Memories of the John P. and Nellie Bek McGuinness Family
Produced by: John McGuinness, Mary Landers, Jean Seward, Louis McGuinness, and Nell Oliver
Compiled by: Louis McGuinness
Edited by: Moira McGuinness
While our memories of our two wonderful brothers are still bright in our minds, and they are still clear, we want to set down for their many descendants how much we loved these two great guys, and relate what we can still recall of our early life togetheralong with thoughts concerning them as young fathers with an active, growing family. At the same time we wish to write about our parents, what we did as a family at the somewhat legendary Winthrop Street home, and what it meant to be a family in the pre-World War II and the immediate post-WWII era. It is our hope that what we present here will be of interest to the numerous descendants of our parents, John Parnell McGuinness, and Nellie Bek McGuinness.
Dad was born in Hastings, Michigan in 1887, the second son of James and Emma Palmer McGuinness. Following tradition, their parents held their first born son in the highest regards, but his sisters made no secret of the fact that it was Dad, who ran and managed their modest farm, that largely kept the entire family from starving. Our father was to be extremely responsible and family oriented all the days of his life.
Dad started to teach country school at the age of l6 or 17, I believe, and he had to walk about four miles each way to do the teaching! From there he worked his way through Kalamazoo Normal School. Today this institution is the prestigious Western Michigan University. Here he distinguished himself by being the captain of their football team in 1910. Dad finished his first formal college degree at the University of Michigan where he received his BA in 1912. Much later he earned a masters degree at the University of Detroit. He finished this masters degree in the 1930s after he had had seven children, and he was teaching full time in Detroit. In addition to being the boys counselor at Cleveland Intermediate School (shortly after I was born), he was also the schools permanent summer school and night school principal. He was a very busy personalways busy teaching, night and day, summer and winter. Dad was always a very hard- working, busy person. His own father had taught him, he used to say, "to pull weeds while you rest!" He was unusually fast, quick and logical, all at the very same time. He had an almost brilliant, logical mind. I think that we can see some of these same traits passed down through two or three generations to many of his present descendants.
Nellie Bek was the second daughter of Herbert and Jacquemina Bek. She was born in 1886 in Belmont, a rural suburban area just north of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her father was a furniture maker in one of several Grand Rapids furniture companies owned by some Dutch personthere were several such companies there. Formerly, he had been a part owner of a tavern. He left it because he could not in good conscience take the food money from drunk fathers who would get paid and then spend the weeks wages at the tavern, while their families needed food and clothing. He had also been a partner in a failed celery farmthe frost had wiped them out. Whenever he was laid off, which was quite often, he tried to paint houses to support his family of three daughters and two sons.
Mom finished what we would call high school, stood for the special township teaching examination, passed, and became a country school teacher in Belmont, an area just outside of the Grand Rapids city limits. Mom told me that she floated home on clouds after being hired to teach schoolat the princely sum of sixty dollars a monthbecause now she could support the family when her father became unemployed again. This happened frequently at the furniture factory where he worked. Another item Mom relayed to me was that with her very first pay as a teacher, she bought her mother a winter coat. Her poor mother had not had such a luxury before! A year or two after her initial appointment as a teacher in Belmont Township, Mom, too went to the Kalamazoo Normal School, where, of course she met the young, handsome football captain.
As indicated above, Mom and Dad met at Kalamazoo Normal School, they were married in old St. James Catholic Church in downtown Grand Rapids in August l912. Today four-lane highways surround this interesting old church. However, it is still well worth a visit. Mom and Dad brought me there once. Mother insisted on going there once when we three were in Grand Rapids, sometime after WWII. Since both Mother and Dad came from "poor" families, I assume that the wedding was a rather modest affair. Mother told me many times that her very best girlhood friend, Agnes Lysaght, was her maid of honor. Uncle Palmer was Dads best man. In an answer to a direct question, Mother also said that all of her family and all of Dads family also attended their wedding. I did not get any other details.
Mom said they honeymooned at Dads rooming house in Ann Arbor, where Dad was a full time student working on his BA degree. This degree was required of any professional teacher who aspired to an administrative position, such as principal or superintendent, which Dad fully expected to become.
Sometime in the 30s I was in Grand Rapids with Mother, and we were invited to a special homecoming for Moms old Belmont School students. It was a picnic called in her honor put on by students she had taught years earlier, long before she had married Dad. It was held in a picnic grove where the old school had stood. I was astonished, and Mother was embarrassed, but deeply touched, at the fulsome praise that they heaped on Mom. The vast majority of those who came had not seen Mother for at least twenty years or more. Obviously she had touched the lives of the many former students who came to thank her for her educational efforts. They even thought I was important just because I was her son! This special occasion must have been before WWII, because Dad was not with us, I think he was teaching summer school back in Detroit.
I also had the unusual opportunity of a completely different kind of emotional "this is your former life" sort of thing concerning Dad. This took place in Dads old Hastings, Michigan neighborhood. Mom was not there, but Uncle Palmer was. It was a homecoming at a museum-like old country school that Dad and Palmer had once attended as kids. I think this was sometime about l936 or 37.
The very short meeting took place in the old country school, with all the old books and trappings and furnishings that had been there in days of old. Everyone attempted to sit in the very same seat they had occupied as kids. The conversation mostly centered on who sat where, who sat in front of them. Who was no longer living or able to come that day, etc., etc.. This homecoming was very important to Dad, obviously bringing back long held memories of his youth. Afterwards he took great pains to point out all the similarities to the two different country schoolhouses in which he had taught, and also the differences. He patiently answered every question I asked, and explained all the old equipment and furnishings. This was obviously a nostalgic event for Dad. I dont remember that he met too many old school friends there, but he greatly enjoyed the time spent there. I am not sure why I was the only one he took back to Hastings that day. I think Mom stayed in Grand Rapids with her family on that occasion. Grand Rapids was only about an hour away by car.
The very first home that my brother John could remember was in Ionia where Dad found a job as the new principal of the high school. This home was an old mansion located quite close to the school. Dad had taught math in the Ypsilanti Public Schools while finishing his BA degree at the U. of M. He then tried to be hired as a math teacher in the Detroit Public School system, but at that particular time in Michigan, the public schools were decidedly anti-Catholic, and Dad could not be hired in Detroit if he was to remain as a Catholic! I know this sounds preposterous today, but it was a fact in the era of 19101920 plus in Michigan. A special school board election was held and Dad lost his job as high school principal in Ionia because of his religion.
Next Dad moved the family to Muskegon. Mom says that Dad had a good friend (from U of M days? Or Kalamazoo?) who vouched for him at Muskegon, so Dads religion was overlooked. The home he obtained in Muskegon was on Filo Avenue. This was a dead end street practically in the sand dune area close to Lake Michigan. John says it went west from McCracken Street, and was almost adjacent to a rather large cemetery where he remembers wandering often.
Dad had no money; he either rented or bought an old house that lacked heat, electricity, and indoor plumbing. Mom cooked on a coal stove, and kerosene stove. They also used kerosene for lighting. To support his family in the summer, Dad sold furnaces. Dad also dug a basement under this house, and installed a furnace there himself; now he could show that he really knew his product and could vouch for its quality! Mom also told the storymore than oncethat she went to the local butcher/grocer and explained their lack of money at the moment to pay for groceries, so he extended credit to them which Mom and Dad quickly paid back after Dads first pay in October.
Mom became ill here with influenza. This may have been associated with the birth of little Jean. Grandma McGuinness came to assist the family. John recalls seeing a middle-aged woman walk down the street carrying some kind of a bag or suitcase, she approached him and said, "you must be John, hello John, Im your grandmother."
"Oh no," John said. "I know my grandma, and youre not her!" John, of course was referring to Grandmother Bek, whom he had seen many times. He could not remember seeing Grandma McGuinness.
In 1917-18, Mother had the flu and almost died. Dad temporarily rented another home somewhere inside Muskegon, so that Mom could get more heat, and recover. Fortunately for the rest of us, she did recover. Dad then moved the family to a lower flat in a two family home on Lake Street. This home had steam heat. But Mom was again forced to cook on a coal stove, and there was another coal stove in the dining room. Dad installed a single electric light bulb in the kitchen; this was the only electricity in the house. They were again to use kerosene lamps in this residence, also. James was born in this residence in 1918.
With the expanding automobile boom in Detroit, the city public school system decided that it might be able to withstand the terrible indignity of Catholics teaching in its public schools. This time, 1920-21 was a period of great expansion in Detroit. The city was rapidly extending outward along every one of its principal "spokes", or main streets. Dad found a job as a math teacher at either McMichael Intermediate or North Western High in Detroit. They shared the same campus. His siblings had already moved to this city a year or two ahead of him, and had moved into a home on Vinewood Avenue, where they would live for the next 30 years or more.
When the family moved from Muskegon to Detroit, Dad bought a home on Woodrow Avenue just off Tireman Avenue. David was born here in 1921, and I in 1923. A family by the name of Cerce purchased it in 1924 from Dad. Mom and Dad went back to this house on business a few times, (Mrs. Cerce was an expert seamstress) and I accompanied them once or twice. It was a good sized home, in a nice quiet residential area. It was from this address that John, Mary; and Jean went to the nearby Sampson School where Aunt Maude taught. Dad walked from this house to where he taught school at the Northwestern School complex for a several year period. He also was promoted to boys counselor at this school.
My earliest memories are of Muskegon living in town in a brown frame house with gas lighting or oil lamps that came down from the ceiling and a pot bellied wood or coal stove that heated the downstairs. We probably only had one floor. The stove had eisenglass windows in the bay and you could see the flames.
We were in the dining room; Jean, James and I. I remember cutting Jeans hair with a scissors and nicked her ear. Scissors were forbidden, and I was punished. Next I remember a white frame house on the outskirts of town on Filo Avenue. It had a porch on two sides, I believe. We seemed to be right in the sand without a lawnlovely primroses or wild roses grew in the yard in the early summer.
Dad had chickens and a garden at this place. The kitchen had a wood or an oil-cooking stove. John and I and possibly Jean slept upstairs (only one bed room there). We slept in a double bed. John went to kindergarten; he took me once for a special occasion. I was wearing leggings so it was winter. He couldnt get them off me so he left me in the coatroom. The teacher came to help me; all the schools in Michigan had a coatroom at that time.
Dad or Mom used to read to us at night from a big Grimms Fairy Tale book. One night Dad read Jack the Giant Killer and it was so real to me I screamed and screamed when put to bed. Dad spanked me when he was climbing up the stairs (I thought he was Jack the Giant Killer). I think John egged me on!
Mom cooked on a kerosene stove I believe, and we had a pot bellied stove for heat. Dad killed chickens by chopping their heads off. I was not supposed to watch, but of course I did, and I screamed about that, too. I never watched again. I hated the sight of the headless chickens flopping about the yard! The event of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I occurred while we were living on Philo Avenue. Dad took me to a Parent Teacher meeting and I played in the kindergarten sand table. I remember this was an exciting eventeveryone was excited and jubilant about the war ending.
Also while we lived in Muskegon, we visited a friend of Dads that lived in the surrounding sand dunes. The two men and some of the children went for a walk to see Lake Michigan. We walked through a wooden area and we were admonishedwarnedto stay together. John went ahead; Dad and his friend were also ahead. I was left with Jean. We were supposed to stay together. I had been admiring the wild flowersand everyone but Jean was too far ahead to see. I wanted to stay and wait for them to return, but Jean went on without me. We had all been warned about staying together and not getting lost, but she went on without me anyway. Jean was very young, probably about three. At that point I decided to go backand when I got back and there was no John and no Jean all heck broke loose and the big search for Jean began.
I think John got in trouble for leaving us. I know I got in trouble for leaving Jean. Jean was found unhurt. But to this day I know that it was Jean who left me, not the reverse!
Mom had the flu while we were in Muskegon; John, Jean and Jim also had the flu, but I did not have a noticeable case of flu (I think I had a low profile case of flu, actually). Dad had to take care of everyone and was terribly beat.
John also has recalled vivid memories of that Filo Avenue home in Muskegon. He remembers that Aunt Laura and Uncle Dick (Mothers youngest sister and her husband) lived in another home about one block away. It could clearly be seen from Mom and Dads home. John went to a small, local Kindergarten by way of an extensive cemetery at the end of Filo Avenue. A fellow student at this stand-alone buildinga converted housewas slightly younger Jimmy Armock, Johns first cousin.
John also remembers that since World War I was being fought, the kids were told to bring tin foil to school each day possible. This tin foil was obtained by the parents almost daily as wrapping for tea, coffee, and some other products; it was vital for the war effort. It was regularly collected from the schools during this war period.
Mary remembers taking two train trips from Muskegonboth to Detroit. The second train trip was probably the move to Detroit from Muskegon.: I got sick and vomited because I wouldnt sit still. I was so excited I kept running in the aisles. My rag doll was lost on that trip, and I mourned her loss for years. Finally Mother told me she had thrown the rag doll out when we moved because she was so filthy!
One of these trips must have been to Detroit to see the McGuinness family for I remember meeting Grandpa McGuinness for the first time. At this time I remember how Aunts Maude, Mary and Marguerite watched us very closely because their Christmas tree (it had to have been at Christmas time) had real, live candles on it, and they were justifiably afraid of firethey were so afraid of fire that I hardly got to enjoy the tree itself.
I dont remember moving into the Woodrow Avenue home, but I do remember being enrolled in kindergarten in the old Sampson School in the middle of the year. I also remember having to go to school with John; I also remember hanging on to his coat and I wouldnt let go, I was so afraid of losing him. The school was the Sampson Grammar School. This is the school where I went through kindergarten and 1st grade; then I went to St. Theresas for the second grade so that I could make my first communion.
I started school in January; in Detroit they were on the semester system; since I was five years old in December, I got to start in January, so I was able to have one semester in kindergarten and two semesters of first grade and one semester of second grade when I transferred to St. Theresas. I transferred to St. Theresas so I could make my first communion. I remember being very shy and scared in Kindergarten; I also had many earaches and sore throats and bronchitis at this time in my life. Mother eventually made me take cod live oil to build me up. I could not sing in tune so the music teacher glared at me and eventually I just mouthed the words!
We all brought dolls to school so we could talk about them, I guessa show and tell sort of thing. My doll was wooden doll, which Mom had ordered through the catalogue; the kids, of course, made fun of itI was mortified. Also, she, the doll, had no clothes, and of course no hairand I dont believe it was jointed either. I do not remember kindergarten with any fondness. But I do remember with fondness the marching around in a big circle.
My first grade teacher was much nicer, and the year was more enjoyable, however, I was sick for Valentines Day and didnt get many valentines when I got back. I remember that one girl in my class had a velvet dress which seemed so luxurious to me. I thought she must be very rich.
On our street (Woodrow) there lived a girl who had a lot of toys; she was also pretty and had nice clothes. I would walk by her house and yard and look at all her stuff; I didnt know how to make friends with her. The kids across the street had tricycles; I had never seen any before, and I thought they were out of this world!
Sampson School was on the Detroit invented Platoon Systemwhich meant we went to different classrooms for different subjects (except in kindergarten). This meant that in the 1st and 2nd grade we went to different classrooms for gym, music, and science and to assembly in the auditorium.
I found life in Detroit better than in Muskegon; it was more excitingwe went to see Grandma McGuinness and the aunts, frequently, especially on Sundays. Palmer and Philip did not live on Vinewood with Grandma and the aunts at this time. Another part of the excitement, I was going to school. A milkman delivered milk in bottles daily. We bought ice for the icebox from an icehouse. We usually took it home in a red wagon. An Italian gentleman who had a horse and wagon sold vegetables and fruit. He also came to the house. We could and did walk to the store for bread and staples, and even from time to time to a bakery. We also walked to the drug store. The doctor lived at the end of the street in a basement apartment. His apartment was a brick building, which faced on Tireman, our main street. The stores were also on Tireman.
I made friends with a girl down the street who lived in a basement apartment. Her father was a policeman. This family was Polish; there were five children in the family, and I think they were the only other Catholic family on our street. The first fall season we were in this community we experienced the "begging" tradition associated with Halloween. This is now called "trick or treating". It was very exciting to mebut I had to enjoy it from my bedroom window for I had earaches and a sore throat again. John was the only one that got to go out begging.
The other kids on the block did play at night on the street, under the streetlights, but Mom and Dad did not allow us to do soearly to bed was our routine. Mom was always tired of us, and so was Dad; d Dad had to get up and go to work early, and Mom had to get breakfast, etc. etc. Housework was much harder in those days; the washing and the ironing took two or three days. Then there were the meals, the daily chores and cleaning.
Grandma and Grandpa Bek came to visit us on Woodrow Avenue by train every summer. I got to go to the station with Dad; I loved the Grand Central Station, although I think they sometimes came to the Grand Trunk Station. It was much smaller and less ostentatious. For years I thought it would be fun to go sit in the train station and watch people coming and going. This seemed very exciting to me.
Our next-door neighbor had a bed of cosmos flowers all along her fence. I thought these were the most beautiful flowerbeds I had ever seen. We loved to go over there and just touch and look at themJean, James and I. Mom loved flowers, too, but didnt have time to grow any until we moved several miles out Grand River from Woodrow. This same lady also had peonies, which I also thought were gorgeous, and do to this very day, but I have never been able to grow them.
Mom did plant weeping Mulberry trees in the back yard, and we often played under them, Jean, James and I. Jean and I played with celluloid and other dolls; I also sewed and tried to crochet for them. Grandma Bek taught me to crochet, and both Grandma Beck and Grandma McGuinness taught me to sew.
We were still living on Woodrow when Aunt Mary Conklin got married to Charles Conklin. I remember she and Uncle Charles arriving in a chauffeur driven car on the way to Cleveland. Aunt Mary had her bridal bouquet, for Mother I presume. I think that was the reason for their stopping. They did not get out of the car, but I was so excited to see Aunt Mary and Uncle Charles on their way to their honeymoon!
Mom sent me to the store one day, and I had to take David. He walked slowly, and he loved trucks. We had to cross Woodrow at Tireman. A truck was coming and David froze in the middle of the street staring at the truck. He loved seeing it so close, I think. I tugged at him, tried to lift him up to get him across the street, but he was too heavy for me, so I finally ran to the opposite curb myself. The man driving the truck stopped, and I ran back and got David. I felt so guilty; I knew Mother would have killed me if she had known. This was only a rather small truck; trucks and cars moved much more slowly in those days!
All in all, I remember a very happy childhood on Woodrow. Dad diked the back yard one winter and flooded it for ice-skating. There was an alley behind our back fence and Jim and John went "alley picking" or first learned about it there on Woodrow. They built an apartment or a flat on the corner lot, two homes away from us, and we kids played in it after the builders left for the day. It was framed and two story, with the cement basement not yet poured. The stairwell had sloping boards to the next level. Jim fell from the second floor clean through to the basement and landed on his head. I thought we all were in deep trouble since we werent supposed to be at this new house location. I think brother James was even "out" for a minute or two, but John was there, too and ran home to get Mother. She came right over, and fortunately for us, and for all of Jims descendants, he had miraculously missed every piece of wood and all of the cement areas, and was not badly injured. Of course we were all punished, except for James, for being in this dangerous place, but this episode taught us all a valuable lesson.
Mom had a very good voice and sang; she taught nursery and childrens songs to us. Dad also would sing to whomever was the baby at the time, or second to the baby. He especially liked to sing "Twenty Froggies". We eventually had a victrolla record player, but I do not remember any records except one Irish one by the great Irish tenor, John McCormick. The Vinewood McGuinnesses had a much better victrolla, and a little better selection of records to play. We also had music at school. John took piano lessons; I was a flop at this because I had early ear problems.
There were no radios yet; just crystal setsand we got one of these by having the boys at high school make Dad one. What a wonder! John fell in love with "Spanish Eyes", and I fell in love with Hawaiian music. Earlier in time than this, Mom and Dad got to go out to the theater downtown Detroit to see a famous musical production. "Desert Song," I think it was. Mary and Marguerite sat and took care of us for the occasion. Mom got all dressed up for this occasion. We kids were very impressed. Of course Dad wore a shirt and a tie very day for school, but Mom did not get dressed up very often, nor did she have the clothes to do so.
Mom had long hair; I dont remember a single woman at that time with short hair until I was in about the second grade. One by one they were bobbing their hair. I remember when Mom bobbed hers. She looked O.K. but I liked her better with long hairwhich she braided or wore in a bun. I remember her getting her upper teeth out too, and getting false teeth.
Mom always taught us how lucky we were to have such a wonderful grandma and aunts so close to us, and we were. They did a lot for us and they truly loved us and were proud of us. We spent every Sunday afternoon at Vinewood for years, going through the family photographsexploring their house and back yard, and then eating supper there on Sunday night. From time to time over the years they provided us with special entertainment. Uncle Palmer did not live with them when we first moved to Detroit, nor did Uncle Philip. Both of these uncles moved there some time later.
Grandma McGuinness always fed the homeless men although she was warned time and again not to do this. I believe they marked her house; she fed them on the back stoop. I was there two times when she did this. I believe grandma had two kitchen stoves when we first started to go to her house on Vinewood, one wood burning, and one gas. She made wonderful cookies, pancakes from raised dough, and biscuits. She also made "fried cakes". These were essentially cake doughnuts. Also, she could recite from memory long parts of poems she had learned in childhood. She always dressed the samea neckband shirt, gray usually, with layers of full skirts and finally a bib apron, high top shoes, button I believe.
Dad did spank us at times; Mother usually reported on our offenses to Dad, and he felt obliged to do this. I hid under the bed once, got dragged out, and my spanking was only worse for my hiding. I never tried that again!
We acted out everything that impressed us. We acted out things involving John, and making our first communion, and Aunt Mary getting married, even though we did not go to the wedding. We also acted out the funeral of a lady down the street who had died.
Looking back I would not have changed any of it. For a happy childhood all you need is people (family, Mom, Dad, aunts, uncles and grand parents, and most of all brothers and sisters). You also need friends and neighbors. You have to remember, however, this was a much slower time than the present. You had to have time to take it all in, and changes didnt come as fast as they do today.
Aunts Mary, Maude and Marguerite gave John his first birthday party (he was 10 years old). I think I tried to open his presents for him! Of course I lobbied for a birthday party of my own when I was 10 years old. It was the first party I can remember attending. Later, at the Polish family house I attended a party where they played spin the bottle. I really liked this game; I got to kiss the boy where the bottle stopped.
Winthrop AvenueOur New Home
We seven (four boys and three girls) lived at 15110 Winthrop Avenue in the Cooley-St. Marys-Strathmore section of suburban Detroit, Michigan beginning in 1924 when it was still just outside the Detroit city limits. It was called Greenfield Township. This area was incorporated into the city shortly after we moved there. The house was constructed especially for us. I was only nine months old when we took up residence in this far away from the urban part of Detroit area. I am told that we did not have a sewer hook up the first few months of our residence, so of course we had to have an out door "necessary house" for some of that period of time.
Mary remembers that the Winthrop house was not fully constructed and ready for occupancy when it was time to give up the Woodrow home to the new owners, and move. Fortunately for the family the builder came through with another vacant home (ready for occupancy) farther out Tireman Avenue, Mary thinks, that the family occupied this "borrowed" house for a period of about four weeks or so. She distinctly remembers having her own bed, moved from Woodrow to sleep in, however, and also remembers that they did not attend any school from this location. Mary further remembers the flurry of activity on the part of mom and dad to stipple the walls and make the new Winthrop house home-like for the family when the builder finally permitted the family to "move in."
For most of our childhood our house along with one other home way down the street were the only two houses on our side of our block of Winthrop. This gave us a great deal of space to play every kind of game we were able to concoct. There were several homes across the street. There were also two homes on our side of Greenfield Road, and a fire station almost directly in back of our home.
Our close involvement with both the St. Marys Church and School, along with Cooley High School and the many neighbors on both sides of Fenkel Avenue (Five Mile road) gave us a rather wide scope of associates, neighbors and close friends with which we associated while we were growing up.
Our principal contact with the big city was the famous Grand River Avenue, and the Grand River street car. In fact the street car did not go as far as Greenfield when we first moved there, but its extension to our area, and then all the way past us to Redford, Michigan had already been agreed upon, I understand, before Dad signed the contract for the house to be built. Redford itself was incorporated into the Greenfield area of Detroit a year or two after we moved to our new neighborhood.
The streetcar stopped at Greenfield Road and Grand River, a distance of about one mile away. All of us were adept at covering that distance by foot any time we had to go into the city itself. I dont remember exactly what the streetcar fare was (twelve cents, I think) but that and the bus on Fenkel Avenue, which stopped about 250 feet from our house, and Dads car were our lifelines for city and local travel.
Both St. Marys School and Cooley High School were very manageable distances for walking. We walked to them every day; twice a day for St. Marys, since we came home for lunch. Mom was a real magician to be able to run the house and do everything that a Mother has to do for a big growing family and always have lunch ready for the school kids when they came running home for a fast bite, and then a fast walk back to school. As the little kid at home, I got brushed aside at lunchtime so as to expedite the quick feeding of my older siblings. Often Mom and I ate after the school kids departed at noon. As I remember it, they only had a rather short time to make it home, eat, and get back to school.
In addition to the fire station, there was a small gas station very close to our home on Fenkel Avenue, and across Greenfield there was a small confectionery/soda fountain and a small grocery store. This and an old auto repair place almost on the opposite corner of Greenfield and Fenkel comprised the small commercial area that we could reach on foot.
This entire area today would be labeled as lower middle class, but in this extensive community there were very few rich people and only a few poor people. Our home was a "Dutch colonial" style (rather popular then) and it had wood siding and a concrete and brick front porch. We also had a two-car garage that Dad built himself in1924 0r 1925.
The house had three bedrooms to start with but it was necessary to add two more bedrooms and a much larger kitchen when I was about five or six. The original kitchen was very small. We had a decent sized living room and dining room and small library-sun room with five good-sized windows to look out over the back yard, garage, and side area. The house had (originally) only one bathroom, but we soon added a basement toilet for the guys. The house had coal heat, and no insulation, so it was quite cold in the winter. When the weather went below zero we almost froze, and the windows frosted over so thick that we could not see out the windows.
Since I was six years younger than James, and almost three years younger than David, they were the ones I tried to keep up with when they were around. We were a very cohesive family. Mom (Nellie) was almost always at home (she had to be to get anything done, and to watch us) and Dad was almost always at school. Of course my playtime with James and David was always when school was not in session.
I was only nine months old when the family made the move from Woodrow Avenue. This was about the 1st of July 1924. I am told that the day was so cold that Mom had Dad build a fire in the coal-burning furnace. Obviously, this was not a seasonable July day for Detroit!
Brother John was our second father, and Mary was the families second mother. John was a military and commanding figure, I am told and he often opted out of the childish and juvenile games that Mary, Jean and James thought were fun. Though close in age, Mary and Jean were never "buddies" Genes, perhaps? James and David, however were close friends, when I was young and learning the family ways. When Mom and Dad were absent John was automatically in charge. But since John was often elsewhere, it was usually Mary that I remember taking care of me when Mom and Dad were not at home. I loved all my brothers and sistersthey were all good to mebut I thought Mary was the optimum of beauty, grace, style and loveliness. In todays lingo, I would say they all were very "cool." John, being the first-born sonand our parents being steeped in old-fashioned beliefs and virtuesheld a unique position in the family. So did Mary, the eldest daughter. It was unspoken, perhaps, but Mom and Dad really had very high hopes for these two siblings. They were both held to unusually high standards.
Additional Information Re: Family Life On Winthrop Avenue
John and Nell have remembered additional things re family life on Winthrop Avenue. John remembers that when we first moved to Winthrop (24), there were no sewers, so Dad had a septic sewage system installed (every house in that particular area needed a septic system). Because drainage in that location was not good, John and James had the daily task of pumping out the septic tank. This was because most of the year, the heavy clay soil did not drain well.
Speaking of drainage, there was what we called a big county ditch that ran on a diagonal line somewhere east and west between Chalfonte St. and Eaton St. going south from our house to Grand River. Each and every spring, this ditch would swell into a rather large pond. I was not allowed to go there, but every time I could wrangle a visit, I found lots of kids playing on home made rafts, fishing for pollywogs, or just playing around in the water. Mom was afraid that I would drown thereshe was quite right.
James, John and David loved this place in the spring of the year. Occasionally this ditch/pond enveloped most or all of Winthrop itself, and no one could drive through to Grand River on this street. Of course this was entirely remedied when the street itself was paved in 1931 or32.
Our home, and garage, was also the location of a circulation sub-station for the local newspaper, The Detroit News. Every day a truck came to drop off a large number of newspapers for the entire neighborhood, and Mary Agnes was in charge of this enterprise. It was her way of earning money for herself, and for what was then called, her "Hope Chest." There were about 8-l0 newsboys who would come to get their papers at our sub-station. I can well remember the consternation when the paper truck was late, or when they did not deliver a sufficient number of papers. At that time, Mary or Mom would get on the phone for the downtown office of The News to have them deliver more copies. There was also the hustle and bustle of collecting money from the newsboys on Saturday and turning this money over to the official Paper collector. This seemed to occupy munch of Moms and Marys time on Saturday. I dont know how much money Mary made from this difficult enterprise, but it could not have been enough for all the time and trouble it caused. Life seemed a lot simpler after Mary quit the paper circulation business.
Mary also remembers that Mother was quite interested it helping her to think about a possible religious vocation. To this end, Mother arranged for Mary to have one or two tours of the Sarah (?) Fisher Home on Southfield Road run by the Little Sisters of the Poor who took care of aged, infirm and impoverished ladies and gentlemen, most of whom would have had no other place to live. Mary would have none of this type of life. Mary also ignored "invitations" from the IHM sisters (Immaculate Hart of Mary) who taught at St. Marys School. These nuns had told prospective novices like Mary that their vocation would "come to them sometime when they were alone," and would least expect it. Mary remembers that she avoided doing such tasks as hanging up the laundry in the back yard, or going out doors to take it off the clothes lineall by herself. I watched her do this under protest (she wanted someone to help her). I could see her clearly through the windows in the back of the house. It looked somewhat exciting to me, and, at the time, I did not understand her reluctance to work alone in the back yard and have her "vocation" come up and take her by surprise!
All of us learned to play card games. Most of us learned to play auction bridge. (See item re Mom and Dads Bridge Club). We also played a whole variety of other card games. As one could imagine, there was also the usual wrangling and even fighting over rules and regulations of these card games. I particularly disliked "Old Maid," because I always seemed to be the Old Maid. It was not a title that I was proud to have. Being the "little brother" in such a large and diverse family was not always fun. After Nell was born in 1929, I lost the position of being the baby and just became the youngest brother.
Another thing that Nell remembers was the annual spring burn-off of the fields around our home. At this time in Detroit it was usual and customary for many people to burn off the extensive fields in the spring of the year. Hence every warm, sunny March and early April day there were frequent fires to allow the new emerging grass to take over. I can still smell the smoke and feel the acrid tears on my face from this annual event. Of course this activity is not permitted in any city that I know of today, but then this action was not only common, it was thought desirable.
Nell also remembers that I particularly liked to set cardboard boxes afire, and claim they represented a house or a big building. I think I learned this trick when I was sent out to burn the trash. Yes, we did that in one end of the vacant land south of our house. That too was common in this area; we did have a city garbage collection, but I cannot recall any trash collection what so ever, hence the importance of being able to burn combustible trash.
Another memory that both Mary and Nell have is that of preparing Easter baskets at Easter time. A lot of thought and planning went into the yearly arranging of such baskets. Mary, Jean and Mom were and in charge of preparing and hiding the baskets. The hiding was the most important part of the ordeal (also who got the most of the chocolate candy!) I distinctly remember that one favorite place was behind the upright piano, and another location was inside the living room piano! There were many other locations, but the only other one I clearly remember was the front clothes closet. The only real advantage to finding your basket quickly was to be able to eat the candy more quickly. I dont remember too much squabbling about candy, but I dont remember much sharing of candy, either!
We consumed a lot of milk; a regular deliveryman who drove two horses hitched to a milk wagon delivered it to us daily. He also delivered butter and eggsright to the door. As time went on, horses hitched to wagons for horsepower for loads other than for milk became less and less common, but in the twenties, they were still quite common
Going back to our Winthrop Avenue situation: We played all kinds of out door gamesespecially "fox and Geese" when there was snow on the ground. We three boys along with Mary Agnes and Jean who often initiated the game would make a large circle with a couple of crossings through the circle for the "fox" to catch the geese. I remember being the goose more often than anyone else!
We had so much vacant space to play with at this Winthrop residence that we even created a rather permanent baseball diamond just south of our two lots. I can recall many games played on this diamond, and not only by the kids, but at least one Sunday John and his group of guyswho seemed very grown up to me, played a long, serious game. And, almost unbelievably, we also had "side yard" golf! Dad, James and David drove golf balls between our side yard and the Sampson house way down the street. Dad also had a horseshoe rink between our side yard and the ball field. Dad was also a born athlete; he was good at both golf and horseshoes. He often had other men over to play horseshoes with them.
This group of McGuinnesses usually attracted many other kids from the neighborhood for the fox and geese game and for other out door games. We also played a lot of softball in season, and another game (of course with snow) was "forts," with two opposing snow forts and lots of snowballs. I was usually excluded from this game, and yes, it became quite rough. Speaking of other kids from the neighborhood, Earl Zeigler, who lived two blocks away, practically lived at our house. He was James special friend. Another friend of James was a big guy named Dorsey; I have forgotten his first name. Both of these gentlemen are now dead. David had a good friend named Peter Lyshack, who became an attorney for Ford Motor Company. He is also dead, as is his brother, Joe, another friend of Davids.
Incidentally, I remember that all of James and Davids friends were very good to me, and considering the age difference this was unusual. I also remember "tattling" on James and David when I thought I had been mistreated. Fortunately, this did not happen often (I felt the pressure to keep silent from these two older guys). I quickly found out that this was not the way to filial popularity. I also remember when I was very young (3 or 4?) stomping through the tall wet grass around our home with David and James. Mother was furious; we were all punished. James and David more than I. I was considered to be a "follower"not an instigator!
A very important blessed event took place in the McGuinness household in 1929. A new baby girl came into our lives; Nell Therese was born into our family in May 1929. Up to that time I had been the "baby" of the family, and now I had to vacate this favored position to Nell T. All the older kids teased me about this, and honestly, I felt very "neglected" for quite some time after baby Nell came into our lives. It did not take too long, however, before I was as proud of my baby sister, as the others were from the very first day.
When I was in the 2nd grade or so at St. Marys James was going to high school at Cooley High. Mary Agnes finished high school at St. Marys, (see the matrix on family birth dates and education, etc.). Jean went to North Western High (the street car again). David and I went to Cooley High in our turn. Cooley was a very large high school; when I attended there (1938-4l) it had 4,500 students! I idolized David; he was so big, strong and athletic. And he was a football star at Cooley with a big "C" on his sweater. Dad would not let either James or John play competitive sports (fear of injury, I understand), but he made an exception for DavidI think David knew how to get Dad to say, "yes" better than the other two. Also, David persevered in asking Dad.
By the time I was in the 7th and 8th grade, James was already in college studying electrical engineering at the University of Detroit. James was a co-op student, which meant that after his first year he went to school one month, and then worked somewhere in industry for a month. This meant that he was earning some money, but it took twice as long to finish his degree this way. He had to take the Fenkel bus to school, and then walk a few blocks. If I remember correctly the fare was ten cents. But ten cents was a lot of money to us then.
I can remember sneaking downstairs to watch him study in the far SW corner of our basement at the small desk he made for himself there. I was not allowed to disturb him, but I could stand quietly and watch him from time to time. I knew he stayed up night after night until 1-2-or 3 AM in the morning working math problems and studying. Remember in this era there were no calculators or computers; all computations and calculations were done by a slide rule. Slide rules (difficult to operate) are now museum pieces. What we now do with a computer or a graphing calculator in a few moments took a long time with a slide rule. Hence his brilliance and expertise in engineering math would have represented a really significant achievement for him. Dad and John occasionally gave him some technical assistance with engineering math, but almost all of it was his own hard work and determination.
In order to stay awake while studying, Jim drank cokes, which we found out at that time contained traces of real cocaine. Mom made him switch to coffee.
We four boys had three bedrooms at the back of the house upstairs. We boys had our share of horseplay there and elsewhere. Mary and Jean shared one of two bedrooms in the front. I got very well acquainted with all my brothers both in our sleeping quarters and at the breakfast, lunch and dinner table. Also in our living room, sun room and in our big back yard where we tended to live in the summer time. We always ate together as a family. But each of us had our own separate friends.
Both our Mom and Dad encouraged us to have friends and to play all kinds of games. David was a hands-on person with all kinds of sportsbaseball, football, golf, and ping-pong. Dad bought us a ping-pong table and we had it in the basement. Both David and James were very good at this game. Again, good eye hand coordination.
Dad had a teacher at his school whose brother was the pastor at St. Hugo of the Hills Church in Bloomfield Hills. Directly across from this beautiful church in this exclusive estate area was a private golf course, which was owned by a parishioner who lived next to the church. Dad was given golfing privileges at this course, and he took Dave and me and Peter Lyshak (Daves friend) there often. I think James found time to go with us occasionally (remember, Jim was a co-op student, and he was frequently working.). David and Pete Lyshak were good and determined golfers. Dad and I were just there for the sport and the exercise. David really honed his golf game on this course. Again, I wish to emphasize that David was an almost natural born athletevery good eye hand coordination and all. He had a beautiful golf swing; he was also good at putting.
More Winthrop Avenue Memories and Details
Nell remembers that life at the Winthrop home during the war years was quite crowded. After all of the boys had let Winthrop to help fight the War in Europe and the Pacific, Mom and Dad took in Jean and little Leslie III (after Leslie Senior had left Tennessee for duty in the Pacific); there were others, too, a factory worker, and a doctor and his wife from S. Dakota. These two both worked at Mt. Carmel Hospital. The factory worker was there while I was still in residence; Otto was a nephew of Moms California sister-in-law, John Beks wife. He did not stay a long time. He was a highly skilled tool and die maker, and he came to Michigan to work in the war effort.
Nell also recalls, as do I, the July 4th family parties in our spacious back yard. These were loud, boisterous, full of good food, and much laughter. We had lots of invited guests, including some (or maybe all) of the Vinewood crowd, plus other teacher friends of Mom and Dad.
After the food, we often played croquet on our side yard. We had a rather professional layout, as I recall, and several of us were really good players. I especially remember David and James as being about the best. Meanwhile, the other adults talked and played cards.
Nell and I remember Mom and Dad (and early on Mary and Jean) canning, canning, canning. They canned apples, peaches, tomatoes and green beans, cans and cans of the stuff. I think they once also canned corn. Mother also "put up" pickles once or twice. Dad was an absolutely as avid a canner as MomI think more so. He went to the Eastern market and bought bushels of the fruit and vegetables, got the jars from the basement, and started the peeling, boiling and sterilizing. Of course the hot kitchen was alive with the smell of the produce. I frankly hated the whole hot steamy, smelly process. But the food was good to eat! The only part of this process that appealed to me was the trip to Eastern Market, in a different part of townthe near East side of Detroit. This was foreign territory to me, and I always enjoyed the busy, totally different scene there.
Dad was to continue his canning activities the rest of his active life. He stopped canning only when he left Sturtevant Avenue in the 60s to move to Carmel Hall, and the end of his active life, about the age of 75 or 76.
Once years later, when I was the only young person left at home, I asked Dad, busy in the basement of Sturtevanthis current canning headquarterswhy he continued to drive himself with the hot, steamy canning job. He told me it made him feel useful; it was something he could do, and he thought it was helpful to his kids to whom he gave the jars of producemostly peaches, apple sauce and tomatoes now. I think, in retrospect, it also helped him to fight his ongoing depression, which seemed to get progressively worse with age and Mother becoming so disabled.
Mom and Dads Bridge Club
Mom and Dad helped to form a neighborhood bridge group in the Winthrop AvenueSt. Marys Area. This auction bridge group (contract bridge was not as common then) met about once a month at various homes and provided a neighborly and bonhomie friendship for quite a few people in this whole area.
Names that can be recalled as being "regular" members are: Mr. and Mrs. Edward Earl, Mr. and Mrs. Bernard McNab, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Donnelly, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Sullivan, Mr. and Mrs. Faeckey, Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Scott. Uncle Palmer and Aunt Marguerite also came to these parties. There were others who came to these parties on a hit or miss basis, but I believe this comprised the core group.
Mary remembers that we kids were simply delighted when this group met at our homeleft over goodies that we never saw, otherwise. Nell remembers that we kids also learned to play auction bridge. However, we were not welcome at these gatherings.
The older kids were sent off to visit elsewhere, and I (and later Nell) were banished to bed. I also remember that on at least one or two occasions there was a single table reserved for other type of card games, rather than auction bridge.
In the middle 30s Mother was elected president of the Strathmore Faculty Wives Club. Her picture appeared (for the only time in her life) on an inside page of The Detroit News. With the information about this new club being added to the Detroit Federation of Womens Civic Clubs. Mother had helped to organize this Faculty Wives Club a few years earlier (probably in the late 20s). Mother held this prestigious position for one term, which was probably for a single year, then she became one of its illustrious past presidents.
Since Mother did not drive, I can remember taking her to a few of the meetings of this organization at the Bushnell Church on Southfield Avenue. The Bushnell Church always seemed to be the place where this group met in its later years for luncheon meetings. Mother always enjoyed socializing with this group of women who were married to local schoolteachers.
"Uncle" Ralph Twitchell, Dads Friend
When Dad taught at Northwestern High he was a boys counselor, and his principal assistant was a Yankee from Vermont named Ralph Twitchell. The name Twitchell is an old and honorable English name; Ralph had done some investigating, and he could not find another Twitchell in the entire state of Vermont. He had graduated from the very prestigious Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Soon after Dad left Northwestern for Cleveland Intermediate Twitchell became the head of the mathematics department at Cooley High. As such all four of we boys had involvement with him when we were students at Cooley, either as a teacher, or seeing and talking to him in the halls.
Dad was very fond of "Uncle" Ralphhe was invited to our house for dinner on many occasions. He simply delighted we kids because he always brought big boxes of candy with him, from Saunders, no less. In addition to that, he "rough necked" with all of us. He was really a great favorite of ours. Twitchell seemed to genuinely like kids! He had none of his own; he was very much a bachelor. He seemed to have some other place that he went to for Thanksgiving, but he was a regular at our home for Christmas.
As indicated above, he was a frequent dinner guest at our table. These dinner invitations stopped rather abruptly, however, when he made the mistake of teaching us a rather "bawdy" Dartmouth College chant. Mother, who was definitely something of a "prude" when it came to sex, was horrified. So was Dad. Yet after WWII I helped Dad drive all the way to Vermont to visit "Uncle" Ralph and his sister at their home in Bethel, Vermont. He could not have been more gracious and hospitable to Mom, Dad, Nell and I during our several day visit. He took us on many interesting trips all over the state. He obviously knew Vermont as only a native couldand he loved its rare beauty and eccentricities.
Frankly, I loved all the old Dartmouth songs and sports chants"Uncle" Ralph added much to our young lives. He brought a whole new dimension to our sheltered lives. He showed us that there was a very different world out there from what we lived every day! He also added to our growing knowledge of Saunders candy delicacies.
Visiting The Vinewood McGuinness FamilyDads Family
Visiting Dads family on Vinewood Avenue, in Detroit was remarkably simple. Dad went there often when his mother, Grandma McGuinness was still alive. We either went with him, or we took the Grand River street car to the West Grand Boulevard stop and walked about one good block. Their home on Vinewood, a large, old clapboard structure of many rooms and four floors, was a few houses East of Grand River, at the intersection of W. Grand Boulevard and Dexter. North Western High School was also located at this intersection.
Our grandmother, Emma Palmer McGuinness was a very old and infirm lady who dressed like a character out of a Dickens novel. She slept late, walked with great difficulty, holding on to tables and chairs as she walked, and spoke with great authority. I am told that she ran the whole family even when her much older husband was alive; he, James McGuinness, Sr. died in 1917 from the affects of colon cancer. I was born into this family so late in time that I cannot recall ever seeing her "dressed up" other than in old, old skirts and aprons, and I do not recall her going out of the house and the back yard, except to buy green groceries from a man we called "Tony" who drove a grocery truck that stopped at the door in front of the house. He rang a bell to announce himself and his truck.
However, in spite of her age and ill health, Grandma ran the family, still, and all her children adored her. She was very fond of our father. I am really not sure what she thought of his children, although I am told that in earlier times she had shown great regard for John and Mary. I know that Jean ate lunch at the Vinewood home when she attended North Western High, and Jean says that Grandma was very kind and loving toward her, too. When grandma demanded something, all her family jumped. There was quite a collection of aunts and uncles there: Palmer and Philip and aunts Maude and Marguerite. . Later on Aunt Mary and her two children, Emma Jane and Charles, would join them.
Palmer taught chemistry and physics at nearby North Western High and he considered himself to be a quintessential new era scientist. Aunt Maude taught 1st grade at nearby Sampson School in a basement room; this basement classroom was her classroom for about 20 straight years. Both James and Jean were her pupils in this room when the family lived nearby on Woodrow Avenue. Aunt Marguerite was a counselor at Miller High School on the far east side of Detroit.
Aunt Mary lived in the same general neighborhood on Larchmont St. This home, where she and her family lived until about 1934 or 35 was about a mile and a half from the Vinewood place. Aunt Marys husband, Uncle Charles Conklin, died of cancer in 1932, at the very height of the famous depression. They had two children: Emma Jane, one year younger than I, and Charles, two years younger than Nell.
There was no social security, etc. in 1932; Uncle Charles insurance company refused to pay on the insurance policies he had left for support for Aunt Mary and her two children. They, in effect, defaulted on the policies. This left this small family in a very difficult economic situation. Aunt Maude left the Vinewood home to help Aunt Mary (remember, Emma Jane was very young, and Charles only a baby).
Not too long after this, the Vinewood McGuinnesses undertook major renovations and upgrading to their home, and both modernized it and enlarged it, the home itself had been built about 1890. I believe this took place shortly before grandmas death in 1937 (?). Part of this enlargement was to make a bedroom for Philip in the basement.
After grandmas death, Aunt Mary rented her Larchmont home and moved into Vinewood with Emma Jane and Charles. Aunt Mary remained with the aunts until both Marguerite and Maude died, then she went to live with Charles and Sheila in Bloomfield Hills. Charles and Emma Jane were to make their home with Palmer, Philip, Maude and Marguerite both on Vinewood and on Wildemere until they graduated from college and left for marriage and homes of their own.
I loved to visit this large, roomy somewhat mysterious Vinewood place, and I often was able to spend the night there. They fed me, and all of us very well. And it tended to be a somewhat different diet than we got at home from Mom! I especially liked to accompany Aunts Marguerite or Mary on shopping on nearby Grand River Avenue where there were large, specialized shops that we did not have close to us in the Winthrop area.
Many years ago Saunders bakeries and candy stores were legendary in the entire Detroit area. There was one of these stores on Grand River just a block or so away from Vinewoodand immediately next to one or two of their favorite locations for shopping! It was the first of these stores that I had ever encountered. I was especially taken with this place; it was the first real bakery I had ever visited. We often went there to buy breadbut this visit sometimes included a dish of ice cream, too. It also had a lunch counter for the convenience of its patrons. This was also new to me. Getting a dish of ice cream or some small sweet at this wonderful store was sheer heaven to me at this age.
On one or two occasions, Uncle Palmer took me on a Saturday over to his chemistry laboratory and to his office at the High School. All of the equipment and paraphernalia seemed so unusual and unknown to mejars, jars, jars of liquids and powders that absolutely bewildered me. Of course I was not allowed to touch anything, and I didnt.
Actually, the Vinewood and the Winthrop McGuinnesses represented a love, love/ win, win situation. Individually, and collectively they added munch to our young lives, and helped various members of our families in many ways that will not be recorded here.
Mentioned above is the fact that Jean ate lunch at Grandmas when she was going to N.W High School. Jean enjoyed greatly her lunch break from class and the walk of two blocks or so to Vinewood. I previously mentioned Aunt Marguerites support for Jeans studies in Paris, Florence, and Sienna.
In the early 20s, the aunts and uncle (sans Aunt Mary and Uncle Philip) took John on an extensive western trip that included going into Yellowstone Park. They made this trip in Palmers new 1922 (?) Buick touring car with open sides, and eisenglass windows that had to be put up in inclement weather. They entered through a new, Eastern entrance (through Cody, Wyoming) that was still under construction. They frequently had to stand by the side of the road to permit the road builders to finish the one lane path for them! Yellowstone was largely virgin park territory in those daysno hordes of visitors then. Mary remembers being taken on a somewhat similar trip, but it was less extensive and through the "middle" South, Kentucky and Tennessee, mainly. The rural South of that day was so much more primitive and different than the Detroit and Grand Rapids that Mary had seen by that time, that it made a lasting impression on her.
I, too, was taken on at least two short Northern Michigan journeys with Palmer and the aunts. One I remember was to visit Uncle Philip who was then working for the C.C.C. as a sort of senior-on-the-job supervisor at Camp Hartwick Pines about 80 or 90 miles south of the Straits. Another time I went with the aunts with Charles and Emma Jane (but without Palmer), to two different Grand Lake cottages. We had two different cottages on Grand Lake because they could not retain the same cottage for a third week.
I also accompanied this same group along with a Ms. Nora Renkes, a very good friend of Aunt Marguerite from their farm next door in Hastings, Michigan, the farm from which the family had moved to Vinewood; this was a rather extensive journey around the famous Gaspe Peninsula of Canada, along with Nova Scotia. I think they took me because I could help drive Noras carthey wanted two vehicles for the trip. She turned out to be a somewhat timid driver, and the Gaspe road, just newly opened was somewhat rugged to driveparts of it were on unguarded roads overlooking the beautiful Gulf of St. Lawrencean arm of the Atlantic Ocean. This was in 1940, and since Canada was already engaged in WWII, we encountered no tourist traffic, and we had our pick of restaurants and accommodations.
This trip was another eye-opener for methe scenery at that time was absolutely fabulous. Much of the Gaspe road was unpaved at that timethis only added to the driving challenge, and to the remoteness of the area. We once had fresh salmon, just caught in the cold, cold waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Wow, what a treat! This was served to us at what today would be called a "B and B". This house had no electricity, and was within view of the Gulf of St. Lawrence; the husband of the good woman who gave us lodging for the night had caught the salmon that very day.
Perhaps, more important to our story here, was the very close relationship between our family and Dads family. We always celebrated Thanksgiving Day at Grandmas and they came to our house for Christmas. I think I can even remember Grandma herself coming to our house once, but of this I am not sure. But during the spring, summer and fall we had innumerable picnics with this family. More often than not we picnicked at Rouge Park, but we also went to Palmer Park and to Belle Isle, although going to Belle Isle represented a long, hard trip for us through the heart of Detroit.
When Grandma herself was alive, Dad went there often to see his mother. Many of we kids went to Vinewood by the streetcar. Before I leave this interesting section of "our story," I must add that Aunt Marguerite also helped Mary at a difficult point in her life after Denny Dennis death, and several of the aunts also helped with baby sitting and other types of services to all my brothers families. Aunt Maude especially volunteered to baby sit for John, James and David on innumerable occasions. I can recall helping Aunt Maude on one of these occasions at Bentler when both John and Aileen had to go to Brooklyn (I think it was for Grandfather Moroneys funeral). This was the only occasion I can remember spending the night on Bentler.
This short epistle re our familys relations with our Vinewood relatives needs to tell one more tale: Aunt Maudes vow. It is almost impossible today to convey the actual degree of danger that service in the armed forces entailed during WWII to the "life and limb" of those who served. Aunt Maude, probably the most devout of the three aunts, vowed that if all four of we boys were to survive the war intact, Aunt Maude, then retired from the Sampson School, would go back to teach the first grade again for the small, struggling, Black, Catholic school, nearby their neighborhood, St. Martin dePorres. This school apparently lacked a good 1st grade teacher. All four of us came homesafeand saintly Aunt Maude kept her vow. She taught at St. Matin dePorres for several years after our homecoming.
Before leaving this section of our McGuinness Family story, some more of Johns memories of this McGuinness family should be cited. He also remembers the fabulous cookies and fried cakes that Grandma used to make, and of he famous raised pancakesthat were served to one and all wafer thin. All of these items were loaded with fat, and Grandma obtained this scarce commodity by rendering fat bacon (yes!) and saving the fat. This was certainly a thrifty way to get fat, but our mother did not think it was good for us. In spite of this our Dad consumed plates of these delicious pancakes smothered in butter and syrup. So did Palmer, and so did I, when I got the chance. The cookies were of two varietiesmolasses and "sugar" cookies. I can still taste those sweet, delicious home made cookies of Grandma McGuinness; she always had some for us when we came to visit.
John also remembers that Grandma liked to go personally to the grocery store on Grand River to look over all of the produce. She was very choosy in what she would buy to take homeit had to be very fresh. She got to this store by going through a short cut by way of the alley (the alley was paved, by the way). Palmer and Maude and Marguerite eventually stopped her taking this route, because they thought it too dangerous for her, because she was an old lady with long skirts, who could not run, and could not even walk fast anymore. After this, Tony the vegetable man who drove an old truck right to her door became the produce person. I was at her home once or twice when Tony came down the street and parked in front of Grandmas door. Either he came to the door and she told him what she wanted, or she would go out to the truck and take a look. She was very fond of Tony, and he always treated her as a "special" client!
In the 1920s when Ford finally came up with an enclosed sedan with an electric starter (this meant that you did not have to crank the car) Aunt Marguerite and Maude bought a new Ford car. Palmer taught Aunt Marguerite to drive. One day, while John was riding in this car, Aunt Marguerite made some kind of an awkward and unlikely left hand turn on West Grand Boulevard near their home, and ended up precariously pitched on the side of the raised median or boulevard area, and the car was so top heavy it threatened to turn over. Everyone got out and Palmer got the car back down on the road again. John was told not, under any circumstances, to mention this incident to Grandma!
When winter arrivedevery year of coursescientific Palmer always disconnected his battery and put his car up on blocks in the garage. No winter driving for himtoo dangerous and too hard on his precious car! But Marguerite drove her car in the winter, and Grandma always had a ride to church, for which she was most grateful. Perhaps it should be added here, for the young people of this year 2000, that the cars of this day and age, in addition to being very prone to engine, starting, tire and battery troubles, also lacked heat in the winter. The first car that I can remember having regular heat from an interior "heater" was our 1936 Ford car! Hence winter driving, in addition to being difficult, was also very cold.
John has several other memories concerning some of the Dexter relatives: Julia OHara McGuinness, the mother of Frank, Mae, Margaret and other siblings of theirs, frightened John when he was young. She was big, strong, raw boned, boisterous and was possessed of a very loud, business like voice. Johns second memory was meeting Frank McGuinness at the large Jenny-Chris-Ed farm one day with Uncle Philip when they had returned from a successful hunt on the Johnnie Smith farm. Frank and his two first cousins, Chris and Ed were engaged in some serious conversation in the large country style kitchen when the two (John and Philip) entered. Without missing a single second or pausing for emphasis he whirled around and pointed straight at John and said: "and you, you, if you dont marry and have kids there wont be any more of us McGuinnesses around anywhere, anymore!" John has always been amused at Franks prophetic comment.
John also remembers how precarious it was to start Dads old Model T touring car. Dads had to set the spark and then adjust the fuel, and then crank the car, and rapidly jump into the drivers seat (no door on the drivers side!) and readjust the spark and the gas; and then drive off. John especially remembers one time that the car almost demolished our father, and he sat horrified in the front seat watching Dad try to push the darn car back as it was nailing him to the garage wall! Fortunately for all of us concerned, the motor stalled just as it was about to crush dear Dad!
John also remembers the consternation caused when Grandpa Bek once visited us; and the whole family piled into Dads old open touring car and went to Belle Isle. Mom and Grandma Bek were in the back seat. Grandpa chewed tobacco! He also endeavored to spit same out of the open car while it was in motion! Some of the tobacco juice spewed into the faces of those in the back seat. Wow! What a howl! Grandpa was told by one and all to stop it. Perhaps this is as good a place as any, to tell that in addition to chewing tobacco, this former Dutch soldier also made home brew beer. He did not share the home brew beer with anybody that I knew of, but I do know that both John and cousin Jerry Armock always hoped that he would, and endeavored to get him to do so. No such luck.
While we are on the subject of Model T cars, Dad himself told me the story of teaching Uncle Dick to drive a car. This was probably when they lived one block away from Dick and Laura in Muskegon. Dad said that Dick had his first car, and asked Dad to teach him how to drive it. Dad tried to go through all of the essentials, and then Dick set out, proudly, on his own. Unfortunately Dick did not remember how to stop the carhe ran around in circles for a short time, then spied a hay stack in an adjacent fieldsteered right for it, and stopped the car by hitting the hay stack! Again, no serious damage to the car or the haystack, and Dick learned an important driving lesson.
Each summer that I can remember we made yearly trips to Grand Rapids to visit Grandma and Grandpa Bekand Moms two sisters, Aunts Laura and Kate and their respective families. The road itself, Grand River Highway, U.S. #l6, from Redford to Lansing was about a Grade "C". From Lansing to Portland it was a grade "C-"; but from Portland to East Grand Rapids, it was a "D-" at best. In fact the last 40 miles from Portland to East Grand Rapids it was very bad gravel. I think we spent a lot of time praying those last forty miles.
Add to this the fact that Dad had rather poor cars in those days, and the trip could take hours. Also Dads car, loaded with six kids (Nell was not born until 1929) was not the best for long journeys. On each trip we kept count of the travel interruptions for flat tires, etc. The thin, flimsy tires of that day had a short life span. We always seemed to have some whose life was about to expire! We were especially fearful of the 40-mile gravel span going up and coming back. On the way back we always felt much more secure as soon as we came to Portland, because at least from then on to Detroit and home we had better (but not really good) roads. Also, we could drive somewhat faster.
Because of the problems of tires, over heating, and miscellaneous other mechanical problemsthe time spent on this journey could be as long as l2 hours! Vacation travel was not for the faint hearted at that time. However, the joyful receptions we received from Grandma (we especially loved her); and Grandpa (we were mostly afraid of this somber and gruff person), were worth the journey.
As the decade of the twenties stretched into the thirties, Dad got better cars, and the road was considerably improvedhence the travel was easier for us. But still, travel in July and August summersthere was no air conditioning thenwas not a "day at the beach."
It should be pointed out that John and Mary were often entrusted to be the drivers for the Grand Rapids trips. Both were first-rate drivers, at least as good as Dad himself.
In addition to Grandmas we also spent time at both Kates and Lauras families. I especially enjoyed going to Aunt Lauras farm. They lived on an old, run down farm between Silver Lake and Cannonsburg. The land on this 40-acre spread was considerably better than our later Hamburg farm, because they could actually grow crops. However, their house was in very poor condition, and badly lacked paint. Still, I loved it; they had cows (two I think), horses, and chickens, ducks and geese; and I got the chance to feed them.
Aunts Laura and Kate were two of the most optimistic and cheerful grown ups we were ever to know. In addition, both were good cooks and were extremely hospitable to we McGuinness kids. We always seemed to be welcomed there, although Laura and Dick Armock and their family (Alice, Jimmy and Jerry) were frankly, financially impoverished. Alice was married and had a home of her own. These visits with Aunt Laura were during the very heart of the terrible 30s depression and I can remember when Aunt Laura was hard put to come up with a 25-cent coin to pay for things that it was necessary to buy.
John remembers that one summer when we were visiting Aunt Laura, she had given Uncle Dick their very last fifth cents to pay for having some of their grain ground up for chicken feed. Uncle Dick, a skilled craftsman who was currently unemployed, somehow lost the precious two quarters. Aunt Laura broke down and criedthey didnt have any money to replace it, and she desperately needed the chicken feed! She sold eggs to their neighboring farmers for money to buy other necessities like sugar, coffee and toilet tissue. No chicken feed, no eggs.
I can also remember Aunt Laura making a sign to sell fresh sweet corn, and my staying out in her spacious, shaded front yard trying to sell corn to passing motorists. The price was 25 cents for a dozen ears. I actually made two sales, I think, and Aunt Laura was delighted with the cash windfall of silver money.
John also remembers the story of how Jimmy and Jerry Armock got to finish high school while they lived on this farm in rural Kent County, Michigan. They had an old Model T Ford (in the 30s Model T Fords had had their day, and only the very poor, or the very young kids would be seen driving one), which they drove on a daily basis to some high school in Grand Rapids. Obviously, there were some stormy days in winter when they would not have been able to make the trip, no matter how eager they were to get their diplomas. Both of these guys were unusually bright.
I personally remember the sport of riding in this same (or perhaps similar) Model T Ford to go to Sunday mass in nearby Cannonsburg (perhaps 9 miles away). Since the weather was especially good (summer of course) I thought it was great fun to ride in an "open" car without the eisenglass curtains. But Model Ts had a bad habit of not wanting to climb up very steep hills. There was one not too far from their farm that we had to ascend on the return trip. Jerry said that on some occasions they had to back down this hill, and go up backwardsthis was because of the gravity flow for gasoline utilized in Model Ts. No such luck on this particular Sunday! Another thing about these cousinsthey had a great sense of humor, and they never let their familys financial problems during this terrible depression keep them from having fun, or to really depress their personal spirits. I can still hear Jerrys infectious laugh, and hear the fun he would make, in a good-humored sort of way, of Moms foibles.
Mother had a first cousin, John Bek, who had a very nice cottage on Silver Lake, about five miles from Lauras farm. We seemed to always be welcome to drive over there with a car full of kids to swim. It was a very good swimming lake. I recall Mary driving us to swim there more than once. Sadly we seem to have lost almost all contact with Moms Bek relatives. Mother and Dad, too, seemed to know a lot of different familiesrelated or just friendsin the Grand Rapids area. We seem to have lost contact with all of these acquaintances of our parents.
On one occasion when we were in G.R., James was entrusted to Uncle Neil Bek, Moms baby brother, to spend one or two days at Muskegon on Lake Michigan. There was a State Park there, and they camped there. Jim came back horribly burned from sunburn. Stupid Uncle Neil thought the antidote for a little sunburn wasyou guessed itmore sun! Mother was furious. I thought for a few short minutes that Mom would actually do violence to Uncle Neil! Anyway, Neil got the message that he had goofedseriously. James did recover, or course, but he carried skin scars from that sun encounter for a long time on his thighs.
In 1937 Dad rented an old farmhouse located in Torch Lake Village, on the shores of beautiful, big Torch Lake in northern Michigan. This home was just a half block, or less from the lake itself, with nothing but a Township park in between. We were about 25 or 30 miles north of Traverse City, and about two miles from the beautiful beaches of Lake Michigan. We, most of us, spent the entire month of August at this ideal location. Dad and James moved us up there in a borrowed trailerthe trailer was behind the car, of course to hold all of our equipment and luggage. The car was too small to hold all of our baggage, and us too. James had to put brake lights, etc. on the trailer, as this trailer did not have that equipment when we borrowed it.
Because of summer school commitments, and James work commitment, neither Dad nor James could spend as much time at Torch Lake as the rest of us did. John, who had both military and work commitments, was also not in residence with us there. But he too made it up for a day or so. But Mom,. Jean, Dave, Nell and I were the lucky receivers of the time spent at this wonderful place. All of us loved it up there; the old house was spacious enough, but it was not modern, and we did have to put up with kerosene lamps. Mom was an old hand at kerosene lamps, and taught me how to put the oil in, trim the wicks, and clean the glass shade. I had never known this kind of roughing it before and I actually thought it was great fun, but it was difficult trying to go to be with a kerosene lamp to climb the stairs.
I think Dave knew how to row a boat before Torch Lake, but I didnt. But both of us became expert at rowing and fishing at this summer place. I dont know where all of our visitors came fromsummer people from surrounding cottages and summer homes, I think, however, I do remember Mom and Jean entertaining a number of people at that place. Dad joined us full time for the last two weeks.
Curiously, enough one spooky thing stands out in my mind from this unusual place. There were two large dwellings a block or two away in the small village that had been abandoned. One was an old summer hotel, I think; Mom delighted us by leading one or two of the large groups we seem to collect through these two abandoned buildings by flashlight after dark. It was almost like something in the scarifying videos of todays TV! It sure scared a young guy like me. I must add, however, that we did not do any damage to these already crumbling buildings.
Two years ago, I was able to find this exact same summer place again. The old farmhouse has been gentrified, and it sits on a slope over looking a lovely Township park with a lot of frontage on Torch Lake. It is still an ideal setting. Torch Lake village itself is still only a small hamlet, but it is quite gentrified, too. The other thing that hit me on this quick visit was how expensive property has become all over northern Michigan, but especially anything close to Lake Michigan, or anything near Traverse City.
Mary Agnes was born second in the family about 18 months after John, at the end of 1914. She along with the rest of us attended St. Mary School. However, she along with Nell was to be the only two family members who actually graduated from this school. Mary graduated in 1932, and then enrolled at the old Detroit City College, which is now Wayne State University. Mary was studying for a BA in Home Economics, presumably to teach Home Economics.
In 1932 or 1933 Mary met Vincent Carroll, an older law school student who never passed the Michigan Bar Exam to enable him to practice law, or be styled as a real lawyer. When she met Vincent, who was tall, dark and very good looking, he was managing the Blue Lantern Tavern located at Island Lake near Brighton.
Our parents did not approve of Vincent as a prospective son-in-law because of his poor job prospects, and his obvious inability to support a wife and family. Mary persevered in the budding relationship and shocked Mom and Dad by marrying Vincent without their knowledge or approval. Today this is fairly common, but it was not common for this time or for a woman of Moms sensibilities or upbringing. Frankly, they both took this "semi-elopement" very hard. Over time Dad got over it, but it took Mom a longer timemuch longer.
Georgiana Cressey, who was Marys best friend from St. Marys, was Marys bridesmaid. Nell remembers Mary and Georgiana going through Marys closet at home picking out clothes for both the wedding and for the honeymoon. The honeymoon was not going g to be lengthy because the couple had very little money. Vincent, I think did not have a steady job at this time, he seemed to depend on both his mother and his brother, a very respected doctor at Providence Hospital and in other medical practice for money. Hence it was Nell who was able to inform the family of where Mary had gone, etc. when Mary did not return in an hour or two from the Saturday mass at St. Marys for which she and Georgiana had left. This was before their telegram arrived an hour or two after Mary was missed at home.
Mary left Wayne and became a special cosmetics sales person at J. L. Hudson in the large and very prestigious downtown Detroit store. Mary was not only beautiful but she was also unusually bright. She was also a good sales person. (Hudsons was very choosy about whom they hired and put on the first floor of their "flagship" store; at this time they could well have had 40 or 50 applicants for every sales position they had to fill!).
As previously mentioned, we often had Sunday picnics in our spacious back yard. Dad would put the sturdy front storm door down on sawhorses in the back yard to serve as an extra table. I remember Mary inviting Vincent to one of these Sunday picnics without Moms previous permission. Vincent was a very stiff and rather formal personI never saw him without a white starched shirt. His idea of informality was to take his tie off! On this particular occasion he stayed in our large kitchen, rather than join the crowd in the back yard. This is where I joined him with his tie off.
Either because of Moms frostiness, or because he did not enjoy the sun, Vincent stayed mostly in the large kitchen with me. I stayed there with him to keep him company, and also I was interested in sizing him up, because I knew of our parents disapproval. We had a rather crazy cat at this time that would eat anything. Actually. To prove this to Vincent, I fed the cat a ripe tomato (we had plenty of them, we raised them ourselves). Vincent could not believe this, and watched in amazement as the cat gobbled up the tomato from its dish.
This marriage was not destined to last. Mary got out of the impossible situation she found herself in by divorcing Vincent in 1936 or 1937. In the year 1939, Mary Agnes married her second husband, Denny Dennis, whom she met while working at Hudsons Department Store in Downtown Detroit. Of course both Mom and Dad were also very much opposed to this marriage, too. In 1939 Detroit divorce and re-marriage was not acceptable in almost any circle, and certainly not for a Catholic family that had any pretension of being socially acceptable. Mary brought Denny around once or twice to meet MotherI was there at the timeand I liked him immediately. He was big, strong, handsome and very masculine. It was not hard to see why Mary liked himor to see why he liked Mary. Since he was an orphan, there was no family for Mary to get to know. I am sure that Mary very much wanted to have her familys acceptance, if not an actual "blessing" on her forthcoming marriage to this handsome "hunk".
Mother and Dad did not give either one, but they were both very diplomatic, and did not make any "scene", etc. and let it be known that if Mary did actually marry Denny, there was nothing they (Mom and Dad) could do about it. Shortly after their marriage (a private affair as far as I know, at least nobody from the family attended), they acquired a house trailer and started cross-country all the way to Los Angles. A trip of this magnitude hauling a house trailer was a major undertaking at this time. But the two of them did it, and they made it without much incident, as far as we know. Nell remembers correctly that they lived in this house trailer in a local trailer park some months before the California trip.
We heard regularly from Mary when she was in California. As far as all of us were concerned, she was still very much a part of our family, second marriage or no. Because of the huge distance involved, nobody from the family was actually to see Mary again until 1946, but she was always in the familys thoughts and prayers.
In the early 1950s, when Nell was nursing at Providence Hospital she informed us that Vincent Carroll had been admitted to the hospital, dying from cirrhosis of the liver. He was then an alcoholic. He died a day or two later. I went to the funeral home and signed the register, he was all alone in this place; and I attended the very small funeral the day or so later. His brother, Dr. Carroll handled all the arrangements. Divorce of no, he had been my brother-in-law, so I went. Dr. Carroll was very appreciative that one McGuinness had shown up for his funeral. I believe it was the smallest funeral I ever attended; Dr. Carroll had to get his fellow doctors as pall barriers. Vincents now known alcoholic condition was undoubtedly known by Mary when she left him, but it had never been discussed by anyone in my presence before Nell broke the news of Vincents condition when he was admitted to Providence Hospital.
Another very interesting thing occurred in 1940. Aunt Marguerite drove David, myself, Emma Jane and Charles Conklin to Washington at Easter time. It was a long but wonderful trip. This view of Washington, and the exciting things to do there opened up another world to me. Dave was, of course, the big brother to all of us kids on this exciting adventure in both travel and civics.
Jean Studies VoiceLeaves for Paris
Jean had studied voice lessons under the tutelage of Professor Marcus Kellerman, a prominent voice teacher in Detroit. Jean was a very serious student of concert singing, and Professor Kellerman thought she had unusual promise. She was also quite a thespian, and had acted in many school playsalways with pronounced success. Professor Kellerman thought that she should go to Paris to study advanced voice lessons there. This caused consternation in our small family; obviously, Dad did not have the money to send her that far away for such a long time.
Much could be written on this one subject, alone, but one immediate solution was for Jean, accompanied by Professor Kellerman, to give a subscription concert at the Detroit Institute of Arts Auditorium. This was not Jeans first solo concert. This very successful subscription concert raised a fair amount of money. This enabled Jean in 1936 to go off to study music at the Cite University of Paris. Aunt Marguerite was very generous in assisting Jean with her studies in Europe, after her concert funds were exhausted. Aunts Marguerite and Maude also went to Paris to see Jean in 1939. With the providence of God, both of the aunts got back from Europe by trans-Atlantic steamer just one week before Hitler started WWII! Both of the aunts said later that signs of war preparation were everywhere in both France and Germany during the summer of 1939.
There is no question that David was my best friendhe was so kind, so gentle, so loving so outgoing. He and James were my heroes. David was the handsome athlete and James was the serious, scientific and determined student.
At this time you could be issued a drivers license at the age of 14. I remember James taught me to drive and I got a license at 14. James was an excellent teacher. He approached teaching me to shift gears, drive, pass and park in a logical, engineering student way. For reasons I have never been able to understand, David did not want to learn at 14 and get his license; he waited until he had a job or something (I think he was about l7) and he bought an old Plymouth coupe from Mr. Magne (he had the small auto repair outfit on Greenfield I mentioned above). It was a terrible car with a stick shift (of course). I showed him the mechanics of driving. I was 14 and he was 17 and I was the person teaching him. He was a very fast learner.
I purposely drove on all of the side or connecting streets that tended to have little or no traffic at all. I was too timid and inexperienced to enjoy driving on the main arteries, so I started to teach David on these streets. I showed him the mechanics of shifting gears, etc. and we started out on the side streets where there was no traffic, and I felt most comfortable. But he insisted, almost immediately, of driving out on the big main street, Grand River Road, so I had to learn how to drive on Grand River, also. What a car he hadI think the little electric toy cars of today have more power than his Plymouth hadand the brakes were very uncertain! Today a car like that couldnt be licensed. It spent more time in Mr. Magnes shop than it did on the road. But David did learn how to drive, and he drove very well after a few times at the wheel. If he ever had an accident or a traffic ticket, I never heard or knew about it.
Going back to football, Dave was very religious about his football training. He attended every scrimmage and practice session, etc. and won a football scholarship at Bowling Green University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Dad, Mom and Nell drove him down to Bowling Green when he left home to enroll; I never saw the place until several years later. He did not let any of us go down to visit him. He did not want any of us therehe came back a few times to visit us, instead. I do remember that he had a stiff cardboard laundry mailing case that he used to send his laundry back home. It was my job to take it back to the post office to mail it back to him time and again.
David was not big or heavy enough to succeed in his chosen line of sport. I remember that he only weighed l65 lb. at this time. He desperately tried to increase his weightto no avail. He left Bowling Green at the conclusion of his freshman year and refused to go back to B.G. He also refused to consider a local college, even though the family tried to get him to do so. I never got him to say much about his year at B.G.; I am not sure that it was a very happy time for him. Again, he just was not big enough or heavy enough or fast enough for college football.
If I remember correctly, David now went to live at our farm near Hamburg, Michigan. Dad bought this 50-acre run down farm located on Eight Mile Road between Whitmore Lake and Hamburg (much closer to Hamburg) in Livingston County. Both Mother and Dad became interested in goats, particularly goat milk because of its reputed health effects. This sounds goofy today, but at that time the medicinal value of goats milk was taken very seriously. Anyway, Dad got this farm for what today sounds like small change ($2,750). James, David and I all had a hand in "fixing it up."
As best I can determine, the farm was bought in the winter of 1939, and as early as possible in early Aprilin the middle of a snow stormwe were out there planting peach trees, etc. This farm had a large old house, a barn, a pump well, a pond and a small woods. The house was not modern; it also lacked electricity. Here is where James became the family star and hero. After all, he was an electrical engineer (or soon would be), so he volunteered to do the complete job of electrifying the entire house all by himself!
As indicated above, James did all the work. He went to Howell, the county seat; got the permit (just as any electrician would), made a complete list of all the supplies he would need, including all of the fixtures, etc. and did the work. It took a few weeks, but he was so professional and so sure of himself, that he was not the least bit nervous when the two official county inspectors came to inspect his work. They didnt even look at anything in the house, as I recall, they were so impressed with Jims credentials, and they could see the professionalism of the hook up out to our electric pole, etc. that after a fifteen plus minute discussion with him they approved the job and drove away. The next day, or the day after, the electric company came and made the actual connection to their electric lines. Miracle of miraclesthere was electric power all over the house. Real live incandescent lights. We ran around the house turning each light on, just to admire his work. Everybody praised him. He took it in a very low-key wayhe knew he could do it, and he did it for Dad, Mom and the rest of us.
Uncle Philip was also involved in this farm, after we got the goats. Uncle Philip was then living with the Aunts and Uncle Palmer at their Vinewood Avenue home. He was "between" jobs, and volunteered to show us how to farm! David and Philip became the real farmers, and the knowledgeable people on how to handle goats. One big problem, the soil on this old neglected farm lacked fertility. Uncle Phil became quite excited about the possibility of planting several acres of cucumbers for the purposes of selling them to the Michigan pickle makers (Michigan is the principal source of pickles in this country).
He, and David, James, John and several others assisted in the rather laborious work of planting the pickle seed, and then watched as the seed was washed out by hard rains. This effort was repeated once morewith the exact same result! Philip lost interest at this point! He also said it was too late to plant for the third time. The following year, when Philip was no longer involved in the farm Dad had the bright idea of planting a crop of soybeans for a crop of soybean hay for the goats. The only thing we really got from that crop was a big crop of sand burrs! Obviously, this farm was not destined to be any sort of a financial success for the family. Actually, Uncle Philip was only at the farm for a matter of months, until he went back to Essex Wire Co. to work on what we would today call war work. World War II had already begun in Europe, it began in September, 194l.
David literally bloomed and blossomed at this farm. I went out and stayed with David and Uncle Philip whenever I could. Another thing David learned to do at this time was to trap muskrats and to sell the hides for tobacco money. He soon found out that this was a very hard way indeed to make very much money.
John also stayed at the Hamburg farm somewhat often, since at this time he was working at the Advanced Stamping Company at their Brighton Plant, and the Hamburg farm was much closer to Brighton than the Winthrop Avenue home.
Even though the farm was destined to be a financial white elephant for dad, for the rest of us it was a wonderful place to entertain others and to enjoy ourselves. We were justifiably proud of this place. It had a beautiful settinga large old farm house painted white (our work) set well back from the road with lovely large maple trees located on a rather large plot of ground. It was frankly quite impressive looking.
Christmas Party, 1939, at the Hamburg Farm
We had a big family Christmas Party there Christmas, 1939. The entire family stayed out at the farm and we went to Midnight Mass at old St. Patricks Church in a place nearby called Northfield. This old church is still in existence today, and is a very historic place one of the oldest Catholic churches in the entire state. For some reason James found it essential to go to Brighton after lunch on Christmas Eve, December 24, and he accepted me as a companion for the trip. It was just the two of us in Dads car.
It was a remarkably warm and sunny day for December in Michigan. In the high 50s I believe! The two of us tarried on the way back to the farm. We even drove off the road into a pasture and stopped, got out and spent a while admiring the beautiful sun, sky and fantastic weather, Then we hurried back to the Hamburg farm for dinner. In my youth I had never felt closer to my brother than I did on that warm, sunny afternoon and our small talk that we made during the trip.
James was not the sort of brother that normally "opened up" to anyone else. Those who got to know James finally realized that in spite of a fantastic sense of humor, and a stream of jokes and wise cracks, James always remained a very private person. As far as I could determine, he was pretty much that way for the rest of his life. Much, much later in life, when I was old enough to be retired from the Federal Government, and Dolores and I used to visit James and Virginia on Wildemere, I was able to again talk " man to man" with him and visit with him and exchange odds and ends of stories with him. On those occasions he was the very soul of kindness and hospitality toward the two of us.
Back to Christmas Eve, 1939: That night it was quite cold, and all of us piled into two carsDads and Johnsand got to St. Patricks just in time to get some of the last available seats. By the time mass started the place was packed. I think I went to sleep in the car on the way back to the farm, and I remember how cold the night was, and how cold the farmhouse was. The next day was fairly cold and threatened to bring snow. All the McGuinnesses (except Philip!) from Vinewood came out, and we had a most memorable feast to which both families contributed. Mom provided the turkey, since it would have been too hard to transport something like that. We had a large dining room in the farmhouse (the largest I think of any house we ever had) and we sat everyone together around one big table. We had plenty of room at the table because it was one half of our Winthrop ping-pong table, which we had brought out to the farm for this occasion.
Because of the threat of snow, that same day, the Vinewood McGuinness family left shortly after the festive meal. John and James left, too, and after an hour or so of clean up, Mother, Dad, Nell and I also left for the Winthrop house leaving Dave all alone at the farm to take care of the goatherd.
I remember winter nights at that farm as being brutal. Long before dawn the fire in the living room wood stove would expire. David slept in a rather small downstairs bedroom adjacent to the wood stove (his pick). Dad and I went out to check on Dave about a week or so later, and the weather was particularly cold. We slept in a double bed in the large bedroom directly above the wood/coal stove, and in spite of all the covers we could manage, Dad and I froze! Dad got up about dawn and built another fire in the down stairs stove. I was very glad to escape to that warm spot to get dressed.
David spent the whole winter out at this farm. We went out periodically to check on him and to get/bring groceries I also recall being out at that farm for much of the summer of 1940. David was the headman at this farm for the rest of the period that we had the Hamburg place.
Sometime in late 1940, or early 194l (the latter I think) Dad sold this farm at a rather small profit (probably five or six hundred dollars). Of course he also went out of the goat milk business. A short time thereafter, in the early spring of 194l, he bought still another farm, farther out in Livingston County near Pinckney. Dad lived up to the old adage, "you can take the boy out of the farm but you cant take the farm out of the boy!" I have since been back once or twice to visit what remains of our old Hamburg farm. It is now located on Sheldon Rd., and they have torn down the beautiful old farmhouse. Now there are many suburban dwellings at this location. I always knew that these 50 acres would be worth a small fortune some day, and now it is!
Dads new farm had a smaller and much less pretentious dwelling than the Hamburg place; and it was located quite close to a small intersection of two minor rural, farm roads. I also recall that it had a most interesting large pond located quite close to the farmhouse.
I believe we were only at this place twice after Dad bought the farm, once with myself, Dad, James and David. The four of us had a picnic lunch in the house, and then we went out to explore the pond/lake adjacent to the house. Dad requested Jim to make an electrical survey of this old farmhouse, and Jim did so in his usual scholarly, engineering way. His verdict: The present ad hock electrical system at this place needed quite a bit of upgrading, but he could and would do the extensive upgrading for Dad. We were not there very long before Dad decided to return to the city. I only got back to this place one other time, shortly thereafter. This one visit was only for a very short time; Dad wanted to check on something. And then Dad sold this farm, tooagain he made a little money on the place. I was personally heart broken, as I had envisioned a lot of fun fishing in the pond/lake, during the ensuing summer.
The Beginning of Johns Military Career
It has been mentioned before that John was attracted to the military life. With Mom and Dads permission, he joined the CMTC (Citizens Military Training Corps). The CMTC was part of the Army Reserve Officers Training organization. He trained with this group in summer camps in 1930-1932 at both Ft. Custer in Michigan and at Ft. Sheridan in Illinois.
In 1936, when John was at the U. of D. studying engineering, he enlisted in the Detroit Company of the Marine Reserves. This was single reserve company of Marines headquartered at the Broadhead Naval Armory on E. Jefferson, across from Belle Isle. This company was part of a Battalion of Marines that was headquartered in Toledo, Ohio. In this same year, 1936, he attended the Marine Platoon Leaders Training Camp at Quantico, Virginia (the Marine Headquarters). Luckily for John, Detroit was picked for a new Marine Reserve Battalion in the fall of this year, and John was promptly commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant (Reserve) in this Battalion in the fall of 1936.
John trained with this group and went to summer camp with them in the years 1937-1940. He, along with his entire Battalion was called to active duty in November 1940, and he was sent first to Quantico, and then in January, 194l to Guantanimo, Cuba, to help guard Cuba from then feared Nazi penetration. By this time John was a Captain.
In September, 194l, his Battalion was recalled back to the U.S.A, and now, as part of the just formed 1st Marine Division (the first time the Marines ever had had a division), they were dispatched to a new area adjacent to the coast in North Carolina, called Camp Lejune. They made a practice run on this coastal area as a sort of a mock invasion force going ashore at an enemy held location. John laughingly recalls that the only capture that they really made on this mock invasion was to capture the north-south Inter Coastal Water way, and then through a few swamps, and ended up in a water melon field that was hugely enjoyed by his men! He and his men then were taken back aboard their ship, because at that time Camp Lejune really only existed on Marine Corps training mapsthey had yet to acquire the land by condemnation!
Next, John and his Battalion were housed in Newport News, Virginia, after which they were shipped back to Camp Lejune (The Marines now legally owned the land that theyd practiced capturing) and spent the winter of l941-42 in tents at this newly conceived camp. It was not a winter he recalls with great joythe chiggers were bad, and the cold was worse. In May 1942, as a Major, John was part of the "Advance Party" of the 1st Marine Division sent to protect Wellington, New Zealand.
John says they were given a brand new (just launched) Victory ship for this dangerous mission. This assignment entailed a naval escort vessel only as far as the Panama Canal.
(Note: at this time during our engagement in WWII, the most dangerous submarine problems in the Atlantic, were to be found close to American shores, and in the known shipping lanes in the Caribbean! This ugly fact was kept secret from the American people so as not to alarm the public). From the Panama Canal all the rest of the way to New Zealand, the Victory ship sailed solo. They eluded the Japanese subs by going very far south in the Pacific, all the way into the Arctic Circle region. It took 30 days to reach Wellington, where they received a welcome for Heaven sent saviorsat this time the New Zealanders, almost without fighting forces of their own, very much feared an eminent Japanese invasionhence the saviors welcome!
John remembers that their stay in this wonderful country was all too brief; as soon as the entire 1st Marine Division arrived in New Zealand, they were combat loaded on naval vessels and dispatched to the famous Guadalcanal, where the Japanese had already begun fortifications to ensure themselves a long stay. Fortunately for the U. S. and for our family the Marines picked a location on the Solomon Islands (Guadalcanal) that happened to be very lightly defended by the Japanese, and so they were able to get their entire division ashore with only minimal resistance. This was almost essential for them, since all of the much promised "heavy equipment" which the Marine Corps had promised them had not yet arrived in New Zealand before the Marine force had been dispatched to the Solomons.
John also remembers that they had had to make due at this time with ancient (but serviceable) 1903 Springfield rifles that had been the mainstay of our troops in WWI! Another fortunate factthey had made a successful invasion landing at Guadalcanal in spite of the fact that the Japanese held naval superiority in these waters. However, the Japanese did not intend to let the Marines off easy. Their very first night ashore they had to watch the Japanese systematically destroy all of the heavy cruiser naval vessels that were there to supply the Marines in their fight. John remembers how devastating the Japanese naval gunfire was on each of our capital ships with l2" naval guns; he said that the Japanese were expert naval gunners!
The Japanese expected the Marines, who were ashore to be easy pickings after that, but the Marines fooled the Japanesethey fought hard and long and were successful in building a major airfield to bring in supplies. John is proud of the part he played in all of this Marine (and U.S.) success in the Solomon Islands in building, then defending this vital air strip, and for the part the Marines played in clearing the entire chain of islands of Japanese control.
Over a rather lengthy period of time, and two major Naval engagements, the U. S. Navy also drove the Japanese vessels out of the Solomon Island area, and atoned for the humiliating naval defeat that John witnessed his first night ashore. This very brief description of what John did (along with several thousand other Marines) in the South Pacific during the war would not be complete without saying that the Marine success here in this remote jungle location in l942-43 came at a time when other victorious news regarding U.S. and or Allied land based successes was virtually non existent! Hence our Solomon Island success cheered Washington, New Zealand and Australia in a big way. It showed that U.S. forces could fight the Japanese successfully, even in the jungles of the South Pacific.
Before we leave this segment concerning John, I should also mention that between the CMTC training mentioned above, and Johns enlistment in the Marine Reserves, John also attended summer camp training in expert marksmanship both as a trainee and as a trainer at Camp Perry, Ohio, along the shores of Lake Erie, fairly close to Toledo. He spent several summers there. He also was considerate enough to teach the St. Marys Boy Scouts rifle target training by simulation (no live ammo). I was part of this class John taught, along with my best friend, Jack Hayes. It was the most thorough rifle training I was ever to receive, including two different basic training episodes in the U. S. Army. The next time John was to encounter Jack Hayes was in the jungles of the South Pacific, when he looked John up; Hayes was part of the "hero" Marine forces that won the day for all of us in the South Pacific. Fortunately neither Major McGuinness nor Corporal Hayes was seriously injured in the terrible land fighting in the legendary South Pacific.
Other Family Changes1941
As has been previously told, John had been "called up" in 1940, and was now known to be in Camp Lejune, in North Carolina. We had regular letters from him, many complaining of the mosquitoes and the chiggers. Jean returned from Europe in 194l (see below) and James became a real professional engineer for General Electric (see below). David was at the Hamburg farm until some time in 194l, probably the early summer, after this he joined the grounds keeping team at a golf course located way out five Mile Road (Fenkel). This golf course has now disappeared, and many new homes have been built on its former location. David liked this physically demanding, out of door work, and the location, about six or seven miles from home was quite convenient for him.
James Leaves HomeBecomes Professional Engineer
About this same time (early summer, 1941), James left for Schenectady, New York, to lead the life of a professional engineer working for General Electric. He trained for a short time at Schenectady and then moved on to full professional engineering employment at Pittsfield, Massachusetts where General Electric had a manufacturing facility.
Sometime in the later summer of 1941 Mom, Dad, Nell and I went to Pittsfield to visit James. He was glad to see us, as he had been gone from home about two or three months, and except for a couple of camping trips, this was the only time he had been away from our loving family and Moms good cooking. He was living in what we would now call a rooming house.
A trip from Detroit to Pittsfield, Mass. today with modern turnpikes and fast cars can be accomplished in a single day. But with the old cars of that day, and the uncertain roads, it took us two full days to do it. We spent the night in a miserable, cheap tourist cabin arrangement, very close to a main railroad track! I can still remember how I thought the first train that night was coming right through the cabinactually! Anyway, we found Pittsfield, and Jims rooming house, and waited for him to wake up, because he was working the "night shift", naturally, as a new hire. So we had to content ourselves with seeing and visiting with Jim only in the afternoon and early evening. .
The Pittsfield area was then, and is now, a really beautiful place that very much warrants a visit. Coming from the flat lands of Lower Michigan I thought it was about the most beautiful place I had seen in the East. James talked quite a bit, in answer to direct questions about what he did as an engineer, and it was obvious that he both enjoyed the work, and was very competent at it. I think we only stayed two or so days in Pittsfield with Jim before we left for home. All of us were impressed with how grown up James acted, and how confident he had become. Now he was really a successful engineer in his own right. This love of the engineering profession and his competence in it were to stay with Jim for the rest of his life.
I am not altogether sure what it was that David was doing at this time, because my next recollection of him has to do with his determination to enlist in the army right after the Pearl Harbor bombing and the U. S. declaration of war (December, 1941). I have already written all that I can recall of Davids enlistment story along with Jeans friend, Frank Price, so I will skip that part here. What I do remember about Daves early war episode was that Mom, Dad and all of the rest of us (Jean and Nell and I) were very concerned about the lack of letters from Dave, on a regular basis. David did write, of course, but the censorship was so very strict in the early years of the war that military personnel could not really say anything about where they were, what they were being trained for, or what they were doing, what conditions were like, etc., etc. When we did receive a letter from David, it was read and read and read, and we told everyone about it.
We did not hear a great deal from James, either, but we knew he was "safe" in Wichita doing electrical work for General Electric on Air Force planes. James was involved in the crucial secret job of installing radar in the new B24 bombers. Radar was an Allied secret that vastly improved our victory chances. Unfortunately, he was not really as safe as we had thought, because he endured a bad car accident with his 1940 (?) Mercury car. His car was struck broadside by a local Kansan farmer, and while James was not really very much injured, his car had to be put back together with bailing wire! Actually, that is what he did to repair it (it was almost impossible to get car repairs during WWII). You have to give Jim high marks for creativity. But then he needed the car to get back and forth to work at the aircraft factory. James also had a very severe case of old-fashioned "flu" to fight. Remember, this is in the days before flu shots. It put him in bed for a whole week, and then, he told me later, he was so weak that he had real difficulty in standing and walking. But he went back to work as fast as he could get up and walk.
Jim was never drafted into the armed services, and he did not ask for a deferment. GE got the deferment for himand his local Detroit draft board sent his name in for drafting about once every three weeks or so. GE told him to ignore the draft notices, they said they would take care of them, and they did, every time. He never had to report to the armed forces. GE could not have accomplished their sophisticated "war work" without competent, trained engineers like Jim.
If the flu and the auto accident were his worst experiences in Wichita, his best experience, or happening was in meeting a real "Rosie the Riveter" named Virginia Curtis who he met one dayor many daysat his airplane plant.
Jean Back Home From ParisMarries Leslie Seward, Jr.
I mentioned Jeans name earlier, she was able to get back to the United States, almost miraculously from France, through Spain to Portugal in 1941 thanks to the American Red Cross. After a rather long wait in Portugal, she got passage back to New York with some ship. After she arrived in New York (sea sick, of course) she came flying back home to us in Detroit by plane. Flying was really a big deal in those days, and I can remember that everybody in the whole family that could get away that day was out to the old City Airport to meet her when she arrived home in May, 1941. Her "escape" from France at this most crucial point in time was such a minor miracle that we could scarcely believe it was really she, when she climbed down the steps of the plane! It is important to state here, that Mother and Dad never gave up praying, constantly, for Jean to get back to the USA from German occupied France. This may not seem like a really big thing, getting somebody out of war-torn Europe, in todays globalized world, but it was very, very difficult to get anybody out of German controlled Europe at this particular time. The fact that she got home so close to our own entry into this world wide conflict says something about the positive power of faith and prayer! Jean has written about some of her many unbelievable experiences during this period in German occupied France, I would strongly recommend that you refer to her fascinating story.
Jean acquired a scholarship to the very prestigious Curtis musical academy in Philadelphia. Some time after her arrival home in 1941. She went to Curtis and studied voice for a few months but suffered recurring throat problems that caused her to be exceedingly horse and almost unable to talk. Competent medical attention (not available to her in Europe) diagnosed the problemgoing back to an earlier "butcher" surgeon who took out her tonsilsand much else in her throat when she was a small child. The diagnosis for her was to quit singing right away, or face cancer of the throat soon! She made the obvious decision and quit Curtis in 1942, and returned home. It may be of some interest to those who read this memoir, that while she did not actually know Leonard Bernstein personally at Curtis, she did know of himhe was a fellow student, and a major school "star."
Jean now returned to live with us on Winthrop Street, and looked for a job in Detroit. She found one quite soon as a receptionist at the old Hotel Webster Hall on Cass Avenue, very close to the old Main Building of Wayne University. It was at this unromantic setting that she met a young, handsome General Motors engineer, named Leslie Calvin Seward, Jr. who was in Detroit on business from the Electromotive Division of General Motors in LaGrange, Illinois. Jean married Leslie in October 1942, and in early 1943 he was commissioned a Navy Ensign. Now he too was off to war. He was thrilled at the prospecthe had always been enamored with the sea and sailing. Now he was a part of the real navy, and he would have his own vital part to play in the very serious fight against both Germany and Japan.
Earlier that year (1942), Major John (he was now a Major in the Marines) sent word to Mom and Dad that he had met a very wonderful young nurse from Brooklyn by the name of Aileen Maroney. She had captured his heart, and he had proposed to her! The rest of the letter was filled with wonderful information about how beautiful and vivacious she was, etc. etc. and she had accepted his offer of marriage! Even though the wedding was not to take place until two years later, I mention this now because some limited correspondence between Aileen and Mother opened up, and Aileen was invited to Jeans wedding; she accepted and came by train to Detroit for the festivities. Of course all eyes at this wedding and wedding reception, in addition to the bride, Jean, and the groom, Leslie, were on Aileen, the nurse from Brooklyn. We all met her, and she made a wonderful impression on everyone. She proved every compliment that brother John had showered on her. Aileen returned to nursing in New York the day after the wedding.
More needs to be said about Jeans wedding, the very first of many in this seven-sibling family. Jean did not have a long time to plan the October wedding at St. Marys of Redford Church, our home parish for Winthrop. I believe Aunt Marguerite was her bridesmaid, but I know Less brother Paul was the best man. Mom and Dad hosted a very small dinner party to meet Less brother Paul at our Winthrop home. At this particular time the Catholic Diocese of Detroit had some funny idea that if they made it difficult for a Catholic to marry a non -Catholic there might be fewer of such marriages! Hence Jean could not be married at the main altar at St. Marys, but was married at a very beautiful side altar, which was adjacent to the side entrance to this very ornate and beautiful church. Since I was then a substitute RFD postman for Redford, Michigan, (I only worked on Saturdays) and had to deliver the Saturday mail the day of the wedding, I could not get time to attend the rather brief ceremony (non mass at that time for "mixed" marriages!), but I did arrive in time for the delightful wedding breakfast at the Bottsford Inn, way out Grand River Avenue, between Farmington and Novi. I was also in the crowd that watched Jean toss her bridal bouquet before she and Les drove away on their honeymoon.
Louis Enters Wayne UniversityCalled To Active Duty
I graduated from Cooley High in June 194l, and started to Wayne University in September 1941. It was quite a trip from our home on Winthrop downtown to Wayne via the Grand River street car and the Dexter bus, but the trip was worth it. I loved Wayne. And I believe that I thrived there. I really didnt major too much in academic studies, but I know I majored in "student activities". Incidentally, the cost of the tuition at old Wayne U for my first semester was only about 80 dollars (honest) and the cost of the transportation was something like 20 cents each way. Like my brother James, before me, I usually took my own lunch with me from home. Books were much more reasonable then, too. A ten-dollar textbook would have been considered very expensive! Of course, Pearl Harbor and the declaration of war coming three plus months after I enrolled, made an indelible impression on all of the Wayne students, and dramatically altered the extent of student activities in which we were able to be engaged.
I enlisted in the Army Reserves and drilled a couple of nights each week at some old moth eaten armory in the downtown areanot too far from the old Masonic Temple. I, along with about two hundred other army reservists from Wayne was "called up" on April 1, 1943 for active duty. Except for the fact that I had a rather unique serial number behind my name, being a reservist on active duty was the same as being drafted.
I trained in Wyoming and Wisconsin. I ended up, finally, after ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program) at the University of Wisconsin at Camp McCoy, between Sparta and La Cross, Wisconsin. There I became a very unimportant part of the 1263d Engineer Combat Battalion. The less said about this undistinguished organization the better. But it took me to England, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany during the war, and my experiences with the 1263d during the war will never be forgotten by me. I believe I really grew up in the U. S. Army, both in the States and in Europe. I too have written about my army experiences, and if interested, I refer you to that material.
Birth of First Grand ChildJohn and Aileens Wedding In Brooklyn
The most important events in our family while I was in the armed forces and away from the Detroit home, was first, the birth of the first grand child, Leslie Seward III, in June, 1943. And second, the next important occurrence was the wedding of Lt. Colonel John and Aileen Moroney in 1944 in Brooklyn. John returned from the Solomon Islands in July, 1944; immediately took a train to Brooklyn with matrimony on his mind, namely to marry Aileen. Maroney. He arrived August 5, secured the license, etc. met Aileens father and mother and as many of her other relatives as were available, and the wedding took place at Aileens parish church, St. Agathas. Johns best man was his 1st Cousin, Roger Blandford, and another cousin Bob McGuinness (from the Dexter McGuinnesses) was the usher. It may be of some interest to Johns many descendants that while the name McGuinness did not mean too much at that time in Detroit, it meant a lot, politically in Brooklyn. With a wink and a nod and a bit of pretense on John and Aileens part, the name (and assumed political connection to the local political big shot McGuinness,) the waiting period for the license was waived.
Mother, Nell and Aunt Marguerite took the train to New York for the Brooklyn wedding. I believe that Aileens two brothers; Fathers Gene and Joe performed the ceremony. Aileens bridesmaid was a personal friend from her high school days; John has long since forgotten her name! As indicated above, Johns best man was Navy Lieutenant Roger Blandford, Moms nephew, who was then stationed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Roger had told John that he did not have any dress "whites", and John being ever the loyal person showed up in his dress blues, the fancy Marine winter uniform. He had to endure hours of sweat and humidity on this the 12th day of August in Brooklyn! Guess who came in dress "whites?" Roger!
The happy couple honeymooned for a full week at Lake George in New York. John remembers it as a beautiful, almost idyllic location, so beautiful and quiet after what he had seen and had taken part in the South Pacific Solomon Islands. After Lake George, the couple left for Detroit where they spent the rest of Johns furlough. After that they left for Marine life at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. This was the very same location from which John had trained for the South Pacific, and from which he had departed some 25 or 26 months previous.
Lt. Col. John took command of an Engineer Training Battalion at this very large Marine station. He stayed there at this camp and at this Training Command from September 44 until August 45. Of course they were in government housing on the base. Aileen became almost an adjunct part of Colonel McGuinness training battalion. John and Aileen invited Mother to come down to North Carolina to visit them. She did, and was most impressed with everything she saw and did while visiting them. She was also most impressed with Aileen, as were we all. John Patrick, Mom and Dads 2nd grandchild was born here at the post hospital in July 45.
In August 45 John received orders to report to Okinawa, in the South Pacific preparatory for an invasion of the Japanese "home Islands." He loaded his car with all their personal possessions, and little John Patrick, and started for Brooklynit had been arranged that Aileen and little John, would stay in Brooklyn to await Johns return from the South Pacific. John remembers the trip was long, slow and hot! Remember, at this time we had a national speed limit of 35 mph! While they were enroute to Brooklyn, the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, Japan surrendered, and the war was over. WOW!! The Marine Corps authorities got in touch with John at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, and told him that he could have two choices, apply for Inactive Duty, or proceed to Okinawa, anyway. For Johns decision, see below.
War Ends In Europe, David ReturnsLouis Remains In Europe
After the end of the war in Europe (May, 1945), it took 50 points for an enlisted man to be able to return to the States. I had only 49 points! Actually, the point system was very fair. You got one point for each month of active service, double points for each month over seas, additional points for "battle stars;" additional points for being married, and more points for each child. David who had been in Europe for many months and had several battle stars, had about l20 points, so he came back from Europe quite soon after the end of the fighting. Mother, Dad, Jean, Nell and John and family greeted him like the hero he really was.
I stayed in Germany in what was known as the Army of Occupationand I was able to travel to Italy and Switzerland, and I also got to travel back to England for university level education in a location called Schrivenham, England. While at Schrivenham I traveled to London, two or three more times; I was also able to see Wales, Scotland and to visit Oxford University several times. This was not really a time of privation for me, because I was able to see so much of the British Isles, and we had excellent American food to eat. At this particular time the English were still on war rations, and their food was neither really good nor ample. We soldiers actually felt very sorry for the English, Welsh and Scottish people as far as their wartime living was concerned. But practically all of the English people whom we met were extremely hospitable to us.
In the middle of March 1946, I and many others were placed on unheated, old rail road passenger cars (this was really deluxe treatment for us, because we usually traveled in "40 and 8" style box cars) in Munich, Germany, and shipped up to Bremerhaven, Germany to await a ship to take us to New York. After a week or more in one of the biggest Army camps I had ever seen, (this same camp was a receiving depot for many new arriving replacements for the Army of Occupation), I joined a rather small group being sent back to the U. S. on the SS La Cross Victory. There were probably not more than 100 of us returning service personnel on this large Liberty shipwe had so much room aboard that I was constantly amazed.
We sailed in rather rough gray, green seas past the Azores (there were many GIs sea sick aboard this ship) right into downtown New Yorkactually right into Brooklyn. We spent one last night on the ship as it was moored at the street side dock in Brooklyn. Since they let us go ashore, I found Joseph Moroneys name in the phone directory, and he gave me directions to his grocery store, about eight or ten blocks away. Thus that very night I was able to meet brother Johns father-in-law and mother-in-law. They welcomed me home as if I were a conquering hero! This was the only time in my life that I met the legendary Grandfather Moroney.
We left John in Brooklyn, enroute to Okinawa, in spite of the fact that the war with Japan had ended. The Marine Corps, faced with what they knew would be large scale cut-backs in officer and enlisted strength;, had given John almost the very first chance of anybody to return at once to civilian lifeInactive Status. Since John had previously promised his father-in-law that he would not make the Marine Corps his lifetime work, he felt duty bound to take civilian status as soon as the Marine Corps would give it to him, and he applied for Inactive Status.
John was obliged to report each day to the Brooklyn Navy Yard until his status was changed. This took about a month. John remembers this as a rather pleasant month spent with Aileen in Brooklyn awaiting Inactive Duty Status orders; during this time he and Aileen got to see many different New York stage plays with either free or reduced price tickets. Then he and Aileen and little John departed for Detroit (again, a t 35mph speed!) They arrived, John thinks, in early October. Now, where to live?
Mother and Dad had old friends by the name of Charlie and Ruth Lees. They had an old shingle type two-story colonial located in the South St. Mary s area. Mr. Lees was a semi-invalid former Marine from many years past. He had left his wife Ruth, and moved to Arizona for his health. Their son, Charles Lees, Jr. had left his mother to join his father. John and Aileen and little son John Patrick lived at the Lees home for a few months while John found more suitable quarters. In the meantime John returned to the Advanced Stamping Company as its chief engineer.
John was able to rent the lower flat in the Redford district of Detroit, on the corner of Bennett and Bentler. It was a typical Detroit flattwo bedrooms, a kitchen, living room, small dining room and one bath. It was small but adequate for the time being. John looked for a vacant lot in this general area (Redford) on which he could build a more adequate home. He found one about a mile away, on Bentler, corner of Puritan, just north of the area then known as Brightmoor.
Joseph was born while they lived on Bennett, July l5, l946exactly l2 months after John (July 45). I am not sure when the much looked for new home was started, but I remember visiting the big hole in the ground with Mom and Dad sometime in the early fall of "46. It looked very familiar to me, since as a kid I had made it my duty to inspect all of the basement housing starts in our Winthrop areaand I had seen an awful lot of basements. John and his family moved into the Bentler home in February "47. John says their first year there it was only a one story and basement home, but he quickly had professional contractors add two more bedrooms upstairs, along with a 2nd bath. Soon after that a large sunroom was added to the dining room, and more living space in the basement.
In addition to this, John and his boys fenced in the yard and built a large two-car garage. John soon proved himself to be his mothers true son; he lavishly landscaped his lot with flowers and plantings of which he could be proud.
Both of their Redford area locations were in the Christ the King Parish. This was to be this familys home parish and school for each of the ensuing l2 children. Mary Rose was born shortly after they moved to the Bentler home; I remember being the godfather at her christening at Christ the King. Emma Jane Conklin was the godmother. As usual, after one of these events, a family party ensued. I can still taste the wonderful cake Aileen baked for the occasion of the birth of her first daughter.
Louis Returns HomeFamily Moves From Winthrop Home
I was mustered out at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. David met me at the old New York Central railroad station about four PM on April 2, 1946. It was the first I had seen or talked to Dave since January, 1942, when everyone at home hugged and kissed him goodbye. He seemed much more mature and much more confident than I had remembered him. He had to be to have gone through the fantastic war experiences that he had had and to have survived. Dave drove me home to Mom and Dad and Jean, James, Nell and Leslie III. Frankly, I was really surprised how Nell had grown and matured, and how Mother had aged. I was to find out later how the war had been very hard on her. In addition, I also found out that Mother had fallen some time back while running to get the Fenkel bus to go and do substitute teaching at a local Intermediate school. In retrospect, much later, we were to understand that this fall along with worry about her sons probably caused our mother much physical and psychological damage that was not readily apparent at the time. But the fact that Mother had changed was apparent to me almost as soon as I returned home.
I was also surprised to discover that my boyhood Winthrop home had been sold, and we were to move in ten days to Vancouver Avenue, just a few houses off Grand River Avenue. Our new parish was to be St. Theresas where Dave and I had been baptized when the family was living on Woodrow Avenue. This was the home from which we had all originally moved to the suburbs, to Winthrop Avenue and our earlier lives at St. Marys and Cooley High School.
David had some job at this time, driving a taxi at first, and somewhat later he was installing Venetian blinds in private residences. I vividly recall the Venetian blind installing, because he leaned on me to assist with a couple of installations. Also, James was back in Detroit from Wichita. I distinctly remember his being with us when we moved into the big, brick, three-story home on Vancouver. Dad took care to have Lee Apple (Johns friend, who was a painter and decorator) decorate every room in the new residence before we moved in. This was a very good, large, three story all brick home in an older, but nice neighborhood.
I understand that Dad had several things in mind when he sold the Winthrop Avenue home. First of all, it was really quite out of date at this time, and would have required many improvements and updating, however, in was in a very desirable neighborhood, and a young Catholic doctor who planned to set up practice in the immediate area, a doctor McGoff (who became John and Aileens doctor), had made Dad a very handsome cash offer for the house. Also, Nell Therese was to enter the nursing program for an RN at Providence Hospital, and Dad thought that a home closer to both Providence Hospital, and to Wayne University (he knew that I was to be mustered out quite soon) would be most helpful to both Nell and myself. Also, he knew he could get much more house for the amount of money McGoff offered him, and Dad was reluctant to put big bucks, so to speak, into the more inferior structure on Winthrop, hence the sale and the move.
My first look at this new home that I was to live in for several more years was when on my second day home from Europe I went to help Lee Apple. I had the most important job of scrubbing the walls of dust and dirt before he painted. Two weeks later we had moved, and I was back at good old Wayne U. as a returned veteran. Actually, I was able to catch the last class for returning veterans. They started a new class every two weeks, and mine, the third week of April 1946, was their last special veterans starting class.
Les Seward Remembers Celebretory Cruise Around The World After The End Of The War In The Pacific
Les had only left Hawaii on his way to the South Pacific when the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. This, of course, was a major factor in deciding what happened to him next in his wartime exploits in the South Pacific. But let us back up from this a bit.
When I left Detroit for my own (modest) contributions to WWII victory, April l, l943, Jean was expecting the first grandchild, Leslie III, who was born less than three months later in Detroit in 1943. At that time they were living on Agnes Street, just off East Jefferson Avenue, very close to the Wardman (?) Apartment Hotel near the Water Works Park. They had a large, pretty standard apartment, and I presume it was a furnished apartment. I visited there once or twice with Mom and Dad and Nell (I think). I distinctly remember visiting there for a sort of farewell dinner for me before I had to report to Camp Custer near Battle Creek. Leslie was still a civilian, but he would shortly become a Naval Lieutenant.
Sometime that summer he, Jean and Leslie III moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee to take up his naval duties. They lived there in government quarters for a number of months, which I understood from letters of that time, were less than great for wives with very small children. Sometime later that year, or probably next year, Les left for active Pacific Ocean sea duty and Jean and Leslie III returned to live at Winthrop until Les, Jr. returned in May, 1946.
Now, back to the South Pacific with Les. He ended up being assigned to an important, large naval base named Singtao. This was a Japanese naval base located on the Chinese mainland, on the Sea of Japan, below Valdivostok. Somehow or other, when it became time for him to be released from active duty, and be sent home (1946), he found out about a Celebretory tour that the U. S. Navy was undertaking to celebrate its big victory in the Pacific by sending one ship, The SS Thomas E. Geary, around the world, port by port to receive honors and thanks from many nations, and cities. Les volunteered for this journey, was accepted, and became the navigation officer for this extensive "cruise".
From the area of Japan, they sailed down through the S. China Sea into the Indian Ocean, through the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal, then the Mediterranean, and, finally, home through the Atlantic Ocean. With all the stops and all the celebrating, diplomatic receptions, etc. the cruise took about seven weeks or more. Les had the time of his lifeand considers this most interesting assignment the "height" of his naval career! This is the reason that Les arrived back in Detroiton Vancouver Avenuein the month of May 1946. Les says that his total time overseas was about 18 months.
Sometime soon after we moved to Vancouver that April, Lt. Leslie Seward Jr., USN, returned to Detroit to pick up his wife and son to move them to the Chicago area to live. He was returning to the Electromotive Division of General Motors, the company for which he worked when he left for the navy. Very fortunately Mary Agnes, now a widow, (husband Denny having been killed in an airplane training crashhe had been a pilot trainer) returned to Detroit by train at that same time. This was the first time Mary had been back to Detroit since she left with husband Denny in 1940.
Fortunately, Dad called in a photographer friend of his and he took the post WW II photo of the John P. and Nellie Bek McGuinness family that I hope all of you have a copy. As far as I know this is the only "recent" picture that we have of all seven of us plus Mom and Dad. Also present in the picture are Aileen and their eldest child, John Patrick, and Leslie Seward, Jr. and Leslie III. That picture was taken in the living room of the Vancouver home in 1946 in late May or very early June.
I think Les Seward and his family left for their new home in LaGrange, Illinois, the very next morning. They were to live there in a beautiful, old rented home for several years.
I am not sure what year the annual McGuinness family picnics beganactually picnics with the Vinewood family had been going on for a long time, as indicated above. But in 1935 or 36, the aunts began to invite everyone that was related to us from the Dexter-Pinckney area and from elsewhere in the Detroit metro area, and they called them a "Family Reunion."
The earliest ones, with a sign and all, were held at a big pavilion in the Dexter-Huron Park between Dexter and Ann Arbor. The last one in that series I was able attend, before the current series of these events (under the able sponsorship of John and Patricia DuLong), was in 1942. Neither John, James, David, Jean nor Mary were able to attend this picnic, held at the above-cited pavilion in Dexter-Huron. I was late in arriving because I was then working as a RFD delivery postman out of the Redford Post Office. But I got there in time to see the small group that was able to make it. Mom wrote me that there was also a small gathering at this same place in 1943; this was the last held in the original series. The DuLongs sparked the revival of this wonderful event; I think the first one in the new series came during the late 70s or early 80s. Thank you very much, John and Patriciayou have done all of us a very great favor!
Going back to the original series again: Cousins, and people who were married to cousins showed up at Dexter-Huron for these affairs. I especially looked forward to seeing Mae E. McGuinness and her sister, Margaret who lived on Santa Rosa, very close to Marygrove. We also had several people from the Youngs family that lived near Pinckney and Chelsey. There were others tooanother Mae McGuinness and her sister Helen McGuinness Rouen. Helen was married to a Andy Rouen, and they had several good looking kids. This group of cousins lived some where down river, near Ecorse, I understood. Sadly, we seem to have lost contact not only with these cousins, but also with the Youngses. Although, once in a while John and James have run into guys whose name was Youngs who remembered that their mother was closely related to the McGuinnesses in Detroit!
I wish to mention here that it was at this same Dexter-Huron pavilion that I saw Great Aunt Molly McGuinness Gorman for the last time. This great lady, then in her 90s came one last time to, in effect, say good by to the tribe. She was Grandfather McGuinness only sister. Her husband Pete Gorman had been dead since sometime in the late 20s, I believe; they had lived in Chelsey. The first time I met her she was closing her Chelsey home to go live in a retirement place. On this particular occasion, Mae McGuinness (who later moved to Dexter and remodeled a lovely old home there for herself, Margaret and her brother Frank) had gone to Ann Arbor to get Aunt Molly for this picnic. I am sure Aunt Molly was in pain for every moment she sat there on the hard picnic bench, and the day was hot. But she sat there ramrod straight, leaning on her silver headed cane, and was affable and friendly with everyone who came to kiss her and pay her "court." She died very shortly after this last coming out for her relatives!
James returned to Detroit from Wichita shortly before, or shortly after VE Day (Victory in Europe), May 1945. After VE Day the government dropped gasoline rationing entirely, so if you had a serviceable car, and tires (you could not buy new tires during WWII), you were now free to travel! Dad and Mom and Nell now made a rather substantial journey north as guests of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard McNab, of the St. Marys section of the across Grand River Avenue, known as Grandmont. Mom and Dad had known the McNabs for as many years as I can remember. Bertha McNab, the mother of several children who were generally older than our kids, was the sister of the famous Dr. Louis J. Garapie, who was our family doctor and surgeon. Mother counted Bertha McNab as one of her one or two really intimate friends. Bernard McNab had been a very successful builder in Detroit, before the "crash" of 1929. He had built both Cooley High, and Cass Technical High School, among many other prominent Detroit buildings. He was now "retired" from the building game, as he called it, because of the economic conditions, and a "bad heart". He and Dad were also very good friends; Dad often had him over to the house to play horseshoes. The McNabs were also part of Mom and Dads bridge club.
Mr. McNab was from the area North of Goderich, Ontario, where Dolores McGuinness came from, in fact her family was rather well acquainted with Bernard McNabs brothers and sisters who continued to live in that area of Ontario (of course, nobody in our family knew Dolores at that time). Mr. McNab was very proud of his Canadian connections, and had a very lovely beach house cottage at Inverhuron Beach, which is about two miles from Tiverton, Ontario. In addition to having a fairly new 1941 Ford sedan, which Dad was smart enough to buy in July or August, 1941, Dads tires were able to make the tripso off the four went to visit the McNabs who were already up at Inverhuron Beach awaiting them.
Back to James and Virginia: I do not know if James had said anything to Mom or Dad about Virginia, whom he had known in Wichita, before our move to Vancouver Avenue, but sometime after Mary and Jean and Leslie had left for their own homes, James told Mom and Dad that he had had a letter from Virginia, and she was coming to Detroit and wanted to meet James family.
I recall being in the living room on Vancouver when he discussed this very interesting news with Mom. She asked him a few questions and then said that if she, Virginia, was determined to come, and James was agreeable, then she would certainly be welcome. The next question from James was where would she stayMother quickly made the decision that she would make room for her at the Vancouver home, which she did.
Virginia came a week or so later, was welcomed, and James renewed his acquaintance with her; I cannot recall how long she stayed with us, but before she left, Jim proposedand they were engaged. Jim was later to tell me it was while the radio was blaring out the then popular tune "Peg O My Heart!"
I was to hear bits and pieces of the wedding plans during the ensuring days (most of we kids were not to be involved in the festivities, which, of course, took place in far away Wichita.). However I soon found out about Dad and Jims plans as to where the bride and groom were to live. Dad made plans to purchase a two family flat on Virginia Park Avenue, a few blocks from Vancouver, and across Grand River Road. Dad would sell this to Jim on long terms, and the rent from the upper flat would pay all or most of the monthly payments.
Because there would be a several week period from the date of the wedding until the Virginia Park residence could be ready for the new couple, Jim decided (with Mom and Dads permission) to remodel the ample, dry, Vancouver basement into a semi-apartment for the two of then to live after the honeymoon and the move into the Virginia Park flat. Concerning his fixing up of the downstairs basement apartment, I recall kibitzing with Jim a couple of times when he was diligently doing the work at night.. He, in his usual engineering style, was doing a first rate job, even though Virginia and he were only scheduled to stay there for a very few weeks.
Jim drove out to Wichita with his best man, Mike Scharoff. Mike was a fellow engineer whom he had known at the U. of D. These two (along with Dave) were members of the famous "20 Up" Club in Royal Oak. Being fellow bachelors, they often went to social functions together. Mom and Dad drove out with Nell by way of a mountain cabin in Colorado. A teacher friend of Dads had this mountain cabin for summer time vacations in Colorado, and Mom and Dad had been invited there several times, so they went to this cabin "enroute" to the Curtis-McGuinness wedding in Wichita. I do not know the name of the church, where the wedding took place but I understand that Aunt Pauline was Virginias bridesmaid.
I went over with Dad and Jim once or twice to help with the clean up and redecorating of the lower flat on Virginia Park. It was a dirty, messy job. It was obvious that this lower flat had not been owner-occupied for a long, long time. Dad and Jim did most of the cleaning and painting of this flat. It had to be actual fall, "47 before Jim and Virginia moved into this now immaculate place.
"Little" Jimmy was born here sometime the next year. The first time I was to meet Pauline was at Jimmys christening at St. Theresas Church, about three blocks from Virginia Park. I was the proud godfather, and Pauline was the equally proud godmother. Philip was born the following year while they lived at this house. I am not sure whether Paul was born here, in Detroit or after this family moved to Vandercook Lake, near Jackson. But I am certain that John Curtis was born at Vandercook Lake.
I do not recall many personal visits to this growing family while they lived on Virginia Park, although all of us were to see them frequently because the distance from Vancouver was only a few blocks. However, I do recall walking over to this home a couple of times at Virginias invitation to see the kids. After they moved to Vandercook Lake however, (date?), I became a frequent visitor. I was always received there with great courtesy and friendliness.
One Christmas, not too soon after they moved to Vandercook Lake, Jim put their Christmas tree in the family playpen! "Neither of them (John Curtis and Paul) can pull it down that way" Jim said; "otherwise it would only take them about 15 minutes!" Mother and Dad were also frequent visitors while the family lived at Vandercook Lake. Most of the rest of James and Virginias children were to be born at the Vandercook Lake home. They lived at this home for several years, and then in the late 50s moved to Grand Rapids. They were living in a very lovely, spacious East Grand Rapids home when I visited them for the last time before I moved to Washington, in June, l962.
I also have a firm memory of being tagged to drive to Wyola Avenue in La Grange, Illinois, sometime in the early 50s, to pick up sister Jean and her three boys and transport them to Vancouver for a visit. Of course we stopped at Vandercook Lake both going and coming. We made an hour or so stop on the way to Vancouver, for a meal with everyone concerned. I believe that this was the only time that sister Jean was ever to see the Vandercook Lake home. The McGuinness boys were thrilled to meet the three young Seward boys!
Sometime after James and Virginias wedding in 1947, we understood that David was seeing Virginias sister, Pauline. Not too many months thereafter, I heard, also, that the two were making plans to marry; the time was set for the early spring, 1950. The month was May.
The place was St. Theresas Church; Pauline was to be married from James and Virginias home on Virginia Park. Virginia was the bridesmaid and Peter Lyshack Davids old friend from years back, was to be best man. When the day came Peter did not make itI think he was either ill or else his employer, Ford Motor Company had some urgent work for him in their legal department. I had originally been slated to be an usherso I was drafted to be best man with only a few minutes notice!
It was not planned to be a formal event. It was the usual nine AM week day massthe St. Theresa Pastor skipped the bans to accommodate the wedding couple who wished for a quiet wedding that did not require a long waiting period. After the wedding, the four of us in the wedding party took time for a quick picture just off the elaborate front steps of the church (it was a chilly, windy morning and neither Dave nor I had a top coat) and then we four headed back to Vancouver for a sumptuous breakfast hosted by Mom. In addition to the bride and groom, Mom and Dad and myself I distinctly remember Jim and Virginia. Nell was in Downers Grove, assisting Jean and Leslie. Jean was giving birth to her third son, Gregory.
If my memory is correct, both Aunts Marguerite and Mary were also at the church (remember, this was a school day). After the wedding Aunt Marguerite left for Miller High School; Aunt Mary accompanied us back to the Vancouver home for the wedding breakfast. After the breakfast, all of us gathered on the Vancouver front porch (the day was considerably warmer now) and David was forced to listen to a litany of advice on many matters from Mom and Dad. Then they drove off to their honeymoon in Dads 1947 Ford sedan, borrowed for the occasion. I do not know where they went for their honeymoon, and if I was ever told, I have long since forgotten. For purposes of clarification, it should be pointed out, that Aunt Pauline had been previously married, and had little Kathy before she married Uncle David. Kathy was about 18 or 20 months old when they married; Aunt Virginia cared her for while they enjoyed their honeymoon. David adopted Kathy as soon as he could possibly do so after he married Pauline, and for all concerned, Kathy was always his child along with all the others born to this wonderful family.
I did happen to know what the living arrangements for the happy couple were to be, because I became involved in Dads plans. Dad, Aunt Maude and I owned a real rooming house at 39 West Buena Vista in Highland Park, very close to Woodward Avenue. I have long forgotten the complex details of how and why we purchased this place, and the name of the woman who had run it for a long time for a previous owner. This woman stayed on to manage the place for the new owners (Dad, Aunt Maude and me). Dad was not completely satisfied with the arrangements, so he gave adequate notice to this woman, and when the happy couple returned from their honeymoon, she had already moved out, or was in the process of moving out.
Dave and Pauline moved into the "owners" quarters on the 1st floor, and as their family grew, they occupied more and more of this old four-story brick home that had a total of seven bedrooms. I remember spending one summer painting each of the several bedrooms, the halls and the bathroom, and spending some time there that summer with Henry Curtis, who was a roomer at that home. In fact he had the spacious old front parlor, adjacent to Pauline and Daves quarters. This growing family, with Henry, then occupied the entire first floor of this big, old house.
Sometime later Dave and Pauline purchased the Bauman Home in Clawsen and moved there. However, I know for certain that at least two of their children were born while they lived on Buena Vista in Highland Park. I was not the godfather for either Kathy or Danny, but I was for Larry.
On the appointed Sunday in July or August (it was hot, steamy and overcast), Aunt Maude was the godmother, and we all rode with David to the Cathedral on Woodward Avenue with little Larry. After the rather short baptism, our little group started out the front door of the Cathedral to Davids car, which was parked across Woodward in front of the church. Thunder, wind and several huge raindrops greeted us as we emerged from the Church. David grabbed Larry like a large football, and raced rapidly across the street to the car. Aunt Maude and I were startledand anxious for Larrys safety (I was afraid because of the nasty street car tracks in the middle of the street). David made it in a real quick sprint. Maude and I also made it across the street much more slowly (very light traffic). No real rain followedjust sound and fury and all pretense.
Pauline stayed home with the other kids, and had cake and ice cream for everyone when we returned. I cannot precisely recall Mom and Dad being therebut they must have been, they never missed anything like this.
I do remember vividly where David was employed at this time. He was working down in Monroe, Michigan at some large automotive parts plant manufacturing something like spark plugs for someor manyof the automotive plants in Michigan and Ohio. It was a terribly long commute. Dave was up about five every morning, down to Monroe on time, then back to Highland Park about five in the eveningfive days a week. All of usMom, Dad, me, the Aunts and, I suppose, Pauline, worried about the terrible expenditure of his energy getting to and from Monroe each day. (Remember, this was before expressways!)
The living conditions for this growing family at Buena Vista were certainly not the best in the world. However, neither Pauline nor Dave ever complained. To all outward appearances, the family was quite happy there on Buena Vista. Sometime in the late 50s this family moved to Bauman Street in Clawsen where all of the rest of their children were born. I was not involved in any of the financial details of the buying of the Clawsen, home. However, I do believe that both Dad and Aunt Maude were involved. Pauline still owns the Bauman home as of this date. Dad, Aunt Maude and I sold the Buena Vista place as soon as possible after David and Pauline moved to Clawsen. All three of us were very glad to be out of the rooming house business!
Nell graduated from St. Mary of Redford High School in 1947. For the last year at St. Marys Nell rode the Grand River street car from Vancouver to the car stop right at the school. She was accepted at the very prominent School of Nursing at Old Providence Hospital located close to our Vancouver home.
Nell graduated from Providence with her RN "degree" in 1950. While at Providence she became a good friend with Ann Marie Oliver, and through Ann Marie she met Anns brother, Vincent. I ascertained that Mom did not particularly approve of Vincent as a prospective son-in-law; but having learned from the experience of Marys marriage without parental approval, Mom was more careful and diplomatic this time around. After Nell made her acceptance of Vincents offer of marriage obvious to Mom and Dad, they accepted graciously and attempted to do everything possible to assist the young couple in regards to a family wedding.
That fall, 1950, wedding was rather an informal affair (our parents were very practical about such things, and Dad was not exactly extra liberal with money). The Church was again St. Theresas. The wedding reception was at the downtown League of Catholic Womens buildingsandwiches, tea and cookies, according to Nell. I did not attend this functionand I cant tell you why, because I dont remember. But Mom and Dad also had a small wedding breakfast at our home with the Oliver family and the McGuinness family present. I do remember that event. Nell says she wore the same wedding dress that Pauline Curtis made for Virginia!
Nell also says that Jean Seward was to have been her bridesmaid, but was unable to come to Detroit for the wedding, so Nell had Ann Marie Oliver, Vinces sister, as a stand in for Aunt Jean. Vince had a boy friend, Dan Dwyer, as his best man. I think I was an usher. The happy couple honeymooned in a Lexington hotel. It was not a long honeymoonone night, and Nell, who had worked the Friday night before the wedding, had to return to Providence Hospital for nursing duty again Monday morning. I recall clearly that Nell and Vincent moved into James and Virginias old honeymoon suite in our Vancouver basement. About this same time Jim and Virginia and family left Detroit for Vandercook Lake, and, yesthe new couple, Nell and Vincent followed them to the 1st floor flat on Virginia Park.
Nell also disclosed to me the complex arrangement involved in their taking over the ownership of this piece of property. She remembers that Aunt Maude was a part owner with Dad. Aunt Maude gave her ownership interest to Nell, so that she and Dad were the actual owners of the Virginia Park flat after James and Virginia moved away.
Arlene Bridget was born at Nells old Providence hospital in 1951 while they lived in this home, and Craig David born in 1952 and Eric Francis born in 1954 were also born at Providence while this family was in residence on Virginia Park. Nell and Vince then acquired an old single family home on Ward Avenue, farther out Grand River, where all of the other children of this family were born. Vince was to hold a number of different jobshe was a long distance truck driver at first, than an X-ray technician and later a highly trained clay modeler for Chrysler Motors.
I usually went to Dexter with Palmer and Marguerite; we frequently visited "Aunt" Jenny and her brothers, Ed and Chris at their very large (350 plus acre) farm about two or three miles outside of Dexter, Michigan. They had a spacious old farm house, set well back from the road, and two huge barns and many smaller farm buildings on two sides of a two rural, unpaved, road intersection. They also had many chickens that were allowed to run free. I was always permitted to go hut for eggs, and this I did with "gusto." Emma Jane and Nell were more often than not with me when we started out, but they did not have the competitive drive that I had to accumulate eggs! I think they found the going through dusty, dirty building after dirty building too much to endure. Also, some of the chickens were somewhat combative.
"Aunt" Alice (McGuinness-Herbert) was often in residence. This farm was equally hers, too. They also had a young lady named Martha who needed a home. Martha helped "Aunt" Jenny keep house for Chris and Ed. As far as I could decipher relationships, these people were Dads first cousins.
The very first visit I can remember to this farm and to these cousins, occurred when I was about seven, and Palmer, Maude and Marguerite went there to pay a "sick call" to their Aunt Betsy who lay dying in a spacious first floor bedroom, just off the front parlor. I was presented rather formally to this impressive old lady, whom I never saw again; I remember she was especially interested in sizing me up, as if she were wondering how I would do helping her sons run their farm. She was wearing a starched, white cap that covered her hairshe was sitting up in her bed. This white bed cap fascinated me. I had never seen anything like this before in my life! I have since seen it many times in Hollywood presentations of old fashioned Victorian ladies who were stylish, etc. But at this time in my life (I dont think that I had seen many films by this age) it really caught my eye!
I also remember that Chris and Ed, who ran this farm, were not in evidence around their mothers sick room. This was reserved for Jenny and at least one other woman who was quite obviously a nurse.
Somewhat later than this, brother John and several of his friends would go out to this McGuinness farm to hunt pigeons. They also hunted squirrels and rabbits, here and at another location not too far away, an extensive holding called "Johnnie Smiths farm. It was a 200 or 300 acre vacant piece of property that either had heirs in Ireland, or heirs in this country who could not agree on selling the vacant land. My first taste of wild game came from Johns trips to these locations. I have never tasted these same items since as well as Mom prepared them. I was always warned to watch out for "buck- shot." At the time I was ignorant of what buck -shot was! John and his shooting companions were really very good shots. Especially John; he took his hunting quite seriously.
Jenny and Martha often accompanied us on picnics or other outings to other places in the Dexter area. We frequently went to visit graveyards and somehow or other the vacant Johnnie Smith place was also an especially interesting place to explore. Jenny introduced us to this very unusual place. Mr. Smith (who I think was related to some "kinfolk,") had died; he was a bachelor, and people had completely ransacked his log home. This made this spooky old place seem even stranger to me because of the messy disarray of personal items that were spread everywhere, even outside the home.
Another memory I have of this Jenny McGuinness farm was of having real, actual, old-fashioned buggy rides given to me, David and I believe James, also, by either Chris or Ed. These two were pretty gruff old bachelors, but they knew we loved to ride in their buggy, pulled by a real live horse. These two gentlemen had been born in the horse and buggy age, and neither one ever drove a car. They didnt use tractors to plow, either. The buggy was for trips around the neighborhood. I think they finally consented to have Jenny drive them to Dexter, whenever they had to go there, in her 1927-28 Chevrolet. This farm was so turn-of-the-century type that it was almost completely self-sufficient. The only things they needed from Dexter were coffee, sugar, paper products, seeds and farm implements. Hence the necessity for trips to Dexter, except for Church was infrequent.
Unfortunately, Jenny and Ed met their demise in this ancient vehicle. Sometime before WW II they were on their way back to the farm after mass at St. Josephs Church when somebody from a nearby lake demolished their car. Ed lived only for a couple of days, but Jennie survived for a month or so. Visits to this farm were never the same again. I will always remember how kind, how hospitable and how generous "Aunt" Jenny was. Everyone sorely missed her in her community. Chris, who was the stay at home that day survived for a few more years, but by this time he was too old and infirm to do much farming. I think we made two more trips to this farm after Jennys funeral. The chickens were gone. So was Martha. The place did not look or seem the same at all.
There was another McGuinness farm in the Dexter neighborhood, on the South or West side of Dexter, about a half a mile from the present Catholic (St. Joseph) cemetery where Uncle James is now buried. This was the Frank McGuinness farm. It was much, much smaller than the Jenny, Ed and Chris farm, and considerably more rustic. The Jenny farm had electricity and indoor plumbing, but the Frank McGuinness farm, early on did not. Frank jointly owned this farm, I think; Robert, Mae and Margaret These were also Dads first cousins. Frank was the boss when Mae was not there to badger him. Mae was finally able to get him to install both electricity and a telephone, but plumbing, no!
As indicated, Frank was the boss. Frank was loquacious, colorful, and had an opinion on everything! He had only one eye; (both he and his brother Robert had been injured in farming operations) and his skin was purple color (honest!). He did not drive; God knows how he got food to eat. Whenever I used to stop by and see him (after WWI when I had my own car), I would drive around the house to the back door, open the car door and wait for Frank to come out to see whom he was lucky enough to come and cross wits with. He squinted at you very strongly with the single eye, and then you loudly told him"Frank, Im Louie, Parnells boy" Where upon he would agree that was who you were. "So, come on in" And in you went.
I never saw anything on the stove except yesterdays pot of strong, strong coffee! After Mae moved back to Dexter and renovated a beautiful old home on one of the two main streets of this small town, Mae always cooked something to bring out for Frank to eat, but the visits I am relaying here were before that time. My visits to this place were not too frequent, and were usually brief. Cousin Frank, who dressed like a hobo, was not in the habit of bathing! You did not want to stay too long, or get too close. Take my word for it; Frank was really a charactera true eccentric. Kevin has informed me that his father (John) often took the family to Dexter and almost always paid a call on "uncle" Frank. The kids loved him, he joked with them and always let them roam about the large barn that was adjacent to the house, but Aunt Aileen could not stand him, the smell, you know.
Now Ill explain about the purple color. Some country doctor, long ago, had prescribed some kind of medicine for some ailment or other (rheumatism?) and Frank continued to take large amounts of it for a long time. It turned his face and hands (and I presume the rest of him) a distinct dark purple color. Frank was admitted one late Sunday night to the old St. Josephs Hospital in Ann Arbor for some malady or otherI think was on suspicion of pneumonia. The nurse on duty, looking at him, and noting the dark color of death, told him to lie down in a small extra room and she would get to him later. . As she was about to go off duty, she told a doctor about him, who took one look at the sleeping man noted the color of death, and assumed that he had already died. The next morning Frank called loudly for something to eat! They then took an immediate interest in him, examined him, decided they could not help him, so he got dressed and went back home. Frank was always delighted to tell this story, and, perhaps add a little to the details. He said he thought he was the only local person who had enjoyed a stay at St. Josephs Hospital as a one-night corpse! He was also fond of reciting the long list of doctors whom he had already outlived.
When Mae did move back to Dexter in the 50s and 60s, Frank was much older, and Mae tried, without success, to get Frank to move into town and live with her. He refusedso every day Mae called out to the farm to find out if he was "behaving" himself. If he didnt answer the phone, she would drive out and hunt him down. She often found him out wondering around the acreage. On one occasion she found him on the floor of the large, rather dangerous barn. He had fallen and could not quite get up. After that she hauled him into town and made him stay therehe was the most reluctant border you could imagine. I never did know exactly how she got him to take regular baths! One story I heard is that she locked him in the bathroom and wouldnt let him come out until he bathed and handed her all his old clothes! But I cant confirm this story. However, Mae did tell me that he complained every day about something, and his whole future plan was to get back to his farm and to live alone again. I know these stories make Frank sound like a nut, but he really was a kind, gracious gentleman who took an unusual interest in almost everything. He got the Detroit papers delivered to his door, read about everything;, and was remarkably "up" on current happenings. He had a rich vocabulary and a very sharp wit.
Frank outlived Mae. He finally ended up in a nursing home in Chelseycomplaining every day. He wanted to go back to his farm! I understand he was at least l00 when he died. Both Mae and Frank died after I had moved to Washington in 1962.
In 1963, shortly before my marriage to Dolores, Mae drove back to Detroit on one occasion for a family party to meet Dolores (she knew me very well, perhaps better than any other of Dads kids). She left Frank at home (I think this was some party only for the ladies, given by Aunt Marguerite). Dolores confessed to me that she was simply captivated by Mae: she was glamorous, even in her high 80s; also smart, vivacious and witty. Both Dolores and I heard long after the fact about their funerals. But these two interesting cousins, and many others, now lie buried in St. Josephs Cemetery in Dexter, not very far from brother James. Every time I go into that cemetery I look up their markers, pause, and say a prayer in their vivid memories. I can truthfully say that having known them and loved them in life, they are still alive in my memory!
Dad, Uncle Palmer and I were often engaged to help carry coffins for old cousins who died the Dexter area. We would arrive at the one local funeral home in Dexter shortly before the scheduled departure for old St. Josephs Church. They were usually very small funerals; Palmer was often a reluctant participant. He had left the Church shortly after being best man at Dad and Moms wedding. Palmer often complained to Dad and me, that the Pastor at St. Josephs Church aimed his funeral oration right at him! Whatever, it eventually worked; Palmer came back to the Church about two and a half years before John, David and I were enlisted to carry his (very weighty) coffin to Mt. Olivet Catholic Cemetery, just north of the Detroit City Airport. That is the cemetery where all of the older Detroit McGuinness relatives, including our mother and father, are buried today.
The best part about those Dexter burials, that I can recall, was the food afterwards. Usually, of course, it was provided by friends and neighborsvery good indeed. Sometimes it was provided by a local restaurant, still good. One other time for the burial of Robert McGuinness, a bachelor brother of Maes, who lived in their farmhouse a short distance from Dexter. I really remember this particular funeral, because we gathered at the farmhouse with Mae, Margaret and Frank before going to the church. Mae told Frank to get changed (he was wearing his usual bib overalls, and they badly need to be washed and mended); he told her he didnt have any other clothes, and refused to go to the church looking as he did. Mae said, " all right, Frank, you win on the church, but when the hearse gets to the cemetery gate, you be there at the gateunderstand!"
And when the hearse pulled up to the Cemetery, Frank was there, leaning against the rickety fence, as if he owned the cemetery! Mae then got out of her car, walked up to Frank, still dressed exactly as before, dirty bib overalls and all, grabbed him by the arm, and marched him up to the grave site. After the brief cemetery ceremony, Frank rode the half-mile back to the home with Mae. After the food and drinks at the farmhouse, Mae asked me to accompany her back into town to see the funeral director.
Unfortunately Mae had had a little too much alcohol, and not enough of the good restaurant food, so her driving was more than a little off course. I had to intervene two or three times to keep us out of the ditch on the two-mile trip to town. I believe she had to ask about the tombstone, or something. Normally, Mae was not only a fantastic raconteur, and a great bridge player, but also a person who had driven over much of the USA I presume that Mae was eager to clear up some detail with the funeral director, because she and Margaret would not try to spend the night in their Dexter farm houseshe had forced her brothers to install electricity, but the indoor plumbing was still only a subject that she was pushinghard. Also, the farm house lacked a telephone at this time..
When I was last in Dexter, I drove past this old McGuinness home and farm, and I was very elated to see that some lucky person had purchased this entire farm and had rebuilt this old house. It now has everything that Mae tried to get Robert and Frank to install before they died.
Another Post WWII funeral that Dad and I attended in the cemetery at Dexter that was unusual was that of Alice McGuinness Herberts husband, Alfred. He died in Winchester, Va., of all places (they had a lovely home there before we purchased our country place there). Alice and one of Alfreds nieces who lived in the Winchester area were arriving from Winchester by train in Dexter. The burial mass was to have been said at the old Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Winchester, so the Dexter funeral director only had to meet the train and to transport the deceased and Alice, etc. to the cemetery, where the grave had been prepared.
Dad and Uncle Palmer and I, along with a few other relatives gathered at St. Josephs cemetery, as per our instructions, found the grave, and waitedand waited, and waited. The train was late, and, again, the day was hot. Finally, the small funeral procession arrived at the prepared gravesite, whereupon Palmer and Dad made an unheard of request. Since neither of them, or any of the other mourners there had seen old Mr. Herbert for several years, they asked if the casket could be opened for a "view" right there in the cemetery before he was sealed up for ages yet to come. The funeral director asked cousin Alice, and she agreed (I think she was eager to have one more look, too) and all of us looked at Mr. Herbert and agreed that the Winchester mortuary had done a good jobhe looked exactly as we had remembered him, red hair and all.
It was while we were awaiting the arrival of the hearse that Dad took me for a short walk in the cemetery and showed me the grave of his own grandfather, John McGuinness. This obelisk for Dads grandfather which had never been pointed out to me before, is about 20 feet from the present day location where our brother James is now resting in his grave till "judgment day." It is a small world, after all!
The Vinewood Aunts and Uncles Re-Visited
Uncle Palmer and Aunts Marguerite and Mary really ran the Vinewood household after Grandmas death. Palmer as has been noted before prided himself on being a new era scientist, and always tried to make everything square with the science that he had learned in college. He taught chemistry and physics at North Western High, and from everything that I could ascertain, was probably a very good teacher. He really put his heart and soul in his teaching. There were no computers in his day, but I am certain that he carefully computed each test mark and every class discussionor participationfor each pupil, and carefully marked that pupil from a numerical point of view. No more and no less.
He was also a genuine eccentric. He really worked at it. This was especially true when it came to driving or riding anywhere. There was mean time, clock time and Palmer McGuinness time. I can still hear my aunts exclaim, "theres no use in our getting all ready and then go sit in the car until Palmer makes up his mind to get ready to go!" He was perpetually late (except for classes). But he was unfailingly affable and friendly; he was also an excellent conversationalist. He could talk to almost anybody on any subject.
I can still see him standing by Grandma McGuinnesss bed when she lay dying; he was holding a small shaving mirror up to her mouth to ascertain when she actually stopped breathing! All the others in the room were on their knees, and Momwho had had the presence to bring along a prayer book with the prayers for the dyingwas leading the prayers. Mom, Dad, Nell and I were also on our knees, responding to Moms prayers. The three aunts were very overcome with emotion, but very lady like about it. The nurse was trying to feel a pulse, and wanted to tell Palmer that he was in the way, but of course she could not be so abrupt.
Finally Palmer said (choking with emotion) "Shes gone, theres no more moisture on the mirror" About this same time the nurse said, "I cant feel a pulse, shes dead." Later, about the time we all filed silently out of the bedroom, all three of the aunts tearfully thanked Mom for having the presence of mind to be able to lead the prayersthey could not have talked through their sobs. This was my first personal experience of being physically present with a person at the moment of death, so it made a lasting impression on me.
All three of the aunts were warm, loving and generous toward us. Aunts Mary and Marguerite were my own two favorites. Aunt Marguerite was stylish and fun loving, and she was especially interested to see that we kids had opportunities that they did not have growing up in such a different age and in such a rural place as Hastings. Aunt Maude was especially loving toward all of Dads and Moms grandchildren. She was much more reserved, and somewhat timid and old maidish than either Mary or Marguerite were. Aunt Mary had been an excellent executive type secretary before she married Uncle Charles. I especially remember that she could ask very penetrating questions; she had a very keen mind. All three of the aunts were especially grateful to our father for what he had done for the entire family, economically speaking, when they had lived on the Hastings farm.
Uncle Philip had been big time contractor and construction person in the hay day of Chicagos construction boom following World War I. He along with everyone like him had gone bankrupt during the depression that we were now in. Uncle Philip also had an affinity for all sports, along with horse racing. I dont know if he really bet money on the horses at this particular time, or not, but when I used to visit with him down in his basement bedroom-sitting room, he would start to talk about horses I knew nothing about racing that day in tracks that I did not even know existed. I always tried to sound interested. He would then switch to the Lions or the Tigers, and we talked about sports concerning which I was a complete amateur. But at least I knew the names of the players and where they were playing that week!
Philip also had an affinity for alcohol. Aunt Marguerite kept him on the straight and narrow, so to speak, and she also helped him handle his money, so that he always had funds when he became unemployed. He earned good factory wages and was a very hard worker, until he finally sickened and died of emphysema at the Dearborn Veterans hospital.
Before Grandma died, but was still completely conscious, she instructed Palmer that she wanted her youngest son, Thomas, to be buried next to her when he died. Emma Jane was in the room at the time, and clearly heard the request. She then asked her mother about this, and Aunt Mary confessed that, yes, indeed, E. J. did have an Uncle Thomas, and he had been at the Pontiac State Hospital for many years. E. J. told me, and I confronted Mother with the same questions. Mother also told the same story, adding that Palmer and Aunt Marguerite often visited Pontiac to see Thomas, and to give him money for cigarettes. She added that Thomas had been hospitalized years earlier, because he was unable to control his temper. Mom also said that she had investigated his case, and concluded that there was nothing in his situation that caused her any concern for her own children.
Sometime about 1960 I had a telephone call from Aunt Mary saying "Uncle Thomas had died and we need you and your brothers to be pallbearers for him." All of us did show up at the Funeral Home on West Grand Boulevard to be pallbearers. Our only look at Uncle Thomas was on this occasion; he looked enough like Uncle Philip to be his twin brother. Actually, I thought he was very good looking. (Uncle Philip was already deceased at this time.) He, like Aunt Mary and Aunt Maude had had glaucoma, and he was missing an eye. But in spite of this, he was a big, handsome fellow. As indicated previously, all of these relatives are buried in the plot that Grandma McGuinness purchased in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in 1917.
Because grandma McGuinness was "waked" at her home on Vinewood, I was of course there during the day or two she was there to be visited; but since the actual funeral was on a school day, I was not permitted to be present. But I was present for all the other McGuinness funerals, and as far as I can remember, we four brothers were pall bearers at each of the funerals for the aunts and for the three uncles.
Grandpa Bek died sometime in the late 30s or early 40s from cancer of the esophagus. He was buried from Aunt Kates home in Grand Rapids; (the present fashion of using funeral homes for wakes, visitation of the deceased, etc. is a fairly recent practice, for many, many years it was the custom to do this from a persons home). Grandpa had been taken ill when he was visiting his oldest son, John Bek and his family in Lose Angeles. When the full extent of his illness became evident, Johns wife forced him to put his father on a Pullman train and send him back to Grand Rapids. Grandma was his only care giver for the entire trip across the country by train. He arrived in Grand Rapids some three or so days later more dead than alive. Mother, Kate and Laura were aghast at such shabby treatment of their parents!
The kindly Steward in charge of the Pullman car let poor Grandpa stay in his berth for the entire trip. The Rail Road people had a terrible time removing the stretcher with Grandpa in Grand Rapidsthey had to remove the Pullman car window and take the stretcher out by that route! Grandpa only lived for two or so weeks after his arrival in G.R. He must have suffered terribly enroute. Grandma certainly did, too.
Mother and Dad, for reasons I cannot recall, took me with them to Kates a day or two before the funeral, and I remember having to sleep alone in the large front room at Kates, with only Grandpa in his coffin for a companion. I did not get much sleep, since I tried to keep one eye open watching Grandpa.
Grandma Bek died very peacefully at Kates home in 1952. She was buried the Monday before the big Tuesday election in November that elected President Eisenhower. I remember there was a large gathering of friends and relatives at Kates parish church, and Grandmas Bek nephew who was a Franciscan priest stationed in nearby Indiana came to G. R. to celebrate her funeral mass. At the conclusion of the mass and the incense and all of the blessings, something occurred that I have never seen since: A large group of ladies from the parish gathered around the coffin as it was passing down the isle of the church, holding burning candles, and acted as an honor guard for Grandma as they sang for her! The entire effect was both very moving and very beautiful. I have never seen this done at any funeral I have ever attended since; this scene brings real tears to my eyes every time I remember this moving spectacle.
Grandma Bek had led a very compassionate and giving life, but the only possessions she had when she died were the few clothes hanging in her closet. She was much loved by everyone who was fortunate enough to know and talk to her. I can still taste and smell her wonderful cinnamon rolls. Mary Agnes says she knows how to make these sticky buns; thank God the secret is not lost yet!
Firstly, I would like to say that this self-imposed assignment has been largely a labor of love, love for my parents and for all of my siblings, of whom I am justly proud. Actually, this memoir has also become lengthier and difficult that I had first imagined it would be.
Secondly, I wish to particularly thank each of my living siblings for their help and contributions. Mary, John, Nell and Jean have been especially generous in their remembrances of things long past. Also, this work would not have been possible without Moiras technical assistance. When I started this memoir, I scarcely knew how to turn the computer on, much less make it produce usable documents. She was also very invaluable as an editor. The editing has also been a harder task than either of us imagined it would be. Probably this was because I composed it in many sections, and then they had to be put together in some kind of a sequence that we hope makes sense.
Lastly I want to encourage other family embers to continue this Saga. I believe this to be important. Hopefully, somebodyor some group of members of each of the seven different McGuinness "branches"is encouraged to add additional pages detailing early memories of their own. When I moved from the Sturdevant Avenue home in June 1962, Mom and Dad were still living there, and Mom had not yet been placed in a nursing home or residence for assisted living. While my knowledge of life in the homes of my siblings was limited before this date, it became more so after I moved to Washington and established a family of my own. Hence the real need for others with more specific information to continue this story.
I had originally intended to insert the name and birth year of each of the grand children into this text, but this became almost impossible. This needs to be done, I think, but it needs to be done in the context of separate stories for each separate family. I still have more information to add to the above memoir concerning my leaving Detroit, including leaving the Detroit Board of Education and partisan politics Michigan style, and moving to Washington and the Federal Civil Service. But this will have to await Part II of this family saga.
Lastly, before signing off, I wish to express the hope that what we siblings have jointly presented here has been useful, interesting and possibly even inspiring. Our parents, grand parents and aunts and uncles on both sides were great Americans. For the most part they were very poor in worldly goods but several of them were very well educated; all were clever and all were proud. They all played a partsmall or largein our education and rearing. They all helped in numerous ways to make our generation what it was to become.
This page, and all contents, are Copyright © 1999 by Patricia A. (McGuinness) DuLong, Berkley, MI. Created 21 December 1999. Last modified 7 April 2001. This web site is best viewed with your display set to 800 by 600 pixels, at least 256 colors, and using Netscape 4.x or better. Some of the graphics on this page are copyright © 1998, 1999 by Amanda Fisher and are used here in compliance with her terms.