The Journals, continued

Yesterday I finished an inventory of the journals found in my mother’s collection of papers. I’ve found them in ones and twos and occasionally five-years-worth tied together with ancient baling twine but haven’t run across any new ones lately, so I think this must be the lot: 53 books by two authors spanning the years 1900 to 1942. Here’s a sampling:

From Raymond Harrison Barnard (1893 – 1947) this entry for August 9, 1938 is about Jessie H. MacDonald’s death in Stevenson, Scotland; “our dear friend”. She was the family’s housekeeper for 25 years and had been visiting her birthplace in Scotland when she passed away unexpectedly at age 60. My mother remembers the family’s grief when they received the new that she had died right about the time they expected her to return. RHB’s journals are always inked in his lovely, loose scrawl and annotated with clippings and letters.

Jessie H. MacDonald obit

Benjamin Isaac (BI) Miller (1868 -1949); BI’s journals are done in pencil, interleaved with bills, receipts, and solicitations addressed to “The Mayor, Hartford Connecticut”. This little drawing of the farm is done on the back of a letter and carefully taped together with linen strips on the back.

Farm Drawing

From BI’s journal in 1914, a mimeograph from the Hartford County Rural Development Association encouraging us to “buy local” more than a century ago. It’s still a good read.

Rural Improvement Manifesto

Both men were fond of including pamphlets and advertisements in their journals. They wrote about attending presentations at the Grange and Masonic Halls on tuberculosis, infantile paralysis (polio) and the Mile of Dimes, eye exams, air raid protocols, and the latest news from Washington DC. Here’s a selection from RHB’s journal about the Panama Canal, which opened on August 15, 1914.

National Geographic

There’s a wealth of material about everyday life in the last century in these little books. Consider contributing to your local historical society to help them preserve your past. These journals will be at the Wintonbury Historical Society in Bloomfield, Connecticut.


November 18, 1918, the letter home

One of my New Year’s resolutions for this year was to close out my storage unit. The monthly fee could definitely be put to more productive use than to store plastic totes of papers and objects wrapped in tissue paper and the only thing standing in my way was the utter lack of storage space at home. I started in March by bringing home each new box only after dispersing (or disposing of) the contents of the previous haul, but the year is closing out and suddenly I have a pile of The Great Historical Unknown in the living room. It doesn’t help that the oldest material was at the back of the locker, and by old I mean that’s where the Civil War era spectacles and cigar boxes of cut-throat razors are hanging out.

One box in the latest batch is packed with old papers – a 3 x 4 foot plastic vault of WWII ration books, blueprints, site surveys of farm buildings, order pads from the dairy, inventories of carriages and repair records, and, tucked away in a very worn copy of Walt Whitman poems, a letter home from my grandfather when he was an 24 year-old infantryman billeted in a French shack with 20 other men and an old iron stove.

The letter is on lined paper worn tissue-thin with age and written in blunt pencil. Parts are illegible but most of the script has survived the last century remarkably intact. His C.O. has scrawled “OK” on the last page in ink, presumably approving it for mailing. I’ve transcribed what I could below. Pvt. Raymond Harrison Barnard survived the war and married my grandmother in 1926; my mother was born in ’28. He died on his farm in Bloomfield, Connecticut in 1947.

WW1 letter 1 nov-17-1918-a

November 17, 1918   Dear Folks:

It is almost ten days since I wrote you last. We have been billeted here in the woods six days. The first two days I was too cold to write since then we have drilled four days till dark. Winter’s coming on now and we have to keep moving while out of doors to keep warm. There are about 20 of us in this hut. There are no windows so that we leave the door open for light. We have installed an old stove like the one in the <old?> house but it has no place to set a kettle on it so we can’t cook.  The floor was awfully muddy when we arrived but we have had some fine weather which has done well to dry it up.

Last Thursday (I think it was) I heard the bells of the nearby villages ringing for a long time and we figured out that the armistice was signed. I look forward with great hope. M. I would be surprised to get home in three months if we don’t have to go somewhere to do guard duty. We shall doubtless move from here soon.(We had a bath 3 days ago and are to be paid today!) I do not know what is to become of us. The company is being reorganized (we have more replacements) but I hope to stay with them just the same. I am willing to do my part. Have been with the company now nearly 5 weeks and have received no mail yet. I hope you hear from me more frequently than that. If we are not to be sent home till spring I hope we will move to some town where we can have warm billets. This isn’t so cold here but all the shacks are sort of open work. We may go to Germany to do guard duty.

We have better bunks here and I have got so much regular sleep. I feel much better and that bad cold in my lungs is gone. The 3rd day out of the trenches we stayed in a small town called Francourt. I and a fellow named Montgomery went to the river and took a bath. The water was ice cold but we pretty near rid ourselves of the cooties. We marched up here as a reserve division. I get if the Germans hadn’t signed the armistice we would have made a smashing drive right thru this sector.

Today is Sunday and we are not working so we have all washed and shaved and taken turns at getting wood for our stove. We stayed one night and part of a day in a town on our way here and I bought me a knife, pipe, h’d’k’f’s, soap, matches, etc. We have had manouvers twice since arriving here and yesterday afternoon we had a regimental review. We are all longing to be home. The war is finished and we are not needed over here much longer. Yesterday as we came back up the hill with our carts and guns a Frenchman passed us on a horse. He said “Now this war is finished and you won’t need them again.” Let us hope that is all true.

The new Srgt that just came up said that all along the line the French were drinking wine and ringing the bells like everything. I’ll bet I will ring a few bells when I get home. Door bells at least. We had a fine Lieut in command of our Platoon. His name was Gregg. His home was in or near St. Louis. I asked him if he knew any people named Filley. He said yes. My pal Dwight Filley was killed at Chateau Thierry. He was a fine Lieut. He was sent to a school and I have since been put in another platoon. The Lieut Commanding my new platoon comes from the batallion with which I trained at Salle-sur-Cher.The boys fixed our stove pipe so that the stove doesn’t smoke so bad. When I get home I guess I will go up to the Wilcox lot and put up a shack there. I keep imagining what I will do when I get home. We will all get together soon. I haven’t heard from Ray Watkins since I left Salle. I suppose you may hear from him through his mother. I’ll bet there are a good many fellows in the new draft who are glad the war is finished. Well, you will hear from me again soon.

Love to all,

Pvt. Raymond H. Barnard, MG. Co. 140 U.S. Infantry

American E.F.

OK. 2nd Lt. ? Herman A Huston

New(ish) work

I was down in the studio on this glorious Maine morning to clean and organize, and realized I’ve never posted a photo of “Clara’s Vase with Nasturtiums”. This vase is has been very difficult to merge with the softer forms of plants and drapery in past studies. I think my current experiment with Cezanne’s shorter, exploratory brushstrokes have given me more capacity for that type of change in substance.

Claras Vase Nasturtium

Clara’s Vase with Nasturtiums, 20 x 16, oil on panel

Dawson Shaw, art teacher and inspiration

dawson shaw, teacher

I am unpacking boxes (again, some more) and came across this clipping of my high school art teacher, Dawson Shaw and I having a confab over a pen and ink drawing. He was a wonderful teacher, and was directly responsible for my application to college and eventually attending art school in Philadelphia. I know he passed away in the eighties but can’t find much about him on the ‘net. He was endlessly patient and kind, with high expectations for us and what we could do with our art. Maybe that’s enough.

Thank you, Mr. Shaw!

And now, back to 1939

New Year’s is a good excuse to clean up and out, and I was down cellar drinking coffee and looking through boxes for most of my day off. (We did take a walk through deep snow and bright sunshine down at Seawall in the early winter afternoon. The sun was already going down at 3:00 pm.) I found this photo between the pages of a 1965 era copy of the Hartford Courant, with a key on the back in my mother’s handwriting. A note on the back of the photo reads: Smith Family Reunion at Montague, Sept. 1, 1939. (Click to enlarge.)

Smith Family ReunionFrom various other records I believe this is Montague New York, not New Jersey, but please feel free to confirm or correct in the comments. Montague, NY had a population of 78 in the 2010 census.

My favorite couple in the photo are Dave and Mabel Turner, below. Mabel was my great-great Grandfather Robert Wiley’s sister. The clothing, their expressions, the furniture dragged out on to the lawn, it’s all wonderful.

smith-turnersThis is my grandfather, Frank Watson (Wat) Burnham, Jr. In 1939 he was 36, with red hair and blue eyes, married to Geraldine (Wiley) Burnham, below.

smith-watson In this detail are my grandmother, Geraldine (Gerry), and her mother, Bessie (Smith) Wiley. Bessie is Robert’s widow,

Geraldine and Bessie WileyGerrie was five years younger than Wat. I only remember her as a much older woman of course, but I loved her dresses, generally a dark cloth with a lighter pattern and fastened with a brooch at the neck. I also love Bessie’s smile.

Happy Birthday, Harriet Louise.

In honor of my mother’s birthday, here are a few of my favorite photos. You can imagine her with auburn hair, brown eyes, and I believe the checkered dress was green and white. She’s standing by the east porch of her parent’s house on Jerome Ave. during the summer of ’48.Harriet 1948Harriet and her fiancee, Dwight, in the “front parlor” in 1951.

Harriet and Dwight 1951Harriet, Dwight, and Amy at the lake, 1955.

Harriet Dwight Amy 1955Happy Birthday, mom!



For all the fathers

I’m late with this, I know, but it’s been a long, beautiful day in the garden followed by pizza and chocolate cake with friends.  And there has been a steady stream of news from the Greek elections which will arguably have an effect one way or another on every part of the global economy so yes, late to the party with a post on Father’s Day.

So for my small part of the festivities from the Giant Shoebox of Old Photos comes 1957, when Father’s day looked like this:

Candid Dad

And in 1928 my great grandfather holds his eldest daughter Harriet (my mother) at five weeks old.

RHB with HBB

To all the generations of fathers down the line, Happy Day.

July 4, 1968

While I was growing up my family had a set routine for celebrating the “Patriot” holidays. Washington’s Birthday was spent at Aunt Margaret’s house. Her husband, Bert, and my grandfather and the other white males in town spent the night at the Mason’s Hall in sacred rites and a fair amount of liquor. The women and children had dinner back at the house followed by charades and story-telling, possibly some entertainment at the piano. On Memorial Day we went to my grandmother’s house which was conveniently situated on a hill above the parade route and watched the veterans of the foreign wars and the fire company go up Jerome Ave. and down Tunxis from our picnic on the lawn. July 4 was spent at the middle sister Mildred’s house. Uncle Raymond stored the watermelons in the dairy cooler and we rode our bicycles at break-neck speeds around the old barn foundation. There were bruises later, and road-rash, and fireworks in the field at night. Here we’ve been dragged away from our fun and lined up for a mugshot.


Folks will have to help me out with identifying everyone – there are no names on the back of the photo. I’m on the far right in the blond pigtails and woe-is-me expression. Is that Stevie W. in the checkered shirt to my right? Are the twins in the middle John and Russell C.? Who is that in the overalls, and the one in back with the helmet? I bet somebody out there might recognize themselves. . . think back, folks, and let me know?

Every recipe in the world

I’ve decided to experiment with encaustic painting. Encaustic is an ancient method of combining beeswax, damar resin, and pigment. It requires some equipment: a heat source to melt the wax (in this case an electric griddle), another to fuse the layers on the painted surface (I’m using a heat gun but a blow torch works too), and some space to lay out paints, boards, brushes and pots near an electrical outlet. One of the realities of living in a 20′ x 30′ house is that a project like this will require moving something else out of the way first.

The space I’m clearing is chock ablock full of computers, CD’s, video games, books, and one of my mother’s metal recipe boxes.  I think I have six of them scattered around the house (time to pass some on to the nieces) and this one probably should not have been stored precariously on an upper shelf as a head wound waiting to happen. I levered it down and started to go through the cards and now I’m making a blog post rather than continuing to clear out new studio space. There was just no resisting categories like Dream Cakes, Not-Bad Fudge, and Risin – which turned out to be cakes made with yeast, not misspelled raisins. Or neuro-toxins.

I need snack food for a meeting on Monday, so tonight I’m starting the Connecticut Raised Loaf Cake, below. It is neatly typed on onion skin paper and the folds have worn thin but there’s very little spatter. There was a similar recipe on the next card attributed to Elsie Dresser Barnard but it makes 5 loaves and requires a fifth of brandy so I’ll wait to try that another time. Not that there’s anything wrong with adding 4 C of alcohol to a cake recipe, not at all.CT raised loaf cakeI can already tell that I’ll have to publish a post with all the changes I’ve made to this recipe. I added the shortening – where I used unsalted butter and my mother would have used Crisco – to the scalded milk, both to cool it quickly to a good temperature for the yeast and to avoid having to melt it separately later in the process. I plan to double the mace and nutmeg but then I find myself increasing the spice amounts with every old recipe. Were my grandmother’s flavorings that much more potent? Or her taste buds less spoiled by extremes? I imagine it’s the latter, in the days before candy bars came in flavors like dark-chocolate-pasilla chili-cayenne-cinnamon.

This recipe for “Caraque Cookies” is next in line. Three and a half sticks of butter, 6 egg yolks, filling AND icing – perfect for celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Caraque cookies - whatever that means.