Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Try to Remember

I can remember much of my life, but there is a period I don't too well. I would guess this is true of most people. I guess the mind is too busy learning about the world it has been thrust into that taking time to store away the memories. Or many over three-quarters of a century so much other junk got shoved into my hard drive that the earlier things got erased to make room. Whatever, I try to remember those first few years of my existing.

For instance, I remember nothing of my first home. That is it in the picture as it looks today,
sitting just across the tracks in Modena, Pennsylvania. Yeah, it is a reminder that I got my start like the old saying, "come from the wrong side of the tracks".  This photo to the right must have been taken nearby. This photo is from 1919 and shows my Grandmother pregnant with my Uncle Ben and standing behind a buggy holding my father.

I've visited Modena many times, especially as a child because my Uncles and their families continued to live there. I do know my Great Grandfather William Wilson Meredith (whom my father was named for and carried thus the same name) seemed to own much of the place. He had a general store (still there) on the corner of Meredith Row and he owned the row of homes that lined that little street. Somewhere in recent decades the Row was dropped and now it is Meredith Court. The home and its neighbors where my dad grew up
are lived in by Hispanics today. And, of course, the apartment building that was my first home, also owned by my Great Grandfather, is also still there. I remember nothing about it. We moved to my second home when I was just a month old.

I remember nought of my second home either. I have visited it several times in my life, but never inside since we left. No one in the family owned this house and I have never learned the circumstances of how my mother's family came to live there, but it is the home she grew up in. When we moved in her parents were still living there. The area there is called Whitford and has a train station. Whitford was the estate of the Thomas Family, one of the Welsh Quakers who settled the area in 1683, as did my father's ancestors. The Merediths had a farm they called Whiteland. That is my father standing on the back porch of the Whitford home in 1939. He didn't live there yet; he was courting my mother at that time.

We moved again when I was six months old, for reasons I never knew. This was all of us,
grandparents, mother, father and me, that transferred our lives from Whitford to Downingtown. It is kind of funny that I began in a town called Paperville to one sometimes called Papertown. Yes, paper mills once dominated Modena and the town probably didn't get its name from Modena in Italy, but from the Mode Family that owned the mills. In fact, it was originally called Modeville.

Downingtown was full of paper mills, too, even when I was a boy. Most were owned by the Bicking Family and I was related to them. My Great Great Grandmother was Esther Helen Bicking and Frederick Bicking, who ran the mills once upon the time, was my great Great Great Grandfather.

The photo is my mother holding me on her lap in 1941 at the house in Downingtown.

Of course those things I learned, rather than remembered.

What do I remember of life at 424 Washington Avenue prior to my beginning school? Not much. I try to remember, but very little is there. I do have two memories from those years firmly tattooed into my brain.

First of all are the sirens. Downingtown blew the sirens everyday at noon, just to tell you lunchtime had arrived, I guess, but that isn't why I remember them. It was the war, War World II. There were these things called Blackouts and you were notified of a Blackout by blasts on the sirens. The sirens sounds were a code. Besides announcing the noon hour, they signaled other things, like fires. There was a code and a chart was pinned to the backside of our basement door, which opened from our dining room that gave what each series of blasts meant. Well, one sequence meant Blackout and when it sounded there was a great deal of frantic behavior and tension throughout the house.

The Blackout could mean enemy planes were coming from Germany or Japan to blowup our paper
mills and the Iron Works and us. To prevent them seeing their intended target, at least at night, everything had to go instantly dark. All the house lights had to be tuned off and these black shades were pulled down over all the windows to keep out any stray beams from anything else. The town turned off all street lights and traffic signals and they world was plunged into a dark this two-three year old kid couldn't understand. I probably cried, but then everyone would be shushing me. Those kind of panicked nights full of noise followed by absolute night and silence left me with nightmares.

My other earliest memory is as pleasant as the first was scary. It is of my grandmother holding me on her lap, seated in a rocking chair, and reading to me. (That is her with me on the right.) She read to me a lot. I learned to read upon her knees long before I ever set foot in a classroom. I learned to read when she read me the newspaper comic strips. She also read me several other things, books. Oh, the usual Mother Goose and Grimm, but I remember most two other books and perhaps these ingrained something in me.
One was called A Hive of Busy Bees. It was a collection of short stories, but each story had a morel, like Be Good, Be Kind, etc. I still have that book somewhere in the storage room and I should search it out and give to my son to read to my grandson.

The other book she read often was Robert Lewis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verse.  

Do I need say what influences it may have had on me?

At any rate, these are the extent of my earliest memories. Hard as I strain, I can produce no more.


Jon said...

I enjoyed reading about your history and roots, and it's wonderful that there is actually a street (or area) named for your family (Meredith Court). It's so fortunate that your grandmother took the time to read to you. Obviously this had an influence on you becoming a writer.

I've always had an extremely sharp memory and recalled things from when I was only a few months old. I've noticed, however, that in recent years my memory is getting a little more faded.
I suppose the blaring jumble of our present lives serves as a memory eraser.

Ron said...

A wonderful post. I remember your grandmother, Mrs.Brown, very well. She was what every grandmother should be, kind, gentle, caring and loving. You were very lucky to have such a grandmother. Just as your children are very lucky to have you as their father and your grandson Jasper is very lucky to have you for a grandfather.

Ron said...

By the way, get ready for a new Olde Timey Photo session coming up in a couple weeks.