Families often have 'legends' that get passed down through the generations. They can vary from exciting, inspiring, intriguing, to heart warming and touching.
I know of a couple stories concerning my paternal grandfather, Frank. I am told that in his younger years he borrowed money from an individual, to start a business. It may have been the store he bought in Dixfield, Maine in 1924. During the term of the loan, the person he borrowed from passed away. Ultimately, my grandfather paid the balance of the loan to the deceased's son. The son was very surprised and told my grandfather that wasn't necessary or required. However, my grandfather insisted and explained that by his way of thinking it was the right thing to do.
The other story of my grandfather took place while he was a father of his first child. Now I have to stop and explain that my grandfather was normally soft spoken and non-confrontational. He was living in an apartment with my grandmother and their small child. The story goes that it was winter time and the apartment was very cold. Too cold for a wife and child according to my grandfather's mind. The heat was controlled from an adjacent apartment that the land lord lived in. Eventually the problem was more then my grandfather could or would tolerate. He went to the land lord's apartment and made it very clear that the status quo would not be tolerated any longer. I do not know the details of the confrontation.
In short order, the temperature of my grandfather's apartment was corrected.
This is a personal account from one of my cousins, Lori, that she shared with me:
I remember your stepbrothers, Your dad, stepmother and stepbrothers came to visit us in Salem a few times. I remember before he remarried, he spent Christmas with us in Derry. You were there and we gave you a wallet with money in it and we have videos of you being so excited with the gift and counting the money. I remember Christmas with Gram and Grandpa. There is one with Grandpa helping me with my Chatty Cathy doll. He was just such a gentle soul.
My father never spoke of his experiences in World War II and the Korean War. I had the impression that many of the memories were those he did not want to recollect. One of the few things I know of those experiences are contained in a commendation he received while in the Navy:
Your performance of duty as pharmacist's mate on board the USS YMS 351 in Dec. 1944 has been brought to my attention. On Dec. 24, 1944, you performed outstanding service in rendering assistance to survivors of the torpedoed transport Leopoldville. On Dec. 26, 1944, your ship was called upon to help rescue wounded and survivors from a torpedoed British destroyer escort off Cherbourg Harbor. You showed initiative and fore handedness in aiding twelve men picked up by your ship. One of the survivors was in a very critical condition. You promptly injected blood plasma, bound a four inch gash in his head, bound a hole in his hip, placed splints on one of his legs which was broken in three places, eased his pain, and relieved his shock. Undoubtedly this man was saved by your skill and prompt action. For your initiative, judgement, and tireless devotion to duty on these occasions, you are hereby commended. This commendation carries with it the privilege of wearing the commendation ribbon. A copy of this letter will be forwarded to the Chief of Naval Personnel to be filed in your official record.
(Signed) Harold R. Stark, Admiral, US Navy
My memories of my mother are fragmentary, but my older sister, Kathleen, has some vivid memories:
Lorraine loved movies. Joan Crawford was her favorite star. She liked reading historical novels, mysteries and non-fiction. She wasn't a good cook but she made things kids like: BLT's, Franco-American spaghetti, pineapple upside-down cake, a layered graham cracker/chocolate pudding/whipped cream refrigerated cake and right-out-of-the-oven chocolate cake with melted butter on top. She herself liked Spanish rice, bread and milk or crackers and milk with sugar and eating onions like apples! She could crochet beautifully-wonderful pineapple design doilies and many, many afghans.
She loved to color. As a child, I was always impressed with the choice and softness of her colors and how beautifully they were emphasized when she outlined them in black. There was one beautifully illustrated kitty coloring book in which I especially remember her coloring. I don't remember the pages that I did, but I can still see hers.
She could take the ugliest drab apartments/houses and within no time magically transform them into a warm nest. She loved yellow kitchens with ruffled shear or yellow tiebacks. She loved roosters and had a grand collection in her kitchen. And there was always the warm glow of wall lamps in the kitchen, she hated overhead lighting.
She really enjoyed doing laundry and bringing the fresh smelling clothes in from the outdoors, even in winter. She would sit for hours taking pleasure in ironing those clothes, including underwear and pajamas.
She was extremely generous, good-hearted and gentle.
She believed and taught that a person should be judged by what is in their heart and that a person should not be judged by the color of their skin, religion, origin, or their financial or educational standing.
She sincerely loved people and made friends easily and could talk to anyone. She had the "gift of gab" and could put people at ease. She was gifted with the ability to make people feel good. People instantly took to her. There was something sad, innocent and genuine in her which people could sense. She had many friends and I never met one of her friends who would say anything disparaging about her. On the other hand, there are those who can only see her weaknesses and failings.
Again, another entry about my grandfather (might be a bit biased since I had the privilege of being raised by my grandparents during my teen years). This is from Maine-A History Vol III, Editor-Harrie B. Coe:
After a varied experience in several different lines of business activity, Frank purchased a grocery store in Dixfield, Maine and here he has been successfully engaged since 1924. Frank received his early school training in the public schools of his birthplace. Later he continued study in the high school at Canton, Maine, for two years and when that course was completed he engaged in the grocery business in Peru, continuing there for three years. He then went to Rumford, Maine, where for three years he was employed in a creamery. His next job was in a grocery store in Rumford, but after spending one year in that connection, he purchased the grocery business of George Heffron, in Dixfield, in 1924, and since that time has been successfully conducting that enterprise. He is a Republican and an earnest supporter of the policies of that party, and he is also a public-spirited citizen, who is anxious to advance the interest of the town of Dixfield. He is a member of the Tuscan Lodge, No. 22, Independent Order of Odd Fellows; and of Peru Grange, Patrons of Husbandry; and his religious interest is with the Methodist church of Rumford, Maine.
It would be unjust if I didn't mention something about my grandmother, Ruby, who was Frank's wife. This is an excerpt from the Pleasant Street Methodist Church of Waterville, Program of the Dedication of the New Sanctuary, June 13, 1954:
....Ruby, who serves in a position of great responsibility as President (of the Woman's Society of Christian Service), expresses the hope in her report that all women of the Church may find themselves eventually in the working ranks of the Society, and adds: "In order to bring this about, I feel that it means unceasing work on the part of our members to promote fellowship among ourselves, practicing the Christian principles of love and forbearance, and to stamp out the evils of petty criticism and jealousy which are so prone to raise their ugly heads about us. Let us pray unceasingly that this may come to pass."
Though I never personally knew the man, it's nice to know that my 6th great grandfather, James, is part of my roots. This is from Genealogical And Family History of the State of Maine, Vol. IV - Little:
Numerous settlers came from England about 1715 and settled in the old seaport town of Falmouth, on the coast of Maine. When they arrived the town had been occupied by the descendants of the English settlers who first came under George Cleeve and Richard Tucker for forty-four years. The settlement was founded in 1633, on land known under the Indian name Mashigonne, but the Indians destroyed the town in 1676, and it was not rebuilt until 1680, under President Darforth. The town was again entirely destroyed by the French and Indians in 1690, and the inhabitants who escaped death took refuge in the surrounding towns and came to look upon Falmouth as impossible of again rising from it's ashes. It was largely with the help of new immigrants, who had not caught the pessimistic spirit engendered by twice fleeing for their lives from the horror of Indian warfare, that the place was re-inhabited. It took twenty-five years to overcome this spirit of fatalism, and in 1719 the town of Falmouth was organized and from that time a steady and determined growth was made. It was under such conditions that James found Falmouth in 1711, when he arrived on the coast of Maine from his home in England, looking for a home in the new world. He joined the band of hardy pioneers determined to rebuild a settlement so favorable located for trade and commerce. He was born in England, and was a young single man when he arrived in Maine. He needed companionship, and found his future wife in the person of a young woman named Elizabeth. They were married before 1723, and just as the town of Falmouth, of which he was a pioneer re-builder, had sprung Phoenix like from its ashes, after they had been undisturbed a quarter of a century by a scattered, indifferent and cowed refugee people. He was probably a member of the church community gathered by Rev. Thomas Smith, who organized in Falmouth the first church east of the Saco river, March 7, 1727. His children attended the first school under the pioneer schoolmaster, Robert Bayley, after its organization in 1773. He took his wife and children in 1738-40 to Gorham, a settlement ten miles west of Falmouth, known as Naragansett Number Seven, where a settlement had been started in 1736. The place became known as Gorhamtown, in honor of Captain John Gorham, and had been granted to soldiers who served in King Philip's war in 1728. When the Indians threatened to burn the town, he fled from his farm to the garrison for greater safety, and when this danger was over he returned to his farm, where he died.
A little about my maternal grandfather, Florian. He was a member of the "Blackwatch" in Regiment #23332 in the Canadian Cycle Battalion in the Canadian Expeditionary Force and served in France. He received his US Citizenship on September 30, 1929. He was a driller where he would drill into rock so that explosives could be placed into the holes for blasting them in Vermont quarries. He was also a fireman on the New York Central Railroad. My grandparents divorced so I only remember meeting him once, though there may have been other times. Though I was a child, I remember him as a broken man in a dead end job washing dishes in a restaurant. Not all stories have a happy ending.
Knowing something about past family members gives me a sense of connection to them. This knowledge sometimes helps me recognize traits and mannerisms in the family that gets passed on. Is it programmed in our DNA or influenced by our environment? I love hearing stories and reading histories about my progenitors.
Every book is a quotation; and every house is a quotation out of all forests, and mines, and stone quarries; and every man is a quotation from all his ancestors. - Ralph Waldo Emerson