ESSEX MEMORIES – EPILOGUE…Part 6

No doubt about it, one can totally blame Hylah Haile Boyd….for this journalistic project: Essex Memories, Parts 1 – 6. You may wish to throw in Peter C. Bance; Mary Moss Walker, of the Essex County Countryside Alliance magazine; plus Charlotte Frischkorn, in the mix – all of Richmond, VA.

Succumbing to flattering requests from these four, the series was initiated, stimulated with encouragement and suggestions from them. Reflecting on the previous installments, and appreciative of the Rappahannock Times editor, Chris Rose, whose patience matches the biblical JOB, I mulled over my early life years with a growing sensitivity, humility. Having not deeply examined those experiences in all the prior decades, it was an unending challenge.

What Hylah, Peter, Mary Moss, and Charlotte didn’t know, was this writer’s contemporary preparation, not quite so feverishly, on an autobiographical lark – to address a life, which took several bends in its sweep. Planned destination would be the Virginia Historical Society, plus the laps of grandson, Carter Vaden Reid, Jr.; and granddaughter, Latane Wallace Reid.
Some omissions glare back; Essex memories can bring pleasure, security, then sometimes foreboding – maybe even melancholia. As George (Gabby) Hayes would have muttered on the 1940’s DAW THEATER’S cowboy silver screen, it has left me “plum tuckered out…you’n young whippersnappers!”

Epilogue in this title connotes closure – of my Essex Memories series. Earlier eliminated and discarded thoughts continue to hang tangentially to a deeper story – so, I will kind of trip over them in this final summation. Attempting to make sense out of the late 1930’s, plus World War II years, seemed challenge enough. This work coerced me into facing those embryonic years, very early thoughts – all transfixed with numerous apprehensions.
But, on to the scraps! Frankly, they are far from throw-away materials; so let’s award them their due:
• Dad came through the back kitchen one day, summoning mother, “Marty, I swear Mr. Latane’s doing it again. He will not leave those dogs alone.” Grandfather simply loved to tease dogs, pups and older. He would sneak up on unsuspecting canine, STAMP his foot right in their direction -they’d jump, growl, and even bark; he simply loved doing it. Mother responded, “Why father hasn’t been bitten I’ll never understand.” He was never bitten…ever. Grandfather loved them, owned them, and when they were dying, he’d have his brother in law pharmacists, Tom Bell Cauthorne, come over and “chloroform” them – he just could not bring himself to do it.

• Another grandfather behavior apparently began when he was a child at the “Meadow” home site. He was frightened of violent electrical thunderstorms. Clearly recalling his fear, as a young child, Allen Douglas Latane would simply avail himself of the privacy of a dark closet, and close the door….they truly frightened him. I clearly picked up on that behavior as a child.

• One last grandfather observation: Latane had a total love affair with Lucky Strike cigarettes, sometime Camels – smoking incessantly. As Essex Clerk, Mr. Latane’s office did not house ash trays….he simply stomped them out on a hard linoleum floor, which was ridden with tiny little burnt marks….yet, this wonderful character never missed a Sunday – loyally singing in the St. John’s Episcopal Church Choir.

• So many names in that town played important roles: J. Sydnor Phillips, A.A. Cralle (our next door neighbor); Wesley Lowery; June Parker; Dr. Lewis Bristow (my great uncle), Pres Derieux, and of course, Gordon Lewis.

• My parents returned to Tappahannock in 1969, building a one story home across the highway…diagonally from Billy Wright’s place, next door to Dr. Bristow’s big white home on the river. Wife, Douglas Laughon, and I visited there to help host a Christmas party, celebrating their return. They were all there: Olive and Gordon Lewis (Gordon was more a brother to my mother than a cousin); Dr. Joe and Evelyn Chinn (Evelyn was smart, snappy, and a hoot to be around); Mary and Mac Evans; the Stanley Mundys; the Fleet Dillards; Lucy Stacy and Fred Garrett; I suspect it was one of final gatherings of “that old gang of mine.”

• Aunt Dolly, mother’s youngest sister, recalled the great freeze winter when the Rappahannock River froze solid sharing it with her sons….Cousin, Reverend James A. Hammond, reminded me that she often recalled the sight of automobiles driving clear across on the iced river that winter; she thought it foolish and dangerous, at the time. It was a long, thorough freeze.

• The wonderful work of Howard W. Reisinger, Jr. ( Hoskins Creek: A Personal Story) brought pleasure and knowledge, and specifically, his photo of the first marina on Hoskins Creek, showing the Caponka in the distance, was a strong verification – adding to my Essex Memories and reaffirmation of that strange ship, often lingering in the mist.

• I’d returned home from school around 4 p.m., February, 22, 1948. Now almost 10 years old, living in Westwood, Richmond, VA, I found my mother troubled – but OK. Another hour passed when dad arrived home…something was wrong. She looked at my father, reporting that a phone call had come in for him – person-to-person; the Tappahannock operator specifically would not talk with her. Dad was to return the call immediately; he did this. We stood in the kitchen where our one telephone was located. Very quietly, he turned to my mother, softly saying, “Marty, Mr. Latane died at 1:30 pm this afternoon while at home for lunch.” I knew my Essex life, and memories, would never be the same….and they weren’t.
Who can say if your love grows
As you heart chose…Only time
And who can say where the road goes
Where the day flows, only time
Who knows? Only time…………………Enya – Only Time.

Essex memories would subtly, ever so slowly, morph into Westwood Memories – in our new Richmond life. Interestingly, much of Essex indelibly remained.

The Christmas before grandfather died, my dad walked us (Allen, 12; Ray, Jr., 8; Marty Gordon, 7) on our traditional hike. Rifle in hand, he walked us Bremo Road north – near a two lane West Broad Street Road, where a still rural Henrico County flourished with tall oaks.

The tallest oaks were found there with ridden with clusters of mistletoe, naturally near the top. Rifle in hand, dad would shoot down the clusters for home holiday decoration. We always had mistletoe for Christmas….a very Essex thing to do.

Finding it painful to bid farewell to our modest Essex Memories project, I’m reminded of enjoying a good 1940’s orange ice Popsicle in the hot summer time….and desperately trying to make it last – forever. I can still taste them.

Published in the RAPPAHANNOCK TIMES, Wednesday, December 25, 2013.

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