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. 

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