Hyde Bay Logo Herbert Pickett's Family History
The 1950s

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Herbert Pickett, Jr. writing:

      When I went off to college, we began the practice of weekly letters, usually two pages typed. Almost every Sunday night, I would write home, and Dad would write me. Since he often typed his on yellow manila second sheets, it got to be called the "Yellow Journal." I kept a file of all of his to me, and when Larry settled Mother's estate, or when Craig Lynn was closed, he had all of mine, which he turned over to me. For a variety of reasons, I destroyed most of them, keeping a few of particular significance. I wish I had more for the writing of this paper. Anyway, I do have his of January 15,1950, which has the title, "THE FIRST AUTHENTIC YELLOW JOURNAL FROM CRAIG LYNN,-1-15-50." (Caps as on original.) This means, of course, that the school was closed the previous year. It also notes that the camp had the most profitable year yet, $7,722.19. There is another paragraph defending the partnership. A sentence toward the end says "Larry writes that he has said yes to Syracuse….." Which means that finally he is about to enter into private practice. A further sheet, undated, but referring to the eleventh, speaks of the happy arrival of Russell Ames in good health. Since that event was May 9th, one can be sure of the 5/11/50. It also notes that Bob has been appointed Harvard Varsity Wrestling Coach. All of which shows that the year 1950 was a significant turning point in all three histories involved. The fourth history, mine and Sally's, was not significant, the document noting that the kids have had so many colds we couldn't get away for a visit.

      What was Dad to do? He was a vigorous man of sixty. Another opportunity came along. The Fenimore Cooper family had a large house in Cooperstown, on the east side of the Susquehanna River. It was larger than they needed or wanted, so they gave it to the Presbyterian Church for a retirement home. For ministers? I don't remember. It was not very large. Dad was hired to be its director with Mother shared in the management. It was called Fynmere. It wasn't too demanding, but gave them something to do that was useful, and at which they were good. Dad spluttered a bit about the church bureaucrats he had to deal with.

      Of course, his real love was the Rotary Club. Having been District Governor, his reputation as a speaker at clubs grew and he must have talked to almost every club in Eastern New York. He was almost religious in following Rotary practices, especially in weekly attendance. When he was visiting us in Kingston, and needed a make-up, the only club he could find meeting the day he was available was in Scranton, twenty miles away. He and I went. We were a little late, and the only seat was at the head table, or maybe his being a governor rated it. He was properly introduced, and I, simply as his son. Pete Emmons, minister of the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Scranton, was there and promptly said, "Mr. President, I think you should know that young Mr. Pickett is a Presbyterian minister." The President then fined him a quarter for advertising. He said, "Any time I can get advertising for the Presbyterian Church for a quarter, I'll gladly pay it!"

      His talks were full of humor, and he was always on the lookout for good stories. For some of them, he had two versions, one for mixed company, another for men only. One night he was talking to a male Rotary group and told the masculine version, which closed with the f… word. At the end of the evening, he found that the President's wife was seated behind a screen taking the speech down in shorthand, and they were guests at their home that night. Mother's comment, "No problem; it wouldn't bother her."

      While they had the freedom to travel, Dad was quite content with Craig Lynn, Cooperstown, Camp and Ring, his Springer Spaniel. Bob and I bought Springer puppies from the same kennel the same day. His had a white ring around his neck, so earned his name. Bob was living in Westwood, Mass. at the time. The dog grew to a large size, such a wanderer that Bob said he had reclaimed him from every police department in suburban Boston. He was so defensive of the house that the postman, the milkman, the trash man and others who had to make deliveries got together and refused service until the dog was removed. When Dad heard of this, he said he would take Ring, and it worked out. They became devoted to each other. When Dad died, Mother had him put down, as he was showing his age and was too much dog for her. We whimsically discussed whether he could go to the Worcester cemetery with Dad, but was buried next to Garbo up by the Oliver cemetery.

      Dad never liked to be away more than two or three days. One exception was the two weeks at Christmas they spent in Florida at Pompano Beach. Two other regular events were the Rotary Assembly and the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Tournament. There was a spring trip to Baltimore, where they stayed with the Russell's and worked on camp prospects. This trip increasingly became painful because of Ed's heavy drinking. Otherwise, Craig Lynn was home, the only one they ever owned.

      Then there was maple syrup. There were big old sugar maple trees all around the house and down the road. His father had made maple syrup on the farm, so he was familiar with the process. He was able to buy a small evaporator from a firm in Vermont, which was 30 by 72 inches in dimensions, six inches deep and situated over a cast iron fire box. He got all the other equipment he needed: plastic bags instead of pails, spiles, tanks and so on. He set this up in the yard and covered it with a canvas shelter made from an old camp tent. He had to collect a great pile of wood to keep up a good fire. One year, the Episcopal Church in East Springfield was demolished and he had a pile of that scrap, very dry, and he claimed it made great syrup. At full blast, the evaporator would produce a gallon of syrup an hour. It was a lot of work, but he truly enjoyed it, as did we all, as we were able to share I it. It also meant we all had a good supply of 100% pure Craig Lynn Maple Syrup. When Mother sold Craig Lynn, she offered me the outfit, but for some reason Sally vetoed it. I kept enough to make one gallon of syrup one winter in Thompson.

      Then, toward the end of the decade, he did not feel well. He had a constant thirst. He needed to find the nearest men's room very frequently. A visit to the M.D. discovered he had sugar diabetes. I don't recall that he ever had insulin shots. My medical brother can supply more of this information. He watched his diet carefully, checked his urine for sugar, and of utmost importance, began to lose weight. He was about 290 pounds when this happened, and he did get down to 200 or so. As Larry said, that 290 pounds was just too much for his pancreas. He became so thin; he had to go to a clothing store to buy a new suit. It was the only time in his life he bought a suit off the rack; all his suits before this were tailor made.

      Not long after, in the fall of 1970, he discovered he had leukemia. He faced his prospects with his usual realism. He said that there were three things he wanted to do before he died: Christmas in Florida, The Eastern Intercollegiate wrestling, and the Rotary Assembly. They did them all. The wrestling was at Lehigh University, where the Picketts had performed more than once. Shortly after the Assembly, they had been to Cooperstown on errands. When they put the car in the garage, the overhead door wouldn't work right. Dad got a hammer or something and fixed it. He said he felt tired and would go up and lie down on the bed for a bit. This he did, passed out and died of a cerebral hemorrhage. As a doctor told me, leukemia breaks down the walls of the arteries and this is not uncommon. The date, April 20,1961. He was 71 years old.

      The word got out and the family rallied around. Mother asked us sons to make arrangements with the funeral director. We picked out a simple casket of maple. Dad wanted a home funeral. Mother wasn't that great a housekeeper at best, and Craig Lynn needed help. Aunt Ruth was there so she, Sally, Polly and Betty piled in to put the house in shape. It was a day's work! They got it in shape, and that Friday night, friends began to come, many Gilman faculty, many Rotary friends, Camp parents from Syracuse and Rochester, Hyde Bay staff and alumni. I think we estimated about 120 people stopped in that night. There were so many that a lot stood around the lawn outside, exchanging stories about Dad, his exploits, what he had meant to them, his humor, his unique character and personality. Guthrie and Elizabeth Speers came, and he conducted the service, assisted by the Cooperstown minister. The bearers to take the casket to the hearse were Dad's neighbors in East Springfield. At Maple Grove in Worcester, we made our final farewell. The bearers there to place the casket on the lowering device were Larry, Bob, Jack Young, and myself. After the benediction, the funeral director didn't lower the casket into the grave. I asked him why not. He said we had placed the casket with Dad's feet toward the tombstone and had to be placed the other way around. At, camp, one of our rituals when any one was discovered to have made a mistake, i.e. goofed, every one present yelled, "PLUMBER!" We thought we should have done that then, but we didn't.

      Afterwards, Mother said, "Dad always wanted a happy funeral, and I think we had that." Sadness, yes, but it was a thankful celebration of a very unique and marvelous person, not always easy to live with, demanding, idealistic, humane, humble, marvelously intelligent. So many came to celebrate. Yet this ends the history in a sense. Most of you who read this can finish the story yourselves. I'll summarize the rest of Mother's life, which went on for twenty-two years.

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