck, the Flemmings with their eight kids, Bif remembered everyone.

Then there was the Milford Yacht Club, our memories of the countless summer weekends when we campaigned our Lightning up and down Long Island Sound with Wayne Brockett and our sailing friends, the life guards and sailing instructors who Dad had a hand in hiring. He spearheaded the first World Championship for the Lightening class in Milford, and that opened up the opportunity for him and mother to travel to Italy and Peru. When we talked about Ned and Emily Daly, their sons Ned and Jerry, he had me pick up the phone and call Ned Junior.

From the days of Ireland Heat Treating on the Post Road, we talked of his many loyal workers, his long-term secretary, Hilda Graff, whom was almost part of our family, and the men who’d encouraged Dad to go out on his own.

We drifted in and out of this conversation over the three days we spent together. For more than 60 years I believed a story I made up: that my Dad was distant, that just because we’d had a difficult time communicating (and of course that was entirely his fault, not mine), that Dad was somehow self-absorbed and not really in touch.

Nothing could have been farther from the truth.

He remembered details that I’d entirely forgotten or never heard before. But what really astonished me was the level of feeling, the kindness and compassion in his recollections. He talked of the happy events and the sad moments, the setbacks as well as the accomplishments in a way that made them present. It was so clear that he cherished these men and women. As we talked I could see his face change. I felt his admiration for their successes, sadness for their losses, and gratitude for their friendship. I can also tell you that if there was any funny story about any of the people we talked about, he told it with his gentle laugh and bright smile. That weekend he gave me a real gift—himself.

When I talk to my friends about my father, they are amazed that he lived such a long life, and that it was such a happy and rich life right to the end. They ask, “What was his secret?” Those of us who were close to him know that he was not perfect by any means, that he had his share of disappointments and sorrows, but when I look at his life for an antidote to life’s sufferings I marvel at the wonderful way he connected with so many people, accepting and treating everyone with an even hand, balanced with good humor and love.

I can’t close without thanking all the people here in Kennebunk who became part of Dad’s family during his last years, the friends and admirers who welcomed me when I came to visit. I will mention Ruth, Annette and Nancy, the Chandlers, by name, and I have to include Dick and Peg, who are no longer with us.

Julie, thank you for everything you did to make Dad’s last years so rich and fulfilling. You are a totally extraordinary woman.

It’s best to end with a funny story, and one that inspires me, as I grow older.

When we were celebrating Dad’s 90th birthday at Elen and Charlie’s ranch up in the high Arizona desert, I told Dad that my friends who were golfers (I am not one) were really impressed that he’d cut 7 strokes off his handicap since he was 85. He looked at me with a deadly serious face and said, “Well, Ken, I’m sorry that it isn’t true. … It’s 11. “

The photo was taken at Bif's 100th birthday party which we celebrated on Goose Rocks Beach, at the Tides Inn where he worked in the kitchen during the depression. Ruth, Dad, Annette, Julie and me.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Photographs the Irelands and friends at Goose Rocks Beach Maine around 1900

Donny Ireland received a bureau from Marie Ulmer after she died. In it he found some great photographs taken at Goosenecks more than 100 years ago. I have selected a few publish here. Thanks Donny!  I can't see any women in the picture at the party above. All the men seem to be having a good time nonetheless.

Here are Ken’s comments about the pictures:

This picture of a picnic at Gooserocks shows my father, Kenneth Lawrence Ireland, at about the turn of the last century. It also shows 4 or five of the Ulmer family chomping on sandwiches. All the girls wore such stylish straw hats. The girl directly behind your grandfather was the eldest, Marie, about 5 years older than Grandpa, and the girl without a hat was called Babe. She was the youngest. She had a crush for your grandfather. When she came to your grandmother’s funeral at Saco, Maine, she hugged Pa at every opportunity.

The picture must have been taken in the vicinity of Shore Rocks, which is about one quarter the distance to Batson's river from Elen's right of way to the beach (in the direction of Boston, not in the direction of the North Pole). Last year Donnie and I spent a whole day trying to line up Timber Island (a small dot on extreme top of the picture which barely shows Timber Island and Curtis Point with the rock bar joining the two).

Donnie and I are going to hire a rowboat so that we can take pictures which we hope will give the exact spot of this picnic. The land on which this picture was taken is now water instead of the dry meadow of one hundred years ago. We expect to take pictures from the boat as the tide comes in. In this way we hope to match up the rocks in the foreground with Timber Island and Curtis point in the background. I will send you the picture which will do the job.

Cars played such a major role in those early years, at least as far as my father was concerned, I had to include this shot of the Ulmer’s car.


The one has lots of Ulmer’s and Ireland’s standing around the old big automobile:

Aunt Mary is not there. She was probably teaching Katharine Hepburn in grade school in Hartford at that time. Her older sister Marion Kellaway is the one with the pagoda hat and she had a motor mouth. The shorter dapper man beside Grandpa is her husband Chas Kellaway who was also a house builder, but your grandfather says he never saw him swing a hammer. You can always pick out your grandfather because you can pick out his large ears according to Elen. Pa's future wife, Gertrude Banks is about as far from grandpa as she can get in this picture, and I infer from this that the year this picture was taken was 1908 or 1909 because they were married in 1910, and I came along in 1913.

This brings us to the large power cruiser named Yvonne which my father built single handedly just a few years before I was born. This picture including Frank Fuller and my father is included on your hard disc from Donnie. Pa must have had mixed feelings when I came along, and he had to give up his membership at the South Boston Yacht club, as well as his necessity to sell Yvonne.

Notice the square-rigged tall ship on the horizon in right side of blown up portion. (I am afraid that it is barely visible. Take my word, it is there. I will ask Ken Jr. to make a larger and more distinct image).

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Early Years

I was born with a right branch bundle block in my heart, and a part of my large intestine was protruding from my lower groin about the size of a robin’s egg. All this happened during the evening of August 8, 1913 in the Newton Hospital near Boston.

Even though I started to walk at age one, my only memory is a brother arriving when I was 15 months old. Soon after that event, I began to realize that my world was expanding.

My father owned one of the few autos on the road at that time. It was a Buick Roadster with a cranky roof that could be put up during the winter or when it looked like rain was imminent. Speaking of cranks, all cars of that time had no electric starters, so a lot of cusswords were uttered when an engine became flooded and required cranking for about 5 to 10 minutes with the choke turned off. One memorable day we were driving from our home in Newton Centre to Waban to visit my father’s older sister Marion when we noticed a yellow blinking light in the center of the road ahead. My father called it a dummy policeman, but it was the beginning of the millions of traffic lights that we have today. When my brother Richard had grown too heavy for my mother to hold in her lap, my father bolted a small chair on the right hand fender of his single seated Buick. I only rode on it for a few times with a couple of falls into the gutter. We had no seat belts in cars until many years later. He finally bought a double-seated touring car which was the first in a line of many cars to come every 2 years or so.

We lived on Avondale Road which branched off Ward Street and ran down a rather steep hill for a few hundred feet before stopping at a huge dump for concrete and tar scraps from road building. To the rear of our house was a grove of skinny alder trees about 3 inches in diameter, and they were about 30 feet in height. Rich and I used to shinny up to the top and swing large arcs back and fourth for up to an hour at a time.

I remember the day that Rich got stuck in the crotch of a tree, and we couldn't get him out of it. I ran in to tell my grandmother Hart of the predicament. She at once phoned the fire department that immediately sent a hook and ladder at full throttle with siren and horns blasting out. All of our neighbors came running out to see what was happening. The firemen could not back the hook and ladder truck far enough into the woods so they grabbed a long regular ladder and set it up on Rich’s tree. They lifted him out in a jiffy and soon drove away.

When I was 4 years old, I happened to find out that there is no Santa Klaus. Just before Christmas I was getting my overcoat out of the front closet, when I noticed many packages wrapped in bright colored paper with red ribbons. I opened one and found it was a children’s bible instead of a toy. I looked no farther, but re-wrapped the bible as well as I could. On Christmas morning early I found that the bible was left to me by Santa. I immediately told Richie that Santa did not exist. Later, Richie asked my mother if Santa was dead, and I got a severe scolding for telling something that was really true, I think.

The next Christmas I received a real sled. I took it to the top of our hill and thought I could stop it by dragging my feet to keep from running into the grove of alder trees. When I started coasting down I quickly saw that I had miscalculated in stopping ability.

There was a thin layer of ice on top of the snow, and my feet could not penetrate this ice at all. In a jiffy I was in the alders and my head bumped into one of the larger trees. I must have been knocked out for a minute or so, because I woke to find myself screaming at this tree which got in my way. At this time a figure emerged from the mist. I thought it was the Virgin Mary, She had a scarf covering her hair and she had very nice brown eyes. She picked me up and asked me where I lived. She took my arm and pulled my sled until we got within eyesight of my house, She gave me a hug and disappeared as quickly as she arrived, I never saw her again.

When spring arrived that year when I was 5 another adventure was in the making. I was walking in the dump when I noticed a beat-up doll’s baby carriage somebody had left there. The wheels and springs were intact so I wheeled it home and bolted a medium sized soapbox where the body used to be. I found that I could steer this contraption with an oak branch hanging out in the rear. In spite of the scarcity of autos on the road it was a dangerous ride down the slope of Ward Street. One trip down the hill was enough for me.

I must mention the Boston Marathon. Just across the dump from where we lived was Commonwealth Avenue. On April 19 every year the 6o or more marathoners would pass by one at a time with intervals of a minute or more between them. At my first sight it seemed that they were all running in their summer underwear. Each one was accompanied by a bicyclist who had a pail of water hanging from his handle bar. The pail contained a large ladle used to pour water on the top of the runner’s head from time to time. I never saw one of them drinking from this ladle.

Up the hill on Ward Street there was a row of Maple trees whose lower branches were just right for climbing and chinning and other calisthenics. After school a group of about a dozen boys and girls would stop for some exercise Some of the older boys could chin themselves a dozen times without stopping, but none of them could climb higher than I because I weighed less than 50 lbs, and could climb like a monkey to the thinnest branches. I practiced hanging from my knees, later from my heels and toes. No one could do as well. When I had to urinate, going behind the nearest bush was enough for me. One day as I was relieving myself, one of the older girls caught me in the act. She asked me what was that pointing to my penis. I said it was my wetter, just like her brother’s or her father’s. She said that she had no brothers, and she was sure that her father did not have one. She then became very quiet and thoughtful, and I could almost see her putting two and two together. Abruptly she turned about face and hurried off. I could almost see her asking her mother a few pointed questions about anatomy.

Later that summer, before I was 6, we moved to Long Island where we were to spend 12 years, going all the way through grammar and high schools.