Hyde Bay Logo Herbert Pickett's Family History
The Pickett's Wandering Years

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Herbert Pickett, Jr. writing:

      Here is the Philadelphia story in Dad's own words: "We left Gilman for a job in the Episcopal Academy in Philadelphia. There was a great shortage of houses. We could get no satisfaction from agencies so had to walk the streets looking for signs of vacancy or goods moving out. We had to carry Herbert. I recall an embarrassing occasion when I held him over the gutter to get rid of some of his water.

      "At last after some days, while we lived in a hotel down town where Herbie slept in a bureau drawer padded with a pillow from the one bed, we found a place on Clark Park in West Philadelphia…so poorly heated that we huddled much of the time about the gas log. We expected to get furniture on a charge account but had bad luck at that….We existed for a few days on a folding cot we bought and no other furniture. Then one memorable day our furniture arrived from Gilman on a moving van. I was never so glad to see any human as those colored men with that furniture. That gave us a couch and a big chair and a small table or two. We eventually got a real bed and dining room furniture.

      "Life in Philadelphia in war time was not happy. We were both homesick for Baltimore. I was the first new master there in seven years. They were very set in their ways…The Academy was located in the very heart of Philadelphia near the City Hall. I had to get to it from West Philadelphia by trolley or afoot. I helped with the football coaching; a long ride out to a field away out in the suburbs, from which I could walk home. I usually did. The headmaster was named Philip Steinmetz. He had been a rector and eventually became a bishop. I never met a finer type of Christian…. He tried hard to get me to stay, but I wanted to go back to Gilman, where Mr. Pine was writing me and coming to see me to persuade me to return. I was entangles with Mitchell Froelicher and finally went to him as assistant at the Pingry School. (In Elizabeth, New Jersey.)" So they moved to Maplewood, New Jersey.

      World War I was raging, and here are Dad's words of his part in that: "Here is the evidence of the part I had in the first war of all nations. With Father and Mother very largely dependent on me and with a wife and child I elected to claim exemption. These cards show it was granted. (Cards attached to original.) I have always been surprised that my taking no part in this war was never thrown up to me by any one at any time…….When the armistice was declared, I felt a very strong sense of disappointment and found then that I had expected to get into it sooner or later. I had very strong ideas on fighting and taking life. I was never quite a real conscientious objector but do not know how I would have decided it. Through all my life I have never been able to see any use in war. I have in later years come to believe in a position I call Reluctant Acquiescence. One conforms to keep himself able to exert his influence…..The objector places himself beyond the pale and does the cause no good."

      Here is the story of his notarizing his request for exemption, the place again Philadelphia: "I must add how I signed my application for exemption from draft, how I registered. I searched for a Notary and found a colored man of some years who lived at the back of some sort of shop. It was after dark. The place was not very reassuring. He opened the Bible to, of al places, the Lamentations of Jeremiah. I could not help but read some of the lugubrious words as I took the oath with one hand in the air and the other on Jeremiah. The whole affair was in harmony with our life that year."

      When they moved to New Jersey, they found housing impossible to find. Uncle Ralph Tag had bought a large house on Burnett Street, Maplewood, and invited them, (or us,) to move in on a share the cost basis. He was the husband of Mother's sister, Ruth. They had a son, Donald, four months older than I. Their daughter, Helena, was born that year and Mother became pregnant with Lawrence. Dad summarized it: "We had a very pleasant year. I commuted back and forth from Elizabeth and now and then walked. I did not like the Pingry job. I still longed for Gilman."

      I remember that house well, not the memory of a one year old, but we visited there every year until they moved to a new house in South Orange. Uncle Kim lived at the end of the block, so it was the Ames commune. Uncle Ralph was a pharmacist. He and his stepfather ran a local drug store on the East Side of Manhattan, somewhere. He also had a marvelous baritone voice, well trained. He eventually became soloist at the Chapel of the Intercession of Trinity Church in the north of Manhattan. He served there 45 years. He was suave, self confident, a man of the world, and the only smoker in the family. With commuting into the city daily, we didn't see much of him. He did have an excellent camera so some of the best photos of that time are his work.

      Don and I were great pals, of course. He was quite adventurous. We were playing in room, perhaps on the third floor, and he climbed up on the sill of an open window, somehow fell so he was outside, hanging onto the edge, when Mother came in. Speaking quietly so as not to scare him more and fall, she quickly grabbed his hands and drew him in. One of the last times I talked with Don, I mentioned this and he said that that experience is the first thing he recalled in his early life.

      One of the volunteer jobs Dad took had almost serious consequences. There was an ammunition depot in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, where explosives for the war were stored prior to shipment. It blew up, with much destruction and loss of life. Refugees were brought into a school in Elizabeth, and Dad was a volunteer helping out. There he caught the "Spanish Flu," the virulent influenza then epidemic, which caused more deaths than the Germans. He was very sick, but recovered. We have a photo of him afterwards, as thin as a rail.

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