In Search of John W. Garfield, Jr.

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Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Sleepy Hollow in Concord, Massachusetts is considered one the most beautiful cemeteries in the United States. Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was buried here, some 27 years after its completion, was instrumental in ensuring its beauty.  A member of the Concord Cemetery Committee he collaborated with landscape architects Cleveland and Copeland throughout the project until the Dedication in 1855.  A public garden for decades before becoming a cemetery, the goal was to retain the natural beauty of the landscape by incorporating headstones among winding paths, existing trees and wild plants. It was important to Emerson and the architects that the space benefit the living as well as honor those who had passed on. It succeeds in doing both.

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Winding paths cut through the park-like setting

Author’s Ridge, as it is aptly named, is a section of Sleepy Hollow. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Louisa May Alcott are all buried here. Thousands of visitors come here each year, many leaving behind various writing instruments, some gently pushed into the soil in a symbolic gesture to connect spiritually – hoping perhaps to find inspiration. Others leave feathers, stones or pine cones, even library cards and handwritten notes.

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Leaving a pencil at the grave of Henry David Thoreau

Normally I wouldn’t choose to spend a family vacation day hanging out in a cemetery. But I’d been hearing a lot about this place from other family members and I was on a mission. In our attempts to find our great grandfather’s burial place our family has made some interesting discoveries. “And don’t forget about Concord,” Aunt Bess often repeated when we would speak of family history.  At the time, her comment didn’t mean much to me. I only knew of my Garfield relatives being buried in Sudbury where most of them had lived. I filed away her advice and forgot about it.  It wasn’t until years later, while I was writing a book about my parents, that I became interested in our family history. A lot of what has been uncovered since is thanks to my niece, Kelly, who has become our family’s ancestry sleuth.

I recently learned that some of my relatives are buried among the literary giants at Sleepy Hollow, just a short walk from the famous Author’s Ridge. Sleepy Hollow is a huge place. Encompassing some 119 acres, it is easy to get lost here. Trip Advisor (which rates Sleepy Hollow at a 4.7) advises getting a map before visiting. If you do get lost, no worries, it is as described – a beautiful park. And there are many other graves here to provide hours of interest.  Among those buried here: the first woman to be issued a driver’s license; the composer of the Christmas song “The Little Drummer Boy”; the first manufacturer of pencils in the United States; the inventor of the Concord grape; Dr. Seuss; and famed sculptor Daniel Chester French, responsible for the first Minute Man Statue in Concord and the monumental statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial.

As one might expect in a town like Concord there are many soldiers buried here. And then there are just ordinary folk like members of my family – the Garfield’s. John W. Garfield, Sr.; his two wives; and a daughter who died at age 5 years and 11 months; Enoch and Frank R. Garfield and each of their 2 wives – they are all buried  here. Many other Garfield headstones dot the knoll.

Noticeably absent from our family plot is John W. Garfield Jr., my great grandfather. Why is he not buried here with the rest of the family members; or his wife, Martha Ella Sanford, mother of my Grampy Garfield, grandmother to my mom, Marion Garfield Paton, and her two siblings, Bess and Bill Garfield.   Was he for some reason ostracized from the rest of the family? He would die fairly young, at age 55. John’s wife was just 42 when he passed.  According to the town records, Martha  would remain in Sudbury for the next 15-20 years. Then we discovered her again having moved to Wakefield.

She is in the Sudbury directory in 1920, 1926, and 1930. After that, it is unclear to me where she went. I found one possible lead with a widowed Martha Garfield living in Wakefield, MA as a “servant” in 1935/40. The birth year for this Martha was right, but I hadn’t found any definitive clues to confirm it was really her or not. Until JUST NOW when I was able to dig a little more into the man for whom Martha was a “servant”- someone named Albert Cummings. He was also widowed and upon further searching I came to realize that they actually got married and she is buried with him up in Wakefield. She outlived the new guy by several (9) years as well and died at the ripe old age of 88 in 1961.” Kelly Paton Fitzgerald

According to Kelly, when you enter John W. Garfield in “Find a Grave” only John Sr. comes up as being buried at Sleepy Hollow. But just a few weeks ago Kelly uncovered  a copy of John Jr.’s death certificate which clearly states that he is buried in Concord –  exactly where that might be  remains a mystery, but there is no physical indication that he is here among those in the Garfield plot at Sleepy Hollow.

The mystery hunt for John Jr. continues!” Kelly

 

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Gravesite of John W. Garfield Sr. and his two wives. There is no indication that John Jr.is buried here

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John W. Garfield Jr. my grandfather, Sherrold, in the center, Martha Ella Sanford Garfield on right holding Sherrold’s brother, Babe

 

 

Connecting with the past at the Seagram Building, New York City

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The Seagram Building – 375 Park Avenue, New York, NY

On my way to Rockefeller Center this past December, I decided to take a short detour over to Park Avenue. I wanted to see the Seagram Building. I’ve seen it before − walked by it many times and even hung out on the famous plaza, but I never gave it much thought − until recently. It has been described as one of the most beautiful buildings in New York City. The design has been copied so often since it was completed in 1958, that today it seems commonplace. However, architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s statement “God is in the details,”  aptly describes this sleek and modern skyscraper. Only the finest materials were used − marble, bronze, travertine, and granite − and they were used with exquisite detail.

I hadn’t noticed the plaque on the front of the building before. Even if I had and taken the time to read it, I would not have connected anything it said to me. Until recently, the sentence on the plaque ending in “and Swenson pink granite for the Plaza” would not have held my attention. But after a trip to Maine last summer I have felt  a personal connection to the Seagram Building and the granite  spoken of here − the granite that makes up the beautiful plaza − the granite taken from the former Bald Hill Quarry in Wells, Maine where my Dad, Wally Paton, grew up and his father, George Paton, worked.

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Plaque on the Seagram Building – “and Swenson Pink Granite for the Plaza”

“Bald Hill Quarry was owned by a conglomerate known as Swenson Pink Granite of Concord, New Hampshire. … Although the use of granite for steps or building foundations was common among the early settlers, the first granite quarry business wasn’t established until the late 1800’s in Concord, New Hampshire. … Under John Swenson’s leadership, the company continued to flourish and eventually added regional quarries like Bald Hill in Wells, Maine, where my grandfather worked. … eventually, Swenson would carry over 18 different colors, the pink stone coming from the quarries in Maine.” Excerpt from Journey Home: How a Simple Act of Kindness Led to the Creation of a Living Legacy by Bonnie Paton Moon

At the time of the Seagram Buildings completion, it was the most expensive skyscraper ever built. CEO of the Seagram Liquor Company, Samuel Bronfman, spared no expense in the construction of his company’s world headquarters. Over the years,  it has received many awards. In 1960, the Plaza was declared “a source of inspiration” for its innovative,  privately-owned public space, − “an open, urban plaza set back from the street creating the groundbreaking concept of pedestrian space.”  The public plaza was a revolutionary idea and led to a landmark planning study called Social Life of Small Urban Spaces in which daily patterns of people socializing around the plaza were recorded.

In 1976 the exterior and in 1990 the interior, were designated New York City landmarks. In 1999, the New York Times declared it “the Millennium’s most important building”  − important because Mies van der Rohe’s design ushered in a new era of skyscraper − one which showcased the building materials rather than covering them up with brick and mortar and ornamentation.

Not only were the original granite slabs making up the Plaza taken from Bald Hill, but when Aby Rosen, the new owner, embarked on a major renovation project in the year 2002, the 110 pink granite replacement slabs came from there as well.

“Perhaps the most remarkable rehabilitation project is underfoot. At a cost of $1 million, about 110 large granite paving slabs have been replaced. Close inspection reveals that the new and old stone looks identical – specks of salmon and gray, threaded with subtle veins of red and orange.

‘They are identical,’ said Sal Aiello of Concept National in Carlstadt, New Jersey, the contractor on the job.

“He knows because he tracked down the quarry himself, beginning with a dive into the book ‘Building Seagram.’ There, he learned that the original slabs were made of Swenson pink granite from Maine.” Excerpt from nytimes.com/2016/07/19 − What Stays as the Seagram Building Loses the Four Seasons.

I tracked down the  Bald Hill Quarry myself this past summer, along with a few of the Paton family joining in the fun of connecting to my Dad’s childhood home. The house is gone, replaced by the Quarry’s office building, but much still looks like it did when my grandfather worked here during the Great Depression. The fields where my Dad roamed and the woods where he hunted as a child are untouched by development.

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Millennium Granite (former Bald Hill Quarry) – 2018 (Photo by George Paton)

Discarded equipment and piles of stone now liter the land close to the Quarry, where wildflowers compete to reclaim their space. It is comforting to know that much is unchanged at the old Bald Hill (now thriving under the name Millennium Granite) making it easier to connect to my family history − a history that includes beautiful pink stone that traveled from Maine to New York, gracing one of the most beautiful buildings in that city.

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Bonnie Paton Moon hanging out on the Seagram Building’s famous plaza – pink granite slabs from the former Bald Hill Quarry, Wells, Maine – 2018

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George Paton (back row center) at Bald Hill, Wells, Maine – 1939

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My grandfather, George Paton with children, Doris and Wally Paton, posing on granite – 1929

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Wally Paton’s childhood home – Bald Hill Quarry, Wells, Maine – 1934

Remembrance of Christmas Past – Baking with Mom

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Matthew Moon checks out an antique Ford pick up

My grandson Matthew wants me to put an antique pickup truck on my Christmas list this year − “preferably red,”  I say. He knows that for a long time I have coveted one these beauties.

I am not sure what I would do with it exactly, but for years I dreamed (or perhaps fantasized) about starting a business baking homemade pies and delivering them door to door in a truck like this one. What the intrigue is about this I don’t know, but every time I see a truck like this, I re-visit that vision.

I certainly don’t envision myself rolling endless rounds of pastry, cutting up apples, baking pumpkin and squash, or sorting through berries. I only envision the truck, piled high with boxes of various sweet, delicious pies, ready for me to jump into and begin my rounds. Perhaps one might see a flaw in my business plan and they would be right. But I will continue to bake pies and hold onto my fantasy of the antique red truck.

I do make a pretty good pie − apple is my specialty. I’ve been told by many that it is the best they have ever tasted. I once went to a pie tasting at our local Michelle Pies − a small business specializing in homemade pies. I tasted their apple − I think mine is better.

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My specialty − Apple Crumb pie

I learned to bake from my mother. People used to say that Marion Paton is always feeding someone and they were right. The kitchen is the place where my mother and I connected best − maybe because that is where you would find her most often. Growing up on a farm with an ample supply of milk, cream and eggs, we ate dessert every night.

“Saturday mornings were designated for baking dessert to last the week − pies, cookies and milk-based desserts: custards, grape nut and Indian puddings, cream puffs filled with custard and a holiday favorite called Lemon Snow Pudding. Our favorite cookies were New England standards: snickerdoodles, chocolate chip, and peanut butter. Snickerdoodles are basically a butter cookie rolled in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar before baking; creating the characteristic cracked top when baked. The origin of snickerdoodles remains a mystery. Some claim that it has German origins; others say it has Dutch origins. I like to believe the theory that they originated in New England and are just nonsense words with no particular meaning, following a local tradition of naming cookies whimsical names like “Cry Babies,” “Jumblies,” and “Plunkets.” Excerpt from Journey Home – How a Simple Act of Kindness Led to the Creation of a Living Legacy by Bonnie Paton Moon

The kitchen was my mother’s and mine alone every Saturday morning − for hours. Sometimes, perhaps when we were getting tired of filling the counter with pies, cakes and cookies, we would  get giddy. I remember one time in particular that the mixer went a little haywire throwing flour and chunks of butter all over the counter − we couldn’t stop laughing. It was really these moments of occasional, shared laughter that I loved most about this time together.

Every year that I have been married (almost 49 years now) I have made my mother’s Lemon Snow Pudding for Christmas. It was a tradition I started to honor my Mom, who used to make it every Christmas, and the special times we shared in the kitchen. It’s a simple recipe of lemon juice, sugar, beaten eggs whites in a gelatin base covered in thick, creamy custard sauce − delicious after a big holiday meal. The fact that the base is white and fluffy, reminiscent of snow, makes it the perfect Christmas treat.

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Mom and me in the kitchen at Paton’s Birder Haven

This year I have decided to make my Dad’s favorite bar cookies – Date Nut Squares. I will send them to the Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds in honor of the staff and volunteers who continue to keep Wally & Marion Paton’s legacy alive and thriving. They have recently built a small nook in the kitchen, right next to the old kitchen table, where we would sit for hours watching the birds in their now famous backyard. The nook is for the volunteers to help themselves to coffee and perhaps a light refreshment while they carry out the many chores of running a world-renowned birding sanctuary.

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Marion Paton’s Handwritten Recipe for Date Nut Squares −Wally Paton’s favorite

 

“Mom later went on to a career in the food industry, first working at Fay School in the cafeteria, then the local regional high school cafeteria; then as manager of the school lunch program in Patagonia, Arizona, until her retirement in 1990. Someone once remarked ‘Marion is always feeding someone − family, friends, strangers, animals − domestic and wild’” Excerpt from Journey Home – How a Simple Act of Kindness led to the Creation of a Living Legacy.

Journeying Home Again – Sudbury, Massachusetts

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A few weeks ago,  on one of those spectacular fall days, my husband and I drove to Massachusetts to see what mysteries were buried in the Sudbury historical files.

Sudbury, Massachusetts is where my mom, Marion Garfield (Paton) grew up. Following an email from Sally Purrington Hild, the Historical Society Director, I was excited to learn more:

“The Garfield family contributed so much to Sudbury. Yes, we have a great variety of information in the archives and Curt Garfield, who is still living… was our town historian for many years.”

Our first stop was the Ralph Cram House (Stop # 6 on the Town of Sudbury Tour map).  Sitting stately on a small hill, now over 200 years old, Cram called the house “Whitehall,” after the place of King Charles’s martyrdom.   Staring at this still beautiful home,  I imagined my mother staying here as a child and helping her Dad work in the many flower gardens which Cram loved − something she would grow to love too. I wonder if perhaps this is where her passion for flowers and gardening began.

During the Depression my grandfather, Sherrold Leroy Garfield,  worked for Ralph Adams Cram.

“But then again, she was quite lucky [Marion Garfield] because her father had a job as caretaker for an architect— Mr. Cram there in Sudbury. He was the chauffeur and caretaker of the grounds. They had a 22-room mansion. And they used to go there and take care of it in the winter because they went to Europe and didn’t want to leave the house alone.” –Wally Paton

“Fortunate to have a job during the Depression, my Grandfather Garfield found local work as a caretaker for a notable citizen of Sudbury, architect Ralph Adams Cram. Cram lived in Sudbury from 1900 to 1942. During his prolific career he and his firm, Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson designed many churches, perhaps the most notable being the  Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, which my grandfather helped build. Taking almost 50 years to open, the church was nicknamed “St John the Unfinished.” In 1907, Cram took over from the original architects, Christopher Grant LaFarge and George Lewis Heins, and put his own “Gothicized” style on the structure. He was a leading proponent of Gothic Revival Architecture. During the 1920’s, Cram’s career took off and he was frequently mentioned in the press including the cover of Time Magazine in December of 1926…Due in part to Mr. Cram’s success, my grandparents survived the Depression better than many in Sudbury.”– Excerpt from Journey Home: How a Simple Act of Kindness Led to the Creation of a Living Legacy by Bonnie Paton Moon

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Ralph Adams Cram house at 427 Concord Rd., Sudbury, MA

 In 1900 Cram bought the house at 427 Concord Road; he resided there for the next 42 years. During these years he designed hundreds of churches, academic buildings, libraries, even bridges. His works include the Post Headquarters and the Cadet Chapel at West Point, the Princeton University Chapel, Rice University Campus, Philips Exeter Academy Chapel and Davis Library and many others. Undoubtedly, his most notable work, is the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Although less known, but none the less significant are his designs of the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges connecting the mainland to Cape Cod.

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Ralph Cram on the cover of Time Magazine- 1926

Ralph Cram moved to Sudbury to escape the city. Living in a townhouse near his Boston office provided convenience, but he longed for the tranquility and open space that only the country could provide.

“For seven years, my wife and I had been seeking for that place in the country that should be a permanent home for us and, we hoped, for our descendants in generations to come…A city domicile could never take the place of land ─ land in the country, farm and garden land that should be our own and, if possible, with a really old house… Finally by an intervention of a kindly Providence, it was found; and in the old and gratefully isolated town of Sudbury. Excerpt from Ralph Adams Cram: An Architects Four Quests

In 1913, Cram decided to design a small chapel behind his house in Sudbury for worship with his family and friends. It is named after his wife and youngest daughter, Elizabeth. Local Sudbury craftsmen built the chapel from stones dug on Crams many acres of property. Everything was done by hand. One of those local craftsmen that helped build the chapel was my grandfather, Sherrold Leroy Garfield.

His years with Cram sparked in my grandfather a passion for building and he went on to become a master carpenter, building not only his own home in Sudbury, but many others as the suburbs spread from Boston to the surrounding areas.

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St. Elizabeth Chapel, 435 Concord Road, Sudbury MA

Next stop – the Chapel.  Up a small hill and along a wooded path it sits. It is striking in its simplicity, and seems the perfect setting to commune with nature and spirit. Here also are the grave sites of Ralph Adams Cram, his wife Elizabeth and two of their children. A break in the trees allows the morning sun to shine here, perhaps strategically planned also.

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Ralph & Elizabeth Cram and two of their children are buried here

“People of many creeds, as well as parishioners, continue to worship at the chapel as well as use the grounds and churchyard for quiet contemplation and reflection. Mr. Cram would have been pleased, for he wrote that any true church ‘should express the great idea of unity’ in the worship of the Almighty God. Strangers climb the winding paths under the towering pines to the door of the little chapel, and the sense of worship is so strong within its great stone walls that many kneel to pray. Young and old, of many diverse nationalities…. all these elements of beauty and worship blend.” – St. Elizabeth Chapel History

I would have loved to spend more time here, but time was running short.  I needed to head over to the Historical Society to perhaps unravel a mystery.

About a week after I had written to the Historical Society, I received an email that was a complete surprise. One doesn’t expect to hear from a cousin they never knew existed.

“Hi Bonnie,

I am Elizabeth Forsberg (Lisa). My mother Grace Ella Garfield was the daughter of Elmond Flagg Garfield (Babe) & Grace Anna Miller – he was Sherrold’s brother. I have the Garfield family tree which I will share a copy with you. Many of our people are buried in the Concord Sleepy Hollow cemetery. I live in Northborough, MA and would love to meet you.”

Wow, someone at the historical society knew I had a long lost cousin living close by and gave them my contact information. Lisa and I decided to meet at the Historical Society to see the files together.

The Historical Society is in the middle of a new building project. Meanwhile they are housed at the very top of Sudbury Town Hall. Up a steep staircase to what appears to be the attic, they carry out their mission with few paid staff and a lot of volunteers. Space is at a premium here. Sally greets us and introduces us to one of the volunteers, Beth, who will help guide us and hopefully have answers to our questions.

When Lisa enters the room, my first words were: “Wow, you so remind me of my Aunt Bess.” Aunt Bess was my mother’s big sister. They were very close, so we saw a lot of Aunt Bess growing up. Even into their eighties my mom and she took vacations together. Lisa and I sat down to chat and share photos and look over the Garfield family tree that Lisa had brought. As it turned out Lisa grew up in the town next to mine −Northborough. She went to the same high school as I did − Algonquin Regional and she lived next door to one of my classmates for decades. Lisa worked at her grandmother’s restaurant. Called “Svensk Kaffestuga,” a Swedish coffeehouse with the slogan “A Little Bit of Sweden” painted on its front entryway, it was a popular restaurant in Sudbury for many years − replaced now by The Lotus Blossom.

How could I not know of Lisa or her grandfather – my grandfather’s brother? No one knows why Sherrold and his two brothers, Elmond (Babe) and Fordis Garfield were not close in their later years. Perhaps a family dispute was responsible. It seems that this will remain a mystery − for now.

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Lisa and I share memories at the Sudbury Historical Society – October 2018

I also learned of another, more distant cousin – Curtis Garfield. A copy of his book is part of the  Historical Society’s collection. It is filled with historical facts, stories and photos − what one would expect from someone who was the head of the Sudbury Historical Society for many years.

Curtis Garfield Sudbury book

Our final stop for the day was across the Town Green to Grinnell Park to see the WWI Memorial. Among those honored here is Sherrold L. Garfield. He joined the Navy in 1917 and was assigned to the Submarine Division as a Machinist Mate First Class.

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In Honor of the Men of Sudbury Who Served in the World War

When I arrived home I wrote to another of my cousins, the son of my Aunt Bess Garfield, to tell him about Lisa and ask if he had ever heard of our Uncle Elmond or Fordis. His wife wrote back:

“Dick does know that grandpa had two brothers. He thinks one name was Fortis and the other was Babe. Thinks Gramps was the oldest, then Babe, then Fordis. We never met them so do not know when they died. I remember that restaurant (Little Bit of Sweden) very well. I had an uncle who was Swedish. He lived in Worcester and would come out to the restaurant on Sunday’s for dinner. Small world!!” – Barbara Coppinger

And getting smaller all the time.

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Sherrold Garfield

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Marion Garfield’s Childhood Home – 332 Goodman’s Hill Rd., Sudbury, MA

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Jessie, Bess, Bill, Marion and Sherrold Garfield

Edith Paton’s Dolls

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Edith Paton with her rag dolls, Florence, Jane, David, Baby Dumpling, Betty Boop – 1933

“Each doll is a conscious individual creation…The individual nature that comes from conscious creation of folk art dolls make them a rich source in information about their maker’s past, economic and cultural traditions. By examining the creations we can extract a very wide sweeping narrative about the maker and her world.”The History of Toys – Creation in the Hand

The notebook arrived first, followed a few weeks later by the box of dolls – a gift from my Cousin, Alan Garfield, from my Nana Paton’s collection. Emmie, Bessie and Cookie are among the dolls described in my Nana’s notebook, titled “My Dolls.”  The notebook chronicles just some of the many dolls my grandmother made and collected over the decades. As early as the 1920’s she crafted dolls ─   rag dolls, some of which she sold during the Depression for about $2.00 each. Considered the oldest toy in existence, rag dolls have been around for centuries. During  the years of the  Great Depression, they were hugely popular in the United States. Raggedy Ann, perhaps the most famous rag doll, created by Johnny Gruelle in 1915, became the subject of his book, Raggedy Ann Stories, published in 1918. Her brother Raggedy Andy was introduced two years later.  Also referred to as folk-art dolls, rag dolls are individually crafted from any materials on hand, mostly from scraps collected in the family rag bag. My Nana’s rag bag was filled with not only discarded pieces of fabric, but a variety of materials – leather, yarn, feathers, even rubber.

The doll named “Joe – I made this doll from an inner tube when we lived in Wells. ME in 1939. Wool chinchilla cloth for hair.” – Edith Paton Continue reading

Remembrance of Christmas Past – 1949-66

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Red & Bonnie – Christmas – 1949

 

This is one of my earliest photos of Christmas in the Paton house. My brother, Red, is 4 and I am 2.  Sonny would be newborn and  it would be another fourteen years before my sister Jackie comes along.

What I like most about this picture is the vintage toys. My brother’s train set, the “Happy Time” garage, and the Poky the Clown tin dart board are indicative of toys of this era.  The dart board came with magnetic darts. Points were earned depending on where the dart landed, 1000 points for hitting Poky’s nose was the top prize.  Although I have a memory of playing darts, I don’t really remember Poky the Clown. The 1st clown I remember is Bozo, a television show which first aired in 1949. I didn’t watch Bozo that much. The Howdy Doody Show was more to my liking perhaps because Howdy Doody – the red-headed, freckle-faced marionette resembled my two red-headed brothers. I recently learned that Howdy Doody had 48 freckles, one for each of the 48 states at that time.

Santa brought me a lot of doll stuff that year. I am not sure if this is a store bought doll I am playing with or one made by my Nana Paton. She was a skilled seamstress and made many handmade dolls over the years.  As I got older I didn’t play with dolls much. I turned into a tom boy pretty quickly being the middle child between two active boys. Cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, neighborhood baseball, sledding, ice skating and kick the can were our primary pleasures in those days.

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Bonnie & Red – Christmas – Southborough, MA – 1952

Our Christmas tree of 1949 was not one of the more spectacular ones. Over the years my Dad took great pride in cutting the biggest and fullest tree and dragging it home for us to behold. We would then spend hours decorating it.  My Dad favored tinsel which meant we each had to take turns putting on the endless strands, at Dad’s insistence ─ one piece at a time. Years later, when it came time to decorate my own tree, tinsel never graced it.  I guess I had spent too many hours on tinsel placement over the years to continue his tradition.

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Sonny, Bonnie & Red – Christmas – Southborough – 1954

 

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Wally & Marion Paton – Christmas – 1954

 

I was sixteen when my sister Jackie was born. Her arrival added a renewed excitement at Christmas for our family. I couldn’t wait to celebrate Christmas with her when I came home from my first semester at college. I was so proud to bring home a shirt from my school and saddle shoes just like mine.

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Jackie and Bonnie – Christmas – 1965

We celebrated 17 Christmases at the Paton Farm in Southborough. The Christmas of 1966 would be our last one there. By this time both Red and I were away at college. Sonny would be graduating from Algonquin High the following year and off to college soon after. My parents were joyfully planning their move to a new house they were building in Londonderry, New Hampshire.

I remember Christmas as a happy time in our house. Even when my parents were struggling dairy farmers we didn’t lack for anything at Christmas ─ my parents made sure of that. In 1953, when I was just 6 years old,  my Grandma Jessie died suddenly on Christmas morning. But even with that memory of losing her Mom, my mother never expressed sadness over the holidays. As my brother Sonny once said, “She didn’t have that negative side; she always kept a positive attitude and kept going.”

Over the years I have preserved a few of our family traditions, mostly cooking ones. In memory of my Mom I continue to make her Lemon Snow Pudding each Christmas,  and her heavenly Chocolate-walnut Fudge. If turkey is on the menu I have to make her bread stuffing. This recipe was the first one I knew by heart because I was always put in charge of toasting the bread. Her secret ingredient that made the stuffing super moist was adding a can of Campbell’s condensed Cream of Mushroom soup.

The first 100 pages of my mom’s old recipe book are missing. Having come loose from years of turning, the binding eventually gave way. But many of the recipes she used most remain though stained from loving use, like the Saturday night special Boston Baked Beans or Lemon Snow Pudding. Mom later went on to a career in the food industry, first working at Fay School in the cafeteria, then the local regional high school cafeteria; then as manager of the school lunch program in Patagonia, Arizona, until her retirement in 1990. Someone once remarked ‘Marion is always feeding someone – family, friends, strangers, animals – domestic and wild.’” – Journey Home – How a Simple Act of Kindness Led to the Creation of a Living Legacy

This year, I thought about starting a new tradition for me ─ I would add tinsel to my tree. It hasn’t happened, at least not yet, and time is running short for this year. But next year I am determined to buy a package or two of tinsel. I will take each strand, one by one, and place them on my tree in remembrance of my Dad, who made each tree extra special throughout the years.

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Wally & Marion Paton – Christmas – Southborough – 1966