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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Happy Holidays - from 55 Years Ago


(The Fountain House, originally an inn, is not only our house, but gives its name to an area about a mile square; that’s why it is really a part of our mailing address.)

Fountain House, R.D. 2, Saegertown, Pennsylvania


Yesterday, I posted Mom and Dad's Christmas Letter from 1951. But I also located their annual letter from five years later. So here it is, with happy wishes to all - and a realization that one problem solved doesn't mean all complications are solved forever. (Ah, memories of having to evacuate when the coal furnace mentioned in the 1951 letter went berserk and filled the house with coal smoke and attendant fumes. Hence, the gas furnace noted in the 1956 letter.) May your coming year have more triumphs and fewer challenges ...

Dear Friends, Relations, Stockholders, and Hockholders,

1956-plus has been a year chiefly composed of beginnings. While such things as the April to October rainy season, classes, the 87 quarts of peaches and 4 bushels of tomatoes we put up, and Katy's getting bigger and more fun seemed to have neither beginning nor end, the year was packed with such New Year's Days as those few we have space to record below. Most of these days initiated such interesting chains of happiness that we shall have to let you extrapolate much of the fun we've had for yourselves. We have run this report on into 1957 because the procession of New Year's Days showed no slackening by the first of the calendar year (and occupied so much of our attention that we had no break in which to report the beginnings already behind us).

Apr. 3, Molly's New Years making her nine years old, tall, blonde, busy, Brownie Scout.

Sometime this month we got a new-to-us radio to bring more and better music.

May 26, Katy's Christening, with Kathryn Hamilton and Gay and Peter McGee as sponsors.

A family New Year's, we hadn’t seen Pete since 1943, nor previously met Gay or cousins Woody and Jamie who stayed for a wonderful two-day visit.

June 7, Katy's Second New Year's, making her one year old, fat and sassy and fun.

July 9, the family's first RBBB Circus (sitting on straw and loving every moment).

20th, began the girls' annual Week in Oberlin with Grandmother McGee.

30th, the Saegertown Marching Band began daily rehearsals for the coming year.

Aug. 11, Mother Curtis' annual visit, which wound up with our getting a trip to Ithaca to take her home and to see Pat and Frank, Bettie and Ote, and all six cousins.

27th, Public School began, as usual at least a week too early to suit us.

7th or 21st? Bill and Alice and Ann Davidson dropped in for a too brief visit.

Sept. 6, First Annual Appearance of the Saegertown Band. (Mother McGee came to see it.)

17th, Betsy's New Years makes her the same age as Jack Benny? (or so he says.)

Oct. 22, Betsy's Intellectual New Years, with mimeographing of her ponderous paper on liberal education and the proposed non-resident quarter system for Oberlin.

24th (I think), an overnight visit from Mary Helen and Pete Whaley and young.

Nov. 20, Pearl, the Pure White Stove, replaced old Una the Universal who conked out.

22nd, Thanksgiving-New Year's for the McGee family, the first time all Mother McGee's grandchildren had all been together and the first time in fifteen years that she and her children had been all together (in her Oberlin apartment). Now that Chuck and family are near Chicago, we'll hope to make this a yearly do.

28th, New Year's Day for Betsy’s teeth.

29th, Margaret's New Year's. (Judy is known as Margaret or Maggie for the purpose of deconfusing school teachers.) Fourteen years old, tenth grader, tall as her mother but purtier and thinner.

Dec. 11, Ed's New Years made him the same age as Betsy. New Year's Day also for a brown suit (to take the strain off the one he was married in 15 ¼ years ago.)

22nd, New Year's Day for The Fountain House, when title passed from Florence and Bill Reid to Ed and Bets. (The New Mortgage included the costs of Phoebus, Cyrene, Georch, white aluminum lap siding, and some needed electrical repairs.)

Jan. 23-25, New Year's Days for Phoebus the Phurnace (gas) and his pipes which heat even the second floor, and for Cyrene the Cyclic (automatic water heater, also known as Phoebus' Phancy) now faithfully responsible for the Cleaner Curtises.

Feb. 13, New Year's Day for Doorbells, Wallplugs, and the Heavy Equipment Circuit.

15th, New Year's Day for the White White Fountain House and Georch the Porch.

Mar. 5, Woodwork, walls, ceiling of the livingroom freshly painted with Mother M's help.

So … Happy New Year's and all intervening holidays from KATE, MOLLY, JUDY, BETS & ED.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Happy Holidays - from 60 Years Ago

Every year, Mom and Dad sent a mimeographed Christmas Letter to their friends, and I've just located one of those vintage messages. The heading above was drawn by Dad, and the messages themselves serve to remind me of the way times have changed (though I'm still, obviously, into comics) and the way our parents managed to maintain our world as kids while going through challenging events.

Dear Friends,

This is to notify you of the change in location of headquarters of our firm and the reason for it. As you will remember from our last annual report, we were enthusiastically planning to rebuild the house at Lark Meadows. However, because of the country-wide expected shrinkage in enrollments in colleges for the fall of 1951, St. Lawrence, like many other schools, was forced to reduce the number of its faculty and the head of our firm was so reduced (actually he didn’t lose a pound, which he could ill have spared). Inquiries of a number of colleges brought to light several good possibilities, the most attractive of which was at Allegheny College in Meadville, Penna., and here the Head of the firm accepted an appointment in May. The secretary wrote the treasurer of Allegheny College hoping for assistance in finding just the quarters which the firm required … a bathtub on the premises, three or four bedrooms, doorknobs on the doors, a study for the head of the firm, a kitchen large enough to contain the breakfast table and washer as well as the usual stove and sink. The treasurer was none too hopeful, especially when the request included wishes that the house should be in the country, have a garage and lawn, and be on a paved road. At least there was nothing yet available when the firm sent its effects into storage and moved for the summer to Mother Curtis' house in Ithaca on the first of July. About the middle of August, all members of the firm drove to Oberlin, Ohio, where Mother McGee supervised the activities of the junior members and the senior members went to Meadville to find housing. There they fell in love with a house which, unfortunately, was so tied up financially that the bank decided to try for a quick sale and not rent it. There seemed to be nothing else; so the members returned to Ithaca. A house in Meadville suddenly became available, and Pres. Ed dashed to Meadville to rent it; but someone else had beat him to it. He discussed courses with Bob Bugbee (head of the biology department) and returned to Ithaca. On Sept. 14, he returned to Meadville for the opening of school … to find that the bank had reversed its decision not to rent the house … and on the 21st of September the new headquarters were formally opened.

FOUNTAIN HOUSE is supposed to be part of the original tremendous inn of that name at which Lafayette is reputed to have slept. The name comes not from the waterfall which yesterday poured into the cellar when it rained, but from a huge watering trough which stood in what is now our front yard. The spring which fed the trough supplies the water for the house. It (the house) is rectangular, white, tree-surrounded. A central stair leads to the four upstairs bedrooms; downstairs are living room, play room, study, kitchen, and bath. Not only is there a bathtub, garage, guest room, ample kitchen, and isolatable study; but there are doorknobs on the doors, a tremendous attic, and four acres of apple trees, grapes, raspberries, and tangle. It is four miles from the college but in the center of a small faculty settlement: the other new man in the biology department lives across one road and the college treasurer across the other.

The secretary-treasurer of the firm at once dashed to town and bought a second-hand stove and refrigerator and bed for the maaaster bedroom (the Canton bed having been sold there in retribution for its infernal uncomfortability). The house with its miles of white woodwork begs for fluffy white curtains and lush carpeting and other goodies … which makes living in it fun because every month it may have a little of the fluff it asks for, and it's so grateful. The pres has already constructed a beautiful floor lamp from copper piping and wire cloth, and another is in the process of construction. The general manager has reupholstered a chair; a rug is in the process of being sewed together and tinted for the living room; the guest room is slowly being repainted, a piece of linoleum has been cut and placed under the laundry rack to provide a dripping-place for snowsuits; and Christmas will be good to the house too, though we haven’t decided just how.

Major achievements and work in progress of the member of the firm for the last ten months are listed below.

WILLIAM EDGAR CURTIS, president and chief investor: has completed the dissertation for the Ph.D. degree, "Quantitative studies of echolocation in bats (Myotis l. lucifugus); Studies of vision of bats (Myotis l. lucifugus and Eptesicus f. fuscus); and Quantitative studies of vision of owls (Tyto alba pratincola)." He expects to take the final exam for the degree sometime this month or next. He has prepared a new course in comparative anatomy and is preparing one in general physiology. He has drive at least 2600 miles. He has trained a bat to come to a certain place for food and to fly around between feedings. He has constructed a copper floor lamp and a new bat cage for his new bat, Tssitt. And he has mastered the art of firing the soft coal furnace.

ELIZABETH M. CURTIS, secretary, treasurer, general manager, and janitress: She has been cleaning house (she feels) steadily since May 1. She has nursed the junior members through a case of measles and flu each. She has packed the firm’s effects for a major and a minor move and has unpacked and settled twice. She has upholstered a chair and painted boards for a bookcase. Her chief work in progress is a play (sci-fic of course) which is coming along smoothly if slowly. She costumed her children with such ingenuity that they both won first prizes at the Saegertown Hallowe'en parade.

MARGARET JUDSON CURTIS, vice president in charge of literary and dramatic research, evaluation of propaganda and educational procedures, and cowhand extraordinary: Has recovered promptly from all measles and other such annoyances, has started school in two different places, has examined a tremendous quantity of comic books and western movies and reported on their quality. Her school at Saegertown (to which she rides on the bus which stops at the door) runs a double shift and she goes to the morning session, leaving her afternoon free for learning to cook, doing homework, playing with the three boys her age who live near, and for the researches listed above. She is finding fifth grade well attuned to her present abilities.

MARY NASH CURTIS, vice president in charge of dolls and stuffed animals, janitress' assistant, and general overseer and underseer: completed the second term of nursery school, learned to swim effectively with a tube and somewhat without it, succeeded in dressing herself completely (except for some hard snaps and tying her shoes). She is not going to nursery school this fall because of transportation difficulties and is spending the time thus freed in assisting with watching the washing machine and in working up complicated "let’s tend I'm the mother and you're the baby" dramas with Marilyn Rogers from across the street. She has also become adept at climbing apple trees in preparation for next year's crop.

Our new headquarters is now prepared for your inspection and patronage; and we hope that we may count on your continued interest, approval, and willingness to inform us of your doings and happenings. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Jubilant Easter!

Molly, Judy, Bets + Ed

[And this appended note appeared upside down:]

Dear Would-be Reader of that outstanding fanzine, THE CRICKET,

This letter is in partial explanation of the year-long delay in production of a new edition of the CRICKET and the similar delay in reprinting old issues. And it may be months yet before we get around to doing anything about it. I am still trying valiantly to work the writing of science-fiction into a housekeeping schedule more exacting than any I have previously known. Your name is on a mailing list for the next issue, which will carry a statement of how to continue to be on the mailing list. I hope you will forgive our not having acknowledged your letters and cards during the last six months. We were busy.

Betsy Curtis


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