This is a photo of my father, Grandfather Haskell, Dad's first daughter, Muriel, and her daughter, Jane.
(Circa 1958)—four generations!
Grandpa Hussey is shown above—with me.
I was in the Unitarian Church this week hearing a group of UUs talking about why they were there—a special program for Valentines Day. I was inspired and decided to vary this theme a bit and concentrate on the early influences of my grandparents—Haskell and Hussey. I was fortunate to get to know both grandfathers and one grandmother. They all took great interest in ‘the Twins’ (Mercy and I) and we visited them often.
I’m 82 years old. Mercy and I were born in December of 1933 in Providence, Rhode Island. We were the twins that our mother, Emily Morgan Haskell did not know were coming. Apparently back then, twins came as a surprise (or shock) and that was the case with the Haskell Twins.
Our father, Henry Carvill Haskell, had grown up in the small Maine town of Brunswick. His stern parents, Alaric and Ada, had two children: Henry, born in 1897 and his sister Lois five year later. Grandpa Alaric grew up in Turner Falls, Maine with his brother, Robert—who helped Alaric graduate from a two-year dental school in Philadelphia.
My cousin, John Haskell Wilson (son of Lois and husband, Ted Wilson) has assembled a thorough genealogy of our family. I quote John:
Horace Chase Haskell and Zoe Jane Cary had two sons, Alaric Weston Haskell and Robert Haskell, both born in Turner in the 1860s. . . . My grandfather, Alaric Weston Haskell became a dentist and worked and lived in Brunswick. He lived at 72 Federal Street for many years. He was honored by a degree from Bowdoin College, which his son and grandsons attended. [Our father gave the 72 Federal Street house to Bowdoin after his father’s death. Used as the college’s first woman’s dormitory, it was later sold and the Henry C. Haskell Library Fund was established with the proceeds.]
Alaric started his dental practice in Brunswick. He married Ada Lois Carvill, daughter of a prominent businessman and citizen of Brunswick. Ada (Grandma Haskell) died when I was five years old so I never really knew her. My mother’s words on her mother-in-law was:
It would be satisfying if I could explain what made Ada as cold and austere as she appeared. Surely, she loved her husband and two children—but I always had the feeling she just sort of endured me because I was Henry’s wife. The premature death of her daughter Lois was a true blow …but there must have been something more in her background to cause the basic austerity, which presented itself to the world—that is something neither you nor I will ever know.
Grandpa Haskell practiced dentistry for 66 years. He was, “the dean of Maine dentists and won many accolades. He was the first orthodontist in the state of Maine and served as president of the New England Dental Society. Grandpa was still practicing when I was a Bowdoin student from 1952 to 1956.
In my sophomore year I was doing well in a chemistry course—taught by a friend of grandpa’s (Professor Kamerling). I decided to go to dental school and arranged a meeting with my grandfather to discuss my future plans with him. His housemaid, Cora Ballenger, cooked a fine meal which grandpa suggested we eat before getting down to the purpose of our meeting.
After dinner, Cora served us tea in Grandpa Haskell’s den and I started my sales pitch.
I am doing well in Professor Kamerling’s chemistry course and I have decided to go to dental school at Tufts University. After graduation, I’d like to come back to Brunswick and join you in your practice.
Grandpa (Doctor) Haskell stroked his chin and thought for a while. He then said:
Hankus [his nickname for me], I’ve known you for almost 19 years. I have great respect for your many interests and enthusiasm for life. I know you will be a success in whatever you decide to do. A dentist, however, must have very creative hands to carve new teeth and repair old ones. In my observation of you for these nineteen years, I have never seen any sign of creativity in your hands. I suggest you seek another career!
Pat’s comment, when I’ve told this story to many, has always been,
“And Grandpa Haskell was right!”
I lived at Grandpa Haskell’s house at 72 Federal Street in Brunswick in my sophomore year at Bowdoin—but couldn’t stand the constant oversight he had on me, and moved back into the dormitories. My roommate Warren Slesinger, stayed at grandpa’s house, by himself, for the remainder of the year.
I ate dinner often with Grandpa Haskell and drove him to various Maine towns, talking about lots of family and Maine stuff as we drove. One of his favorite towns was Wiscasset—the same town where I now swim three times weekly when we are in Maine during summers.
Grandpa was a modest man with many interests. He told me about the religious sect, Shiloh in Durham, near Lisbon Falls, Maine. A man named Frank Sandford started Shiloh in the late 1890s. This evangelical preacher-con man convinced people to sell all their belongings and move to Durham. The religious movement was called “Holy Ghost and Us Society” and later referred to as, “The Kingdom.” In 1897 Shiloh built a large building that exists today as a “New church.” I was fascinated by Grandpa’s stories and returned to my fraternity talking about Shiloh. It turned out that our fraternity cook, Emma Marstaller’s family had, indeed, sold all their belongings and moved from Texas to Durham—“where we were sadly disappointed.” This part of Maine was where the famous author, Stephen King, grew up and some of his novels are about this area, disguised, of course.
Grandpa Haskell retired at 89 years old—the year before I graduated from Bowdoin. He still drove his Nash Rambler and I remember my father telling the story that Alaric’s neighbors used to be extra careful every morning at 8 AM when “Dr. Haskell” came roaring out of his driveway on to Federal Street, heading to his downtown office.”
After two years in the U. S. Army, and marrying my first (and only) wife, Pat, we returned to New England. I introduced Grandpa Haskell to my bride in the spring of 1959. Pat remembers, “Your grandfather was reserved at first. We ate lobsters in his backyard and he taught me how to crack them open—with a hammer as they were hard shells.” Pat and I returned to Brunswick to see Grandpa in the hospital after his stroke that took his life in December 1959. I remember Pat’s leaning down to hear him say, “How much longer?” Grandpa knew Pat was a registered nurse who knew more about strokes than anyone else in our family.
My mother, Emily Morgan Hussey Haskell, was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1913. Her father, (my grandfather), Reverend Alfred Rodman Hussey, was a Unitarian minister at the large Baltimore Unitarian Church. Grandma Hussey was Mary Lincoln Warren of New Bedford, Massachusetts. Mother had a brother (Rodman) and two sisters (Margaret and Mary) with mother the youngest. The family moved from Baltimore to New England where Grandpa Hussey became the Unitarian minister in Taunton, Massachusetts and then Plymouth, MA. Mother grew up in Plymouth and summered on Cape Cod, where her parents built a beautiful house overlooking Barnstable Harbor in 1904. Her father also preached in Barnstable, including conducting mother and dad’s marriage on July 30, 1932.
Grandma Hussey was a warm, pleasant, caring, bright, woman with many interests. She read a lot and was a good gardener. She was always very kind to Pat, who got to know Grandma Hussey quite well before her death in 1966.
Grandma was a Warren and from a family of lawyers with success in their genes. My cousin, Christopher Hussey, told me grandpa and grandma’s Cape Cod house was built with ‘Warren money.’ The only fault Mercy and I remember about Grandma was her hen pecking her husband. I learned later (from his autobiographies) some of the possible reasons for this. In a chapter of his book entitled, “The Laborer and His hire,” he said:
Nowhere is the minister, young or old, likely to find a more prolific source of troubles, than in the realm of his financial relationships. From money, the problems arising from its receipts and expenditures can arise a throng of worries and vexations, producing, in the long run, ample bitterness of spirit. Many a pastorate, otherwise successful, on this rock has found shipwreck. . . .
In the ministry, as elsewhere, the laborer is worthy of his hire. Even saints must live. Their wives must have a new dress occasionally. Their families must be fed. Children must be educated. Assure your minister of an income sufficient for his needs; and you are not likely to hear from him so many disturbing sermons. The assertion may seem unduly critical; but has its aspect of truth.
I remember Grandpa Hussey as a tall distinguished serious intellectual. Graduate of Harvard and Harvard Divinity School, he was a minister at three churches before settling in at the First Church of Plymouth, Massachusetts. His sermons were long and learned and Mercy and I sat in his church for what seemed like hours trying to figure out when he would finish and what he was talking about. In hindsight, I wish I’d paid more attention to Buppy’s sermons. Yes, his nickname was “Buppy,” the same nickname our eight grandchildren have given to me. I am proud of my nickname, as the original Buppy was an inspiration to me and to many others who adored him. He was kind and thoughtful with an occasional twinkle in his eye as he shined some quarters and hid them behind rocks on the Cape for Mercy and me to find and keep. He’d sit on a rock and give us hints to find them. Buppy wrote three autobiographies, about a year before he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1947 walking up to get a haircut in Plymouth.
I have recently read these books and gleaned so much more of what an interesting man he was. In one book he told about the challenges he faced in each of his parishes—mostly having to do with money (lack of it) and with the egos of his parishioners. In another book, he dwelled on his upbringing in New Bedford, Massachusetts. At age ten he was given a small toy theatre and talked about his great interest in live theatre. He would memorize plays, including Shakespeare, and put them on in his toy theatre as if he were performing them before a large audience. He played all the parts and discussed the importance of drama later on when he became a minister. After all, a minister must be dramatic in his sermons, project loud enough and clear enough to maintain his parishioner’s attentiveness, and tell interesting parables and stories.
Grandpa (Rev.) Hussey wrote about his early life and theatre interest:
Mine was a happy, though a lonely childhood. My sisters and brother were so much older than I that, in many ways, my existence was like that of an only child. . . .
I could not have been more than nine or ten when someone gave me a toy theatre. Scott’s American Boys Theatre, it was called. . . .
Certainly from my toy playhouse, there came to me. At least, one benefit which was not inconsiderable. It started me reading plays . . . laying the foundation of a library of dramatic literature, which, with the flight of years, has grown into a collection of considerable size.
Another result of this plaything which stood me in good stead, in years to come, came from the training in declamation it gave me. Spouting long speeches in prose and verse inspired me with unconscious interest in oral delivery of the spoken word, whose value was proven when public speaking became my profession; and sermons had to be got across to congregations of real men and women. The close relationship between stage and pulpit has long been recognized. In every successful minister there is something of the actor. Certainly, in my case, my love of acting, my fondness for things theatrical, has been more help than hindrance. . . .
It all began with the delights derived from a toy theatre by a small boy seventy years ago.
There was a time when I considered making the stage a profession. I still think I might have made a go of it. To this day, whenever I meet my old friend, Henry Ware, with whom I acted on several occasions, he never fails to say, jocosely: “Alfred, you spoilt a first rate actor to make a poor minister.” I am still uncertain whether he may not be right! But this, I do know …every successful preacher has in him something of the thespian. To both vocations, a good voice, well-trained, imagination, the ability to impersonate, to share the thoughts and emotions of others, all are essential. When these are lacking, both fall short.
Grandpa Haskell, Grandma Hussey, and Grandpa Hussey were all fascinating people and good role models for us. As I write these words and remembrances, I wonder if, in this day of instant messaging, our grandchildren will look back and talk about some influences we have given them. I hope so.