admin on March 13th, 2011

This is another letter that I’ll break into two parts. As he says in the letter, this is a “chatty” piece.

November 15, 1965

Dear Beth:

Well I sure am glad to learn that you are still in “the land of the living,” and that some of my ramblings did not offend you.

I guess (us middle agers) you are, but I am not, but I am not going to call myself old yet. Hey! That don’t sound right, I meant that you are approaching middle age and that I AM old, are inclined to follow along as our parents did. I came from probably the most “rock ribbed” Republican State in the Union (Maine). And before the advent of FDR they used to say “as goes Maine, so goes the Nation.” What a ribbing we have taken since 1932 though.

Yes! When I was a child the word Democrat was a bad word. Of course that was ridiculous as they were probably better informed and further ahead than we were. At any rate as I remember it, they were the first to grab onto the Welfare State.

You must have gotten married very young as I just know you are more than twenty years younger than I am. We were also married during the depression and I’m telling you that in the State of Maine it was just horrible. A great many of us are poked fun at today because we still “cut corners” and try to save a little, and that is probably a result of the fear that the depression instilled in us. I, for instance, never had a new car in my life. I never expect to. I bought my Pontiac (1962 Bonneville) for $2200 less than the original owner paid for it. He wanted a new car every year and buys one but he takes a terrific depreciation, which I of course can’t afford to do. I just hunt around until I find a car that looks as good as new, find out who owned it if possible and buy it.

As you say “the kids of today” are spoiled no end, and that most certainly includes mine. I think they are but Mama does not think so. They have always had the best of everything from Tricycles, to Bicycles, to Skis, Skates, clothes, Stereos, Musical Instruments and what have you, but of course by today’s standards they don’t have everything I suppose. Bob is in his third year at college and I actually think he is about the only student on the Campus who does not have his own car. When he is home and has a date of course he uses mine, but I just cannot afford to help him through and run another car also. Mama says that I spend a third of what I earn on mine, and she is not far from wrong, but I tell her that it is my office, my salesroom and practically my home, and a little corner store doing the Gross business that I do would pay a couple hundred dollars a month for rent, have to have a couple of clerks and have heat and lights and all that to pay besides, so looking at it that way, my car is the cheapest way to do business I guess.

Yes Sir! During the first years of our marriage and the depression, we actually went hungry. Always had fish and potatoes or bread and milk or something for the children, but many a day Mama and I have gone without meals. I worked from daylight until dark and often did not even see my children except when they were asleep, as it was dark when I went to work and dark when I got home. I worked six days a week, nine hours a day for $11 a week, for an Italian contractor that was building a strip of road in Maine, and he was brutal to work for. These kids don’t believe it if you tell them that today. They say “Oh! All you old timers have some tall stories to tell.”

Well enough of that. It gives the shudders just to think of it. And if I start shuddering, I will start screaming as my back is still acting up and I am going to take your and Mr. Lufkin’s advice if it doesn’t clear up soon. I went to an Osteopath in Maine once with a very severe neck strain and he fixed me up in just about 15 minutes. Of course the regular Medical Doctors turn up their noses at them to this day, but they do a fine job in a good many instances where your own Doctor is helpless to give you anything except pain killers. I have $15.55 worth of pills and tomorrow I think I will throw “the whole damned caboodle” out the window.

Speaking of reading, this is my reading time of year. In the Summer I go out in the woods and follow the Brooks looking for Trout, or just fool around out of doors, but when late Fall and Winter sets in, I haunt the Library, and we have one of the finest Libraries in the entire Country. It was built by the rich and is heavily endowed by the rich. Did you know that I live in a Town that is the Richest per Capita in the United States, or so they say. When I call on a new customer they say “huh, one of those rich guys from Norfolk, Huh?” I tell ‘em, I am NOT rich, not even well to do, never expect to be, and what’s more don’t WANT to be. I think that for the most part they are the unhappiest people alive. They have everything that they can possibly want (material that is) so what pleasure can they get out of a new car for instance, whereas if the day ever comes when I feel that could afford one, what a tremendous “kick” I would get out of it.

There was one of them down to our Trout Club last year, and I was in the boat with one of my buddies. Had my Son Dave’s rod, which I paid $5.65 for, and I had just hauled in my limit. Three beautiful Rainbow Trout. This chap had his Chauffeur rowing him around, ane my friend Irv knew him pretty well and we stopped side of where he was anchored and he started showing Irv his Rods and all of his gear. “This rod cost me $165 and I bought it in Europe and all that junk.” Finally I could stand it no longer and asked him “how many Trout have you got?” He said, “well we have been here for 3 hours and haven’t even got a strike yet” so I told him that he better buy a better rod like mine. He wanted to know where I got it and how much it cost and I told him, and he gave me kind of a sheepish grin. I guess I shouldn’t have said anything but honestly sometimes I get tired of listening to them!

Mama says I am “a little abrupt at times.” She is being charitable I guess, I think at times I have a downright mean streak in me, but I always tell her “oh well the truth hurts, but it conquers,” and she says “not always”.

Aint I the chatty one tonight? My Sons take me up on my English also, but I just come right back at them and quote Will Rogers. Somebody took him up on his bad English and for saying Ain’t once and he said “well I’ll tell yar, I know a lot of people that don’t say aint, that aint eating’.” And when I get real riled I use some good Kings English and say “who in Here is putting you birds through College if it aint your ignorant ole man” and they grin and say “we was just foolin’ Dad.” By Gosh, they better be!

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admin on March 6th, 2011

Actually, this is a letter from Newton to Pop.

Mr. Leon R. Sinclair                                                                                       November 12th, 1965

Box 473                                                                                                             (Dict. Nov. 11th)

Norfolk, Connecticut 06058

Dear Mr. Sinclair:

Well, I must be getting psychic in my old age! A day or so ago for no particular reason that I can think of. I suddenly realized that I hadn’t written you in a long time and I though . . . “He’s going to wonder why I wrote every now and then before I met him in person and have written so little since.”

When Mable handed me your letter this morning. I told her what I expected to find in it . . . and I was right!

So first of all, let me assure you that you have not offended me in any way whatsoever. I think possibly when you were here I told you that I am registered as a Democrat because my Pappy was a Democrat and on my 21st birthday, he took me to the City Hall and enrolled me as one. Actually, I’m much too conservative for the Democrats (and most so-called Republicans for that matter) so that while they may have my name on their rolls as of yet, they don’t get my votes. I’m sorry to say I agree with you in your opinion of many of the folks at the top of the heap.

I also have to agree that many people are making more money today than the ever have before and that seems to be their main goal in life. This is being done at the expense of what I was taught to believe were more important virtues. It seems to me that the modern idea is strictly . . . “What’s in it for me?” and nobody but a complete “square” ever gives any thought to what good he can do for someone else.

Another thing that bothers me is the constant complaint of so many young people that they are bored. With all of the interesting things there are to do in every field, the many books to be read, et ., how anyone can possibly be bored is beyond me. I haven’t quite reached the century mark yet, but it occurred to me the other day that if I don’t get a move on, I won’t even get to read all of the things I would like to, let alone do all of the other things I would like to do before I take off for parts unknown.

I guess the problem is, we really have to much to do of everything and the youngsters become quite blase about things which still hold some wonder and thrill for those of us who were around before these things were so common place.

Bill DeJong and I have often discussed the fact that these youngsters who get married nowadays (usually at a very tender age) have to have a complete set of furniture, a set of Sterling, good China, all the Linens they could possibly need, a brand new Stove, Refrigerator, Car, etc., and perhaps a new house when they start out. Bill and I married our respective a spouses during the Depression. We started out on a shoe string plus a good deal of Love and Faith. Everything that we’ve got, we worked hard for and I’m sure we appreciated it ten times as much as these kids do who start out with everything at once. We added ours one at a time and paid as we went along instead of getting it all at once and paying for the next twenty years, or thirty, or whatever.
Nowadays that’s considered rather stupid, I guess, but I truly believe that anything that comes too easily and quickly is not nearly so greatly appreciated as if you have to put forth considerable effort to get it.

Now . . . I don’t know what got me into the vein of discussion. I guess it was just the fact that you mentioned the Democrats. I don’t know that there’s any logical tie in but that’s the way my mind went.

Your story about Uncle Cal was quite interesting. I’ll have to keep that in case you forget to include it in your Family Tree.

I’m very sorry you’re having the trouble with your back and hope you can get it fixed up. I don’t know anything about the Chiropractors, but regardless of your doctor’s feelings for them, if you can find a good Osteopath, it would surely do no harm to find out if he can help you. After all, you can’t sit up every night indefinitely even though you might get your book written faster that way.

I must get this over to the Transcriber . . . but first, just one more thing. Were you the fellow who pulled the switch and caused the big blackout in the East . . or do you know who did? I heard the chairman of some important committee say on TV this morning that they might never know.

Sincerely,

BLMurphy/ab

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admin on February 27th, 2011

More about Gram Ferrin.  There’s also a discreet but rather embarrassing reference to me.

The other story concerned “cabbages.”  Not “kings and cabbages” just plain ole cabbages.  In those days we grew most everything we ate, or picked the berries, salted down fish, made preserves and jelly, killed a “beef” or hog.  We perhaps did not have much variety BUT it was “good eatin’.”  Liver was thrown away.  Soup bones were for the dogs.  Today liver is worth its weight in gold and just plain ole bones are 0.45 to 0.50 cents a lb.  And that’s for a 0.39 or 0.29 cent or what have you dollar.  Preserves on the shelf—blackberries, blueberries, wild strawberries, cranberries, raspberries—jellies of all kinds, crabapples, salt pork, salted dandelion greens (a little dandelion wine, also, and if you want to see snakes try THAT), salted mackerel, turnips, squash, carrots, apples, potatoes, and of course cabbages, which is where I started isn’t it?

Well, Gram absolutely would NOT help us pick or cut the cabbages and here’s why!

She said “Laura, you remember that Russian Jew peddler that was through here last year?”  And mother said “Yes.”  And Gram said “Wal he was tellin’ me about a woman in Tennessee who was out cuttin’ her cabbages, which she had planted next to her squash, etc., and something SEEMED wound around one of the cabbages and she THOUGHT it was a squash vine and she started to untangle it AND it was a 30 foot snake, as big around as your ARM!”  Well needless to say Gram did not pick any blueberries on Cadillac Mt. (and neither did I) and she took a very dim view of cabbages.  I love ‘em, but I can’t say I want to pick ‘em or cut ‘em or whatever the term for harvesting them is, either!

Anyway, after being duly enlightened on snakes, Gram straightened up (at 82) and said “Laura I smell a ‘bar’.”  And THIS my readers, whatever you may think of the snake stories is NOT fiction.  You CAN smell a bear, and if she has small or half grown cubs with her, you “better get the hell out in a hurry.”  They can talk about TAME bears.  There is no such thing.  And in Maine (my home state) there are STILL plenty of “bars”.  If you live in New England, you probably quite often see a bear being brought back from Maine on a car with a deer.  Anyway Walt Disney will tell you as he has if you watch his programs (and I can’t imagine ANYONE, adult OR child, NOT watching them) that “mama bear” like all mama’s will battle the world for her children, and THAT’S as it should be!  Anyway when Gram “smelled a bar” WE moved.

As for the “injun devils,” she also had another name for them (that sounded like “lincumsluice” to me).  They also existed in the early days and probably today.  You and I know them as mountain lions, cougars, pumas, lynx or what have you, but as aforesaid everything (even the Bible) with Gram was associated with the devil.  Thus, of course, with her these “injun devils” were ALWAYS black, and therein is another story of terror.

Let the name here not be the true one.  I grew up with this kid.  I don’t think he would resent it if I did use his name, as I saw him in later years and he had changed (a little that is).  So let’s call him Johnny!  Johnny was one of those slow moving, and VERY slow thinking boys.  His hair always stuck out and up like a porcupine’s when in war regalia.  His fly was always unzipped (excuse me they had no zippers in those days).  His shirt was always one button too high or too low.  His shoes were never tied or laced.  His nose was always runny, and his teeth were always dirty.  Hell!  I don’t have to tell YOU.  Johnny goes to school today!  (For all the electric toothbrushes, hair tonic, zippers, etc.)  YOU know him.  In fact I suspect I have one in my own family.  Except of course he is a potential genius and therefore to be excused.

Now, back to my boyhood friend Johnny, and the “injun devil” and please excuse me if I am still “afraid of my shadow”.  What the hell—snakes, bars, injun devils—WHO wouldn’t be!  So anyway, Johnny and I went mayflowering.  You don’t know what that is—huh?  Well in those days, I guess you would compare it with—heck you just don’t have anything to compare it with today.  It was MAY, things were in bloom, you loved the wild things in those days (I have seen some wild ones since that were not too bad either).  SO we went hunting for mayflowers (trailing arbutus to you educated people).

To get to the point (which is hard for ME to do), Johnny and I picked some mayflowers, wandered through the woods, lied on our stomachs and watched a pool full of brook trout, etc., etc., until the shadows began to fall.  THEN suddenly remembering Gram’s stories about the “injun devils” and knowing we had to go home by the way of the “pine tree road,” dark and gloomy, needless to say we hastened our way.  After we had (presumably) made it out into the field we stopped in the fast coming darkness to look BACK (something it does not pay to do).

There!  Slinking across the road WAS an “injun devil.”  Whether the shadows of the pines, or the sinking sun or WHAT made him black—black to me he was, and about 4 feet long.  I said “Johnny, look an ‘injun devil.”  Well that is where my mother’s training paid off.  MY shoelaces were tied.  Johnny’s were not.  We both “took off” at the same time, but he landed home (a distance of 2 miles) minus one shoe, and several minutes behind ME.  I have a son who was a track star in high school (in the mile race) and I have always wondered if perhaps Gram, her “injun devils” and I did not perhaps give him that little extra push?  Perhaps he thought an “injun devil” was at his heels!  So as I say, I don’t know just WHAT Gram inspired me to do.  Even her Bible was a source of terror to ME.  All she ever seemed to quote was “the devil’s works.”

I used to dream about swimming in boiling pitch, being burned alive, chased all over Hell by snakes, etc. AND the minister didn’t help any.  He preached hellfire and brimstone also!

I know the first girl I kissed, I thought that I was doomed to Hell for sure, and that SHE would either wither with disease or have a dozen babies all to once.  Fun in the old day, huh?  Anyway—to this day, I can’t decide whether I loved Gram Ferrin or not!  Should I?

I almost forgot the superstitions!  They included black cats, ladders, umbrellas opened in the house, and birds flying against the windows and killing themselves.  The black cats and ladders I have cured myself of (almost), the last two STILL give me the shudders!  Grandmothers?  They are wonderful people, my mother became one, and my wife is one—but honestly—when people start to tell me about their great grandmothers I look at them with a jaundiced eye.  However, they rode in “the wagon trains west” didn’t they, and I have had a grandmother (died before I was born).  Wish I did though!

My grandfather comes next and he (next to my mother) was the most dearly beloved person in the wide, wide world to me.

Note:  This is where Pop’s “Family Tree” ends.

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admin on February 20th, 2011

In Pop’s last letter to Newton that I posted he made reference to starting work on a family tree.  Fortunately, I have those writings as well.  As one single document it’s long so I’ll break it into two parts.

I guess that sometime or other in their lives most everyone wants to write a book.  What finally prodded me into it was my “boss” has said for years that I should write one.  (2) I read in one of the numerous articles on advice to the lovelorn how to raise your children, etc.  (Doubtless written by either an old maid, or a childless widow).

I say I got the idea from this article because someone who wrote to her was very indignant because her child’s teacher had asked the children to write about their “family tree.”

Now my dear wife’s family would no doubt (make) more illustrious reading, as one of her in-laws who has dared to trace the family, has found a distant relationship to Robert and Hiram Coffin, and I don’t think there is any question but what her uncle Ben Coffin, would have been governor of Maine had he lived.  Her brothers all worked their way through medical and law school, while she settled down to raise 5 lovely sons and the joy of them and her grandchildren.  However, I think people should write about their own family tree and not go climbing around in their in-laws’ trees.

Since there were some interesting characters, cousins, neighbors, etc., I decide to include them thus the title “and the Bushes.”

They say most people are afraid to trace “the family tree” for fear of finding someone hanging from it.  I can’t ever recall (perhaps I have not gone far back enough) of any of mine in that position but I did have one who spent some 20 years in prison for shooting a couple of game wardens, who shot his dog.  For that I always loved HIM, his courage, his devotion to principles and his good judgment.  May he and his beloved dog rest in peace in the same heaven, and may they hunt deer through all eternity with not a game warden in sight.  It is of course unthinkable that deer hunters and game wardens should be in the same heaven anyway!  But more of that later!

I suppose I should start with the oldest member of the family that I can remember, and that would by my Great Grandmother Ferrin.

It has never been quite clear in my mind whether I remember her with affection, fear or actual terror.

Most certainly my fear of snakes starts with her and not Valentines, or anything of that nature, and some of her stories be they true or false were absolutely TERRIFYing.

HER bedtime stories to me were most certainly not the Huckleberry Finn or the beautiful princess type “that’s for sure.”  They were for the most part snake, “injun devils” or bars (bears to you).  Also her superstitions were out of THIS world, and I regret to say that I still have some of them to this day.

If it were not for my beautiful, sensible and intelligent wife, I would have them all to this day.  You notice that I say intelligent some would say educated.  She is that also but it is her fine intelligence that impresses ME as like the late and beloved Will Rogers I know a lot of people “that don’t say ain’t, that ain’t eatin’.”

Anyway with regard to the snakes, there were 2 stories that stuck in my mind.  She used to talk about them and tell them so often that I sometimes wondered (in later years) if she perhaps had a “jug” hidden somewhere, or else she had a double dose of “Lydia Pinkham’s.”  The first one (two of her sons were in Bar Harbor, Maine) concerned Cadillac Mt. and the sea serpent, and every time I read about the “Loch Ness monster” of Scotland today I wonder if it is not a long lost mate of Gram Ferrin’s sea serpent.

But — let us begin.  Gram and mother and I used to go pickin’ blueberries almost every day they were in season.  We got from 0.10 to 0.12 cents a quart depending on the needs of “the summer people” at Butler’s Point, Bluehill, or Bar Harbor, and if we worked real hard we could pick a whole crate (32 boxes) and that was $3.20 of honest to goodness Ben Franklin “A penny saved, is a penny earned” MONEY.  And I mean a crate EACH, except for Gram who was too busy looking for snakes of “sniffin’ for bars” (bears to you).

Anyway Gram says “You know Laura, I used to pick a lot of blueberries on Cadillac Mt. until they found that durned snake.  I immediately “pricked up my ears” and asked “What snake was that Gram?”  She said “Wal before the fire (not the last one but back in 1890s sometime) Jim Reed (fictitious name) was up on Cadillac a pickin’ high bush blueberries and he sat down on a log and it MOVED so he did not wat to cut hisself.” (Everyone carried a hatchet in those days to split some wood and make a fire for their tea, heated in those big round dinner pails in those days.)  “So he got up and went to stick his hatchet in the log, and you know what that LOG WAS Laura?  It was a sea serpent 60 feel long.  Jim, he took off down the mountain and everyone laughed at him, but you know what Leon?”  And I says “What?”  And she says “Wal after the fire someone found the skeleton of that snake and them eddicated fellers in Boston said it was a sea serpent that crawled up out of Somes Sound onto the Mt. to die, and they got it in some museum somewhere NOW!”

Well!  I want to tell you that I have steered clear of Cadillac Mt. (walking that is), Somes Sound, and the museum ever since.

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admin on February 13th, 2011

Pop refers to a “Family Tree” he worked on.  I have that and will insert that into this series on Pop’s Letters next time.  Pop mentions the benefits of the “War Economy” back in the sixties.  We experienced similar benefits in the new millennium and is a reason why the 2008 crash did not come even sooner.

Norfolk, Conn.

November 10, 1965

Dear Beth:

I have been sitting here all by myself this morning since 3 A.M. as I have a strained back and it is pure agony to move.

Picked a heck of a time to act up as this is the month that I have 45 orders to beat, and I would not have even one as yet if Albany Felt (Bless their hearts) had not come through.

All this is not what started me writing to you though. While I was sitting here, it came to me all of a sudden that I haven’t seen one letter with Beth Murphy on it for months, and I got alarmed, because I was afraid that I might have offended you in some way.

I know of course that you read and file a lot of the mail and quite often in my letters to Mr. Lufkin especially I let Politics and the War creep in, and since I know that I am not on the majority side I wondered if I had offended you.

If so, you must not be you know. I went through one War and I had couple of pet Uncles and three Cousins die in World War 1 and it IS a big a boo with me, since each one was “a War to end war.” Having five Sons, two of whom will probably be cannon fodder before this one is over, I am naturally quite uneasy.

In this enlightened day it is so often said that a man can control his own Destiny, and then it does not turn out that way at all. It turns out that “some crook” can send us to slaughter. And even my most ardent friends among the Democrats agree wholeheartedly that the one who controls our destiny today is without any reservation “a crook of the first water,” but since they and even I am making more money with a War Economy that seems to be the goal of most Americans today. The Almighty dollar! Anyway if I have done or said anything to offend I am certainly sorry as I was so pleased that you and Mr. Murphy took time out to greet me at “the Airport,” and that you were so nice in the things you had to say about my writings of the past. I’ll get back on the trolley one of these days.

Mama hates to have me even think about Politics so to please her one night I sat down and wrote several pages about my Great Grandmother Ferrin and Mama said now that is more like you, so I suppose I had better stick to my own experiences. Huh?

Anyway I decided that to start writing that one must begin with his childhood so as I was staying away one night and had nothing else to do, I started out with Gram Ferrin. I thought I would need a Title so I came up with one which sounded alright to me. The Family Tree + Some Branches.

I guess I could come up with enough relatives which include Sea Captains, peddlers, Blacksmiths, horse traders and I have one distant one who spent 20 years in Maine State Prison for shooting not one but two Game Wardens. The way I heard it when I was a child was that he was great lover of Dogs (and so am I). While out with his dogs one day a couple of Game Wardens came along and accused him of “dogging deer” which of course was and is illegal. He maintained that was not so, that he was merely out exercising and training them. At any rate the Game Wardens said “we think you have been “dogging deer” and we are going to shoot your dogs,” at which Cal replied “If you shoot the dog, I will shoot you, the both of you.” They laughed and shot the dog whereupon Cousin Cal let them have it with a double barreled shot gun and killed the both of them. He wanted to stay and “face the music” but his wife made him run away to California. It was years before they caught him and only then because some Female in the family “turned him in,” and if I remember right none of the rest of the family ever spoke to her or even allowed her name to be mentioned thereafter. Squealers are never popular!

I know that when he got out of Prison (He got Life but was pardoned after 20 years) that I was about 9 years old and he was a very romantic person to me. In Prison he learned to make all kinds of things out of leather and wood, and many and many a toy I had when I was a child came from those hands hardened by “prison toil.” All I know is that nobody had better say anything bad about Cal to me. There were in those days very close connections between all the families fo course because of the lack of travel Etc so that many people who married were distant relatives of the one they married, a third of fourth Cousin perhaps. Now that I remember it us kids called him Uncle Cal, but he was in effect a third Cousin I think. There were The Abbots (English) The Traceys (Irish) the Sinclairs (Scotch) and the Graves (that was Uncles Cal’s branch and they were supposed to have some Indian in them). I believe this must be so for every single one of that branch that I ever knew was an implacable enemy if you made one of him, and spent their entire life in revenge for a wrong, also they were great hunters. I hunted a lot as a child as there was nothing else to do, and although I prided myself upon my knowledge of the woods and its inhabitants, Uncle Cal could sneak up on me as silently as a Ghost and I wondered how he ever did it. He also always wore Moccasins that he made out of leather and learned to make in prison and he was an expert in a Canoe, and at making “lean to’s” in the woods if we got caught in a bad storm. Quite a character.

Well it’s getting daylight so we’ll see if my morning paper has come. It is agony for me to either sit down or get up, and I cannot sleep at all, so if this doesn’t clear up shortly I will go see a Chiropractor (even though our family Doctor hates them).

Leon

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admin on January 23rd, 2011

Samarie Walker, a young freshman on the UConn women’s basketball team, has transferred out mid-season.  Piecing together statements from AAU coaches, UConn coaches and reports over the past few years here is my interpretation of what happened.  Walker idolized a former UConn player from her area.  When UConn offered a scholarship she followed her idol’s footsteps and accepted without much thought about the total college package.  She was homesick right from the start which dampened her enthusiasm, despite being immensely talented.  It got to a point where Coach Auriemma told her she needed to straighten some things out in her head and left her behind for an important game in North Carolina.  In the course of straightening things out in her head she decided the social component of her UConn experience was detrimental and transferred to a school closer to home where she could continue to get a free education by playing basketball.  Some UConn fans are now upset that Walker has betrayed a commitment she made to UConn.

The whole incident brings to my mind the distinction between social commitment versus social responsibility which is highlighted by nomadic cultures.  I spent much of my younger days as a modern nomad, not in a Jack Kerouac sense but quite the opposite.  I went on long distance backpacking expeditions with small groups of people.  In recent years I’ve been researching early nomadic cultures and finding many social similarities with what I’ve experienced.  Bottom line:  small groups are bonded by social responsibility but not by commitment.

It should be easy to convince you that responsibility is diffused in societies that function as a large group.  Not long ago an elderly hit and run victim was left unattended in Hartford because he was noone’s responsibility.  Take the same victim and just one of the same witnesses in a remote location and that witness likely accepts the responsibility of helping the victim.  Just so with nomadic cultures.

However, nomadic cultures had little commitment, meaning that individuals freely left one nomadic band and joined another when moved to do so.  This was extremely practical, minimizing both inbreeding and conflict that might occur in small band societies.  Of the witnesses in Hartford who were void of responsibility I suspect that a good many had demonstrated excellent commitment to our society.  At least one was probably a veteran.  Several probably remained loyal to the same employer over a long term.

Here’s the basic difference between commitment and responsibility.  Commitment demands an unchanging social bond with fixed behaviors regardless of what is being experienced.  Responsibility adapts behavior to what is being experienced based on social bonds held at the time.  Commitment, or contracts, are good for the bonds between large groups and other large groups or individuals.  Responsibility is what should occur between individuals in a similar social situation, which will occur mainly if individuals function as part of a small group.

Walker did not honor her original commitment to UConn, but that is not the point for small group endeavors.  There is a reson why there has been no gnashing of teeth from coaches or those associated closely with the program.  The UConn women’s basketball team is a small group with a huge amount of responsibility towards each other.  It’s the personal responsibility to each other that counts, not the commitment to a scholarship.   Walker fulfilled her responsibilities to the team during the fall semester, earning her significant playing time, but was unwilling to commit to a social situation that did not fit her.  In moving on she did what anybody from nomadic cultures big on social responsibility would do.

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admin on January 16th, 2011

Perhaps this is a good time to say that Pop’s views are not necessarily mine.  Actually, I agree that Lyndon Johnson was not a nice guy.  I also agree with an overall sentiment that people in this country are too indulged.  Yet Pop seems enamored with the rich from his days of working on their yachts, and does not seem to realize that a corporate economy, enabled and indulged by government to begin with, indulges the rich the most.

Mr. Harold Lufkin, V.P.                                                         August 17, 1965

Newton Mfg. Co.

Newton, Iowa.

Dear Mr. Lufkin:

I don’t know when anything has given me such a “lift” as your little “pat on the back” in the Bulletin this morning about The Competitive Spirit.  It is sadly needed at this time also as I am having just about the worst August imaginable, after having doubled my business in July.

I just CANT seem to “click”, or find anyone that I call on or get the right party when I do call or anything else right.  Of course the heat is terrific and there is to be no relief from it, but as you know with my family I can’t stop because of heat or anything else.  At any rate I appreciate the fact that you think I have it.  Those little “pats on the back” are quite often of a tremendous help to me.  I read it, left home and was SURE I would come up with something but not a thing yet today.  WILL make one more evening call before I give up completely though.  I AM a stubborn cuss though and am pretty destitute for shirts so I may pull out of August yet.

Yep!  Old Lyndon—he is a beaut isn’t he.  I sometimes wonder if this competitive spirit you say I have doesn’t hurt when I get to thinking of him.  I mean by that so many people sit back and say “well we can’t do anything about it”.  I say “the Hell you cant you can yell your damned head off”.  Or “you make me sick you Republicans you remind me of the year you had Harry Truman “licked to a frazzle”.  Tulalah Bankhead said (of Dewey) “Oh!  I couldn’t possibly vote for him, he looks like a man on a wedding cake” and THAT more than any other thing elected Harry Truman.  That and HIS (Trumans) competitive spirit.

This Republican buddy of mine this morning said well what would YOU do about it.  I said well I’ll tell you Herb if this guy runs in the next National election (and if we survive him until then) I am going to have some signs printed for my car saying “America—The Home of Bobby Baker and Lyndon Johnson” and I am going to give some to my friends to put on their cars, now would you like to have one for yours?  “Well, I don’t know as it would do any good Etc.”  I said it would do plenty of good as a reminder of what we have got in the Whitehouse and of his kind of Associates, but I expect YOU are too “chicken” to give it a try, that’s why you are always licked every election.  As the old lady from Vermont said when asked what she thought of the Democrats “well Democrats are Democrats and Republicans are still the nicest people.”  Maybe!  But comes a time when you have to “grease the skies” once in awhile and trip somebody up don’t you think.

They always SAY that when the American people “get nuff” as in the case of Truman finally that they “throw the rascals out”, but I am beginning to wonder how many there are left of what you and I would call American People left?  I mean by that it seems that everyone and his brother has “his hand out for something these days” Medicare, Union Shop, Civil Rights … , UnEmployment Insurance and benefits for the bums.  Subsidized housing for people who would never rise above themselves anyway.  Free Education, Free Books, Free almost everything for everyone except those of us who must bear the burden.

Mama says, and I daresay she is right as she is a very wise woman “don’t worry about it Dad, each generation has had its problems and has solved them in their own way”, but the way this “Bird” is going at it the cream of the coming generation is going to be murdered over in Asia to save Lyndons face, in a War that any ten year old school boy can figure out that we can’t win, and that leaves a generation of “bums and hoodlums” living off the “fat of the land” and the fat of the land of course is US!

Well nuff said about that, and I want to thank you again also (I suppose it was you for the two Down East Magazines).  When the heat is over and I am back in the saddle again I will write some memories they remind me of and try to get the kind of a letter that You and Beth like to read.  I recognize several (most all in fact) of the places and quite a few of the personalities, and there are some corrections also of course.  For instance not to my knowledge did any of the old sailing vessels have a Steward and a Stewardess.  They had a Cabin boy and a cook, and women up until World War II in fact have been considered “very bad luck aboard a ship” although there were rare instances when the Masters wife did sail.  It still was considered an “ill omen” for even her to sail with the ship.  The Pemaquid Light (a beautiful photograph incidentally) was another place that Janet and I used to listen to the “surf” during our courtship.  Will write a nice letter later.  Have three small orders so might as well mail them in to pay the gas with at least.

Sincerely,

Leon

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admin on January 9th, 2011

As Pop says this was supposed to be a short note written soon after the previous one, yet the end appears to be missing and what I have here is probably quite a bit shorter than what is was.  You get a glimpse into the Coffin pedigree with this note.

July 17, 1965

Dear Beth:

This is just a short note (for which I am sure you are thankfull as I have written so much since I got back), but I wanted to thank you for your wonderfull note to Janet.

It was a very thoughtfull thing for you to do, and she was both pleased and touched.  Because she is such a wonderfull, patient and lovely person, but very shy is why I am thanking you instead of her.

She doesn’t even write to her own Brothers and Sister more than once a year as she hates to write, and I did not want you to think for a minute that she was unappreciative.  How in the World I ever came up with her I don’t know, but it was the best piece of luck in my life.

I am the wild, carefree Son of a Maine Blacksmith, while she comes from a very distinguished family.  Their family name is Coffin and they are related to the Robert Tristam Coffins of Poetic fame.  Three of her Brothers were Surgeons and one was the most outstanding trial Lawyer in the City of Boston.  He died of Cancer a couple of years ago and one of the Doctors died about a year ago, both too young to die.  Anyway she is quite a gal!  People just seem to marry opposites anyway don’t they.  Those that get along well do, I have noticed.

As for the nice looking “gals” in the family, I have always told my Sons never to bring a girl through the door that their Ma would be ashamed of … and so far they have obliged.

(rest of letter missing)

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admin on December 30th, 2010

The “Open Door” is a soup kitchen run by a church in nearby Winsted.  I used to take youth fellowship groups there on Thanksgiving to help out.  That’s one reason I bring them up, to encourage others to seek out their local soup kitchen and either volunteer or donate.  The need is great and so are the emotional rewards.

The second reason is a humorous sign I saw out in fronth of the Open Door as I drove by the other day.  There’s a touch of irony at the end:

OPEN DOOR
EVERYONE WELCOME
ENTRANCE IN REAR

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admin on December 26th, 2010

This letter is mainly about lobsters, though there is a reference to Pop coming out to Iowa for the first time to meet his employers and how glad they were to have him come out.

July 15, 1965

Mr. Harold Lufkin, V. P.

Newton Mfg. Co.

Newton, Iowa

Dear Mr. Lufkin:

A couple of letters from you today, along with one from Bill DeJong and Beth Murphy (those were mailed July 2nd) and several from Mr. Starrett, Barbara and so on.  My head will be so swelled up that I’ll have to get someone to hang onto it for me with all the nice things that were in them all.

Anyway, as usual I will ramble “all over the lot” and start with Lobsters.  Of course it has been a good many years since I was a Native of Maine but I don’t think the Lobster laws have changed much unless they have gotten more strict.  First of all—Yes indeed a lobster this size is “tougher than shoe leather”.   They put it in these various dishes where it can be camouflaged with sauces Etc.  The 1 ½ to 2 lb. Lobsters are the ones that really have the taste.  To a chap like me who dearly loves them (but cant afford them) I would have to eat about six of what we call Chicken Lobsters.

As to breaking the law, I see that this chap evidently runs a Market in Nyack, N. Y. so I am just going to take a guess.  There are a lot of pleasure boats in Nyack and I’ll guess that he took a “run down to Maine” and came back with this Lobster.  Now as to how and where he caught it, it did not say, and perhaps for his own personal safety, in case he should ever visit Maine again its just as well.  I am going to guess that perhaps he is one of these amateur Scuba divers and that while playing around in some deep water that he ran into this “deep Sea denizen”, and he might even have possibly have robbed some Lobster Fishermens trap “for a lark”, one if he got caught at would make him wish that he was in the rice paddies of Vietnam.

I imagine though that he caught this in very deep water and probably away from the general Lobster fishermans waters.  Certainly if ever so much as dared suggest catching a Lobster in Monhegan Island in Maine, they would “keel haul” him in a hurry.  THAT is off limits to EVERYONE except Natives of Monhegan.  The law as to size I don’t know exactly.  The smaller ones have to measure so many inches, but YES you can catch the big ones, except what (if I remember right) they call the “seeders” or breeders.  The females I suppose.

So much for the Delicious Lobster!  They are getting scarce and very high.  Sometime this Summer I want to take Mama out and have a real good feed of them before they are priced right out of the market.

Indeed, I not only saw more of Iowa and its people than I ever saw before, but I learned a little more about how we operate which I hope will be of benefit to both of us.  If the Steak I had with Harry Starrett and John McConeghy were any indication of what makes tender beef, then you sure have it.  I don’t very often get into a high class place, but on the other hand I am not so poor that I cant go out once in awhile, and I truthfully say that this was one of the best Steaks I ever ate, and I was tired and hungry and in the right mood AND the right company to enjoy it.

Of course I could never live anywhere except New England unless perhaps it would be Oregon, or Washington in this Country and some parts of Canada on this Continent, but I like to see, and have a keen interest in ALL of this Great Country of ours.  I THOUGHT that you people had a corner on the “heat” market out there, but when I got home it was 82 on our front porch and THAT is unusual.  At Bradley Field yesterday it was 100 and that also a record, but we always get a breeze after Sundown and can sleep.

Getting back to the Lobster for just a moment.  One of that very fine mans best stories (Adlai Stevenson) whom we have just lost concerned a lobster.  A chap was having one in a restaurant and the waiter brought him one with one of the claws gone, and he explained to the customer that it had lost it in a fight with another Lobster, where on the customer said “well bring me the winner than if you don’t mine.”

I hope that sometime that Mama and I can come on along out together, spend some more time in “the Breadbasket” and give her a chance to see all the fine people that I met.  Never thought I would make it THIS time, but after seeing Charlie Furmeister (75 years old and still at it) I had the thought that perhaps I might make it again after all.

Best wishes to all “The Newton Family” and many thanks again for your all out effort to make an old Yankee welcome to the Mid-West.

Sincerely,

Leon.

P. S.  Oh yes!  One more thing that I thought might interest you and especially so as you just sent ma a copy of the letter from The Dime Savings Bank in Norwich.

I gave all the Stewardesses on the trip both ways a rose to put on their Uniforms and it went very well with their blue.  As we were approaching Newark some chap asked one of them where they got the roses and she pointed me out (she came back and told me about it).

As I got off the plane at Newark to stretch myself for the 20 minute wait we had, a gentleman was waiting at the bottom of the “gangway”.  He introduced himself as from Norwich, Conn and said that they had just has a Rose Festival there and used these Roses and that they were highly successful.  I said “well I’m the chap that sold them.”  He was astonished and so was I that after selling Roses to The New Milford Savings Bank in New Milford, Conn.  They went from there to Washington, D. C. to a Bankers meeting and a Banker from Norwich Conn. Who received one there gave us two orders by phone, and I haven’t met the Norwich Banker yet (this was a Norwich businessman) yet I hear about the Roses on a Plane on my way back from Iowa.  In a way it is fantastic, but it also goes along with that old Bible quotation “bread spread upon the waters Etc”.

Thought you would to hear about it.

Leon

Just one more of the many, many things that make this business not only so interesting, but lucrative if you follow it up.

PSS.  Just wanted to tell you also that your sentence “I don’t know if there was ever a salesman came to visit us that was more anticipated than you, and that I did not disappoint you” was one of the nicest things I ever had said about me, so thanks again!  I have had several letters already from some of you and they are all so nice that I certainly HOPE I can have the best year ever.

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