Hyde Bay Logo Herbert Pickett's Family History
Thanksgiving

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Herbert Pickett, Jr. writing:

      With improved vehicles, we began to join the rest of the family in Brooklyn for Thanksgiving. We tried a new route, driving to New Castle, Delaware and took a ferry to Pennsville, New Jersey, near the present double suspension bridges. We picked up route 1 near Hightstown, and so on to the Tags in Maplewood. We then went to Brooklyn the next day. We would take the Lackawanna Ferry to Manhattan, across Canal Street to the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn and up Flatbush Avenue to 456. A year or two later when the Pulaski Skyway had been built and the Holland Tunnel opened, we drove straight through.

      These Thanksgivings in Brooklyn, 456 East 19th Street, were very special, great family reunions. All he women toiled in the kitchen. In addition there was Mr. Colson, a wispy little man who always dressed in white shirt, tie and black trousers. He was a retired Universalist minister living in Brooklyn with a profession of upholstering chairs. He was rumored to have a wife and family back in Maine. At Thanksgiving, he was chef. The dining room table was opened to its full length, and some card tables put together at one side to seat the children. There were two turkeys and the usual Thanksgiving fare, hubbard squash, creamed onions, and a choice of pumpkin or mince pie. After dinner, the adults played bridge and the young people went to a movie. Dad always tried to bring some sort of joke or stunt to liven things up. One time we had a small microphone that could be hooked across the connections of the radio speaker. When you pressed a button, it cut off the radio and substituted the words of the mike. We hooked it up, and Larry was the speaker: "We are pausing in our regular broadcast to bring you news. While the students were in Cambridge for the Harvard Football game, the Harkness Memorial quadrangle at Yale caught fire and burned to the ground. Now we return to our regular program." Grandpa Ames, dedicated Yale graduate as he was, staggered to Aunt Lou, his face deathly pale, stammering, "Harkness in ashes!" Another year, we had a sort of bomb, which could be attached to a spark plug of a car and a ground. When the car started, there was an explosion, a piercing whistle and cloud of smoke. We put it on grandpa's Buick. He was horrified and shaken. We were sure that shortly after, when he traded for a new car, he did so feeling the bomb had ruined the old one.

      On Friday and Saturday, Grandpa Ames took the three older boys, Donny, Larry and me, for various tours of New York. We visited the main Post Office, the house where Theodore Roosevelt was born and grew up, and the great museums, the Metropolitan and Natural History. We went to see a ship being docked. He was a great enthusiast about anything and wanted to show us all the exciting things in New York. Our parents didn't have the greatest respect for him, but we boys enjoyed our time with him. Although he owned 456 jointly with his sister, Aunt Grace, he wanted his own place. When he had Uncle Doctor's legacy, he bought a nice modern house in West Milford, New Jersey. Then he bought a cottage in St. Petersburg, Florida.

      The power in the family was Aunt Grace. Grace Elizabeth Ames, graduate of Smith College 1892, Assistant to the head of the Flatbush School, was what I like to call a powerful woman, wise, intelligent, strong, if need be, tough. She and Dad, as fellow teachers, had a great relationship and respect for each other. She and Mother were close, too. Since Mary Elizabeth Ames had died in 1911, when Mother was 18, Aunt Grace or Aunt Emily was her mother figures, I think.

      What else about this period up until 1935? There was increasing involvement in Brown Memorial Church, both regular attendance and activities. Dad was superintendent of the Church school and taught a teen-age class. Mother became a power in one of the women's associations. Mother and Dad were close to Guthrie and Elizabeth Speers, with almost weekly bridge Saturday nights, and other activities. They were both from New York aristocracy, and some of Elizabeth's ideas nettled Mother, but it didn't spoil the relationship. One Sunday afternoon, two solemn elderly men came to the door, and we kids were banished to the upper story. They invited Dad to be an elder of Brown Memorial Church, and in due course, he was ordained to that post. To the end of his days, he felt that this was about the highest honor he had ever received. The last conversation I had with him was his often reiterated conviction that electing elders to rotating terms destroyed the dignity and nature of the office.

      Mother was getting more and more into her civic activities as I've previously mentioned. With my getting into the upper forms at Gilman, and Larry two years behind, Gilman centered our life. Athletics were important. In football, I was a guard, but I started in only one game in four years. It was old fashioned single platoon football, of course, every one playing offense and defense. I got my letter Senior year more or less as a gift. In the spring on track squad I did the shot put and discus, and didn't break any records but got a few third place medals. The major sport at Gilman was wrestling, with Ed Russell as coach. I've told how I made the team with a large outboard motor. The first couple of years, I think I got third place in the Interscholastic tournament. My senior year I was state champion. Three others won the gold, too, so the team won its tenth championship in eleven years. Ed drilled us in fundamentals, and stressed working for a fall. Early on, one of the older wrestlers taught me the far arm roll from the bottom on the mat, and that was my chief weapon. Another great event was a trip we took to Yale to wrestle the freshman team.

      The spring of 1935, Lehigh University began an interscholastic tournament in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Lehigh was the chief power in Eastern Intercollegiate wrestling. I wanted to try that, and Ed and the school agreed. Only Larry and I went, and Ed came with us. Before the tournament began, Ed got a telephone call from Florence. She had heard that his brother, Robert, in North Carolina, had drowned in a boating accident while fishing. Of course, he had to go back to Baltimore at once. So Larry and I competed in the tournament with Dad as coach, Larry at 165, and I at heavyweight. I did win the gold, but that is not the important thing. Dad said later that as he sat on the bench, and Larry and I were sitting on the floor leaning back on his knees, he felt as if it were the most fulfilled and satisfying experience of family life he ever had.

      There were a variety of extra curricular events. Maybe I am making this too much as my personal history, but with their taking place in the school where we lived and work, they were more a part of our family history than a family with no immersion in the school. I was Managing Editor of the weekly, "Gilman News." I wrote headlines, an occasional editorial or articles on such things as art exhibits that the other staff people weren't interested in. The post of faculty advisor was open, so we asked Dad to do that. Eddie Brown, the teacher who was de facto head of the athletic department, wanted to start a program of ice hockey. There were a couple of rinks in Baltimore so small that they had to use five man teams. Eddie thought an outdoor rink was possible at Gilman, but climate made this improbable. I wrote an editorial, entitled, "Whither Hockey?" which questioned the need for that sport in Baltimore's climate and society. That stirred up a hornet's nest and made me most unpopular with the skaters, and with Eddie. That didn't help Dad's relations with Eddie, whom he considered a friend. As advisor, he suggested I be more careful with editorials.

      In my senior year, I was editor of the "Cynosure", the class yearbook. In other years, the one feature of which I heard more than any other was the faculty group picture, taken in the library by the professional photographer engaged for the book. Always, there was comment, both at home and in faculty conversations, on the picture: how terrible every one looked, why the photographer couldn't do a better job, and so on. I decided to take care of that. I got approval to have each teacher go to the photographer's studio down town and have his picture taken. The twenty pictures were then printed on one page. Guess what? The next year, the faculty had a group picture in the library. There is much more I could say about my Gilman career, but I have limited my comments, as far as possible, to activities which relate to our life as a family

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