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.

Mom and Bonnie in the kitchen - PBH (2)

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

Bald Hill Granite Quarry Visit- Paton Legacy – Part II

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Edith with her children, Doris and Wally Paton at Bald Hill Quarry, 1929 – ©Paton Family

Many of the photos taken of my Dad as a kid have a back drop that includes Quarry equipment or  the family surrounded by giant pieces of granite. He spent the better part of his childhood on a granite quarry in Wells, Maine called the Bald Hill Quarry. In a small house on land owned by Swenson’s Granite, he and his sister Doris and his parents George and Edith Paton lived. They moved there in 1929, when my Grandpa George got a job there. It was the height of the Great Depression and people often took to the road in search of a job.

There is no doubt that the years living on the Quarry were formative ones . Food was scarce and there was little money for anything other than the bare necessities. But here on these 40 acres of land that surrounded their little quarry home there was great bounty.

They planted a huge garden, gathered wild nuts and fruit, raised chickens and goats, fished and hunted deer, grouse and rabbit. They heated their small house with two wood stoves from wood cut from the surrounding forest. In addition to his many chores, my Dad worked throughout his childhood here, getting up at 3:00 in the morning to walk over a mile to milk the neighbors’ cows before getting the school bus and in the summer he worked on a local lobster boat.

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Wally Paton heading out for a day of fishing, Wells, Maine – ©Paton family

Lately, I’d been thinking a lot about the place where my Dad grew up, so one night I googled “Bald Hill Granite Quarry” to see if there was any historical information. The last time I had visited the Quarry, which was many years ago,  it was dormant and looked like it had been that way for quite some time.

“The Bald Hill Quarry has been closed for decades but the farmhouse still stands, surrounded by fields overgrown with weeds and wildflowers. Giant pieces of abandoned granite litter the fields as a reminder of what once was. I imagine my dad growing up here on these acres of fertile soil, playing in the dirt with his toy hoe, exploring the miles of wilderness that surround the Quarry. It is here I am sure that his love and appreciation for the land evolved.” – Excerpt from Journey Home – How a Simple Act of Kindness Led to the Creation of a Living Legacy.

To my  surprise I discovered a website.  The Bald Hill Quarry had re-opened under new management,  and was now called Millennium Granite.  Pictures on the website showed some of its former glory – days when the train tracks led down to the quarry, days when hundreds of quarries thrived in New England.  I wrote to the new owner, Richard Bois,  to tell him my Dad’s story and share a few of the historical photos I thought he might enjoy seeing of his Quarry  during its heyday. I wasn’t really expecting to hear anything back.

But I did.

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Bald Hill Quarry – 1929 – © Paton family

Coincidentally, Mr. Bois had also grown up in these parts and felt a strong connection to this land. He too had roamed these fields of abandoned granite as a kid and that was what inspired him to buy it.  Mr. Bois hadn’t really intended to re-open the Quarry, at least not at first. The price of the Quarry was “right” he said and it included acres of land. He figured on selling off parcels as building lots someday – that is , until he got a phone call from a guy by the name of Mr. Aiello.

In the year 2000, Aby J. Rosen, the new owner of the Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue in New York City,  embarked on an extensive maintenance and renovation project. Part of that project included $1 million to replace 110 of the pink granite slabs that make up the famous Plaza. Sal Aiello, the contractor hired for the project soon embarked on his own mission – to find the exact same granite used in the original building project. He drove to New Hampshire to  Swenson’s Granite Quarry only to find that the quarry had been closed for years. So he started calling around to various other quarries and by chance found himself in a conversation with the new owner of the Bald Hill Quarry, Richard Bois. A partnership evolved and the quest to find the granite that was used in the original building of the Seagram plaza began. Mr. Bois knew that the pink granite at the Seagram Building had come from his Quarry – they just had to find the exact spot.

And so they did.  Bald Hill Quarry was in business once again.

Eighteen years later, Millennium Granite is a thriving business  as I discovered during a recent visit to reconnect with my dad’s childhood home.

This past July, my brother, George Paton, my cousin, Bruce Garfield, Bruce’s daughter, Kim Henry, my husband Richard, my Grandson Matthew  and I met at the Bald Hill Quarry. We came equipped with cameras and old pictures to share. Unlike my visit years ago when we only found  abandoned fields littered with boulders, on this visit we had to make an appointment to tour this now busy site. Mr. Bois and his office assistant, Sue Penney graciously spent several hours with us showing us around and sharing interesting stories.

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Richard Bois (far right) leads the group around the Quarry, Bruce Garfield, Bonnie Paton Moon, Kim Henry and George Paton – July 2018

We too were on a mission of sorts. From the historic family photos we hoped to find some of the landmarks of my dad’s early years here. The old farmhouse where he grew up is gone now, but we determined after much detective work that Mr. Bois’ office was the sight of the former house. We wanted to find the dirt road in the picture of my dad and the family arriving at the Quarry in 1929, and we concluded it was the dirt path that remained in front of Mr. Bois’ office.

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George & Edith with children, Doris and Wally Paton arriving at the Bald Hill Quarry – 1929 – ©Paton family

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We determined this to be the dirt path passing by the former homestead – 2018

Then, we happened upon an old piece of equipment that had obviously laid dormant in a field for decades. We decided that  it could have been used by my Grandfather George to pump the water out of the Quarry. That was his job – to keep the water out of the hole so drilling could continue.

“He had a job where he made, I think, about $12 a week running the pumps, because the water would come into his excavation. His hole, where they were actively working, was over 100 feet deep, so the water would get in there, and in order to keep working they’d have to pump it out. So he had a – you wouldn’t say a good job – but it was a reasonably good job for those days.” – Wally Paton quote from Journey Home – How a Simple Act of Kindness Led to the Creation of a Living Legacy.

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Abandoned equipment from a by-gone era at the former Bald Hill Quarry,  2018 (photo by George Paton)

 

We were as excited about our discoveries that July day as Mr. Aiello must have been when he heard Richard Bois  on the other end of the phone back in 2000 saying “you dialed the person who owns that Quarry now.”

In a New York Times article, dated July 18, 2016 about the Seagram Building,  Mr. Aiello talks about his quest to find the original granite for the plaza.

“’I was on a mission,’ he said. ‘I love the Seagram Building. It will always be in my heart.’  He explained that his father, a mason who had immigrated from Sicily, helped set the kitchen tiles at the Four Seasons.”  – the restaurant that once occupied the Seagram Building.   Likewise, our mission was accomplished with a great sense of pride and satisfaction and the new Millennium Quarry will always be in our hearts as well,  thanks to Richard Bois.

 

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Sharing old photos at Millennium Granite with Sue Penney (far right) are Bonnie Paton Moon, Kim Henry, Bruce Garfield and George Paton

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Kim (Garfield) Henry, Bruce Garfield, George Paton, Bonnie Paton Moon, Richard and Matthew Moon at Millennium Granite – 2018

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Wally Paton at the Bald Hill Quarry – 1934- © Paton Family

Edith Paton’s Perfume Bottle Collection (1926-1976)

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Edith Paton Perfume Bottle Collection(1a)

 

“These bottles have come to me from many places. Some I have purchased in stores or antiques shops, many have been the gifts of my family and friends.

To me they are both interesting and pretty to look at and I am sure that the fragrance of their contents has pleased many people.

There must be countless interesting stories connected with my little perfume bottles. I look at them and wonder who made this one and whose careful and artistic touch painted the dainty flowers and designs on others. How many of them were thoughtfully and carefully selected as gifts for someone much beloved? I suppose some of them were hurriedly purchased for the sole reason that their sweet contents could add attraction to the wearer, then the lovely bottle thrown away. Ones thoughts could ramble on at great length when looking at my collection of perfume bottles.” – Edith Paton

I remember my Nana’s perfume bottle collection well. Shelving on her bedroom wall neatly and carefully housed them. When I would visit  I couldn’t help but marvel at the variety and uniqueness of the collection. A few months ago my Cousin mentioned a Notebook – yet another Notebook – this one about Nana’s perfume bottles. On one page are her drawings, depicting each in great detail, while the opposing page provides a brief description in addition to the gifter.

The bottle that started Nana’s collection was actually a gift to her daughter, Doris. A gift from Mary Atkinson of Amherst, New Hampshire, it was a Kewpie Doll bottle © 1926. There are some 243 bottles listed in the Notebook,  dating from 1926-1976.

Edith Paton Kewpie Doll Page

Perfume Bottle No 1 was a Kewpie Doll – circa 1926

Kewpie dolls evolved from a cartoon character created by Rose O’Neil, a New York illustrator. First published in Ladies Home Journal in 1907, the cartoon character became internationally  known and loved and led to Ms. O’Neil developing paper cutouts of Kewpie dolls. In 1912 the first line of real dolls and figurines were manufactured by a toy company in Germany. Eventually the Kewpie doll would be used in manufacturing  many household items like dishware, salt and pepper shakers and even perfume bottles like the one in my Nana’s collection.

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Antique Kewpie Doll Perfume bottle – porcelain – considered rare and highly collectible today.

The history of perfume goes back centuries beginning in Egypt and later  Persia and Rome. It is believed that a woman chemist named Tapputi made the 1st perfume in the second millennium BC. Perfume making spread throughout Europe with the Grasse region of France becoming the center of the European perfume industry. The vessels that housed the precious scents have been considered an art form since ancient times.  Under Roman rule glassblowing was developed thus leading to perfume being stored in glass. Before glass, materials used to store perfume were  porcelain, gold, silver, shells, and semi-precious stones. In the late 1800’s the Art Nouveau style became popular and perfume bottles were traditionally styled, some having floral labels. Later the use of  decorative gift boxes became popular.

Before the 20th century, perfume was used only by the wealthy. But throughout the 20th century perfume became increasingly affordable. Companies such as Avon appealed to an ever growing consumer base. David H. McConnell, the founder of Avon, developed a unique business plan giving women a chance to earn their own incomes by selling his products themselves door to door.

Around 1910 perfume bottles began to take on familiar shapes like flowers, lighthouses, lanterns, watches – Nana’s collection has many of those.

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Some of the many shapes of Nana’s Perfume Bottles

 In the 1920’s, the perfume industry expanded in the United States with many new companies hiring chemists to create their own fragrances. The bottle itself became as important as the fragrance inside with companies collaborating with artists to design the bottles as well as the packaging.    Depression era bottles were less fancy, but following World War II the bottles returned to elaborate works of art led by such companies as Christian Dior and Nina Ricci.

Few of the bottles in my Nana’s Notebook reveal the manufacturer, but one of my favorite bottles does. Gifted by my parents, Wally and Marion Paton in 1946, it is # 83 and labeled, Gemey.

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White glass Gemey Perfume bottle #83 given by Wally & Marion Paton – 1946

Gemey, developed by perfumer Richard Hudnut in 1922 (1855-1928) was one of his most popular scents. Richard Hudnet created over 70 different scents not only available as perfume, but cologne, soaps, lotions and bath oils. This particular bottle that my parents gifted to Nana in 1946 would have most likely come in a decorative designed floral box. Today Hudnut’s bottles and presentation boxes are prized by collectors.

Gemey Perfume Set gift of Wally & Marion Paton

Richard Hudnet’s Gemey perfume box set

It is true, as  Nana states in her introduction, one’s thoughts could ramble on at great length when looking at her collection of perfume bottles. Though some may not have been as valuable as others, still they are all unique and interesting.

The bottles are  gone now –  sold upon Nana’s passing, but I feel certain that they still exist on someone’s shelf – still treasured and admired. The real treasure for me, however,  is the Notebook which offers an insight into a woman who growing up I only knew as Nana, but have since come to know as a highly skilled and talented woman of great depth of knowledge and interest.

“A perfume bottle is a work of art and the object that contains it must be a masterpiece.” – Robert Ricci, The House of Nina Ricci

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

Bald Hill Granite Quarry, Wells, Maine

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Wally Paton at the Bald Hill Granite Quarry – 1934

My Dad grew up on a granite quarry in Wells, Maine during the Great Depression.

“Like thousands of others, my grandfather, George Paton, was forced to take to the road in search of any employment he could find. When my Dad was six years old the family moved to Wells, Maine, when Grandpa George got a job at the Bald Hill Granite Quarry there.” Excerpt from Journey Home: How a Simple Act of Kindness Led to the Creation of a Living Legacy by Bonnie Paton Moon

Bald Hill Quarry was originally owned by a conglomerate known as Swenson Pink Granite of Concord, New Hampshire. A family-owned business founded in 1883 by Swedish immigrant John Swenson, it has recently reopened under the name Millennium Granite, owned now by a gentleman named Richard Bois. Mr. Bois, a civil engineer, has a special affinity for the quarry having grown up nearby  and having spent endless hours playing in the fields nearby – not unlike my Dad who spent most of his childhood running around these same fields and woods.

A couple weeks ago an email arrived on Mr. Bois’ desk from a Harvard professor and architect who is doing research on the granite used in the Seagram Building in New York City – “as you know granite from your quarry was used in the famous plaza there.”  The Harvard professor asked to tour the quarry and was interested in any historical documents or pictures Mr. Bois might have.

 Coincidentally,  a few weeks ago I, too, became curious as to what had become of the Bald Hill Quarry so I conducted some of my own research. When I read on the Millennium website that Mr. Bois had reopened the quarry after years of dormancy,  I decided to reach out to him and send along a few photos of the Paton years living on his quarry. I included the story of my Dad’s later success in creating a world famous birding sanctuary in Patagonia, Arizona called Paton’s Birder Haven. With my permission, Mr. Bois shared this with the Harvard professor. The architect wrote back the following.

“Thank you for sharing these emails and stories. I find the stories very touching, a very genuine glimpse of life around the quarry at that time. It is really striking how amazing that depression era WWII generation was, how they lived and what all they accomplished. These stories are a fine glimpse into that. I am finding such rich information that I think I will turn the project from an article into a book.”

Who knows, perhaps a few of our quarry photos or a bit of my Dad’s story will show up in the architects article or book – or perhaps I will even write a story myself. I am planning a field trip to the old Bald Hill Quarry this summer and will combine it with seeing the Paton Homestead where my grandmother’s relatives  lived for decades. More to come…….

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George and Edith Paton and children, Doris and Wally, arrive at the Bald Hill Quarry – 1929

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