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Fourth in a series of Eight
Cecil J. Reynolds Letters

 

 

The following family names appear in this letter:  DAVIS, FLIGHT, KING, MOORE, REYNOLDS . In a few instances, the reader will find the symbol "[?]" immediately following the last letter of a word whose interpretation is, to us, uncertain. The same symbol with a space on both sides of it indicates that an illegible word has been omitted.

I’m gabby, like so many brought up on the Rock.

My warmest greetings to George Gilbert when you reach him.

Tuesday, August 24, 1993

Overcast, possible showers

Dear Bruce:

I hope you can decipher this.  As you already know, I never did learn to type, in fact, never saw a typewriter until I was about 21.  Perhaps it was too late.

Man alive, has this been an exciting weekend!  Up here on this street the only person who came near living in “my world” is a teacher just half my age who calls me his mentor.  His ancestors were Lebanese Christians who worked hard and did well in the American way.  He inherited enough to live on comfortably, but fell in love with teaching.  Juny[?] Nehra teaches English at a private school.  It was once an R.C. High School, but the point was reached, as elsewhere, that the diocese couldn’t afford it.  The beautiful stone building now houses a non-denominational paying clientele but retained the old name.  It accepts students only on examination.  Thus it draws the best students from not only Bangor but out in the boondocks, and has scholarships for those short of funds.  In some ways, it harks back to New England before Horace Mann persuaded the Mass. legislature in the 1820’s to fund public schools and pay teachers.  The editors of newspapers were against the idea: Why should we pay for the education of other than our own children?  There were many private schools then some of which still survive.  Mann’s idea did not catch on fast.  Farmers west of New England were satisfied with elementary education, just readin’ and ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic, then back to work on the farm.  One authority says there were no more than 200 high schools until the 1880’s.  But back to the present.

Juny’s[?] family were away in Boston etc. for about a week to buy new school outfits and watch the Blue Jays play the Red Sox twice (won one, lost one).  On Thursday and Friday I spent afternoons at Juny’s[?] “catching up” on our long conversations on this and that, but mostly education, my lengthy reminiscences, economics, politics, et al.  Then I got a letter from cousin George Moore reporting on his annual safari to “the land of his fathers”.  He’s been doing it for about 20 years.  My son Alan let me go with him in 1988 and 1990, but I’m too old now.  I hit the 90 mark in March, but apparently I’m in good health.

On Saturday I tried to catch up on correspondence and mailed three letters.  I was busy writing to brother Ralph (79) in Noank near Groton when the doorbell rang at 11:20.  It was Wilson Flight from Everett, Mass.  He had been in 2nd grade when I was head boy at 15 at Salem School in Broad Cove.  Thus he knew me on sight but of course I did not know a 7-yr little fellow.  He too had been born in the States and taken home to grow up.  His son, Wilson, Jr. is one of the top H.S. Science teachers in the country, was one of three to receive White House awards.  Junior had bought a huge old mansion in Searsport, Me. to use in retirement & as a bed & breakfast place.  Wilson, helping him renovate it in summer, knew I was up around here somewhere and tracked me.  Every summer now he drives up from Searsport and takes me out to lunch locally & insists on paying the bill.  We talk Newfie all the time and always order seafood of some kind because we were brought up beside the sea.  I found your letter on my bed when we got back.  I had earlier mailed overweight letters to Nfld and Vermont, this last to an author who recently published a novel set in Nfld where she had gone on a boat trip well away from St. John’s.  I had gotten a copy from the bookstore here, perused it and sent it off to George [Ed: MOORE] in Mass. for his reaction.  I had Alan make a copy of his “review” to send along with mine.  I also mailed a sympathy card and message to Olga DAVIS in St. John’s.  We had stayed with Olga and Walter in 1990.  While George was in Nfld. this time Walter did not survive a brain operation.  He was an extraordinary character—a humanitarian and a peace activist.  He came to the U.S. at 5, so had all his education through grad school here ... .  He once rented a ship & took two volunteer doctors down to far north Nfld. & Labrador to vaccinate free all the kids against childhood diseases.  On a peace mission in Ireland he was shot at but uninjured.  His group was once nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.  A quite remarkable man, nominated for Mayor of St John’s but would not run because he could not in good conscience “promise” anything.  His grandfather and mine were two of 7 brothers and 5 sisters at Freshwater[?] in the days when the inshore fishery made its last gasp.  Our two grandfathers were in the last fishing generation.  A little earlier I had answered a letter to The Kid, my 74-yr old youngest brother near San Diego, who still plays tennis and is trying to make money through books (he’s written 3 and edited another).  Of course it’s these invaluable genes from Mom and Pop, and the fish diet in youth.

I was in the middle of a letter to Ralph when Wilson came.  I dropped everything for the lunch & finished the letter later, just after yours came.  I was fagged from writing and eating (fish & chips), so decided not to mail Ralph’s until Alan had made copies at the office that I’ll send to others including you, because when I get going on education you just can’t stop me.  I do know a lot about education from Athens on to Old Town [Ed: Maine].  This is something never touched on in teachers’ colleges, where “traditional” means useless and “innovative” is open sesame (that often turns out to be one hell of a mistake that leaves evidence of disaster in its wake (example: those artificial stories in an English—Dick & Jane & Spot—purged of all but one syllable words).  I am sending you a copy of the letter to Ralph in which I explain how this came about.  [Ed: This letter is not included here.]  As I said to Juny[?] one day, “You’re a pedagogue, but do you know what the original pedagogue was?  He was the [?] family servant too old to do the chores any more, so he was given the task of accompanying the little son of the house to school & bringing him back after school.  He used his feet, so “pedagogue” is related to all those foot doctors and children.”

Me bye, it was such a delight to hear from you, especially as your typewriter has a new ribbon, which Ray’s and Ralph’s do not.  Both Ralph’s sons are doing well.  Ralph’s last letter was handwritten because he had locked the typewriter away in a closet while the 5 grandchildren were there visiting.  Ray has the one son, Christopher Sherwood Reynolds, born when Ray & Mary were getting on to 40.  After being on The Stars & Stripes during the war, Ray became a newspaper man in New York and wandered to the west, then joined a group [?] back to the [?] in occupied Germany.  He had met Mary in the N.Y. Public Library while looking up something for his paper.  Apparently they liked each other, so one day over in Germany Ray wrote or phoned “Come on over and marry me.”  And she did—at the only hall in Darmstadt because she was brought up Catholic in New Gloucester but was pretty well lapsed after taking her degree at Radcliffe.  She’s artistic, so I tell The Kid that Chris’ genius at writing description comes from her.  Chris graduated No. 1 in his class at Fresno State.  He went there because he had grown up there when his father Ray was City Editor of The Fresno Bee.  Ray used to be invited  to the university to tell prospective newspapermen about the hazard and joys of journalism.  When a professor there was named President of a new state college (Grossmont) in San Diego, he asked Ray to join him as Professor of Journalism.  He did, and Chris took his first job on the San Diego paper but wrote description so well that he was taken on by the L.A. Times and soon was Travel Editor, with a big salary and $20,000 extra for fares and hotels as he went hither and yon around the world to write about places.  He has a knack of becoming friendly with taxi-drivers to learn the lowdown about a place (such as Bruges, Lebanon, Ireland, England, Moscow, even Zimbabwe (where he met a professor who had taken his PhD at Northeastern in Boston.  The guy sent me a copy of his new research on Cecil Rhodes, my benefactor.)  Recently Chris was named one of the ten best travel writers in the U.S. (by tour agencies?) and also got the Lowell Thomas Award for the best travel writing back here  (a trip down Baja California).  With each he got a $5000 award.  The boy, of course, owes it all to that Newfie heritage!  In case George Gilbert [Ed : KING] or some other Newfie out there cares, Ray’s address is 7413-25 Fortune Vista Ct., Santee, Ca, just outside San Diego.  I have numerous relatives, paternal & maternal in California, others in Colorado.  I must have dreamed up that bit about King George V at Salem but it’s vivid.  It may have been at school earlier in Freshwater or at prep school in St. John’s.

That’s a grand story about your Slovakian protégés.  I must have once crossed Czechoslovakia on the way to Poland about 1929, but did not stop off.  Of course that was before the Soviets took over.  Ray sends me Chris’ articles on conditions out there now—no politics, just description and conversation.  If I get around to it some time I’ll send more chapters from the AUTO [Ed.: CJR’s autobiography], including my encounter with US [Ed.: or UK?] bureaucracy in London & how I managed to cross the Atlantic six times without the visa I was supposed to have.

Later —— after Alan had made copies of the letter to Ralph at his office on campus.  Thank heaven!  No personal mail for me on Monday and Tuesday.  This is early Wednesday morning.

That report on your “clutter” is very familiar.  In my little room here, sometimes I have to move something to get into bed.  Every now and again I get over to my old house in Stillwater with a shopping bag and fill it with books & “stuff” from my den-library, the walls of which have bookshelves from ceiling to floor.  I send & take some books to Ralph, gave some to neighbor Juny[?] the teacher.  The other day, just for fun I took home 2 vols of The World in 1964, written by several dozen experts in various fields [Ed.: almost] 20 years after Orwell’s 1984 [Ed.: was written].  Incidentally, if Orwell (Eric Blair) was still alive he would still be 3 months and 3 days younger than I am.  I walked the same streets on the West Banks of Paris that he did in 1927-29, but I was a student while he was a [?] or dishwasher in the bowels of a restaurant, perhaps one where I ate.  Last year Juny[?] got me down to his high school to talk about the days when I actually met in the flesh such characters as John Mansefield, G.B. Shaw, Winston Churchill, James Joyce and others whom my listeners knew of only in print.  Of course I tell about it in my AUTO, which is only at Ch. 32 when I am in my forties!  Only a half-century to go!

I’d better sew this up, but just one note.  I think I have a grandniece at your college.  She is a granddaughter of my brother Jim who died in his sixties in 1974.  His children (3) were brought up in foster homes ... .  Son David never got a chance at college, but one day walked into the Travelers bldg in Hartford and asked for a job.  In a short while he was found to be a genius with figures.  Two years ago he was made a V-P, but resigned & moved to Cal.  (He corresponds with me.)  He must be doing ok because he sent me a snapshot of himself and David Jr. on the ski slopes at a posh resort in Colorado.  His sister Freda[?] married a high school classmate and had two daughters.  The older also married a classmate, had a son, then tragedy struck.  ... Freda and Jerry[?] are bringing up their grandson whom I call Deejay from his initials.  I sometimes send a cheque for his Diaper Fund and to keep in touch.  A snapshot of Deejay at Xmas[?], shows him like Ross Perot.  Otherwise he is a healthy happy kid.  Now his aunt attends your college.  She may be a junior or possibly sophomore.  She was terribly hurt by the loss of her sister but manages to bear up and study ... .

I may have told you this before, but when my Alice [Ed.: DAVIS] died in 1986, the family and friends set up an annual scholarship at the high school here in her memory because of her interest in the schools; especially the health of the younger ones.  For years she aided dentists & doctors at the annual school visits.  I had to decide how the scholarship was awarded, and said it should go to the graduate who showed the greatest interest in history (not necessarily who has the highest grade).  In my observation, for the kids, the world began with Columbus.  Besides, at that age their eyes are fixed on the future, not the past, not even last year, not to speak of the distant past that has made us what we are.  The award has now been made 5 times, running from $150 to $500 and is paid to the college the winner attends.  To show you how little interest there is in history; not one of the 5 has majored in it.  I wonder where high school will get teachers of history in coming years.  Even now, some basketball and football coaches have been “drafted” to teach history.  I know this is so because years ago my freshmen used to tell me such was the case, so they would ask him about the Red Sox etc., and so deflect him that they learned very little history.  I suppose now life is so complicated & difficult that a course in “self-esteem” may replace history.  Well, Bruce, I’d better not “take off” again on education.  Be sure & find a moment to write even during the months in the “salt mines” of teaching.  My very best to you all & if you get to Lisbon Falls come right to see me here, a relic of bygone days.  [Ed: My son lived in Lisbon Falls, at the time.]  Cecil J.R.

(P.S. I have stuff on the King-Reynolds connection.)

 

 

Back to: Cecil J Reynolds Table of Contents

This page transcribed by Bruce King (June, 2001)

Page Last Updated March 06, 2013(Craig Peterman)

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