Wednesday, October 26, 2011

“Us young heathens”


Wednesday, January 18, 1939

Dear Dr. Higginbottom,

It was a joyful treat to hear you this evening and to hear you speak of Daddy. When you and Mrs. Higginbottom come back on furlough each five years you both look younger and happier each time. And—from what you say, India’s climate is not particularly comfortable.

This note is to warn you that there will be a group of “Us young heathens” at Mother’s on Saturday. Many of my young married friends for one reason or another try to, and do, live good Christian lives—but find very little time to go to church and renew their faith.

So, in your own wonderful way, won’t you please re-interpret the actual value of Christ’s commands for us? Your simple vivid teaching tonight, using some of our American slang, brought home again to me the same sturdy faith in the Bible that was my father’s. Thank you! Then, too, it is good for us to be reminded that in the Foreign field all Christian faiths and denominations do work together in fact as well as in spirit. If you ever do come back to the United States more or less permanently, I hope you’ll help us untangle such problems as flood control and soil erosion. I’m sure you could.

Please use the enclosed for whatever you think best, be it more grapefruit trees, or a multiple pen for saving your time in signing the very fine letters you send home—some 3000, Mrs. Higginbottom says! Of course this comes in remembrance of Allen Collier, and of Charlie Vail too, both of whom worked at the same task as yours but in other fields. If possible to do so, I’ll try to send the same amount to you quarterly.

Cordially yours,

Caroline Collier Russel

P.S. Albert had to spend tonight at work with a client; he is looking forward to seeing you on Saturday. C.C.R.

"Things seem to get harder for us in place of better"

Dear Dr. Halsey,

We had a hoped by this time to have sent you all or at least a part of what we owe you.

Things seem to get harder for us in place of better, we are not giving up, but we are discouraged.

We want you to know we have not forgotten you and your help and are hoping soon that things will break for us so we can show you we mean it.

We went to the country after Hubert left us, took a cheap little place and set about to get ahead.

In a few weeks the C.&D. laid off there [sic] men and in 2 months Lois and Bob came home it was hard but we kept working on. Then the baby came she was less than a year old, when my brother came down and asked me to help him with the care of Mamma and Dad as he could not send them as much as he had.

We had no money so all we could do was take them in with us. That ment [sic] a larger place and more expense. Lois and Bob said they would move and try it for themselves.

My brother gave me $45.00 a month to help with the expense, we did it for 3 yrs.

We were trying to help Lois and Bob what little we could, we gave them all their butter, milk and other little things, I was sick and the work and worry was more than I could stand and Lois needed us so badly.

Mamma and Dad thought they could do better alone.

Weldon got work in a garage in Montgomery while working there things picked up and Weldon got a better chance with Elliot in Reading Rd. Ford.

Then you know of Lois and Bob’s trouble, we then made a home for Lois and the babies. Things looked brighter but in Jan. Lois was taken to the hospital. But after a time we started to save a little again when I got a letter from my brother telling me he had lost his position and had no money. That I would have to take Dad. In March we got a larger house moved Dad in. In May 2 mos later, Elliot close up throwing Weldon out of work, with Lois her 2 babies and Dad beside ourselves to take care of. What little we had was soon gone. Weldon did every thing to make ends meet, but you know conditions.

In Jan. Weldon got a truck and is trying to build up a bakery business, it is very slow and people are out of work so they can’t buy much, but we believe if we can hang on physically, and financially, for a little while longer we can make a living out of it, and get some of your money to you. We don’t mind how hard the work if we can only do what is right for Lois and these babies and pay our way. Right now it is mighty tough, but we are hoping soon to get ahead. We do thank you and want you to know we haven’t forgotten you.

You have been an inspiration to us all.

Lois gets no help from her husband at all. And the little she makes don’t go very far, but she is much happier now, and we do so want to take care of her and the children.

With our deepest gratitude and thanks we are,

Mr. & Mrs. Weldon Leist

We hope you understand.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"she is making a man of Chas"

W.W. Bishop
Clearview Farm
Southampton, N.Y.
March 9, ‘39

Dear Jesse,
My daughter makes a terrible fuss every time I write using single spacing and I suppose other people mind it just as much but don’t dare speak up, so I’ll try to remember to keep the double space on. I have been trying to write to you for a month now—but don’t worry I won’t try to write all I’ve thought in this note. First of all, we wall want to thank you for the grand cheese—we use it on every occasion and still wwe have a good size hunk left—I can’t write a poem but we are enjoying it very much just the same.

Last week I had a chance to ride to Baltimore with Oyie (Wiltshire) and spent a day with Helen—she has been having some sinus trouble but is better now—heading south and a bit west made me think of last Spring and wish that I was repeating my visit but guess I’ll have to stick here for the present. Chas brought his family down for the weekend and he tells me that you will be coming east in March and will plan to take time to come out here—we’ll be counting on it and just let me know where you want me to meet you and I’ll be there at the specified time. We did enjoy Cameron so much—he is a little monkey and lots of fun. I tell you there are few girls like Justine—she is making a man of Chas (I always said he’d grow to be a good one some day but she is speeding the process).

Potatoes are almost gone from our farm and we are expecting the new seed in next week and if we get a few dry days we will be plowing: are you going to be sending any messages over the radio to the “Farmers on Eastern LI” at plowing time this year?

Rented the other house finally—very nice people and guess I’ll have to be satisfied with $35 a month—it is better than having the house stand empty and will help pay some of the expense of the properties that Mother and Dad left me; so far they have been mostly expense—there is lots of real value in the things but they don’t pay any dividends now; just finished paying Harri Micah this week, $865—came rather hard out of potatoes at $.72 per bu.

I wish you were a smoker—just discovered a tobacco that is cured with Vermont maple syrup and Jamaica rum—I haven’t used a pipe for years but this is so good that I’m back it hard as ever.

My row boat is already in the water and in commission and I know just where the clam rakes are—all we need now is a little heat in the water and we can go right on where we left off last Summer. I burned off all the paint this year from the boat and have adorned her with a new coat of light gray and green—she’s a bird. The other day I went up to Scallop Pond and tried my luck with boots but only dug out four clams—I never could do anything till I get in nearly to my neck.

Just to make you sore I’ll tell you that “Did” Beeman brought us a good mess of fat long clams today and tonight we are going to have fried crisp with crumbs in deep fat—yum yum.

Must get back to work now and be sure not to let anything interfere with the plants to get out here next time you come east.


Friday, October 21, 2011

"where the bays and the ocean are easily available"

Clearview Farm
Southampton, N.Y.
W.W. Bishop
Jan. 25, ‘39

Dear Jess:
It seems ages since I heard from you or anything about you but having followed you around in Cin. I know that you are one busy man and have little time to do the things you like to do yourself. We are having real Winter and no mistake—plenty of snow and all the ponds are frozen—it rained Sunday and last night so that the ponds are clear—this AM the temp. was bout 35 but the wind has been rising steadily and the temp dropping steadily all day till it seems almost like a hurricane and the temp is 24—feels like the side of the house was not there. Guess we’ll have to have a good fire in the potato house tonight. Pot. market is slow and priced dropped to $1.40 per cwt and acts like it would stay there although the crop reports would indicate a higher price. We have taken one load out of the cellar with Jimmy’s conveyor-works swell and Levi and I can do what otherwise would take 4 men. Jim seems more and more interested in his work at Cornell and is now planning to get a job on a big farm in Penn for the Summer—I have advised him that there were lots of things that a Dad could not teach a son and have encouraged his trying for a job away from home—hope it materializes.

Alma is not taking the Winter term course at the school for Social Work and I miss the trips to NY and the other attending excitements. Haven’t seen Chas or family since before Xmas but have had a couple of letters from C.—Alma is getting is auto license in Riverhead today and we expect him out Sunday to get it—think he works all day every Sat. now—hope he brings Justine and Cameron too.

We are having quite a time helping Bob decide between Cornell, St. Lawrence and Middlebury for next year—guess we’ll have to take a trip into Vermont and over to the St. Lawrence valley next Spring, stopping by at Ithaca and let that decide if we don’t get it settled before.

Wish you would send me a tenant for the other house—aren’t there some of your people who would like to get out of the heat in Cin. this Summer that might be interested in a comfortable house that is situated where the bays and the ocean are easily available?

Wish I was going to be with you again this Spring but thank God I have no excuse like last year for getting away from home—it is wonderful to feel alive and not afraid all the time once more.

Write when you can and if you are to be in NY let me know and perhaps I can get in; and if you can spare an extra day, say so, and I’ll be glad to bring you out here.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

April 11, 1939: CHH to JH

Dear Dad:

Your Easter Cards with enclosures arrived as did your birthday card also. Our Thanks, and appreciation from all of us to you for the bit of Happy Easter that you sent. Acknowledgement of the receipt of your letters is late as there have been numerous things to do since and before Easter. However this letter will tell you that all has been received safely as well as a package addressed to his Royal Nibs the Master Jr. from the H. & S. Pogue Company. I did not open it but forwarded it to Winsted where Cameron and Justine are spending most of this week.

We drove up Friday afternoon late arriving there at 8:45. It was a nice change for all of us. I benefited by the two day vacation that I had and I know that the two other members of the family will get a lot of good out of their prolonged stay. I envy them for at this point I could do very nicely with a week’s vacation at least. However that is not my lot. I sometimes regret that I didn’t become a school teacher of some kind. I think I would have made a good one and with it three months vacation in the summer and several weeks at other times.

Saturday Mother Comstock had a little celebration in honor of my birthday. She thought it was on the 8th, but at that what we had to eat was just as good then as it would have been on the sixth. The Baileys came in for diner and the main course was Turkey with all the fixings. A grand treat it was, I only wish that you all could have been at the table too.

Saturday while in Winsted I went to see Dr. Royce about a tooth that has bothered me this winter. Apparently there is an abscess on the root and he advises having the molar extracted. Do you suppose that Dr. McMillan would be able to recommend a Dentist here that would not charge too much and who would know what it was all about. Dr. Royce did not think best to do it at Winsted because the tooth would need treatment and stated that a dentist more familiar with extraction could probably do a better job. Perhaps you have a suggestion.

A young lady here in the office asked me the other day if I knew of any good book that would depict the beginning and rise of Presbyterianism. In other words a history of the Relegation, how it started and by whom. Also the various splits that it has had. I told her that I did not know off hand and that I would ask you, as you would know the best book of that kind that is published. Give the name and author.

I was glad to hear that Freck was improving a little. I hope that the improvement is continuous.

Thanks again for all that you have done for us, both now and in the past.

Our Love to you all,

Your devoted Son,

552 Riverside Drive, N.Y.C

Babbie's Dream


Thurs. Night [June 1, 1939]

Dear Jess,
What is this I hear through Mr. Ells and Mr. Moyer that you are appointed Vice Moderator with Dr. Higginbotton? You did not say anything about that in your letter. What does it mean? More work? Or more glory? Or a double-beated campaign the church union and missionary enterprise? Let the world move on. God bless you, only let me know about it, what shall I tell your inquiring friends?

Memorial Day was fine with Nan and Jack at their camp and Gardner Jagger the only representative of our older generation and Babbie slipping into their ranks watching waters of young the bathers. Boo, Louise, Boogie came for the night with me and broke the loneliness of the first night the old house.

Yesterday I went to Ibby’s for the night of little Jerry’s second birthday—found them well although Jean had had tonsillitis. I had a dream that has been with me all day, thought Edward came up the stairs bringing Lizbeth in his arms. I said, “O my Darling, you have come back to me!” She murmured, “Don’t talk to me just yet. I’ll be all right in a minute.” What you know were the last words she said to me. Her voice, the moment of experience, all so real, have been with me all day.

I wish you would write to Boo asking him about the estate encouraging him to keep after the real estate people about the house. Ed is away. It is all new to him. The market is bad and the place is eating itself up as it is—people are just beginning to rent, things here are so backward, but now are looking surprising well in the village, at the beach.

Goodnight and congratulations.


When are the gals coming?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Y.M.C.A. Eagle Hut

Following the U.S. entry into World War One in April 1917 and subsequent shipment of American soldiers to France for active duty, servicemen's centres were established throughout the world but most notably in Europe.  This had been initiated a week earlier with the publication of a General Order (#26-II-1) by U.S. Commander-in-Chief General John Pershing.

Published on 28 August 1917 it affirmed that the Y.M.C.A. would "provide for the amusement and recreation of the troops by means of its usual programme of social, physical, educational and religious services."
Perhaps the most famous of the servicemen's centres was the so-called Eagle Hut opened in London on 3 September 1917.  Operated by the Y.M.C.A. the centre, staffed by some 800 voluntary personnel, offered overnight accommodation and food for American servicemen passing through London.
The centre additionally helped with arrangements for London sightseeing tours and entertainment.  Turnover was heavy: in February 1919 alone 134,566 meals were served.  The Eagle Hut remained open beyond the armistice, finally closing its doors on 25 August 1919.
Many other such centres were operated worldwide, each funded through a combination of public government and private subscriptions.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Babuska: From the Russia Folder

by Jesse Halsey

In a Russian home the grandmother is always the boss. No matter how large the house or the household, “Babushka rules the roost.” A son may marry and bring home his bride; she merely becomes another subject in grandma’s realm. The house may grow and sprout wings in all directions, as one son after another marries, but so long as she lives the “little grandmother” is supreme.

Of course, my verbs should be in the past tense. It used to be that way before the Revolution. In the topsy-turvy world of Bolshevism things are very different. But, in the old days . . . it was then I saw the country . . .

One night, after a long day’s journey by sledge, we came, my friend and I, to a hamlet frozen fast to the shore of the White Sea. The snow was deep, the going heavy, and our horses were tired out. So were we. There was no tavern, but we found no difficulty in securing lodging in a big, rambling, log house near the church. The Russians are always hospitable—or were, at least, in those days. In the spacious central room, that was combined kitchen and living quarters, there were a dozen children. Some hid behind their respective mothers, while the older boys stood their ground in honest wonder, looking over the first Americans they had ever seen.

We asked for keptok (hot water for making tea). And presently a steaming samovar was brought and put upon the heavy-legged table that stood at one end of the room. Meanwhile, taking off our heavy over-clothing, one layer after another, we warmed our hands against the white-washed side of the great brick oven-stove that was built four-square in the center of the room.

Then, rummaging in our duffel-bags, we found our tea and sugar and utensils and started to brew the tea.

During these preparations, while the younger women of the house were waiting on us, the little old grandma sat in a corner near the stove rocking a sick child. His moaning was like an undertone to all our clatter and talking.

Tea, though it be imbibed glass after glassful, is scant provision for famished Americans, and the crusts of black bread that were offered by the war-bled family added little comfort, even when smeared with half-frozen jam from our supply. We were famished! So, out of my bag I pulled a can of beans and, with my limping vocabulary, asked permission to build a fire in the big stove that we might heat them. The young woman relayed my request, in much more elegant and speedy language, to her mother-in-law and Babushka, much to my surprise, answered with a resounding Netu, which even the poorest linguist might have guessed, had they heard the emphasis, means “NO.”

When we were at our fifth glass of tea, or thereabouts, (you never keep count), the sick child set up such a piteous wailing that I showed my interest, by my looks I suppose, for I had no diagnostic Russian words. The grandmother reluctantly uncovered the red, swollen hand of the six-year-old youngster whom she held on her lap. It was an ugly sight, swollen to the elbow, but with a distinct localization on the palm below the thumb, it was throbbing with fever.

Largely by motion, I suggested treatment. Now, the Russians have a convenient word, which happened to be in my vocabulary. As I was hunting through my pack for the medicine kit, Babushka kept asking me if I were a doctor. When, finally, I understood, I answered “No.” But I hastened to add, “I am a Felcher.” And this I could say in all honesty, having lived in a mission hospital for some years where one does all sorts of practical things, when doctors are away, from pulling teeth to delivering babies.

“Yah, Felcher,” said I. (“I’m a ‘sort of Doctor.’”)

“Chorosho,” said Grandma, (That means “Good.”) bobbing her head in assent.

Some bichloride (which we carried to wash off cooties) went into a big bowl of warm water (the Captain, who looked on, warned me not to mix it with our tea) and then the boy soaked his hand for a while. The heat relieved the pain somewhat, I suppose, at any rate he sat quietly in grandmother’s lap, watching my every move. Then, I swabbed off the hand with alcohol. He didn’t move, half fascinated. With a quick slash, while grandma turned his face away, I drew the sharp lancet deep across the swollen palm. The little fellow howled from surprise more than from pain, but in a moment we had his hand immersed again in the blue water. Presently it was bandaged, and in no time he was off to sleep.

Then it came grandma’s time for action. She called one of her sons, and in almost no time he came back in with chips and split wood and a fire was roaring in the great furnace-like stove.

Pseuoste, Pseuoste. (Please, please) and much more that we did not understand, but lavish gestures made the intent evident.

I hacked open the frozen beans and put them in an iron pot that they gave us. Then another can, that the family might have a taste. Everyone seemed happy now and more tea was brewed. The captain got some cognac from his bag, and he and Babushka had a nip. On and on she talked, ordering her daughters here and there, scooting the numerous grandchildren out of the way when they came near with ever increasing boldness, as the Captain shared his meager supply of chocolate.

In the midst of our festivity, with a great commotion, off the top of the stove rolled old Grandpa, dripping with sweat and swearing (I suppose) volubly. Grandma was quite equal to the situation, for she speedily explained things, and soon had grandfather shaking hands with the Amerikanski offitzer. We had learned some things, in addition to a few new words for our poor, but expanding, vocabulary: First, a Russian stove is to cook in but to sleep on (that is as true today as it was twenty years ago). And, second, Babushka rules the roost. That is, alas, past tense now and, for aught I know, they may have changed even the name, along with everything else, and the Soviets may now have no grandmothers. I don’t know. Babushka may be gone now, but in the good old days she was an institution, as well as The Person of the house.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Aunt Libby

from In the East Riding of Yorkshire:
(Quasi-Auto-Biographical. Written for one’s children.)
by Jesse Halsey 

There was the remains of an old fort not far from our house and adjoining our farm. It was near enough the little school house, where we went, that during recess all the boys would run there to play war. On lucky days I commanded the attacking party. That was the American army—the attacking one for the fort had been built by the British when they occupied East Riding after the battle of Long Island.

The house where the British General Sir Wm. Erskine dined still stands next door, but one, to mine. It is a veritable museum of the accumulated colonial wealth of many generations. Its present owner is one of my closest friends. Likewise our children, as were our father and their fathers before them. This kind of consanguinity of the spirit is thicker than blood and defies time.

Of an evening neighbors would come in, Uncle Bill Fowler who had been to California in ’49, had mortgaged his farm to go; came home penniless and had to go back to his masons trade. His nephew John Fowler who mixed mortar for him lived on for many years. He would come to help my father hoe corn. I would be given one row between the two men, Father with two rows on one side and uncle John two rows on the other. He was short and fat but could hoe his own roe as the saying goes and help with mine. “Hi by golly” I can hear him now . . . then he’d start off on some whaling yarn.

This was always the theme of conversation and while the old men would sit spinning yarns little Jess quiet for once, sat listening.

“The year the ‘Old Sabina sailed,’ or the ‘Old Neptune,’ or the ‘Old—“ that careening adjective prefixed all ships’ names. Ten miles away was the Harbor. The hurricane of last month [ed note: Wednesday, September 21, 1938] toppled over the lovely towering spire from the old church that the whale oiled money built a hundred years ago. There for a century it has stood a beacon by night and spire by day. The little village has now sunk to diminutive economic proportions. It cannot be rebuilt. Ichabod—the glory hath departed.

But even in my boyhood a vessel occasionally sailed for the whale fishery and across the sound from New Bedford whalers put out until ten years ago. Every Long Island boy with few exceptions went to sea, all through the years from the Revolution till after the Civil War.

Two years, three years, a hard life but they loved it. And the tales they could tell! I have listened by the hour. Captain Austin Herrick wrecked on the coast of Patagonia and working his way along the coast among the savages and coming home long after he was given up for lost. Willie and Eddie Fowler never heard from, and their mother, my great aunt, telling me in a moment of confidence one day as I went through her yard on the way to school that though they had been gone for fifty years that her gate never clicked but that she went to the window or the door to look and see if they might yet be coming home.

[Great] Aunt Libbie [ed note: Elizabeth P Halsey Fowler 4 Jul 1815] —she gave me my first bath and first spanking I imagine the spanking came first)—was the village midwife and practical nurse, the adviser of its gentry and poor folk alike. Her cookie jar (with raised doughnuts in the winter) was accessible to all the boys of the North End. Her yard (next to the graveyard) was the short way to school. In the Cemetery—and only there—was I allowed to stroll on Sunday. (I can take you on the darkest night to any stone you name.) After the walk in the cemetery, father and I would slip through the back gate to Aunt Libbie’s. He was her favorite nephew. She nursed him when he was a baby, too. And I have one little cloth shoe (beautifully made) that she fabricated for little Charles Henry. In her old age she was still active. I can remember her helping my mother in the care of a sick neighbor—or my mother helping her. They came to our house one morning before daylight, went to the attic and got a pig’s bladder that hung on the rafters. (It had been inflated at butchering time.) This was before the day of rubber water bottles. The bladders of slaughtered animals were always preserved. (Sometimes when the old crop was not exhausted, we boys were allowed to have a new one for a football—not often, however.) My brother was sent off into the night to get ice from the one ice house in the community, over a mile away. Birth and death and all the occasions in between Aunt Libby was always there and most welcome.

Back to my whalers—and the fireside. Capt’n Guss (Halsey) would come and spend the day. He and my Uncle Will (a real uncle—Father’s brother) were my favorites. (When I was seven Uncle Will drowned before my eyes one day when we were clamming—I was too young to understand what was happening but not too little to help had I only known.)  Well, Cap’t Guss would come from Watermill two miles away, and once or twice a year father would go and spend the day with Cap’t Guss (and take me with him). Most Cap’ns’ who came would pat me on the head and straightway forget (I caught on to what they were saying to themselves-“poor child, with no mother”). But Captain Guss thought it worthwhile to talk to a boy. So did Uncle Will who lived across the street. He and father had married sisters. I’d go across the street after our early farm breakfast, in time for theirs. My aunt would try to send me home, but I can hear Uncle Will now . . . “Feed him . . . feed him.” Between Uncle Will and Aunt Libbie I was well supplied.

Abbie's Account of Frederick

Frederick Isham Halsey | Delta Upsilon | Cornell University | 1932
"Frederick played sax, Billy violin. There were two grand pianos in the living room of the manse [in Cincinnati] and their mother would invite various ladies over to play. All the children took art classes on Saturday mornings at the Cincinnati Art Museum with a Mrs. Alexander. Helen got the most out of the classes. Frederick was handsome and popular and went, along with Charles, to the Cincinnati cotillions and socialized a great deal. Sometime during his year at Cornell he suffered a minor injury playing football, which spiraled into a deep depression. He intended to continue on at Cornell, but the Great Depression and the 'closing of the banks' prevented his return, as well as Helen's planned enrollment at Wellesley. After some time at Wooster College, Frederick's depression was so extreme that he was institutionalized in sanitariums at Johns Hopkins, White Plains, and in Cincinnati. It was at the Cincinnati Sanitarium that he contracted tuberculosis."

Cincinnati Sanitarium

"In fine style"

October 1937

Dear Justine,

It was a week ago today we had our big trip to your city and called on you. It was so nice to see you again and I hope our call didn’t delay you too late for your dinner engagement.

Charles Halsey, Jr | Riverside Drive, NYC | 1937
We didn’t see the show Winifred wanted to finally for when we reached the theatre district again we found only high priced seats left and the boys decided they were too expensive for us. We walked along Broadway and did some “window shopping” and finally came home on the 9 PM train so reached home at midnight instead of 4 AM. That suited me all right for I was tired enough to call it a day without doing any more.

The Sunday excursions from here are $2 for the round trip so I’d like to go again some Sunday and visit the Planetarium. I haven’t seen Radio City either so there is a lot for me to do down there yet. However, we crowded in plenty last Wednesday I think, but we had a good time anyway.

I was glad to meet your husband and he seemed very nice. Am glad you are so happy and now I can picture you both in your home when I think of you.

Hope you will come and see us whenever you can. You know there is a spare room so I can keep you overnight whenever you care to come.

Wonder if you are going to Winsted for Easter? If so, give my love to Aunt Laura.

I wish we could go to Torrington, but we can’t so I’ll have to be content and wait until later.

I expect you are busy caring for the 14 months old baby and I’m wondering if the mother has decided to go to Siberia and leave the baby with you? You will be tied down in fine style if that happens.

Come up when you can.