Sunday, June 22, 2014

Prohibition and the Sherwoods of Spring Brook Farm

When I was growing up my parents did not drink alcohol of any kind -- at least not knowingly.   My dad came by his strong views legitimately, being the son, grandson and great-grandson of strong  prohibitionists. When he was 21 he signed a pledge to never drink alcohol and never did, at least not knowingly.  He gave his word and never looked back.

I came across this letter written to Nellie Thompson, my great-great grandmother's youngest sister.  The author of the letter, Florence Ida Richardson Wallace, was the daughter of Nellie's brother Robert Fletcher Richardson II  (named for his grandfather, not his father).   Nellie, the youngest of the siblings,  was born in Vermont in 1847, married George Thompson and lived in the Dakota Territory and later in Washington Territory, over on the Palouse.  After George Thompson (in 1914) and their daughter Myrtille (1902) had both passed away, she returned to Wisconsin to live near her niece, Ella Stevens Atwater Sherwood, my great-grandmother. 

1924-1207 – Florence Ida Richardson Wallace to Eva (Nellie) Richardson Thompson
Waterbury, VT
Dec 7, 1924
Dear Auntie:
            Yes, I can get you the book you wanted but they didn’t have it at the store where I got the other one so cheap. I sent to the publisher at Boston and it came today.  I changed the address and started it for Wisconsin this afternoon. I would have had the publisher sent it direct to you but I wasn’t quite sure they would have it.  Last year I wrote them for four Pansy books and they only had one of the four I wanted.  Said many of her books were out of print now.  Several years ago they printed a cheaper edition of ten of her books.  They are 50 cents.  The reading is just as good but the bind and the paper isn’t of course.  The list of those ten is on the cover of the book I think.  I have nine of those books and ten of the $1.50 edition or some of the children have them.
            When I was a girl I read a lot of Pansy books.  They had them at the East Orange S.S. [Sunday School] library but I couldn’t find but four or five at our S.S. library here inWaterbury. I wanted the children to read her books so I began to buy them when I had any money to spare.  Have given the children each one for their own.  The girls have more than one but it was hard work to find boys stories enough to go round.  Do you remember the names of those you reading Dakota?  Was wondering if they were any of those I have read.  I can remember 35 that I’ve read. I wish I had every one she wrote.
            I am sorry Ella doesn’t get strong again.  It is so hard to have stomach troubles.  Hope Dura doesn’t get cold again. But it’s a good job done where her teeth are out.  Mine used to bother me so that I was awful glad when the last one was out. Lelia will be home Friday I expect, but is so far William won’t try to come, fare is so much.
                                                                      Love to all,
* * * * *
This particular letter was written in 1924.  While dealing with our parents estate, my brother and I came across some of the Pansy Books referred to in the letter and the ones I have are in the photo above.  I don't know exactly where the letter is, but I have another letter where some relative or another is rejoicing that prohibition has passed and that future generations will not have to deal with the terrible consequences that come with alcohol.
Prohibition was in effect from 1920 to 1933.  I was surprised to read on Wikipedia today that in spite of it being so controversial and having so many unintended consequences such as bootlegging and mafia, that overall alcohol consumption in society dropped by half.
As I read an article today on about the unintended consequences of the legalization of marijuana -- just after reading and transcribing this letter to Aunt Nellie -- I could only imagine these relatives incredulity after all their hard work, at the decisions being made by this current generation in Washington and Colorado. 

The Pansy books were a strong force in the prohibition movement.  The author used fiction stories to tell the tales of the destruction and havoc that alcohol brought to families.  The stories center a lot on the victims of alcohol, particularly the wives and children who were impoverished because of the hold that the need to drink by their breadwinners brought to their families.
 I also came across a website that has a lot of information on the Pansy books -- and to my surprise, one of my favorite authors when I was young, Grace Livingston Hill, was her niece.  Pansy wrote about 200 books -- maybe more.  And the whole point of her books was to share Jesus with others.  What a great woman!  Well, a day is not lost where you learn something new!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Taking Time to Stop and Smell the Flowers: An essay by Bob Weber

May 3, 1986
11:07 A.M.
             Into each life come those special days that are so extra that they stand out in bold face against the millions of lovely things that make up the total experience of life.  Some of these experiences cause us to laugh, some cause us to cry; some make the sun shine through the rain and some just fill us with so much joy and happiness that we can hardly contain it.
            I am a man most blessed to date.  My life is yet only a snap of the fingers in time.  Yet in my short life I have enjoyed experiences, and felt pain and happiness, so often and in such depth that only God, and those who love me and whom I love, can begin to share those experiences.  And only God and I really know how each of these encounters and occasions has touched this man.
            I have had the privilege of courting and marrying and sharing 42 years with the most special and precious woman in creation.  I have shared with her and with God, the privilege of creating new lives for God’s Kingdom and to help replenish the human family.  I have suffered and shared with her the heartache of the death and burial of our first born, and known the hope that we will see him again in eternity.  I have shared the joys and sorrows and the good health and the sicknesses of our other three children.  I have watched them all grow to maturity and led by God’s Holy Spirit, each one has been born anew in Jesus Christ, which assures that we will all be together in eternity.  I have shared, as all three of them have in their own self-reliance and with God’s help, completed their college education and become useful and conscientious citizens, with deep concerns and firm dedication to being lights in the increasing darkness of the world. 
            I have shared the joy and companionship of my three children, together and each in turn.  And God has given me a son-in-law that has become a blessed son and another companion and a full part of my life.
            I have shared the joys and pains of a number of very special people who have become a very part of me.  God has given me great love and a compassion for all people, but with a few he has permitted me a closeness and a bond that is so powerful and so complete that I inwardly (and sometimes outwardly) weep when they weep, laugh when they laugh, share and care completely in their ups and downs, their likes and dislikes, their heavens and their hells. 
            I appreciate a cool walk in the winter snow; a moonlight walk along a sandy beach, or lying beneath a metal roof in a rainstorm.  I enjoy watching the freedom of the birds as they fly and at times I have flown alone in one of man’s aircraft and have become one of the birds, soaring and climbing and turning and thrilling to the pure joy of being a bird.  Only those who love to fly can appreciate the fullness of the pleasure that becomes mine when I am up in the sky and am no longer just guiding an airplane, but instead that machine has become an extension of myself and I am completely the man-bird.
            I love to watch children play and listen to their laughter.  I enjoy being with young people.  I show them my love and they often show me love in return.  I love to visit with older people.  They have lived so much and if I but truly listen, and not let their repetitions and their forgetfulness bother me; I learn many things and add fullness to my life and pleasure and joy to theirs.
            How sad that so many folks do not pause to smell the flowers.  Today I smelled a few.  I watched the early sunshine glistening on the dew, I watched two robins mate in the meadow outside my window, I watched a gopher hiding behind a pile of horse-dung, hoping I didn’t see him; I hugged by wife and each of my four children several times, I untied a knot in my shoelace and thanked God for the sunshine, the robins, the gopher, my wife, my children and my fingernails.  I drove my car, and it too is an extension of my being.  I said hi to a number of friends and family and hugged all who wanted to be hugged.  I administered the commissioning oath to my son as he accepted a commission as a second lieutenant into the United States Air Force.  A few years of happiness slipped out on me as I looked with humble pride at this new air force officer, whom God had given me as a son.  Tomorrow he will graduate with an electrical engineering degree.
            My first, my second and now my third.  All, with God’s help and grace, very special people. . .            . . .And I thanked God again.  No drug culture, no shoplifting; no trouble with police, no disrespect for law and government, no disrespect for their Father and Mother, no . . .
            No, not perfect. . .but caring. . .and I wondered why so often young people go wrong who have parents just as concerned as Bernadine and I, and I thanked God again for His Grace.
            I ate dinner with five wonderful people.  We made it a celebration of my son’s commissioning and his graduation.  The food was good; the fellowship better.  We talked and visited and my love reached out to Bernadine, and my children; and then bounced right back until my cup was full and running over.  When one gets six people that full of love together, I guess all of the cups run over.
                        And, too, it’s the little things, a “hi” from my younger daughter a “What cha doing, dad” from my son, a hug from my older daughter, a hand slipped into mine from Bernadine, a “What’s up” from my son-in-law, and phone calls from friends.
            All day today I smelled the flowers.  I even enjoyed an audience of 8 children and two friends as I hived a swarm of bees, which (bees) were hanging in an azalea bush.  And when the bees were moving into the hive I smelled the azaleas and examined the yellow blossoms, and the pale green leaves and the segmented stems, and the small cluster of bees still clinging on the one limb.
            And then as I turned away, and as darkness began to close in, I noticed a dead bee, deep within one of the bell shaped flowers.  And I said out loud, “Certainly you, my friend, have not gone through life without smelling the flowers.”
                                                                                    11:07 PM