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