≡ Menu

[A “chronicle” that U.S. Navy Lieutenant Charlie Mahaffie wrote from Sasebo, Japan, to the folks at home in the States, upon the birth of his first born, Margaret, September 7, 1957]

The whole thing, of course, started approximately nine months ago, but the immediate events began with the arrival of Typhoon Bess late Friday afternoon, the sixth. Bess actually didn’t hit Sasebo as was probably reported in the stateside press she hit Kyushu nearer the town of Kagoshima, which is way down at the end of the island. Sasebo had high winds and some rain all night Friday, but no appreciable damage. We had secured the house as best we could and hit the sack about eleven Friday night.

I should put in here that it was only by good fortune that I was available to act as duty driver Friday. With the approach of the typhoon all liberty was cancelled and on top of that I had the duty that night. But as everyone else was on board out of necessity it was not too hard to find a standby and that meant that all I had to do was convince my bosses that my presence was needed ashore. I’m still not sure that the Chief of Staff knows I went ashore, but my boss said to go so I went and as far as I know I was the only member of the staff who was ashore Friday night.

Judy woke me up at a little after one announcing that she was having sensations which she believed to be labor pains. She was not at all sure though and neither was I. So she called the hospital hoping to find the duty doctor awake so that she could ask him. She was informed by a corpsman that if she thought she should come, come. So she came.

We bundled her into the car and made the short trek at about one thirty. At this time, she still was in no pain but was having “pains”. Happily, the nurse on duty was a friend of ours, the wife of our flag secretary, and this made Judy feel a good deal better. Betty June, the nurse, said that she thought she was right in coming and bundled her off to the labor room where they immediately prepared her for delivery. The duty doctor that night was one who had along with the regular obstetrician been looking after Judy during her pregnancy and he examined her and said that she was sure enough in labor. At this time the baby was expected any time during the night so everyone was excited and Judy was the most excited of all. The trouble was that nothing happened.

At a little after two it appeared that she was not going to deliver until morning so I went home to bed. But I didn’t sleep very well so I came back to the hospital about four thirty. Still nothing had happened. Judy was, in fact, asleep at this time. As the night and morning wore on her pains diminished to just about nothing and both she and the medicos became discouraged, especially Judy as she was looking forward when she came in to having a baby in record time.

As one of the doctors pointed out to me, the biggest difficulty they have with births in Sasebo is the psychological factor. It is such a small town that all the women know all the other women and they all seem to know all about the other women’s deliveries right down to the most intimate details. Knowing all this they attempt to surpass one another in timeliness, speed and ease of birth and when they find that their case is going to be at all troublesome, they get quite discouraged.

Bright and early both the doctors concerned with obstetrics were in attendance. Their consensus seemed to be that she was having a “false labor” but would in all probability go into real labor Saturday afternoon. This was my first acquaintance with Judy’s doctors and I got a very good impression of both.

It turned out that they were worried about her as she had until about a week before the baby was born a breach presentation. The doc who examined her when she came in said that he thought the baby had turned. Then they took x-rays Saturday morning which confirmed this. This made both docs, and me, much happier and we all relaxed.

Not Judy though, who was getting unhappier and unhappier about the fact that she had not yet produced. I spend the morning with her in the labor room timing pains, which were still there but were getting weaker and more and more irregular. There was talk of letting her go home Sunday morning if nothing had happened by then. The docs were in and out all morning and Judy was being prodded and poked by various people from time to time, but still no labor worthy of the name. I went out for lunch and when I came back the situation was the same. At about two thirty Judy had two rather unauthorized visitors. One, father Kelley, the Catholic Chaplain had come to administer last rites to a patient that turned out to be alive and kicking, so he came up and chatted a while along with one of Judy’s friends who was in the hospital for treatment.

She walked around with these people and was laughing and carrying on with them for about a half hour and I think that is probably what turned the trick. Anyway, soon after they left, I left also since it appeared that nothing was going to happen and since I was by this time pretty well out on my feet from lack of sleep and a cold which I was fast acquiring. I was to sleep for a couple of hours and eat. I got up about four, fed the dogs and was just sitting down to some canned chicken fricassee when the hospital called and recommended that I come. I bolted my food, kicked the animals out of the house (the animals, by the way, have not had an easy time of it. Foxy particularly is very attached to Judy and he just can’t understand what has become of her. They are still in something of a state of shock) and made tracks for the hospital. When I arrived, Judy was in real honest to goodness hard labor. It seems that it had started soon after I left, but she had wanted me to get some sleep so had not called me until later. She wasn’t too uncomfortable then but was under some sedation and was pretty dopey.

Judy’s labor became steadily more laborious through the afternoon and evening and the docs announced that she was doing fine. Both docs had planned on attending her when they thought they would have a breech birth to contend with, but when the pictures showed everything in order the second in command took off. The obstetrician had dinner and arrived about seen thirty presumably expecting to deliver, but no dice. So he and I sat around in the nurses office for what must have been an hour and a half or two hours and chatted about law and medicine.

They had let me stay with Judy most of the time before she went into real hard labor and some of the time after that, but now the nurse was with her timing pains and making observations of one kind or another, so this doc and I waited it out.

At about nine he examined her and said he was going to take her into the delivery room, which he did with all hands gowned and ready to go. This was not successful. He announced that he had made a closer examination and she would be between two and three hours more. So back to the labor room with Judy and the doc went home to see the wife and kids for an hour.

It must have been about forty-five minutes later that things really started happening. I had been with Judy for a while after she came out of the delivery room. She was, I thought, bearing up remarkably well. In the middle of one pain in which she was doing a bit of groaning she apologized for being a “fuss” and a couple of times I caught her smiling at the same time as she was quite obviously in pain.

Anyway, the nurse shooed me out and took my place and a short time later Judy must have had a considerable contraction as the nurse came out of the room and did something roughly equivalent to pulling the general alarm on a ship. Corpsmen began appearing from nowhere pulling on gowns, tables were wheeled about madly, people were arriving from other floors and through it all I was standing in the passageway looking puzzled. The doc was sent for and was there in no time and in not very much more time, about a quarter to eleven, I heard a screech from the delivery room which subsequently turned out to have been young Margaret’s first announcement of her presence.

I guess it was about eleven thirty that they brought Judy and Margaret down to the ward. I was encased in mask and gown and allowed to visit. Both were in fine shape. Judy was very happy and didn’t look as though she had been under any strain at all and Margaret was raising hell, kicking her blankets off and waking up the whole ward with her yelling. She was the first good-looking new born baby I have ever seen. Most look all red and pulled out of shape, but she actually looked like a human being.

All in all, I guess it was a pretty easy birth, although I don’t know much about such things. I know that it was not at all easy for me.

CDM

copies to Grandmother distribution list

Margaret Cooper Mahaffie
6 pounds 5 1/2 ounces
September 7, 1957

Mr. Personality

Post 3 of 3 on Charles D. Mahaffie, Jr. at Camp Wachusett

Charlie amongst the counselors and campers, 1946

When we last saw Charlie, he was a boy of 11 years. With the United States fully in the war, Camp Wachusett did not open for the summer of 1943 and stayed closed for the two summers after that.

In 1946, the camp reopened. Camp leaders Bill Triplett and Ward Bates were back from their military service. Charlie was back, now as a counselor. He was fifteen years old.

Dave “Slinger” Slingluff, unfortunately, was gone, also no longer at The Landon School after the school year of 1942-43. At some point during the war, his family had moved from Washington to Rhode Island, likely because of his father’s position in the U.S. Navy.

Charlie Mahaffie, on right, with his charges at Camp Wachusett

Counselor duties

Though Charlie was only fifteen, he was assigned to manage swimming. The boy who hadn’t liked “dips” was now one of the swimming counselors. He was also one of the editors of the Wachusett Log.

Among Charlie’s other duties was umpiring baseball. About his work at this the Log reported: “The rest of the campers participated in a hotly contested baseball game, hotly contested between the players and the decisions of the umpire who looked at baseball with a slightly jaundiced eye as the Senators plunged toward the basement. Who the umpire was is beyond the ken of this log but it was noticed that Charlie came home with a handful of empty Moxie bottles and a few scars.”

Charlie was also “inspector”, the counselor who checked each cabin after morning cleanup, and picked which one was tidiest. He was presumed biased in his cabin inspections. “Charles (Inspector) Mahaffie checked the cabins; as usual Kiowa won because Mahaffie lives there.”

Trouble with Beaman (there’s always one)

As one of its editors, the Log correspondents went after Charlie Mahaffie more than ever. An early Summer 1946 entry read: “The next noise [just before Reveille] was Charlie (’they don’t have to be beautiful; they don’t have to be cute; but they gotta have personality’) Mahaffie as he got an early morning start trying to figure out which foot Ralph Beaman’s shoes went on. Apparently he was unsuccessful for Ralph turned up for the third consecutive day with his shoes neatly tied but on the wrong feet.”

And built into that story was, with the “they gotta have personality” comment, the first in what would become a steady mocking of Charlie’s interest in girls. Before long he  becomes Mr. Personality, maybe not because of his own, but because he apparently wanted a girl with a personality, and, soon, he’s “Lovesick Charlie” because, allegedly, none of his attempts to woo ever worked.

The boys of Charlie’s cabin, Kiowa, do a banzai charge (1946)

Managing Ralph Beaman was a fixture of Charlie’s days as a counselor that summer. A Log entry has Charlie tagged as “Beaman-cut-that-out Mahaffie” (Beaman was the boy with the shoes on the wrong feet). I could not find out more about Ralph Beaman, but he didn’t return to the camp the next summer.

“Knock it off!” Even without Beaman

That next summer (1947), the Log tells us: “The rest period fumbled along, punctuated with ‘Knock it off!’, the favorite saying of Charlie Mahaffie, the hunchback of Camp Wachusett. Charlie had better watch out, or somebody may do just that to his head.” That evening, “as the story faded away, they fell into dream of Charlie, tied into a sack, slowly sinking beneath the waves with a cannon ball tied to his feet.”

Still entertaining the camp

As a counselor, Charlie was still, as he had become as a camper, part of the entertainment. One 1946 entry notes, “At night “Zoot” Mahaffie read the Log, his usual clowning getting the same old laugh.” (It’s hard to say what that fleeting nickname “Zoot” might be about).

A Wachusett skit. Charlie appeared in a number of these

That Charlie was a camp ham is clear. The “What Would Happen If” list that summer put, after Charlie’s name, “told a funny joke?”

Charlie’s storytelling continued. On a 1947 overnight trip to Mt. Morgan, “Supper was succeeded by the customary story-telling around the campfire, Mahaffie contributing an endless tale of a raccoon coat containing exactly 999,999 hairs.”

Charlie continued also to be in the cast of camp plays and skits. In mid-July 1947, he was “Cousin Martin” in a play, donning a “crisp New Hampshire accent” and portraying a taciturn New Englander.

More Hijinx, even without Slingluff

“We deem it advisable to scotch any malicious rumors to the effect that that utter blackguard Win Wilson was pushed into the lake late Friday evening by that lovable lad, Charlie Mahaffie. Any careful consideration of the unblemished character of the lovable one will show that he is incapable of any such misdeed. Indeed, it was the evil intent of the prevaricator himself that brought about his own doom, for it was while vainly trying to dunk that paragon of integrity, Charlie Mahaffie, that his foot slipped and he himself slipped into the foaming brine.”

That 1947 Wachusett Log entry, which was unsigned, was clearly written by Charlie himself.

On the prowl off the grounds

A minor mystery from the summer of 1946 forward is exactly what Charlie and several of his fellow counselors did on periodic forays off grounds in the evening. They clearly had permission to leave the camp for off-duty adventures. What did Charlie get up to?

The Log noted for Monday, July 8, 1946 “Bright and early Monday morning we heard a disturbance down by the canoe slip: Casanova Sandy and Lovesick Charlie had returned from an evening of fun and frolic. It seems that Charlie met with failure (Louise). Sandy had his usual luck.” Poor Charlie (or perhaps poor Louise). Tuesday’s Log continued the ribbing: “Charlie was his usual jilted self as he appeared at breakfast.”

Then there was more. “The launching of the Chris Craft was a great thing, complete with its Moxie christening, but few noticed the unrestrained rejoicing of the Personality Kid for at last he had thought of a way to please his hard-to-please Juliet. We hold little hope for him, but here’s to you Charlie. Never say die.”

It’s possible the young men sometimes visited a girls camp nearby, or the Perkins Tourist Cabins up the lake, explaining why some outings were by canoe or rowboat. If the Log cartoons are to be believed, they had packed suits and ties in their footlockers for the occasion.

Yet another nighttime outing happened a week or so later. “Camp was quiet soon after taps, disturbed only by the noisy departure of Ward’s station-wagon filled with the camp gay-blades, accompanied by ‘Coke’ Mahaffie.” Charlie’s regard for Coca-Cola continued in his adult years.)

On a late July Saturday night in 1946 we learn: “It was 11:30 when the two sharply dressed characters returned in the shiny black Chevrolet after an evidently unsuccessful hunt. They were not disheartened, however. Realizing that it was personality they lacked, they set out once more for Center Harbor this time taking the old standby, ‘Personality Mahaffie’. I am not sure what time they returned, but Bob ‘Tums for the Toomey’; reported that on his way to church in the morning a shiny black Chevrolet sped past headed in the direction of camp.”

About an August Sunday morning the Log reported “We could also mention the strange coincidence of the lifeboat being tied up in front of Perkins’ cabins and Charley’s having visited a reputed beauty there the night before, but since it might embarrass Charley, we won’t say a word about it, nor will we even ask why he left so precipitately that the boat was forgotten completely.” A few days later, another Log correspondent was relating some story about the canoes and said, “The other canoes were under the charge of Charlie (I always forget to bring the rowboat back after a date) Mahaffie.”

Ideas of Charlie as a romeo lost out to his attempts at comedy on the “Wachusett Goes Hollywood” page that summer. No heartthrob, but rather Jack Benny was tapped as his Hollywood equivalent.

In his first counselor year (1946), the Log’s “Counselors at a Glance” page read:

Charlie Mahaffie
Nicknames: Muscles, Personality.
Favorite sport: Keeping up with Bates
Favorite haunt: Away from Eagle Lodge
Dislikes: Swimming beginners
Ambition: To be a character
Favorite saying: “Beaman, cut that out!”

Summer of 1947

In the summer of 1947, Charlie returned to Camp Wachusett as a counselor and again co-edited the Wachusett Log. Instead of swimming, he was assigned canoeing. He still had the role of inspector—the counselor who checked each cabin’s orderliness and tidiness.

Charlie the scribe

Charlie the scribe was by then well established. One Log note reported, “Charlie (Hunt and Peck) Mahaffie and Bob (Columbus system: discover a key and then land on it) Toomey spend the afternoon typing up their logs in the office between mouthfuls of marshmallows found hidden in a bottom drawer.”

Charlie’s log entries were long, sometimes erudite, and generally clever, full of word play, literary references, and entertaining asides. For example:

“Unlike Gaul, Wachusett is divided into two parts: those who are quiet during rest hour, and those who are not quiet during rest hour. The schism between these elements was made horribly evident during Monday rest hour as several of the counselors embarked on an ill-fated expedition into the realm of Morpheus, only to be cast back into reality by the whooping and hollering of such as Bubonic Buchanan or Antelope Anderson.”

As Log editor, he continued to add his remarks into the log entries of campers and other counselors. Phil Carr wrote: “Then we had a council fire in which all the boys that had not passed their Mt. Prospect story telling test told a story.” Having written it as “council fire in which,” Charlie added: “Ed. Note: All the boys who were compelled to tell their stories in the fire were immediately rushed to the infirmary where Mrs. Goodman made sure that their skin had been burnt off clear to the bone.”

In another log, a boy reporter explained a game: “Get fourteen boys and divide them in half.” Editor Charlie inserted, “(One at a time?)”

“Counselors at a Glance” from 1947:
Charlie Mahaffie
Nicknames: “Mahaff”, “Lovable”
Favorite sport: inspecting
Favorite haunt: infirmary
Dislikes: dips
Ambition: to write a log as well as Wilson
Favorite saying: “Knock it off.”
That summer, the “Wachusett goes Hollywood” page had him as Bob Hope.

Also that summer, the Log page of vital stats fails to report Charlie’s end-of-summer weight and height, but he started the summer at 165 and 5 foot 11.

A last summer at the camp

For the Summer of 1948, Charlie’s final one at Camp Wachusett, he had sole editorship of the Wachusett Log, and his only other official assignment was cabin inspector. With his past work on the Log, Charlie had proved he didn’t need adult oversight or help. He was 17 years old.

“Counselors at a Glance” in 1948:
Charlie Mahaffie
Nicknames: Muscles, Lovable
Favorite Sport: Typing
Favorite Haunt: Log-room
Dislikes: Late logs
Ambition: Virtually none
Favorite Saying: Shad ap on da porch

The Brothers Orchid reunited

At the end of July 1948, Charlie’s old school and camp pal, Dave Slingluff, who had not been there since 1942, came for a visit. Charlie recruited a Log entry from him. Slinger had not written once on his own for the Log when a camper. In his post he revived the nickname Brother Orchid.

Manhood upon Charlie

Charlie’s 1948 vital stats page, signed by camp nurse Ruth Goodman, R.N. had the following:

Weight at the start: 168 1/2
Weight at the end: 170
Net gain or loss: 1 1/2
Height at the start of the season: 6 feet
Height at the end of the season: 6 feet
Charlie was a grown man, and, to Mrs. Goodman’s satisfaction, was no longer wasting away.

And home

At the end of his last summer at the camp, Charlie took the train home with the campers. He wrote, in the final Log entry for the season, “. . . the train ground to a halt in the Union Station and disgorged its load of campers. The boys met their parents with memories of a swell summer at Camp in their heads and all sorts of souvenirs in their bags. Thus, as the Director sank into the arms of a kindly porter who carried him out to a waiting taxi, the nineteen forty-eight season came to an official end. (Signed) Charlie Mahaffie

_____________________________

Post 1: Charlie Mahaffie, the boy that became the man

Post 2: The Brothers Orchid

Photos from Charlie’s counselor years are here

The Brothers Orchid

Post 2 of 3 on Charles D. Mahaffie, Jr. at Camp Wachusett

David Slingluff, left, and Charlie Mahaffie, right, Landon Yearbook, 1943

Before they even arrived at Camp Wachusett for Charlie’s first summer at the camp, he and his school pal Dave Slingluff were dubbed the “Brothers Orchid”. That nickname appears in the first pages of the 1940 season Wachusett Log, in the account of the ship journey by some of the campers on the S. S. Dorchester from Baltimore to Boston.

The boys or their counselor escort on the trip came up with the name. “Brother Orchid” was an alias taken by a mobster in the 1940 film Brother Orchid, when he took refuge from his life of crime at a monastery that tended flowers. Played by Edward G. Robinson, Brother Orchid was street tough and wisecracking. Charlie and Dave Slingluff earned the nickname in their first days on the S.S. Dorchester.

Still from Brother Orchid 1940 starring Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart

At at stop in Virginia Beach, “The Brothers Orchid played beachcombers with Webb Abbott’s comb, returning it, needless to say, in a despicable condition.” They had decided to pretend you needed a comb to beach comb. Exactly that sort of gag is strung throughout the Wachusett Log. The Brothers Orchid were ready for life at the camp.

Converging on the camp

Wachusett campers worked their ways to New Hampshire at the end of June each summer. By ship, train, and station wagon, boys arrived at the camp on the shores of Little Squam at the beginning of July. Charlie’s group in 1940 arrived on the Merchants and Miners liner S.S. Dorchester sailing from Baltimore to Norfolk, visiting Virginia Beach, then sailing on to Boston.

The trip itself was an adventure, the sort of thing Charlie had probably never done before. The boys roughhoused their way north on the deck of the Dorchester. Other passengers were reportedly wary, if not alarmed.

Slinger — The Other Brother Orchid

David “Slinger” Slingluff, aboard the S.S. Dorchester

Dave Slingluff was a pal from school. He and Charlie were pals. Their antics, which became a feature of camp life, and having started even before their arrival at the camp, did not let up for three years.

From the Log: “Early risers the next morning found themselves on the blue Atlantic, well out of sight of land. They also found … Slingluff and Mahaffie slapping each other around on the deck. . .”

And the next day, “those on the foredeck were able to see such sights as Mahaffie borrowing Slingluff’s key, dropping it on the deck and booting Slingluff when he reach for it. . .”

Settling in and standing out

The Brothers Orchid settled in to camp life and quickly got to the task of becoming camp personalities. Wachusett had its own culture and ways, and it seems Mahaffie and Slingluff—generally called Slinger, took to it. In 1940, though only nine and new there, Charlie, with considerable help from Slingluff, became a notable camper . In most Log entries, it was Mahaffie and Slingluff together, wisetalking, no doubt like Edward G. Robinson’s Brother Orchid.

A Wachusett “war canoe” with Charlie seated third from the front

Camp life was all about hiking, camping, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, aquaplaning, and fishing, plus a lot of entertainment and rituals like the Council Fire, where the boys and the counselors read the Log out loud and told stories.

In a camper ballot, Charlie turns up under: “Talks most and says least” no doubt showing that show-offy, quick-witted trait ascribed to many a current generation of Mahaffies.

The Brothers Orchid (try to) report a typical day at the camp

Saturday, July 25, 1942

David Slingluff, on right, about 1942

The day started off by David Slingluff’s crackling voice singing to the cabin: “Sleepy lago-o-o-o-n, a tropical moon, and three on an island,” Mahaffie answered “Who is the third one?” The answer from Bat-face Slingluff was “The mother-in-law.” There was a deep silence for twenty minutes until Weir broke out into a loud giggle. (I still don’t see why.) When he stopped laughing, Slingluff started in again, but immediately three clocks, two tennis rackets, one bed-spring, and Bobby Griswold’s alarm clock were collected in his face.

The cabin from then on was in silence, until Bobby (I get up at seven o’clock and blow reveille) Griswold (author’s note: he does?) started to the main lodge at 7:15 and got there at 7:30. We still don’t know what he did between the Bears’ Den and the Main Lodge.Finally reveille was blown, and those mighty, husky Bears’ Denners went in for a dip. Meanwhile, the cabins could hear those stinkers in Kiowa throwing rocks off their dock, fulfilling their perfect dip record.

Pajamaed campers at morning “dip” time

First call found Bird (call me crow) Cromwell and Burke (I’m always up early) Mathews getting up. Second call found them just getting back from their dip, and cereal found them stumbling into the dining room. Chapel came right on the heels of breakfast, and then came that race between the flag and the bugle, or flag-raising. As usual the flag won. (That’s why it’s called flag-racing.) Next came cleanup, which those mighty, peppy, husky, muscular, gigantic, herculean, honest, truthful, clean, healthy, powerful, gargantuan, almighty, skillful, strong, fabulous, immense, enormous, handsome, brave, daring, smart, bright, tough, king, thoughtful, friendly, helpful, courageous, outstanding, respectable, famous, brilliant, unbeatable, zestful, ambitious, excellent, terrific supermen that are just brimming over with muscles — the Bears’ Denners — went to work so amiably and either won the shield or courteously gave it to another cabin. Next came assembly at which classes (ain’t they always) were signed up for. (Author’s note: we are rushed for time like the very dickens, so Bobby don’t think it’s too sketchy.) (Editor’s note: don’t worry about that; I’m rushed for time myself.) (Author’s note: not that those two literary geniuses Slingluff and Mahaffie could write anything that isn’t the best.) (Editor’s note: oh, of course.)

Charlie became known for his “goose-like swan dive”. Little Squam was known for how cold the water was.

During classes everything happened that ordinarily happens during classes and lots more but we forget what. Next came our weekly bath in the form of a soapy swim, in which we were supposed to wash ourselves, but most of it got into our eyes. After all this came lunch at which Clayton Triplett had a birthday, and we all profited from it in the form of ice cream and cake. We then carried each other down to the cabins for an hour of what we should not be doing during rest period. That afternoon everybody fished. Eddie did not catch any fish, but we are proud to announce that Eddie caught a fish on the White Oak Pond Trip — at least he says he did, and who would doubt Eddie’s word. (Author’s note; I would.)

Next came swim. Nothing happened during swim except everybody got wet (authors’ note: we pulled that one in our last log, but won’t you please laugh anyway.) Dinner came and we all et (that is, we all et dinner). Dinner in the diner was followed by boats and canoes, in which Irdie Superman Cromwell and Dick Columbine Coupland turned over and did practically everything to Wawa Patch’s kayak. Slinger’s super-baritone voice rang out for a good five minutes trying to catch Joe’s attention with a steady “Slingluff checking in, Slingluff checking in, Slingluff checking in, Slingluff checking in, Slingluff checking in, Slingluff checking in, Slingluff checking in, Slingluff checking in, Slingluff checking in.” Slingluff finally checked in.

After boats and canoes, everybody played In and Out, after which the camp had a midnight dip. After taps we had a story about a crazy man getting mixed up in a building with six corridors and a stupid girl who went around falling into cellars. Everybody was asleep for the other story, so we don’t know much about it, but we know it must have been good because Bobby Griswold told it. (Ed. Note: Am I crimson!) (Author’s note: No, you’re Griswold.) (Heh, heh.)

(Signed) Brothers Orchid

The boys and counselors of the Bears’ Den, Mahaffie 4th boy from left, Slinger 6th (1942)

Overnight camping, featuring the usual hijinx from Slinger and Mahaff

Counselor Bob Griswold (Oz-Griz) picked up one camping trip narrative:

On the water, “Slinger and Mahaff had rigged up an elaborate bit of paraphernalia consisting of two paddles, one sheet, and various and sundry bits of wire, string, shoe-laces, and adhesive tape; this intricate affair which was supposed to be a sail took fifteen minutes to arrange, then after three minutes in use it collapsed completely and dismally, and had to be rebuilt. . . . The stretch down to Potato Island was made without mishap, and Slinger and Mahaff finally got their so-called sail working again. It fact it was working beautifully, billowing out over the side of the canoe gracefully like a balloon spinnaker, but Mahaff began to lag on the job, and the balloon spinnaker was abruptly transformed into a plain old damp sheet as it trailed over the side gathering most of the lake into its folds. At this point the canoe began to look like an advertisement for Lux soap, were it not for the tattle-tale gray color of the sheet. What with the canoe leaking and Slinger and Mahaff arguing and the sheet dragging in the water, we wonder that they ever got to Loon. Get there they did, however, though not before Mahaff dropped his canoe paddle overboard, and Bobby Fleming — of all people — went back to pick it up for him.”

Mahaffie, we didn’t go fishing this morning

Per the Log, this was commonly overheard at camp: “The camp woke up as usual with Slinger saying to Mahaff: ‘We didn’t go fishing this morning, did we?’ Mahaff would say he didn’t know and then they would both go back to sleep.”

And one more morning: “The day started at 6:30 A.M. when Slinger whispered to Mahaffie: ‘Mahaffie, we didn’t go fishing this morning: I forgot to wind the alarm clock.’ Mahaffie poked his head out from under the covers and said, “We wouldn’t have caught any fish anyway.’ Slinger and Mahaff went under the covers for five minutes until Slinger poked his head out of the covers and said ‘Davey is going to be mad.’ There was a short mumble from Mahaffie’s bed, then silence ‘til reveille.

Starting his own ghost story tradition

Charlie took his turn telling Council Fire stories. It was only early July 1940, the first week of camp, when the Log notes, “Charlie Mahaffie uncorked one about a haunted pair of pants which hadn’t been sold for six months.”

The Council Fire by day, site of many a ghost story

A camp tradition were stories, often ghost stories, told around the. But the camp also used an in-house radio system to broadcast bedtime stories into the cabins.

The Log noted, about the first camp show of the summer, “broadcast down to the huts over the camp radio system, the more professional of our amateurs being Charley Mahaffie, Todd Noyes, Dick Boyce, and Pete Truit, whose performances at the microphone were polished and gongless.”

His performing extended beyond campfire stories, too. “Our second stunt night of the season proved even more amusing than the first, as Tommy (Houdini) Weir, Tommy Mangan, Pete Clapper, and a miniature combination of Superman and Sherlock Holmes with the rather weird little Floy-Joy the Wonder Boy (Charley Mahaffie) strutted their stuff before the Wachusett floodlights.” They may have used the 1938 song “Flat Feet Floogie” by Slim and Slam, which had “Floy Joy” in the lyrics.

The boys and counselors read the Wachusett Log

So Charlie was willing to ham it up, perform in front of others. That aligns with how we knew him later, always the toastmaster, the one with the song lyrics, telling stories with funny voices.

In 1942, late the first week there was a council fire atop Shepherd Hill across Little Squam lake. Charlie was among the boys who “sent chills down our backs (and, we suspect, down their own) with some of their choicest tales.” Some of the boys also read out Wachusett Log entries over the camp radio and council fire gatherings. Charlie was a part of that, getting plaudits for hamming up the readings. He also was part of the camp theater in skits and plays.

In early August, each cabin put on a play. “Dave Slingluff, Charley Mahaffie, Art Hall, and Jenkins Cromwell bringing down the house in a version of Cinderella which would have amazed Mother Goose.”

Charlie was ready to entertain in most any setting. On one camping trip, “The first sound to reach our ears Thursday morn was Mahaff’s fog-horn voice announcing to the assembled company (in Latin) the amazing fact that ‘the girl is a table.’”

The Brothers Orchid end as they started

A Wachusett Log “weather report” from Charlie’s final camper year draws things together for us: “Wind: violent, whole gale, in all directions, from Slingluff and Mahaffie.”

_____

Post 1 is at this link.

More photos from Charlie’s camper years are here.

Charlie Mahaffie, the boy that became the man

Post 1 of 3 on Charles D. Mahaffie, Jr. at Camp Wachusett

Nine-year-old Charlie, Summer 1940. From a group picture

Charles D. Mahaffie, Jr. was born in May 1931, and grew up an only child, the son of well-off, distinctly intellectual, accomplished parents; his mother an artist and his father a Federal official. They lived in a large rowhouse in Georgetown, Washington, DC.

As an adult, Charlie was a successful antitrust lawyer, a gifted writer, a natural storyteller and toastmaster, and a life-long athlete. He raised, governed, and sometimes entertained seven children and seventeen grandchildren. His wife, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and friends obviously knew him well as a man, but none truly knew him as a child—the boy that became the man.

In the 1940s, Charlie was fortunate to attend Camp Wachusett, a boys sleep-away camp in Holderness, New Hampshire, in 1940, 1941, and 1942 as a camper, and, after World War II in 1946, 1947, and 1948 as a counselor. Each summer, he spent two months there; July and August.

By a stroke of great luck, the voluminous camp newsletter, The Wachusett Log, and a hundred or so photographs, survive in our family archives. They give a vivid picture of young Charlie, and then the teenager who became the man we knew.

The Wachusett Log

The Wachusett Log was a particular camp tradition. It reported the daily goings on with humor, satire, and Bunyanesque exaggeration, along with comical doodles amidst the typed text. Everyone was fair game for teasing, nicknaming, and tall tales. The boys and counselors took turns writing entries, and reading them aloud at the Council Fire was part of evening entertainment.

All the boys got mentions in the Log, and probably all got a chance, if they wanted, to write a log entry. Charlie appeared in, wrote, or co-wrote many. By his counselor years, he was coeditor and, in 1948, sole editor of the Wachusett Log.

From Charlie’s six years at the camp, we have six 100-page compilations of log entries; single-spaced, dense pages full of the spirit and personality and language of the camp community. Charlie was one of the camp personalities and has a strong presence in the Log.

The Wachusett Log had a style all its own. It is filled with tall tales, exaggeration, steady teasing of staff and campers for their ways, proclivities, odd habits, and points of notoriety, good and bad. Different writers of log entries, and different editors over the years, including Charlie, picked up the voice and rhythms of the Log and crafted their own editions.

As a camper, Charlie got recognized as “Camp Photographer” one year. We have a number of his pictures, though since he owned the camera, few with him appearing. But we have other pictures too, including official group shots of the staff, the campers with their cabins, as well as outings and other camp goings on.

The boy that became the man

The culture of the camp and its Log instilled in Charlie things that were a part of the adult he became, especially his love of the written and spoken word, and, when it fit, their use in zany doggerel, allegory, and humor. Charlie came of age absorbing, and then creating in the camp style, the kind of prose he would sometimes write as an adult for non-serious purposes. The Wachusett Log’s impact endured.

Then there was his habit of having nicknames for people. The camp society was replete with them, nickname and after nickname; some of which stuck and endured, others that were in-the-moment and fleeting. Charlie was, for example, Mahaff, Mr. Personality, Floy Joy the Wonder Boy, Muscles, and Brother Orchid I or II, depending on whether it was Dave “Slinger” Slingluff, or Charlie, who was in a position to say.

And there was his campfire/bedtime storytelling, which his children and grandchildren came to know. He joined in storytelling early, by age ten, and got plaudits for his work around the Council Fire. That and performing the Log entries out loud, humorous asides and all, for crowd reactions. He learned how to tell stories and work an audience. His seven children each remember moments like that at their weddings and other family occasions.

Arguably Charlie’s love of a daily swim, which he kept up into his 80s, came from his time at Camp Wachusett, though his reputation at the camp was that he didn’t like “dips,” at least not the daily, first-thing-in-the-morning plunges into Little Squam Lake in lieu of a shower.

Charlie may not, as a small boy, have started out quite so outdoorsy and athletic. He was a city boy. With cerebral parents and a Georgetown rowhouse childhood, the chances weren’t as frequent.

But by first or second grade, Charlie was attending first one and then another school set in Maryland farm country outside Washington, DC. First he attended the Slade School, which was in Sandy Spring, Maryland, 21 miles from Washington. By 1938, he was at The Landon School, still then in the country, but quite a bit closer to Washington in Bethesda.

The country schools began to get him more into the outdoors and Landon, especially, emphasized sports.

Then, upon starting to go summers at Camp Wachusett, he got a full plunge into outdoor living: daily swimming, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, camping, rowing, and aquaplaning. The Charlie his family knew lived for things like that.

I think his parents Isabel and Charles Sr. saw the benefits of plunging Charlie into a boys’ outdoor life for those summer months. Charles Sr., though he rose to be a highly-educated senior Federal official, had grown up on a ranch in Oklahoma, riding horses and, in addition, playing sports at his high school and college. Isabel, though raised on Central Park West in New York City, had an earlier career as a scientific illustrator, and spent multiple seasons living in tents in the tropics, and interacting with wildlife.

An advertisement from 1922

Camp Wachusett

Camp Wachusett was led by Bill Triplett, who was a sixth grade teacher and later an administrator at The Landon School. Among his accomplishments, Triplett introduced lacrosse to Landon, and it is a dominant sport and part of the school culture there today. The school stadium field and an annual award are named for Triplett. The adult Charlie Mahaffie remembered Bill Triplett fondly.

A number of the boys at Camp Wachusett were from the Washington DC, area, many being Landon students. Ads for the camp appeared in the local papers.

The campers were all white; generally Catholic or Protestant, based on the two kinds of churches they attended from the camp on Sundays. (There is no mention of a synagogue or mosque, though there was an Iraqi diplomat’s son at the camp). Most boys were from wealthy families. Among them in 1940 was a DuPont. The campers included the sons of foreign diplomats, high-level military officials, and businessmen.

Camp Wachusett was founded in 1903 on Little Squam Lake in Holderness, New Hampshire. (The camp continues to operate, but is now in Vermont. The original grounds are at least partly intact. One of the lakeside camp cabins is available on AirBnB for $543 per night).

Camp Wachusett has operated every year but 1943-5, when it was closed during World War II. The camp head, Bill Triplett, enlisted and served on a PT boat during the war.

In the next post, we will plunge into the life of Charlie the camper, 1940-42, and learn all about the Brothers Orchid.

This post is the third of three on the life of Roberta Becker Farrar.
Part 1: Introduction and Childhood
Part 2: Roberta in School


Colored by the times and the power of the literature, you might be forgiven if, looking at the pictures and stories of the young couple Redmond Farrar and Roberta Becker, you think of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. That is my strong bias, and it colors my impression of them as a young couple. F. Scott Fitzgerald was exactly the same age as Roberta and Redmond. Their young adulthood coincided with the emergence of the Jazz Age (and Redmond participated at least on the edges of the jazz scene in New York as a song composer through the 1920s).

But that line of thought probably warps my thinking about Granny, who, when I knew her, didn’t come across in any way like Zelda Fitzgerald. And of Redmond, I only have second-hand impressions.

Meeting and courting at Lake Mahopac

The Dean House, Lake Mahopac, New York, where the Farrars and the Beckers stayed in the summer during the late 1910s

Roberta’s family stayed at Lake Mahopac for portions of their summers. So did Redmond Farrar’s family. We know they were both there at least as earlier as 1915. The Mahopac resorts had athletic contests, dances, dinners, and other social activities. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported much of each summer’s goings on in its society column.

Lake Mahopac was a summer resort community near Carmel, New York, in Putnam County, fifty miles north of New York City. Vacationers could get there by train. Some hotels sent horse-drawn coaches to fetch their guests.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 1919

Redmond may have stood out to Roberta there for his prowess in swimming, sailboat racing, foot races, and his violin playing—he was classically trained. When there was dancing, she likely would have stood out to him. Their families lived in different parts of Brooklyn, but through their schools and places in Brooklyn society, they were often at the same social events. From Joan Farrar’s picture album, we see that they were a couple by 1915 when each was still in high school and about 17 years old.

Meanwhile, Roberta had a first cousin, Lester Brion, who wanted to marry her. Lester was five years older. His sister Estelle was one of Roberta’s close companions. Roberta had lived with the Brions for part of her childhood. Lester was her first cousin, and while there are sometimes marriages between first cousins, Roberta didn’t believe it was acceptable. And given her childhood spending time and living with the Brion’s the two were near to siblings. It’s possible too that she simply didn’t care for Lester, or that she was already interested in Redmond.

Left and right, Roberta and Redmond, 1915

Roberta’s wedding portrait, 1919

Late in and just after high school, Roberta and Redmond courted for several years, during which he participated regularly in the alumni shows of Brooklyn Poly Prep, and she helped organize society events. Redmond was also away attending college for parts of two years during that period.

They married on November 26, 1919. Roberta was 22, and Redmond just shy of that age. Roberta’s father, August Becker, had died the previous autumn. She was escorted down the aisle by her uncle Frederick Becker. Redmond’s sister Grace Farrar was her maid of honor.

Here is a description of Roberta’s wedding outfit: “The bride’s gown of white satin was embroidered in pearls, her tulle veil was arranged in fan effect and held in place with a coronet of Dutchess lace and orange blossoms and she carried orchids and lilies-of-the-valley.” (From Brooklyn Life, December 12, 1919).

The wedding was at the Hotel Bossert in Brooklyn Heights, a prestigious place to get married. The hotel is still there. With its Italian Renaissance decor recently restored, it operates as a high-end, boutique hotel.

The wedding announcement in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle society column raises two mysteries about Redmond. It notes Redmond “is also well known in the tillery and recently returned from 18 months foreign service.”

First, military service. In the Fall of 1918, at age 20, Redmond registered for the draft, but before long he was enrolled in courses at Columbia University that were part of the war effort. The students were enlisted in the U.S. Army. But Armistice was declared during that Autumn, and he did not serve in the Europe. Redmond was discharged from military service in December 1918. So according to military records, the newspaper account was simply wrong. The newspapers of the time routinely included things that were simply wrong, misheard, and misspelled, but for plenty of details, they are all we have.

Redmond in his 50s

Second, I cannot discover what a “tillery” was. The word may relate to his work in banking and finance. There was a Tillery Building in Brooklyn, but it was headquarters for the Department of Education. And there is Tillary Street in Brooklyn  (the name spelled with an “a”), but it’s not clear if that is what “well-known in the tillery” referred to.

Redmond Farrar led an interesting life. He was drawn to first the music business having scored and performed in a number of musical shows as a teen and young adult, he found his way to work, off and on, as a song composer. I am not certain whether this was, for periods, full-time work. He also worked as a stock broker and later a film maker. His varied careers, centered on Manhattan, meant while the family lived in Riverside, he commuted to the City.

Roberta and Redmond’s children

Joan and Judy in about 1931

Redmond and Roberta had three children, Robert (born 1923), Joan (born 1925), and Judith (born 1930). Joan, not too long into her childhood, developed disabilities that would shape the rest of her life. She lived with her parents, then with Roberta, through her life, dying at age 41 in 1966.

By 1930, the Farrars had moved from Brooklyn to Meadow Road in Riverside, Connecticut. Redmond would have commuted by train to Manhattan for work, while Roberta raised the children at home, a common pattern for the time. They enjoyed suburban life there and were members of the Riverside Yacht Club.

Robert, Judith, Roberta, and Joan Farrar, early 1930s. Screen capture from a home movie

At about 18 years old, the oldest child Robert went off to become an Army Air Corps navigator, serving in Europe in World War II. He flew on B-24 Liberators with the 392nd Bomb Group rising to 1st lieutenant. He married Emily Ober and they were drawn west, moving to California. Robert stayed in the West after he and Emily divorced and after some years moved from Los Angeles to Bullhead City, Arizona, where he lived until his death in 1992.

At this YouTube link is a 40-minute compilation of home movies, digitized from old magnetic media, showing Roberta, Redmond, their children and friends in their Riverside, Connecticut neighborhood. The quality is poor, and there is no sound, but some flavor of their lives and times there comes through. The first part is film from a neighborhood pageant of some sort from the early 1930s. The video also includes later footage of the family, and the last portion is in (badly faded) color. Redmond was, for a time, a filmmaker, and may have had early access to color film.

Charles D. Mahaffie, Jr., Roberta, Judy, and Joan (seated) at Judith and Charles’ wedding

Robert had six children: Robert, Jennifer, Victoria, Phyllis, Polly, and Constance. Constance at age 3 went to live with her Aunt Judith.

Judith was the only one of the three to enter and complete college. Meeting and marrying Charles D. Mahaffie, she settled with him in Bethesda Maryland after Charles’ service in the Navy in the late 1950s. They raised seven children, including their niece Constance.

Redmond and Roberta’s marriage was troubled, and it worsened. They separated by the late 1950s. Redmond died in New York City in 1957 at age 59.

Elegant Senior

Roberta, undated photo

Roberta was a quietly sociable senior, living near her daughter and grandchildren in Bethesda after her daughter Joan died. She made good friends at the Westwood Apartments in Bethesda, playing bridge and going out to lunch. She entertained her Mahaffie grandchildren there, sometimes having them to lunch. She attended Little Flower Catholic Church.

One highlight was a time when she was clocked on the Beltway driving too slowly in her Dodge Dart. As her grandson Matt Mahaffie remembers it:

I do remember her getting pulled over for driving too slow in the Dodge Dart. Mike and I leaned over the back seat and reported to the two ladies in front on how the policeman seemed to be getting frustrated at Granny’s failure to stop. “He can’t mean me” said Granny, “I’m only going forty.” (This on the Interstate.) And Mike and I suggesting that he probably did indeed mean her, as his pull-over-NOW! hand signals and facial expressions got angrier. I also remember Grandma (Isabel) enjoying the whole episode immensely.

The penalty included attending traffic safety classes. I recall her complaining that the other miscreants were long-haired teenagers who of course had driven too fast, not too slowly.

Granny died on September 25, 1972 at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda. I remember Dad waking us the following morning and telling us that Granny had died of a massive heart attack. She was just shy of 75 years old. She had been a smoker for much of her life, leading to the common cycle of atherosclerosis that can afflict a smoker when they don’t succumb to lung cancer.

Granny is buried in Green Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, alongside her daughter Joan and son Robert, in the Farrar family plot.

____

Granny had three children, twelve grandchildren, twenty great grandchildren, and, so far at least six great great grandchildren. It might be time to do a survey to find out how many of them can wiggle their ears, each one independently.

Roberta Becker Farrar, Part 2: Roberta in School

This post is the second of three on the life of Roberta Becker Farrar.
Click here for Part 1: Introduction and Childhood
Click here for Part 3: Courtship, Marriage, Family, and Old Age


As a child, Roberta went to a school known as “Knapp Mansion” at 554 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, quite close to her home (537 Bedford). Old directories note Knapp Mansion as a non-sectarian day school. The promotional description below suggests the school is all about dancing, posture, and deportment.

“At the Knapp Mansion School ‘especial attention is given to dancing and physical culture… Both sexes and ages can get at this institution instruction in all kinds of dancing, and the principal makes a point of being posted and able to teach all of the newest things in this form of diversion. The absolute necessity of knowing how to dance is of course apparent to persons who go much into society, but not a little of the pleasure to be derived from this exercise by all who participate in it is dependent upon proper instruction, not only in the movement of the feet but in the carriage of the body, and all of the other details which insure grace and confidence. Careful instruction in these details and also in the etiquette of the ball room is given by Professor Rivers. Thorough training in physical culture is included with the course given at the Knapp Mansion.”  –From: The Director, Volume 1, 1898.

Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn

Entrance of Packer Collegiate Institution, June 2019

Before long, August sent Roberta to a more conventional private school, Packer Collegiate Institute.

When August enrolled her at Packer in September 1908, the school placed Roberta, then almost 11, in the second preparatory grade. Packer may have given her a what we now call a social promotion after that first year. The records show her next in the fourth preparatory grade.

Through the Packer Collegiate Institute archives, which I visited at the Brooklyn Historical Society in the summer of 2019, I got two views on who Roberta was as a girl. From her earlier years there, when she was about 10 to 12, she was not just an undistinguished student but a lousy one.

Roberta surely had an emotionally-tough childhood, losing her mother when she was one and a half years old. She was the third but only surviving of three siblings. ON the other hand, she had a prosperous and loving father, and they lived with his sister and her family with relatives that Roberta was close to then and later.

Her prior schooling, at the Knapp Mansion School in Brooklyn, could have been a factor in her lousy school performance. Knapp Mansion emphasized dance, perhaps leaving its pupils less-prepared for traditional curricula.

Packer Collegiate girls in gym class on the school’s roof, 1910s

A lousy student

Grades from Roberta’s fourth preparatory transcript

Initially at Packer, Roberta seemed to get on track, with her scores through the Fall and Spring in the 80s (in percent, with 100 being perfect). Best of all was spelling, where in her first year she got 97.

But as she continued there, her performance, which moved to letter grades, deteriorated. Her best subjects were drawing and, again, spelling. Her worst, grammar and Latin.

She was now a C student. Among her contemporaries there were far more As and Bs. I did not see her grades from later years—the archive librarian would not allow access to those, in case the same carton of documents had papers relating to still-living students.

Voted most attractive

Roberta, when I knew her, was elegant, poised and sociable, with all the social graces (plus the ability to wiggle her ears). It’s clear these qualities were present and served her well in school and her social late teen age and young adulthood.

By the late 1910s, when she was in her late teens, Roberta was active, social, and had an advanccd talent for dancing. She was often on the school committees that threw dances and parties. She was part of Brooklyn society and the social columns of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle listed her among the guests at society events, routinely noting what she and the other young women wore at dances and socials.

With repeated joint social events between Packer Collegiate Institute, her school, and Brooklyn Poly Prep, his, she met John Redmond Farrar, Jr., of Brooklyn, the son of a well-off Brooklyn judge. Both their families went in the summer to Lake Mahopac, New York, fifty miles north of New York City, so Roberta and Redmond had ample chances to notice each other and get acquainted. According to the dates on some pictures, they had done so, and were likely engaged, by 1916, each of them were 17 or 18.

Senior year

I learned from the Packer Collegiate school records, especially the yearbooks, far more about Roberta in her senior year of high school. The records are in the library of the Brooklyn Historical Society. I spent about four hours there looking for all I could find about Roberta.

At Packer, she was vice president of the French club and involved in planning a number of school social events. Some of the clues to who Roberta was in high school don’t jibe with the proper lady I knew.

Roberta’s page in the Packer class of 1917 yearbook

The little couplet reads: “Oh, bed! Oh, bed! Delicious bed! That heaven upon earth to the weary head.” What about her did this refer to? We will never know. Bottom left reads “Censored!!” which has to have a story behind it.

The Packer Collegiate Institute’s Class of 1917. Roberta is likely in the front row, center, just behind the “K”

“Knocks”

On the “Knocks” page of the class of 1917 yearbook, the class laid out their views of each girl’s “Present Occupation” “Future Occupation” and “Needs”. For Roberta, these were “Cataloguing her beaux,” “Keeping them busy,” and “A secretary”. In this Roberta was not a standout. Other girls’ entries were funny, played on apparent inside jokes and reputations, and included double meanings and general naughtiness.

For example, Dorothy Cummings: Present occupation: “Thrills”. Future occupation, “More thrills”. Need: “A chaperone”.

The Senior Class Ballot

In the spring of their senior year, the girls met to vote the class ballot. Roberta was voted “Most attractive”. There was also a “Prettiest” and a “most beautiful” and the distinctions among those are not clear to me, but what those words most precisely meant 100 years ago is likely different from what they mean now.

Designations for other girls included “most dignified,” “wittiest,” “brightest,” and “most self-possessed,” “noisiest,” and “class baby”.

Glory on an outing of automotive engineers

Roberta’s Uncle, Adolph Brion, was a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers. He was an executive at Peter A. Frasse and Co., Inc., a steel company that sold materials to the automotive industry.

In the summer of 1916, he joined the Society for its annual meeting and Great Lakes cruise, taking his wife Lina, daughter Estelle, and niece Roberta along for the journey. Roberta was 18 years old.

The automobile, and therefore automotive engineering was just a few decades old and the profession was in a white-hot growth mode. The Society had been founded in 1905.

The S.A.E. Bulletin from that summer assures us that “every minute [of the cruise] was filled with pleasure and profit.” By day, the men attended arcane lectures about ball bearings and carburetors, and met to established standards for their industry.

“Though it was 10 o’clock when the entertainment of the Cleveland section came to an end, there was still another feature on the day’s program, namely, the dancing contest for the S.A.E. championship. This contest was won by Miss Roberta Becker, of Brooklyn, her partner being W. J. Cohalan a member of the Detroit section.” (He was ten years her senior). From: “Mixing Acting with Engineering,” Horseless Age: The Automobile Trade Magazine, Vol. 38, July 1, 1916.

 

Roberta Becker Farrar, Part 1: Introduction and childhood

This post is the first of three on the life of Roberta Becker Farrar.
The second and third parts are linked below.
Click here for Part 2: Roberta in School
Click here for Part 3: Courtship, Marriage, Family, and Old Age

 

Roberta B. Farrar

Our Granny could wiggle her ears, each one independently. This astonished me when I was a small boy. She did it without being in any way goofy. She was an elegant old lady, kind and attentive, but always giving off a sense of properness. For my Catholic Confirmation, she gave me a map of the Holy Land. Goofiness didn’t fit the Granny I knew, but maybe wiggling ears for small children was a clue to more about her.

When I was little, we would load into the station wagon and drive from Bethesda, Maryland, to Riverside, Connecticut, to visit. She lived in a big, old Tudor-style house. The house had things we didn’t know about: a country lane ran right behind it. The kitchen had a Dutch door, opened only in the top half on a summer morning. The sink taps had separate spouts for hot and cold.

My mother’s sister, Aunt Joan, then in her 30s, and disabled, lived with Granny. We saw Joan in her room, visiting her while she was in bed, or once that I remember, while she sat in her wheelchair, downstairs. Someone would have had to carry her down from upstairs where her bedroom was. Granny was widowed and had, from Joan’s girlhood, cared for her daughter, sometimes with the help of a live-in nurse.

By the time I knew Granny, she was in her 60s. She was a cheerful, though proper woman who wanted to be sure we, particularly me and my brother Jim, who were preteen boys, knew how we should behave; hold doors for a lady, and never, ever hit a girl, which in this case would be our sister Margaret.

Granny also had an encyclopedic knowledge of card games. I think my sister Margaret, the oldest of our set of her grandchildren, spent the most time with her, learning games. Jennifer Farrar, another of her grandchildren, remembers Granny teaching her and her sister canasta. She told me: “I thought it was extremely complicated and that she was very smart to know how to play it and to teach it to us.” I remember playing crazy eights with Granny. And I’m rather sure she taught me solitaire.

When Granny couldn’t fit a jigsaw puzzle piece, or drew a card in gin rummy or solitaire that she could not use, she’d say “drat”.  I can’t imagine her using language stronger than that, though that doesn’t mean she never did.

In 1966, Granny and Aunt Joan moved to Bethesda where we lived. Joan’s health had worsened, and they wanted to be near Roberta’s daughter Judy, my mom. Granny and Joan had a nurse traveling with them. All three stayed with us for a time, there were now six of us kids, three under 5 years old. We shuffled rooms to fit everyone, and the dinner table for a time had eleven people around it. But Joan soon died. She was only 41.

Before long Granny moved to her own apartment near us. Over her time in Bethesda, she made some good friends. She attended Little Flower Catholic Church. We saw her regularly, sometimes making visits for lunch at her apartment. She took the Washington Star, and would cut out the word jumbles and the Marmaduke cartoons for me. Despite her distinct differences in style and background with our other grandmother, Isabel Mahaffie, they got along well and socialized.

This account
What I share here is mainly about Roberta’s childhood and young adulthood, the part of her story I wanted most to know about. I have explored each of my other grandparent’s stories, but of Granny I knew the least, until now.

Early childhood, losing her mom

Susan Ann “Susie” Bartlett Becker, Roberta’s mother

Roberta Bartlett Becker was born on October 31, 1897, Halloween, to Augustus C. Becker and Susan Ann Bartlett Becker, in Brooklyn, New York. August was a first-generation German-American, engaged in the same business his father Valentine Becker had pursued, plumbing and gasfitting in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn was a fast-growing city by the late 1800s, spreading outward from the first strong connection between Manhattan and the western edge of Long Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, built in 1883. By 1890, Brooklyn was the fourth largest city in the United States. (It was later annexed to become part of New York City.) It was a great place for August’s business.

August and Susie had had two other children, but by the time Roberta was born, both children had died. Their daughter Beatrise was born in 1886. Their son Robert was born in 1890.

Roberta at about 2, 1899

Roberta’s daughter Judy remembers learning that the two children each died of something different. In fact, fast-growing Brooklyn suffered multiple infectious disease crises in those decades.

Beatrise died at age six in 1892. The diagnosed cause was acute peritonitis an inflammation of the abdomen. This was likely caused by typhus.

On February 25, 1895, August bought a 3-story house at 148 Taylor St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn for $9000. He and Susie, with their young son Robert, moved in. Then Robert died in 1897 of diphtheria and heart failure. He was seven years old. It was only a few months later that Roberta was born.

Roberta and her father Augustus Charles Becker, when she was about four

August and Susie named their new daughter Roberta, perhaps in remembrance of both their lost son Robert, and after Susie’s father, Robert Bartlett, a Greenport, Long Island menhaden fisherman.

Roberta’s mother was a Roman Catholic and wanted her raised in the Catholic Church. Granny was and remained a Catholic, though August, her father, was likely a Lutheran.

Then, compounding the family’s tragedies, Susie died of a kidney illness in June of 1899 at age 38, when Roberta was about a year and a half old. This left August Becker a 44-year-old widower with an infant daughter.

Roberta at about 6 and her grandfather, Augustus Valentine Becker, 1903. He was an immigrant from Germany. He ran a plumbing and gasfitting business in Brooklyn

August leaned on his two sisters for help. They lived nearby in Brooklyn. By the early 1900s, he and Roberta shared a home at 537 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, with his sister Louise, Mrs. August Stoltze. They were also close to his sister Lina (Karolina), Mrs. Adolph E. Brion, also of Brooklyn.

Roberta’s daughter Judy remembers her mother telling stories about how she would be shunted from one of her aunts to the other, the two women either not getting along or at least not approving of the other’s choices for the child. Each would take Roberta out for new dresses because she didn’t like what the other aunt had put Roberta in.

The Brions had a daughter Estelle, three years younger than Roberta. The two girls did much together then and later.

August Becker, sanitary plumbing and gasfitting

August Becker prospered in his business, which for a time had Brooklyn locations at 312 Grand Street, Brooklyn and 1230 Broadway. He got city contracts and also bought and sold properties around the city.

Newspaper ad for August Becker’s business from the Newtown Register, January 3, 1895.

A. C. Becker’s premises in 2019, 312 Grand Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

 

The A. C. Becker ad above notes the business was established in 1849. This is likely when August’s father, Valentine Becker, a German immigrant, commenced his work at the same trade.

A threatened kidnapping

Roberta, about four years old

In September 1901, when Roberta was just shy of four years old, August received a letter at his business which attempted to extort money from him. It instructed him to place $800 where the would-be kidnapper could get it, or his daughter would be kidnapped. The amount is equivalent to about $24,000 today.

This was a common scam in those years, often blamed on Italian immigrants.

At least three newspapers carried the story, the versions differing in each. It’s clear that Roberta (referred to in one paper as Katie, another as Edwina, and never as Roberta, was staying for the summer with her Aunt Louise Stoltz in Patchogue, Long Island. (The New York Tribune story has several names wrong; “Katie” for Roberta, and “Mrs. Shultz” for Mrs. Stoltze.) Possibly, the varying first names and other details were meant to obscure the little girl’s whereabouts, she had stayed in Patchogue for at least several weeks after August got the letter.

New York Tribune, September 18, 1901

August told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle he hadn’t taken the letter too seriously and had taken no action. But he did tell the paper that his daughter had since been sent out West to stay with other relatives.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, in 1899, referred to “the kidnapping craze”. A string of stories of kidnappings and threats to kidnap, which seem most often to be ascribed to Italian immigrants, dot the Brooklyn papers in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Often the articles note that a threat wasn’t considered too serious. The targets of kidnapping threats were often business owners. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle published a joke in its humor column in 1901:

“Are the Goldbanks up in society?”

“I should say so! Why, the have received no less than a half-dozen letters threatening to kidnap their son if they did not give up five thousand dollars.”

 

Slavery in my ancestry

Perhaps dozens of men and women suffered enslavement under my ancestors. I know only four of their names from two ancestors’ wills, in which they were conveyed as property: Dick, Plato, Samm, and John. Many more are and will remain anonymous. I know nothing of any of their lives, other than in a broad way the condition they were forced to live in. But for me it is important to make concrete this expected truth about my ancestors. And that is what drove me to do this research.

______

I am a white person with a genealogy that goes back, in some lines, to Colonial America. I had long wondered if my ancestors owned slaves. In truth, I figured the only thing keeping many of them from doing so would be if they couldn’t afford to.

So I went looking. This was not so much hoping to clear myself of guilt for slavery. I would have been happy to find that there was no slaveholding in my family’s past. But it’s not possible to side-step that guilt. Whether slave owners or not, my ancestors benefited from the enslavement of others. Still, the fact of actual slave ownership is was something to for me to know, accept, lament, and most of all, learn about.

At the dawn of the Civil War, almost a third of households in what became the Confederate states owned at least one slave. Some of my ancestors lived in Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, along with other states with large slave populations.

And those ancestral lines include families that my research showed owned slaves, bought and sold them, and left them in their wills to their spouses and children. In fact, the only reason I know the names of four of the people enslaved by my ancestors is that those names appear in the ancestors’ wills.

I delved into sources digital and readily available, especially drawing on genealogical sources, and the U.S. Census. It was not hard to find these conclusive results.

Examples from my ancestry

For some of my ancestors, I found specific reference to slave ownership. Where there are wills available, we know certain details, and they can bring the situation to life.

George Bain of Woodford County, Kentucky

The will of George Bain offers the most vivid example. George Wesley Bain, who farmed in Woodford County, Kentucky, was one of my 4th great grandfathers. The 1810 Census of the county showed his household of 5 people owning 6 slaves. The 1820 Census showed Bain owning 4 slaves. His 1824 will sheds just a little light on this.

Text of George Bain’s 1824 will

I, George Bain, of Woodford County, Ky.  being weak of body but of sound and disposing mind and memory, realizing the certainty of death and having divided among my first wife’s children at their marriages the greater part of the property I possessed at the death of their mother, and each of them having received legacies from their grandfather, the property I am at present blessed with I am about the dispose in the following manner.

First, my will and desire is that all my debts be paid and my Negro man Dick be reserved for the payment of a security debt of Solomon Mitchell’s due George Woolfolk lately replevied for two years.

Second, I will give and bequeath unto my beloved wife, Elizabeth Bain, the plantation whereon I now live, with the Negroes and all the stock, farming utensils, together with all the household and kitchen furniture, to enjoy and possess during her widow hood and in case of her marriage, that she is to have only her choice of a horse and saddle and the choice of a feather bed and furniture.

Third, at my wife’s death or marriage, the plantation is to be divided between my two sons, George and Joseph Bain by a line beginning on Buck Run and running with the line passing the gate, the same course to the Kentucky River, George to have the upper part, including the dwelling house, etc., where I now live and Joseph the lower part down to the mouth of the Buck Run and also to have the privilege of a passway through Georges part and the right of getting firewood from off his land to have rail timber to keep up and supply his farm.

Fourth, at my wife’s death or marriage, I give unto my son George my Negro boy John and to my son Joseph my Negro man Plato and all my personal estate of every kind to be sold on a credit of twelve months and the money arising there from to be equally divided between my two sons.

Fifth, I give unto my two daughters, Sally Mitchell and Gincy Peacock, the sum of one hundred dollars each to be paid out of the monies arising from the sale of my personal property.

Sixth I give unto my grandson, Greenberry Peyton ten dollars to be paid by my two sons, George and Joseph Bain.

Seventh, I give unto my son, Joseph my tract of 200 acres of land in Washington County on Glenn’s Creek and waters of Chaplin.

Lastly I do hereby appoint my wife, Elizabeth Bain, and my son George Bain my executrix and executor of this my last will and testament hereby revoking and disannuling all wills or testaments by mere hereto made.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 21st day of April 1824.

Signed and acknowledge in presence.  G. Bain1

 

Slavery in Kentucky and Woodford County

The farms in Woodford County were small, distinct from the large-scale cotton and other plantation operations further south, such as in Mississippi. As agriculture evolved, the Woodford County slaveholders found they needed less labor from enslaved people and often they sold off people they enslaved to Mississippi plantations. They didn’t so often need the children of their slaves, and families were routinely split by the sale of what were seen as excess labor with a cash value. They literally sold people down the river.

The settlers of the county in the late 1700s came mainly from Virginia, but also from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and North Carolina. Seventy percent brought slaves with them to the new territory, which was being stripped of its Native American population and its dense woodlands, to make it ready for white settlers. The enslaved brought there cleared land and built fences and then took up the work of farming and trades as the new white settlements grew.

A historian of the county, William Railey, writing in 19202,  claimed that, essentially, that the county’s enslaved people were contented, well-fed, loyal, and happy. He alleges that the native peoples encouraged the slaves to join in an uprising against their masters, but that the Negroes of the county were “loyal to the master, and he not only warned him of danger, but stood ready at all times, and under all circumstances, to help protect his interests at any sacrifice.”

He continues, “that spirit of loyalty characterized the slaves until a few itinerant Baptist preachers from Ohio sowed tares in the settlers’ field, made some of them restless, others a little reckless, but the average remained quiescent and faithful until Mr. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. In short, the ante-bellum Negro in Woodford was a happy, well-fed, well treated slave, and at no time since the Civil War has any county in the state had a better behaved colored citizenship than has this one. Much of this is due to the training they received from their several God-fearing masters.”

That line of thought, of course, is self-justifying nonsense. The people involved were held in slavery against their wills.

The county centered on the town Versailles. As of the 1810 Census, the vast majority of whites in the town owned slaves. Three fifths of the white population outside Versailles owned slaves. The town and county had a scattering of free people of color, but most of the people of color were enslaved. Of the total county population of 9,411, 3,179 were enslaved.

Captain William Barton of Southern Maryland (1634 to 1717)

William Barton was my 8th Great Grandfather. At about age 20, he emigrated from England with his family. They settled in Southern Maryland in 1654. His family bought plantation land in Maryland. He lived and farmed in Southern Maryland until his death in 1717.

Barton’s 1717 will directed that his slave Samm go to his grandson, Barton Smoot, noting, “if the Laws would have permitted, I would have given Samm his freedom”. His estate appraisal appears to show only one slave (Samm), but he may, through control of inherited property, had slaves who were, in effect, owned by an estate, rather than working directly in his household and thus considered personal property.3

From William Barton’s 1717 Will:

“I Give & bequeath unto my Grandson Barton Smoott My Negro Man Samm & do hereby Desire him to use him Kindly during his Natural Life knowing it was My Intent if the Laws would have permitted to have given him his freedome.”

This bequest made the top of William Barton’s list. He followed it with other specific bequests of his furniture, land, and other wealth, all was property entirely in his control, including Samm:

“… as for what Worldly Estate God hath been pleased to bless me with I Dispose of the Same as Followeth.

Item. I give & bequeath unto my Grandson Barton Smoott My Negro Man Samm & do hereby Desire him to use him Kindly during his Natural Life knowing it was My Intent if the Laws would have permitted to have given him his freedome.

Item. I give & bequeath unto My Grand Daughter Rachell Stone the Wife of Matthew Stone the feather bed & furniture that I now Lye on.

Item. I Give & Bequeath unto my Grand Daughter Ann Smoot two Cowes with Calves by theirs Sides to be Delivered after my Decease by My Executor.

Item. I Give & Bequeath unto my Grand Daughter Mary Hungerford two Young Cowes or Yearling Heifers to be Delivered as afsd.

Item. I Give & Bequeath unto My Grand Daughter Eliza: Philpott the Wife of Charles Philpott the feather bed & furniture belonging to the Same which is in the Great house Room to be delivered as afsd.

Item. I Give & bequeath unto my Grand Son Barton Warren Two Young Cows or heifers of Two Years old also one full share of my present Crop of Tobacco.

Item. I Give & Bequeath unto My Grand Son William Smoot one full share of my present Crop of Tobacco.

Item. I Give & Bequeath unto my Grand Daughter Eliza: Neale the Wife of John Neale one Cow & Calfe & forty Ells of Linnen.

Item. The full half of all the Remaining part of my Estate of what Nature Kind Soever it be or wheresoever the Same Shall or May be found I doe Give Bequeath unto My Daughter Margarett Miller & her three Youngest Children, the other halfe I doe give bequeath unto Thomas Smoot & Barton Smoot the Two Sons of My Grand Son Barton Smoot.

 

John Obadiah Cooper of New York (1755 – 1838)

Slaveholding was not just a thing of the American south. John Obadiah Cooper, another of my 4th great grandfathers, in the late 1700s, was a hatter in Fishkill, NY. He operated his manufactory and “owned a few slaves”.4 His was a line that descended to ever-more-prosperous families who built up wealth as manufacturers and merchants drawing on the labor of enslaved people.

Conclusion

There were no doubt other slaveholders among my ancestors for whom there are no surviving records or for whom I could not find records.

Finding this out was certainly inevitable. And I have to reflect that whether or not I had found specific evidence, my ancestors were white people, colonizers, and, in some cases, well-off landholders. That they would be a part of this system is inevitable. And they, whether slaveholders or not, benefited from the system that enslaved people.

Genealogical records and DNA analysis also show that I don’t have any African ancestry, so my ancestors were unlikely to have suffered from themselves being enslaved.

It is up to each of us to decide what this means. For me, it’s a reminder and deepening understanding of what privileges I have and how deeply rooted in history they are. It’s my obligation to know this and think of this, and to work where I can for social justice that can at least faintly begin to address the deep historical wrong that I am a part of. And if only to honor the many others, I will try at least to remember and think of Samm, Plato, John, and Dick.

______

1 Woodford County, Ky. will Book G., pages 148-149, cited in http://kansashealys.weebly.com/genealogy-wherritt.html

2 William E. Railey, “Woodford County Kentucky,” Register of Kentucky State Historical Society, Vol. 18, No. 52 (JANUARY, 1920),pp. 51, 53-70. Published by: Kentucky Historical Society. Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/23368492

3 http://phelpsfulpancestry.com/getperson.php?personID=I62640&tree=TAP

4 http://notorc.blogspot.com/2007/01/peter-cooper-story-1-lost-peekskill.html

In 1916, Charles D. Mahaffie became, at age 32, the Solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior. He moved from Portland, Oregon, where he had been in law practice, to Washington DC to take up his new duties. [For more on this moment in his life, see: “Charles D. Mahaffie Goes to Washington, 100 Years Ago”]

Charles’ news photo from when he arrived to become Solicitor of the Interior

His joining the Interior Department came at a time of growth and change there. That same year, an Act of Congress established the National Park Service.

Stephen T. Mather conceived of the Service and with its inception, became the first Director. Mather was the originator of “20 Mule Team Borax.” He made millions with borax, and used that money to support and build things in the newly established National Parks during the 1910s and 20s. It’s common now to visit a National Park and see things named for him. We have Mather Gorge, at Great Falls. And there’s Mather Point, at the Grand Canyon.

Mather and Charles then, or perhaps earlier, became good friends. Their work in the leadership of the Department cemented a strong friendship and colleagueship.

Charles D. Mahaffie, Jr. remembers his father telling him how just prior to the April 1920 dedication ceremony for Grand Canyon National Park, the Secretary of the Interior, John Barton Payne, summoned Mahaffie to his office and ordered him to give a speech on the Payne’s behalf at the ceremony. Mahaffie was to join Stephen Mather and other dignitaries at the Grand Canyon for the ceremony.

Mahaffie reported that he said to the Secretary, “Well, where’s the speech I’m to give?”

“You can write it on the way out,” Secretary Payne answered.

Heading to Arizona

The way west was by train, a distance of 2,300 miles. It was likely a several-day series of trains. The final link was the Grand Canyon line of the Santa Fe Railway, from Williams, Arizona, north to the south rim of the Canyon.

Other dignitaries from Washington, including Stephen Mather and his wife, were likely on the same journey. We can assume the men enjoyed each other’s company, cigars and liquor along the way, but that Mahaffie found snatches of time in his cabin to draft his speech.

A special tourist train of the well-healed

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, a Brooklyn, New York newspaper, had arranged its yearly rail tour of the national parks so that the participants could join in the dedication festivities. Their annual tours, with regular news items reported from along the way, were great promotions for the new National Parks. The Daily Eagle retinue were welcomed to not just observe, but to be part of the Park’s dedication festivities.

Charles is in a picture with J.J. Byrne, Dr. G. W. James, and Stephen Mather from the day of the dedication ceremony.

Left to right; Charles D. Mahaffie, Stephen T. Mather, Byrne, of the Santa Fe Railway, and Dr. G. W. James, April 30, 1920 . Photo by Santa Fe Railway

J. J. Byrne was General Assistant Passenger Traffic Manager for the Santa Fe Railway, based in Los Angeles. The Santa Fe had a line to the Grand Canyon.

Dr. James was George Wharton James, who authored a book, “The Grand Canyon of Arizona: How to See it.” [rev. Edition 1912] He was a lecturer, photographer, journalist and editor. He wrote books and articles on the American Southwest. James also spoke at the dedication ceremony, giving one of the ‘informal talks’.

The dedication ceremony also included members of the Hopi tribe of the area. They provided entertainment and color for the festivities. During the speeches, a report from the event said, “The group of Hopi Indians, in brave array of serapes, buckskin chintz, and battle feathers, were interested auditors.” Perhaps interested because the establishment of the Park and growing tourism would change their lives forever.

The Hopis were part of the spectacle, and a subject of curiousity and topic for Arizona State Historian James M. McClintock, who “advised the visitors of the racial differences of the Southwestern Indians and something of their ethnological progress.”

A Hopi Chief was invited to participate as well. “Sacahuku, a leading Hopi chief in his native tongue, with interpretation, followed by Hopi dances in front of El Tovar. Sacahuku formally welcomed the pale-face to his domain, and directed a number of Indian campfire dances of peace and good will in a special ceremonial to mark the dedication of the park. The invitation was accepted on behalf of the paleface population of the country by Gov. Campbell and Stephen T. Mather.” [ From: The Santa Fe Magazine, Vol. 14, June 1920.]

That evening, Mahaffie attended a dinner party aboard the Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s special train, with the Governor of Arizona and his wife, Stephen Mather and Mrs. Mather, the Arizona State historian and his wife, and a “Miss Carroll,” who likely was brought in as a dinner companion for Mahaffie, who was single then. [Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 2, 1920]

“Bring out Jumbo!”

At times in his life, Mahaffie was a stout man. He shared a story in later years, told to me by his wife, Isabel, and also remembered by his son and daughter in law. As part of the dedication festivities, the dignitaries were taken on Grand Canyon mules down the Bright Angel Trail into the Canyon.

When the muleteers caught sight of the Mahaffie, they called out, “Bring out Jumbo.”

Unfortunately, there’s no record of this story, nor of a mule named Jumbo. Jumbo is a recurring name for mules. Surely in a corral full of mules, there could have been a Jumbo. But the picture from the dedication shows Mahaffie no stouter than the other men. But a consensus from those in the family that know the story is that we believe every word of it.

Mahaffie’s older grandchildren remember him as a gruff old man, not given to (a word he often used) “non-sense”. We were all under age twelve when we knew him and he us. He died in 1969. But this and other stories give a feel for his sense of humor. To savor the Jumbo story, true or made up, adds a dimension to our memories and sense of this man who had a fascinating and accomplished life.

I later put a question to Mahaffie’s son, Charles Jr. “Was your Dad funny? Was he the sort to make up funny stories?” 

He went silent for a time, and pondered this. After a while he said, “I can’t say that he was. No, he wasn’t especially given to making jokes like that.” 

So we are left wondering where this story of Jumbo, well known in the family, came from. 

For more on Charles, see the posts below.

A young Charles is named a Rhodes Scholar in March 1905. – “Word of a Rhodes Scholarship and a Letter Home

Charles arrives in Washington to go to work for the Department of the Interior, September 1916. – “Charles D. Mahaffie Goes to Washington, 100 Years Ago

Charles travels to see the woman whom he would marry, their meeting arranged by mutual friends. December 1924. – “Mr. Mahaffie comes on from Washington Tues. midnight

The Shroud of Tulsa

Short story published by Literally Stories, March 2019. LINK