Sunday, September 14, 2014

Amanuensis Monday - Uncle Joe (Hobbs)

This 7th installment of Howard Matthews' story contains mostly dry factual information about family members but also talks about an old Pennsylvania railroad.

And then there was an annual summer visit to the home of Uncle Joe (my mother's brother) in Scranton.  They had five children:  Joe, Jr., Fred, Milton, Emily and Ada.  Emily, named after my mother's sister, married Harrison Creswell, an Englishman, who ran the Scranton Lace Works and was a star soccer player.  Ada, named after my mother, never married, became an Osteopathic physician with an office in Scranton.  Joe, Jr. became a pharmacist.  Fred, a year older than I, was initially a banker, then became one of the top executives of the original Coca Cola Co., and lived in Virginia.  Milton, a year younger than I, became an electrical engineer and died rather young of cancer.  We have lost track of all except Joseph Creswell, son of Harrison and Emily (now deceased) but still hear from Mrs. Joe Creswell each Christmas season.

Just recently I received a letter from Robert Cresswell, the second son of Emily and Harrison Cresswell, in which he gave the following information about Uncle Joe's family:

     Rita, -     died in infancy (I had not known of this child)
     Ada-       born 1888, retired Osteopathic Dr never married, died 11-12-80
     Emily      born 1886  Cresswell                                            died August 1954
     Joseph     born 1894 Chemical Co Executive                       died 10-19-76
     Fred        born 1900 Coca Cola Executive                           died May 1967
     Milton     born 1902 Electrical Contractor                            died 12-14-60

Robert Cresswel, from whom I received the above, lives in Atlanta, Georgia.  Vicky Cresswell, widow of Robert's brother Joe, lives in California.  They visited us when we lived in Chicago, and we hear from her every Christmas season.  The only other survivor of this group is Milton's wife, Averil, who lives in Arizona.

I must have been quite young, perhaps six or seven, when I was first permitted to make the journey to Scranton all alone.  This involved taking the "Cannonball"*, a fast two-car electric train, which ran from Wilkes-Barre to Scranton via Pittston, and selecting a date on which Uncle Joe could meet me at the Scranton station, and take me, via street car, to his home in the Green Ridge residential section of Scranton.  As the street car passed the Scranton jailhouse, Uncle Joe never failed to remind me that I'd better be good or I would end up there!

*The Laurel Line, which was the principal mode of transportation to Rocky Glen, was an electric powered railroad with frequent daily runs between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre by way of Pittston with stops along the right of way, at little shed-like structures for the passengers as they awaited the train.
The Laurel Line began operation on May 20, 1903, earning the nickname "The Cannonball" because of its fast service between Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, a trip which required 43 minutes. This included stops along the way including two stations en route, in Plains and Pittston. The trains received power from an electrically charged third rail adjacent to the tracks. This power source was eliminated when the train entered Wilkes-Barre and Scranton when the power was obtained by overhead trolley wires.
In its heyday, the Laurel Line carried millions of passengers with a peak year in 1921 with 4,229,516 passengers. The largest single day was on Memorial Day in 1924 when 72,242 people were carried to the John Mitchell statue unveiling in Scranton. In contrast, on Memorial Day, 1952, only 3,000 passengers used the line.
The last run of the popular carrier was on New Year's Eve, 1952, as the train made a symbolic journey from Wilkes-Barre to Scranton, tooting its familiar horn while it rolled through the many towns along the right of way.
My family and I were among those who saw its last run that New Year's Eve. We stepped out to my back yard and looking down the ravine behind our home, we watched the venerable old train as it slowly rolled by for the last time, passing into obscurity. ("Remembering the great days of Rocky Glen" "Rembering the great days of Rocky Glen" Richard Cosgrove, As I Was Saying, Published: June 22, 2010.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday - On the Haddam Road

This photo from a scanned slide was taken by my father, Stephen Matthews, in the fall of 1950 or 1949 on the Haddam Road in Connecticut.  The colors are a bit off but still so vivid 64 years later.

Stephen David Matthews (Apr 20, 1936 - Mar 16, 2005) son of Dagmar Alice Viola Anderson and Howard Bierly Matthews.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Amanuensis Monday - Chores and Earning Money

It has been some time since I have posted from my grandfather's story. This is part Six.  My grandfather wrote about his house chores and how he earned spending money.

It was my job each day to shake down the kitchen stove fire, remove the ashes, and refill the coal bucket with anthracite which I brought up from the large coal bin in the basement.  And I went through the same process with the large hot air furnace in the basement which heated the upper floors through ducts leading to registers in the floors of each room.  Each Saturday morning I hauled the ashes to the local dump, using my sled when there was snow and my small wagon in milder weather.  Another chore each Sunday night was to take our laundry to the home of our wash-woman who lived beyond the cemetery at the head of Nafus Street.  To a 10-year-old this seemed a treacherous journey and I am sure I broke speed records going past that burying ground.*  On Tuesday nights I retrieved the laundry, all clean and ironed.  I can still smell the wash-lady's kitchen-hot, steamy, soapy and that odor of freshly hand-ironed things.

I was always encouraged to work to earn money for things I wanted.  This included selling and delivering the Saturday Evening Post and the Ladies Home Journal.  Among my favorite customers were the two sisters who operated the German Kitchen on Broad Street.  They always treated me to a dish of ice cream.  One of the sisters, Anna Dommermuth, became the wife of my brother Roy.

One year I had an out-of-town paper route, delivering only the New York and Philadelphia papers.  These came in on an early Lehigh Vally RR train and I delivered them by 8 a.m. via bicycle to the homes of the well-to-do who lived along the riverfront in West Pittston.  I bought the bicycle with money earned selling "Larkin" soaps, etc.

One summer, when I was 13 or 14 I worked on a truck farm, weeding, cultivating, picking strawberries, and preparing, bunching vegetables for delivery to local markets--10 hours a day, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., six days a week for 15 cents per hour!

But not all was work; school, skating, sledding in the winter, baseball with grownups in the evening, hiking and bicycle trips.  And lazy hours after dark, when the family sat on the front porch, eagerly awaiting my mother's announcement that it was now time to bring out a pitcher of lemonade or, that as soon as Nick Sardoni came along in his wagon, we would have ice cream.  I have never since then tasted as good ice cream.

*My great-grandparents are now buried in this cemetery along with two sons (including Roy, mentioned above) and a daughter-in-law.  You can read a bit about that here.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Shopping Saturday - Shopping in Pittston, PA

This is one of those frustrating photos that provides a certain window into the past, but just doesn't come with enough information give you more answers than questions.

I found this completely unmarked photo in a box of things belonging to my grandfather that my father had in his basement when he died.

All I can say for certain about this photo is that people are shopping.  Even saying it was taken in Pittston is an assumption, although if all of the people on the customers' side of the counter are together, then I don't think they would have traveled to another town's (what appears to be) General Store with the men in filthy work clothes.

The older male in the photo certainly looks like the only photo I have of my great grandfather, Arthur Matthews, and the older of the women certainly could pass for my great grandmother, Ada.  But there isn't enough detail in her face to say how old she is here.  The older male could be Arthur's eldest son William. I have no photos of the older children, so it all hinges on the year the photo was taken and I have no idea.

Sometime this fall I should be going to my step-mother's house to help her sort through my dad's things and I'll find out if there are anymore things of my grandfather's in storage.  Who knows what I will find - answers or more questions?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sentimental Sunday - The Haddam Neck Fair

I am feeling very Sentimental today.  Yesterday Donald & I went to the Haddam Neck Fair in Haddam Neck, CT, something that I did with my parents and my father's parents when I was a child.

Labor Day 1972

Also Labor Day 1972

I hadn't been to the fair in many years, but Donald & I were looking for something relatively inexpensive to do last year and I thought of this and we obviously had a great time because we went again this year.

Walking from the parking field to the tractor pulling ring it almost seemed as if I had stepped back in time.  It looked as though nothing had changed from the 70s until I saw the ATM tent and the Tai food vendor.   Even so, it still feels like a slice of another time.

This was the 103rd year of the Haddam Neck Fair which runs from Friday afternoon through Monday night every Labor Day weekend.  Next year I want to go on Labor Day as we did when I was young and see the antique tractor pull instead of the modified tractors.

Missing from the old days was the volunteer firefighter's dunk tank and pie-in-the-face fundraisers which my father loved to try his hand at, but a wonderful newer addition is a church that fundraises barbequing half chickens over a huge pit served with the sweetest, juiciest corn I've ever had, no condiments necessary.

Due to scanner issues, I don't have any pictures of the five of us at the fair that I can share, but here is one I took of my parents and grandparents in my bedroom at our old house (click to enlarge if your eyes can handle my totally 70s wallpaper!).

Getting to Haddam Neck from Long Island means going through Middletown, home of Wesleyan University, where my grandparents lived from the time I was born until they died and where they are buried, at Indian Hill Cemetery, adjacent to the Wesleyan campus.

Both my father and grandfather went to Wesleyan, and my grandfather spent the last twenty years of his career there, as Vice President of Business Affairs.  So the whole town is like a trip down memory lane and even driving through it makes me sentimental.

When we visited the cemetery last year, we found my grandparents headstone tipped over.  The cemetery management took care of the issue right away. We went back yesterday and took these photos.

Click on the last photo to see the view from their plot, it really is spectacular in person.

It can be hard to revisit places like this when three of the four people you shared them with are gone (my father died in 2005) but we made new memories, and we will definitely keep going back.

Have a wonderful Labor Day Weekend!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sepia Saturday 216: Suits and Hats

When I first saw the prompt for this Sepia Saturday, I immediately thought of one of the photos from my grandfather's albums from Bishops College School.  Something about this photo has amused me since the first time I saw it.

Prefects - 15

Bishops College School (BCS) was a prep school for boys only in Lennoxville, Quebec back when my grandfather and some of his brothers attended.  Today it is co-ed having amalgamated with King's Hall Compton, a girls' school, in the 70s.

This photo was taken by my grandfather, George Washington Smith, who was born on February 22, 1898.  He was a student in 1915 when he took this picture which includes his brother Herb (second from left) when he took this picture captioned in his album, "Prefects 15."

What I think I find amusing about this photo is that these four boys don't look like prefects to me; they look like they are having a very serious clandestine meeting, like the heads of four families, or their consiglieri.  Maybe it's the hats.  As was pointed out in the post for this week's prompts, hats did not survive as a fashion choice in the same way that suits have and these days we see them most often in period movies, or at Sepia Saturday.

Thank you for stopping by and giving me an excuse to share one of my favorite old photos.  Happy Sepia Saturday!

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