Sunday, July 6, 2014

Robert F. Winne Memoir Notes I

quick sketch of the William's farm
(Robert F. Winne intended on making a better drawing at some point, I'm sure, as his architectural drawing skills are to be admired, but this is all we have -- if I remember correctly the house is located on the bottom left and the barns and out-buildings are at the top of the page). I don't know where the lake was situated. There was a view of it from the house, so it was probably somewhere on the right of the page or the bottom. The William's farm is no longer there, including the house and all of the barns.

(This post was written by Lise Winne, Robert F. Winne's daughter except for the memoir part of the post).

My father wrote two sets of notes for memoirs. They were found in different folders. The one I am posting today is short and the other one is more fleshed out. Which is to say, most pages just have notes and don't read as a story. It seems obvious he meant to use them for a full-fledged story. 

I am just posting one of them today. The second version will follow this one. Look to the right for the full table of contents.

These memoir notes are very rough drafts. It is too bad we (his family) don't have more to work with, to see and to know, but somehow, and sadly, I think my father didn't think his life was interesting enough for a long lengthy memoir. I was happily surprised to see that he had gotten as far as he did as he never let on that he was attempting anything of this kind! I was constantly urging him to write one and so glad he listened to me (a bit) about that. How comforting to find these after he passed away! 

These memoir notes were written by Robert F. Winne in his own beautiful hand writing. There was a lot of editing and cross-outs with further writing and thoughts in the margins. I have included these in this post, but it should be obvious to the reader that I don't know where the writings in the margins would fall in terms of the paragraphs, so I am making the best decision I can.

My father did leave behind an incredible number of letters from his years in World War II and from his first years as an architect in Texas. So we have a lot of material from those years, even if written at the time the war was in full swing and during his time afterwards as a budding architect living on his own far away from home.

So without further explanation, here is Robert F. Winne speaking (in his own notes) about his childhood:

For better or worse, I was born two days after Christmas of the year, 1924. I'm not sure why my parents decided on such a date (if there was actually any plan at all). The outcome forever after was that everyone was so exhausted after holiday festivities there was little drive for another one. Yet, they always came through -- modestly.

Born in the President's residence on the edge of the college campus in the front bedroom of a large, rangey Victorian house 
overlooks the spacious central green 
the west 'piazza' a summer livingroom,
fully furnished, with green view, 
altho it was grandparent's house
I spent at least half of my childhood days there
exploring its endless no. of rooms
sliding down the long, curving front stair rail banister

(grandparents on both sides of the family figured large in my early years)

house arranged in long sequence of rooms from front to back:
entry hall with long winding staircase
front parlor alongside
  -- a favorite sitting room for grandparents
lined with floor to ceiling bookcases
middle parlor cut laterally across house, its portico-ed fireplace room a favorite space for putting on plays, for family consumption Sun aft.
dining pantry room and finally a large kitchen at rear 
dominated by huge, coal-fired stove, with gas burners at far end
Grandma skilled at gauging oven heat by sticking her hand in
there always seemed to be some kind of food preparation going on,
entirely Grandma's labor
doughnut making the most memorable

upstairs a seemingly endless succession
of bedrooms ranged along a central corridor
   a hierarchy from front to back
the prime bedroom at the head of stairs (my birth room)
ordinarily reserved for my great grandmother
who moved from Hadley to Brockport
to spend her final years with her daughter
I remember her as a wise and stately presence in the household
regally ensconced in that high ceiling-ed front bedroom
   always looked to for imparting wise counsel on family matters
   sadly she didn't live long enough for me to get to know her.

A couple of notes: He is referring to "Hadley, Massachusetts to Brockport, NY" (above paragraph). At the beginning when he talks of being born in the Prsident's residence, he is talking about the President of Brockport College (at the time of my father's birth, the president of Brockport College was his grandfather). 

The following is a vignette about his years as a boy on the William's family farm during The Great Depression (that were in with the same papers): 

A Crucial Skill

I delighted in riding the top of the hay wagon, and when older, helping, with pitchfork in hand, to distribute the load for proper balance. When the wagon was full, it was brought up to the hay barn. The unloading process was an ingenious system of pulleys and winches that grasped with big claws a load of hay, raised it to the peak of the barn, sent it laterally into the loft, and on signal, tripped it into the appropriate spot -- all of this accomplished with the horse team pulling a line outwards from the barn.

Handling hay with a pitchfork, I learned, was a true art. Gathering up stray piles that the horse-drawn rake missed and assembling its rows into "shocks" with a 3-pronged fork required knowing how to interweave the haystacks in a way that holds the whole pile together for final heaving into the wagon.

Once the hay harvest was safely stored in the loft, I delighted, in my younger years, romping in the hay -- occasionally encountering a mouse at close range, which startled both of us.

The barn was always full of fascinations, redolent of fresh hay, a place to play hide and seek with neighbor kids, burying ourselves in hay.

But my contact with kids my age was rare so I had to concoct solitary games and pastimes that might include the family collie. We often went searching in the fields for new woodchuck holes which needed direct assault. Their holes could break the leg of a horse that might stumble into them. The occasional trip into town (Naples) was a special excitement which occurred only every 3 weeks or so. It was a time to shop for the few necessities not supplied by the farm itself, and to make brief visits with family friends and relatives. The trip was a bumpy ride on a single-lane dirt road that weaved along the ridge facing the Canandaigua Valley. The trip usually included brief stops to connect with friends and relatives that lived along the way. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Letter from Miriam, Robert F. Winne's mother, during World War II

Robert F. Winne before he went into the army

(This post is written by Lise Winne, Robert F. Winne's daughter)
There are many letters that my father wrote home during World War II. However there is only one that exists from his mother, Miriam, during that time. The following is her letter to her son (Robert). Some of the names of his friends who stayed behind in the USA and what they were doing have been edited out (with the exception of Charlie Meinhold, a close friend, also deceased, who my father went to Farm and Wilderness Camp with the first summer that it opened). Names of people who are still living I have referred to by initials to protect their privacy. 

Jan 7, 1945

Dear Bob,

Last night I wrote you a long letter and then tore it up. Frankly, I am so frantic with worrying about you I can’t write coherently. Your last letter to us was dated Nov. 28 and with the mails so slow from the European area I can well understand why we have not heard since. Of course we did get your cable and flowers which meant so much to us. But now the terrible news of the big German offensive has thrown me into a panic. The paper states that the 75th Division is with the First Army fighting in Belgium against terrible odds, blizzards, eighteen inches of snow, etc, etc. You can well understand how I feel as I do; mothers are made that way, you know. This waiting and wondering is awful so if I really let myself go this letter will not make very cheerful reading.

Your watch came this week and you surely did a good job packing it. What a shame it had to act up when you are out of this country. I should say the main spring was broken and that will happen to the best watch made. A took it into Mr. Ring and I will send it back to you as soon as I can.

A left for school today. It has not been a very exciting holiday for her, but it has been a vacation and she has seemed very contented just being home ... The girls have had a lot of hen parties and (A's friend) has written that she has not had any dates either in Atlanta. (a boy interested in A) was here for a week but A does not consider him a date. (a boy in interested in A) —boy has not changed a bit so I hope the army will do something for him. He expects to go in Jan 10 ...

We have been snowed in again – this time the fourth big storm and they have all been paralyzing. Even the trains could not get thru Buffalo this week, to say nothing of buses and cars. It seems as tho your father has been home more this last month than in months – simply because he could not get out of town. You simply can’t imagine the amount snow we have – I never saw anything like it in my sixty years on earth. You see I am no longer forty – this war is getting me down. I guess we can take the snow and sub-zero weather tho when you boys must fight in the worst kind of weather.

Charlie Meinhold came to see us when he was home for Christmas. The lucky guy is at the U. of Maryland and seems to like his work in dentistry very much.

(A friend who was a fellow musician) is back at the Eastman School taking the public school music course.

We had a very quiet New Year’s eve and it suited me fine as I can’t say we feel much in the mode for celebrating ... We had a nice supper at midnight and wished for a better 1945 with you and (friend serving in the Pacific) safely home by another New Year’s eve.

A spent most of New Year’s eve and most of the next day in bed – too much candy and stuff. (a boy interested in A) sat with her awhile which must have been exciting but she did not miss any parties and she didn’t feel too bad.

I am glad the holidays are over but I shall miss A.

(a friend in military training in Texas) wrote his mother the first gloomy letter this week. The weather has been as bad in Texas. He is afraid their training will be prolonged for another month. Of course, his mother is tickled to death that he will be in training that much longer.

Did I tell you that (a friend) was killed in a plane accident at Westover field? He was first commissioned and looked so well in his new uniform, had lost a lot of weight too. He had only been at Westover field a few days after being home on leave, when he was killed.

I do hope we get some word from you but I suppose that is too much to expect. Just communicate with us in any way you can whenever you can. I keep writing and probably by June you will get all my letters at once.

How I do hope we hear from you soon!

Best love


Saturday, June 28, 2014

the role of Larry Kagan in our lives

Larry Kagan Sculpture with Cast Shadow

(please note, if you are new to this blog, Robert F. Winne is my father and I am his daughter writing this post).

Today I went to a Larry Kagan exhibit at a prestigious museum in my area. If any of you saw the first post on this blog, Larry Kagan was my father's colleague at RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute). Larry was also my first drawing teacher. My father sat in on some workshops Larry taught as well.

As I looked through Larry's pieces in the show, I wished my father was with me to see the direction Larry went with his art (and sometimes I could just about hear my father say, "Oh, my goodness! So interesting ... and so well done!"). Indeed, it is a unique direction! 

Larry makes art that makes shadows. They are abstract sculptures that are screwed to the wall to make another image (in shadow) that is realistic, recognizable and common. There is usually one light coming in a certain direction to make the image.

Here is a video I saw on You Tube that describes his process:

As for art lessons with Larry? My father loved lessons about "free-ing up the hand" to make spontaneous liberating drawings, usually of figures (as an architect he was expected to make very tight precise drawings all day, so you can imagine this was a breath of fresh air). 

As for me? I remember drawing in the boiler room with a lot of pipes in tangles. That would have appealed to my sense of intricacy.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

the role of Albert Bigelow in our lives

Albert Bigelow's obituary from The New York Times
with my father's handwriting in the corner

One time I asked my father (Robert F. Winne) who he liked and admired most from my mother's side of the family and he said without hesitation, "Bert Bigelow".

It is easy to see why my father would have a special place in his heart for my Uncle Bert. For one, my uncle did not judge people based on hearsay (and there were a lot of false stories circulating about my father in the family at that time). I saw my uncle quite a bit because he was the trustee of the school I attended, and some of my one-to-one conversations with him were about my father and how much they had in common. 

My parents were divorced at the time, so my father would often come to the school on his own to visit or on one of the drives for my school breaks and we would run into my uncle. My uncle took us out for lunch a couple of times and he and my father would have long talks about architecture (they were both architects with a similar philosophy, aka The New Urbanist Movement ... Uncle Bert, in fact, helped with a Massachusetts government sponsored project to build low-cost housing for veterans). Although my uncle had long since moved on to a life as a painter by that time, he was interested in my fathers perspectives about humane buildings and civic design, and indeed, Uncle Bert asked to see some of his projects and send materials in the mail. I have no idea whether written correspondences went beyond that, but I wouldn't be surprised. They seemed like kindred spirits.

In many ways, their lives followed similar paths and interests.

Uncle Bert served as a navy lieutenant commander aboard destroyer escorts in the Pacific during World War II. He became disgusted with war, and in the early 1950s became a Quaker (upon reading the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi).

My father went the same path (even with the reading of Gandhi) except he became a Quaker sooner, and served as a common soldier in the German theater and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

Both also became active in causes. My father's causes were mostly civic (protesting in town halls), though he did join and support some national causes too ... whereas my uncle's causes were mostly national (protesting nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and being active in civil rights causes), though he did join and support some civic causes too. 

Uncle Bert can be seen in the PBS series about the Freedom Riders ... or you can hear his name mentioned in the Democratic National Convention in this video. He is also mentioned in Black History Month in this issue.

As for me? Although I saw him as a child at his house and my Great Grandmother's house on Cape Cod, it wasn't until highschool where I forged a meaningful deep connection with him. He sent letters and cards to me up until he died with the greeting, "Dear Twin". I think we may have been twins in more ways than one.  

He was a teetotaler (like I am) and major events at his house were alcohol-free. I remember talking with him about alcohol on a few occasions. He flatly said, "Alcohol is poison" as he was pouring juice into a glass from a punch bowl at a wedding. When I pressed on about the subject, he said it poisons the body, the spirit, the morals and the drive to do anything useful for humanity (keeps one stuck in narcissistic concerns). I have come to a similar viewpoint, at least where it concerns an active addiction. 

The obvious artist connection is there too (my art and music blog is here).      

And as with him, I look up to Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and don't back down from injustices and immoral policies easily.

If I were to pick a member I admired the most from my family on my mother's side who I personally knew, it would be Albert Bigelow too. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mary, a drawing

drawing by Robert F. Winne 
(note: this is an old drawing, possibly from the 1960s ... the paper is getting fragile, very yellowed and faded and it is on letter paper, not on acid free drawing paper)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

a thought for today and a blessing for Robert

A loving thought for my father, Robert, today
all applies except for the word "guilty" (he knew better)
photo by unknown (found in a Facebook feed)
love forever

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Robert F. Winne drawer unit repainted (and dealing with grief)

Plywood Camping drawer unit made by Robert F. Winne
(he used to take this on camping trips to Cape Cod to store matches, writing utensils, swimming goggles, mini flashlights, et al)

repainted by Lise Winne (his daughter) to help her through the grieving process of losing her dad (or Dood, as he was called by his children and grandchildren)

This drawer unit is in use in Lise Winne's studio

Each drawer has art supplies in it at the moment to help Lise get inspired and to help her feel that her inspirations come through her father

I was responding to a friend on Facebook who was going through a soul crushing experience with grief at losing the love of her life. 

This was my advice: What I do in dealing with the grief is wear his shirts (been wearing them since he passed away), reading his "I love you" notes to me, reading some of the many papers he left behind, contemplating how he would view an experience (which happens to be most of the time), researching subjects thoroughly (which he also liked to do), painting commemorative pieces (which this drawer unit is just one example), trying to live by his example, trying to love others the way he had loved me, thinking about him in challenging situations and what kind of guidance he would give me. When I feel like I can't live without him, I just don't: I live with him in my mind and spirit, even through mundane life experiences, and particularly while I am creating art.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Commemorative Art: Robert F. Winne and Lise Winne art

Robert F. Winne and Lise Winne pattern art
© 2014
Robert F. Winne (father): center art
Lise Winne (daughter): complementary border
commemorative art for the one year anniversary of Robert F. Winne's passing

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

RPI faculty meeting sketch doodles

RPI faculty meeting sketch doodles I and II
by Robert F. Winne

Professor Winne has a lot of little doodles he made during faculty meetings at R.P.I. These are just two of them out of around 150 of them.  

Was he bored at these meetings? If he was like me (which I suspect he was, since I am his daughter and I am an artist too), doodling actually enhances concentration on what is being said at the meetings. It is like knitting, creating fun little patterns.

I like how his pen moves around or inbetween the RPI emblem and words on the page.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Description of Richard Hooke, artist and woodworker, written by Robert F. Winne

© a sketch from the sketchbook of Richard Hooke, artist, woodworker, teacher

A transcript of Bob’s handwritten description of his friend Richard Hooke (an artist friend who Bob deeply admired and loved) was recently found by Bob's wife, Patricia:

In the morning as he dresses for work and prepares for the day, his eye cannot help but fall on several of the many pieces of art/craft scattered about the household—pieces that are products of his own hand and have become loyal daily companions. Perhaps he will give one or two of them a quick, gentle stroke in passing, signal both of recognition in its presence and a note of appreciation for the continuing delight it offers in its silky surface, rich color and spirited form. He calls the many kinds of human investment that went into each piece; the explorative wanderings before a breakthrough, the many tentative trials, the disasters as well as the triumphs. His mind touched on instances of realization: of coming to know the personality of the material and its resistances, of where one must proceed with great care, and where one can charge along with great abandon, of recognizing when enough is enough, knowing that a piece is never really “finished”. Those of us who are friends of this man could venture to say that his craft is as much art as craft, and perhaps even beyond art as a way of life.

Monday, January 6, 2014

memorial piece written by Robert F. Winne for Fran Garlock

© from a page written in Robert F. Winne's handwriting

I found this memorial piece written in note form (with some cross-outs and revisions) in Robert F. Winne's notes. It is about his sister's husband's mother, Fran Garlock. Fran Garlock lived in Brockport, NY, where Robert (my father) grew up. This piece is in his own words (and probably addressed to his sister's husband, Fletcher Garlock):

I am writing to express a feeling of shared sadness that your mother is gone. Fran was a lady so much alive and alert, it is hard to adjust to the reality that she is no longer with us. Her continuing presence and spirit has come to mind many times in recent days, as well as some impressions of her character that I thought I might set down here.

Some things I will always remember about Fran:

Her sheer pluck in successfully managing her complex one woman enterprise, and doing it with high humor and vigor.

Her wry wit that demolished pomposities wherever she found them.

Her no-nonsense view of the world, and our lives in it. She was no theorist about life; rather, her wisdom came out of a keen observation of every day realities. This clarity of perception that included people and critters, fruit tress and soil was something I found beautiful to behold.

Her choice was to preserve, what might be called, the 'Herriott image' of a gracious country life, a life I often felt had been somehow preordained for her. The sense of fit between person and way-of-life seemed perfect. I was always awed by how completely and elegantly she carried it off.

Her experience at nurturing all these living things gave her some pretty basic understandings about the nature of life. We humans often get so caught up with our uniqueness as a species and with our delicate temperaments that we get cut off from our primal natures, with what John Updike has called "... a sense of what lies beyond history's edge -- our daily, animal lives persisting in their chronic cycles."

This is to send much love and support, and hope that all the offspring will cherish the memory of such a fine lady.

more of my father's lovely every-day handwriting (notes are about Fran Garlock) 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Winne ancestors of Robert F. Winne

Here are the ascendants of my father, Robert F. Winne on the Winne line (my seventh cousin who is also a Winne helped a bit with this geneology line). I'll be writing a lot more about their particular lives (the ancestors that I know about) in other posts.

* Robert Frank Winne Junior (father) b. 1924  Brockport, NY, professor of Architecture
* Robert Frank Winne Senior (grandfather) b. 1897 Brockport, NY, (had 2 children), banker until the Great Depression; then owned a saw mill, married Miriam Cook Thompson (who was born in Palmer, MA in 1899)
* Frank Aylmer Winne (great grandfather) b. 1850 Fairport, NY, settled in Brockport, NY (had one child), homeopathic doctor, married Alice Parley Nichols (who was born in Spencerport, NY in 1864)
* Christopher Winne (great, great grandfather) 1813 settled in Monroe County, NY (had 5 children), farmer, homeopathic doctor, married Electa L. Henry (who was born in 1816)
* David Winne (great, great, great grandfather) 1791 settled in Fonda NY (had 10 children), farmer, married to Catharine Hone (who was born in Canada circa 1790) 
* Conrad Winne (great, great, great, great grandfather) 1764 settled in Sharon Springs, NY (had 7 children), married to Jannetje Schoonmaker (from Cherry Valley, Otsego, NY)
* Daniel Winne (great, great, great, great, great grandfather) b. 1738 settled in Sharon Springs, NY, married Catherine Houghtaling (born in 1744 )
Frans Winne (great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather) b. 1713 settled in Bethlehem, NY, married Agnietie Van Wie (1716 - 1757) 
* Daniel Winne (7 great grandfather) b. 1675 settled around Albany, NY, married Dirkje VanNess (who was born in Bethlehem, NY, circa 1679)
* Pieter Winne (8 great grandfather) b. 1620 in Ghent Flanders and settled in 1696 in Bethlehem, NY on land he purchased from native Americans (more on this story in later posts), wealthy farmer, married Tannatje Adams of Leeuwaerden, Vriesland, Netherlands
* Franciscus Winne (9 great grandfather) b. 1586 in Ghent Flanders