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First in a series of Eight
Cecil J. Reynolds Letters



The following family names appear in this letter:

28 Sewall Drive

Old Town, ME  04468

July 7, 1989

Dear Bruce:

First of all, away with the formalities.  Next, my apologies for my handwriting.  Can you imagine the Chairman of the Dept. of English and holder of an endowed chair not being able to type?  I not only never learned to type (I did know how to hire an excellent secretary), but never learned to dance, to play a musical instrument, nor to drive a car.  Sometimes I wonder if that is why I have survived to eighty-six, after having my intestines reamed out (by two former students), undergoing open heart surgery (triple by-pass and new aortic valve), an aneurysm, and the death of my beloved wife on our 53rd anniversary in 1986.  Of course, computers and word processors are to me something from another planet.

I had put a letter to Bob Gerathy in the box at 11 a.m.  I knew he would send it on to you.  As I realize now it had much useless stuff in it.  Perhaps I should have delayed till l p.m. when the postman picked up Bob’s letter and dropped off yours.  And I already had three other letters on hand to answer, one of them very important.  Last year, down on the North Shore, by an incredible stroke of luck, I met again my very first sweetheart (in Grades 2 and 3 at  Freshwater) after a lapse of only 77 years!  Now we write each other six-page letters partially filling in that gap as well as talking about our descendants, including great grandchildren.  Little Steffi, almost two, stole a letter off my desk this morning and took it out to the others, saying, “From Sophie, from Sophie.”

Those two pieces in Michael HARRINGTON’s column in The Evening Telegram about two or three years ago sure got circulation, not only in the “Boston States” of Chelsea, Everett, Malden, and Melrose, but even as far as California and other hinterlands (Mesa, Arizona; Seattle, Washington; Virginia; and New Brunswick, etc.)  I had written to Michael because I had once found an old college friend through his column (which a third cousin in St. John’s often clipped and sent me).  I thought he might help me verify a childhood memory but he couldn’t, although he tried.  (Last summer Michael and I had a long talk and autographed our books for each other.  He was the editor of The Telegram for many years.

At the urging of my Alice four or five years ago, I began on an autobiography.  After over 400 pages, I am still immersed in it and have reached only age 27.  So you see, I have only 60 more years to cover.  My “handicap” is that I inherited something of my mother’s fantastic memory and my father’s photographic memory.  Everything seems to bubble from the surface of the sea of memory, the important and the trivial and nearly everything in between.

But to return to that Salem School piece, I did not know it had been published.  One Sunday morning as I was at church, that is, walking around the block and through the woods, my son Alan drove up beside me and said, “There’s some fellow down in Concord, Mass., wants to talk to you.  He will call again in 15 minutes.”  Who should it be but Charles DAVIS, owner of apple orchards and delver into the DAVIS genealogy. He had seen both pieces, sent along by a DAVIS cousin in St. John’s.  His grandmother (a DAVIS who married a DAVIS) was one of the five sisters of my maternal grandfather, “Contrary Joe” DAVIS.  In the conversation, Charlie told me that one of my mother’s first cousins was still alive and perky in St. Luke’s Home in St. John’s.  I wrote and learned a lot from Flo DAVIS’ daughter about the old days in Freshwater (nr. Carbonear).  We had actually been in school together but she was 6 or 7 years ahead of me.  From 20 mos. until I was eight, we lived with mother’s parents.  I had been born in Chelsea but it was almost obligatory then to take the firstborn “home” to be exhibited to the grandparents and grow up in Nfld.  I did not see the U.S. again until I was over 21.  And I used a British passport all my life, though it sometimes caused weird things to happen.

Father built his new house in Small Point in the three summers of 1909-10-11.  It was like no house there then or now.  Father imitated the house of the doctor where he courted Mother in Everett in 1900-01.  When I was born, Father was a labourer-carpenter on the construction of the New Harvard Stadium, never imagining his little son would one day be an alumnus.  We moved the 7 miles north to Small Point in July 1911.  In September I was in school with KINGs, LEGROWs, THISTLEs, FLIGHTs, BUTTs, NOFTALLs, PEACHes, PIPPYs, and other miscellaneous kids.  I have written of those years in Ch. 5:  “Old Salem Days”, with other chapters on summer and winter activities and family events.  I remember many of the boys and girls.  I have a split in the upper part of my right ear from a rock in a snowball hurled by George Victor KING, not to be confused with George Gilbert KING.  [Ed.:  George Gilbert KING told me that he thinks CJR’s memory failed here.  He recalls no George Victor KING, and I have been unable to locate any record of him.]  I was amazed last summer to hear that the latter was still alive and flourishing (where else but California).  And I was thinking of finding a way to get in touch with him.  George Gilbert was perhaps 3 years younger than me, and he was an undersized frail little fellow but very bright though naturally modest and self-effacing.  I remember him quite vividly.

In September 1911 I had to face the redoubtable “Mame” (really Mabel) HILLYARD who lived over in Blackhead, trying to raise her dead sister’s boy and girl.  Ralph H. was later to be in college with, along with Ron VATCHER.  (The alleged story of how Ron came to be is another story in itself.)  The picture published in The Evening Telegram was taken in either 1908 or 9, more probably the former.  Hazel BAGGS is there as the primary teacher with Miriam KING beside her as her assistant.  (Miriam KING married my uncle, the Rev. Dr. J. L. REYNOLDS.)  In June 1909 Hazel married Jim KING (a good deal older but “candidates” were getting fewer and fewer).  Jim and his brother ran a neighborhood store out on the point away from the highway.  It seems very unlikely that they were married while school was still in session; this is while I plump for 1908.  Ron VATCHER, John CRAMM and Stanley REYNOLDS, and Billy BAGGS with the blond curls are in the group.  John P. THISTLE, my Sophie’s second husband, is nearly at the left end of the back row.  I wish I’d taken down the names before I gave the picture to the United Church Archives for safe-keeping.  Your father may well be there, though I don’t recall a Dolph KING.  Burn GILL can tell you all those identified by Mrs. COLBOURNE on the back of this official picture treasured by her over the years.  She is the little girl so prominent in the front row.

How I got that picture goes like this:  Mrs. COLBOURNE, who had no children that I know of, was riding through Erin, Ontario, north of Toronto, when she saw the name REYNOLDS on a mailbox and remembered the old days.  She stopped and met my second cousin Bill Luther REYNOLDS (whom Geo. Gilbert remembers) who had retired as a chartered accountant in Toronto.  He had once tried teaching, knew mathematics well but just could not handle English composition adequately, which is why he and his wife moved to Toronto.  They now live in Mount Pearl, a suburb of St. John’s.  He and I are in constant communication, and through my prodding he has learned to write fairly long letters in the print style Mrs. COLBOURNE and I corresponded.  [Ed.: “Mrs. COLBOURNE” was Mabel Jane “Mame” KING, my father’s first cousin.  She married Victor COLBOURNE and, to correct CJR’s first sentence in this paragraph, they had two daughters, both living in or near Toronto.]  Evidently she liked me, because before she died she sent me her cherished memorabilia—the picture.  She also told me how to find Kenneth REYNOLDS’ only daughter.  Ken, Stan, and Pearl were children of “Uncle” Giles REYNOLDS of Mulley’s Cove nearby.  He (Giles) was a first cousin of my grandfather, Nicholas REYNOLDS.  Incidentally, I also corresponded with another Mrs. COLBOURNE after that, but she is now dead too.  She was the daughter of another Nicholas REYNOLDS (of Salmon Cove), a great-grandson of Giles REYNOLDS, my great-grandfather.  Ken and Stan REYNOLDS are both deceased, but little sister Pearl married Lewis COLE, who is principal of the new integrated school at Carbonear.  I saw her last summer.

I have been looking over your enclosures.  That letter to Roy PITCHER suggests memories.  [Ed.: This is a letter I wrote to Roy, then Editor of Newfoundland’s mathematics teachers’ journal, prior to a meeting in St. John’s, in 1977.]  At Salem I was lucky enough to win a scholarship that took one to the old Methodist College in St. John’s, a prep school run on the English model.  We outporters boarded at the College Home next door, (I have an hilarious chapter as(?) “On to a Home Away From Home”) and a high proportion were sons and daughters of Methodist ministers.  There were Alma PITCHER, a rather sizable but jolly and nice girl and her young brother Jim who was something of a bother to our “keeper”, Rev. Dr. DARBY.  Perhaps Roy is some relation.  My second cousin Bill, to whom G.G. refers, attended the M.C. after I left.  I had won the Jubilee Scholarship which gave me three years of college on the Mainland at Mt. Allison University at Sackville, N.B. where I took a B.Sc. (Chem.) and a B.A. (English and French) and was nominated Rhodes Scholar for Nfld., entered Oxford, and came away with a B.A. and a B.Litt.  I came back (1930) to my family in the U.S. just in time for the Great Depression and a year of unemployment.  Then I went up to Harvard, made the necessary “contacts”, received an M.A. and went to teach 3 years at Lafayette following its Dean when he became President of U. of Maine.  Retired in 1972.  I had founded the Freshman Honors System, which still flourishes.  The Library in the Honors Centre is named for me.  No space to tell about my research and other writings.  That’s about it, Bruce.  Incidentally, Nfldrs make good teachers.  This morning who should turn up here but the former Chancellor of the U. of Wisconsin, Ed YOUNG, who graduated from the U. of Maine and took his doctorate on labour economics at Wisconsin, became Dean, then came back to Maine as its president for 6 years, then was hired away to become Chancellor of the U. of Wisconsin and expert on Southeast Asian economics.  He, my boy, was born at Bonne Bay on the West Coast of Newfoundland.  His mother, a widow, came to Maine and the Rest Is History.  Ed is a marvelous guy, now retired.

Us Nfldrs get around.  My nephew is a budding journalist, has had missions on four continents, and is recently back from Spain.  Chris, my youngest(?) brother Ray’s son, will outstrip us all.

All the best, Cecil REYNOLDS
Any questions? 


Back to: Cecil J Reynolds Table of Contents

This page transcribed by: Bruce King (January 2001)

Page Last Updated March 06, 2013(Craig Peterman)

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