Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Audrey's Eldest Son - 1921-2015

Audrey's second child and eldest son, Harold Leroy Barclay, passed away last Friday at the age of 94. Remembering him mostly from my childhood, I think of him as a dignified man, the most serious of Audrey's nine children, not inclined to cut up or participate in the kind of frivolous banter that occurs sometimes when large families gather. I could be wrong, of course, and if I am, I hope someone who knew him better will correct me.

The only time I saw Harold after I reached adulthood was in 1996 at a family reunion in Springfield, MO. We talked on the phone a couple of times after that, and he kindly thought to send me a packet of family history he knew I'd find interesting.

Harold lost his beloved wife, Emogene, in 2012, after 70 years of marriage. I can only imagine he was ready to be reunited with her.

Here's a photo of Harold as a boy, a member of a rag-tag baseball team:

Harold Barclay - mid-1930s

And here's how he looked at that 1996 reunion, hardly changed at all except for the color of his hair:

Harold L. Barclay - July 1996

Rest in peace, Uncle Harold. No doubt Grandma Audrey is glad to have you home.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Untitled Essay on Patience

by Audrey L. Barclay

"Patience is a virtue." Or so we were taught when I was a schoolgirl. It is a virtue with which few of us are born, but must be cultivated daily in order to develop it to best serve our needs. It is not acquired.

While rummaging in a seldom used closet a few days ago I came across several forgotten jigsaw puzzles. Most of them I'd worked more than once, but it had been a long time ago, so with my usual impulsiveness I selected the largest and gaudiest one in the group, set up a card table, and went to work. What matter that there were any number of more worthwhile things I might be doing with the precious time that's passing so rapidly?

I hurriedly stirred the bits of cardboard searching out the straight-edged outer pieces. In no time at all I had the outline in place except for two or three elusive pieces that would, no doubt, be easily found when I started the filling-in process. Then my trouble began.

I separated as many sections as I could find of a building depicted in the picture, and while I was at it I also set aside parts of the flower garden. I thought if I could fit those pieces of the puzzle I could work all around it, filling in from all sides. The afternoon passed, and all I had was perhaps a dozen pieces fitted. And I was as tired as if I'd worked all afternoon, besides being so frustrated I was tempted to chuck the whole thing in the trash can. However, I hadn't time to be bothered with it right then, so I left it to prepare dinner.

While waiting for my meal to cook I wandered back for one last look at the puzzle. Suddenly I was inserting pieces as fast as I could pick them up! They'd been there all the time, but in my impatience I'd been overlooking them. Suddenly it came to me that I'd had as good an illustration of the meaning of "patience" as one could hope to find. I'd had many similar experiences in solving all sorts of puzzles, in sewing, in writing, almost everything I've ever tried to do. When the going got rough and everything I tried to do went wrong, if I got away from it for awhile and put my mind on other things, I could return later to find the problem had all but solved itself.

Patience is not an attribute with which we are born. It often must be learned n the hard school of experience and must be cultivated daily if it is to be kept alive and growing.


Editor's Note: In addition to patience, another quality that Grandma Audrey seems to have found virtuous is frugality. She loved to write, and she wrote on anything and everything. I thought you might enjoy seeing the pages on which she inscribed the above essay:

If you'll click on the images to enlarge them, you'll see the typewriting showing through from the other side of the paper. These were mimeographed sheets headed "General Information" and, judging by the text, had been prepared for distribution to teachers. You might also notice that before Grandma began writing her essay on the back sides of these pages, one corner of the top page had already been used for mathematical calculations.  

I wonder how many of her grandchildren have mastered both patience and frugality. Not I.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Cake Snatcher

Remember when I told you Grandma Audrey wrote a lot of fact-based fiction? Today's story is a perfect example. In this one she changed the names of everyone but Robert Clary. The Markles were really the Barclays, Audrey and Erna, and the Markles' son Lynn was my father, Paul Linvel Barclay.

Here's the story:

The Cake Snatcher
by Audrey L. Barclay

You probably don't watch "Hogan's Heroes" on television for the same reason I do. It's an entertaining little comedy, and Hogan's great, but it has a special meaning for me because it features Robert Clary. He's one of the few celebrities I ever met.

We went to visit our son several years ago when he was assistant manager of the Statler Hotel in Detroit. Lynn told us immediately on our arrival that we were to spend the last night of our visit as guests of the hotel, where he had already reserved the "Presidential Suite" for us. He knew, with our limited travels, it would be an exciting experience for us, besides enabling us to get an early start on our return journey.

We visited with the family until late bedtime for the children that last evening, then Lynn returned to the hotel with us. There we found the welcome-mat spread. A lovely arrangement of flowers for "Mr. Markle's mother, courtesy of the hotel," and a big box of fancy candies "for Mom and Dad, from Lynn" awaited us in our suite. Then we went down to the supper-club for refreshments and the floor-show.

Our experience of social night-life was limited to what we had seen on television or in the movies, so we hardly knew what to expect, certainly not the homage we received from the moment we entered the room. Waiters came flocking from every direction to serve Mr. Markle and his guests, and the orchestra swung at once into Mr. Markle's favorite number in our honor. The scene had the unrealistic qualities of a fantastic dream or a bit of play-acting; I had to keep assuring myself it was neither, but stark reality.

We were escorted to a choice balcony table by some half a dozen waiters, each vying for the honor of serving our party. The head-waiter insisted he would take our order, but the others hovered near, making frequent suggestions. The order finally given, we sat back to enjoy the floor-show.

Just as Robert Clary began his performance the chef arrived from the kitchen to place his contribution before me, a lovely cake, nicely boxed for carrying. I was speechless, and oh! so self-conscious at being the center of so much attention. My son sat there grinning at me like the cat that ate the canary and having the time of his life.

The little Frenchman finished his act and started from the floor. Swerving, he darted up the steps to our table, snatched up the cake, tucked it under his arm and ran, with nearly every waiter in the place in hot pursuit. They overtook him, seized the box, and came marching back in a body, the head-waiter bearing it aloft as though it was a diadem on a silken pillow.

It was the grand finale of the show, of course, but fun, and that's why I like to watch "Hogan's Heroes," with Robert Clary. It brings back memories.



I have one more piece of memorabilia related to the time my father spent in Detroit's hospitality industry. Ripped out of a magazine, it's a page bearing a Cranbrook House Motel ad that featured him. I'm not sure what year it was, but in the ad my dad was touting the benefits of individual room phones, so maybe that'll narrow it down for you. Sometime in the '50s, I think. (Click on the photo to enlarge the ad.)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Did Christmas Come Twice?

by Audrey Barclay

The approach of Christmas always turns back the pages of memory to the holiday that brought both laughter and tears. It still does, though it happened almost forty years ago.

I arose that Christmas Eve to face a day crowded with things to be done in preparation for the coming day. My parents were to drive the clumsy, big lumber truck in from their home some thirty miles away to share in the festivities. What they didn't know was that Etta, a sister in St. Louis, had written that she was coming also, with her three children, but requesting us to withhold the information from our parents. It would be fun to surprise them.

A younger sister, Velma, was staying with us during the holiday season while she was employed at a local variety store. Both Velma and my husband, Erna, must work that day, but there was to be no school, so the children were being allowed to sleep as late as they wished. Velma, Erna and I were taking advantage of the latter fact to enjoy a leisurely breakfast without the usual confusion of several children needing attention. We chuckled over the surprise in store for Mom and Dad when they saw Etta and her children; we discussed other pertinent matters that absorbed our attention so we failed to hear the noise of the heavy vehicle pulling into the driveway.

Then a fumbling noise was heard at the door. Wonderingly, because of the early hour, I started to rise from the table, but before I was on my feet the door opened and there came my mother, holding aloft a huge cake. She advanced  into the room, followed closely by Dad, who had both hands around an enormous box of Christmas goodies. After pausing only long enough to push the door shut with his foot, Dad followed after Mom, echoing her gleeful greeting, "Merry Christmas, everybody!" Both faces were bathed in broad smiles of happy anticipation.

I was ashamed of the idea that was chasing about in my mind. Could they have made such a horrifying mistake? Not MY mom and dad! I was stunned at the idea. Erna, Velma and I simply sat there exchanging questioning glances, each of us waiting for one of the others to tell the happy couple of their error.

Having deposited their burdens in the kitchen, they returned to the dining room where I was fumblingly trying to pour cups of coffee to warm them up after their long ride. Mom looked around expectantly and, seeing no signs of excited children, inquired, "Aren't the kiddies up yet?" She sounded disappointed, then surprised when I replied, "No, there isn't any school today." I couldn't bring myself yet to blurt out the awful truth.

At last it was time for Erna to leave, so he told them, rather timidly, to be sure, "This isn't Christmas Day. It isn't until tomorrow." Both Mom and Dad thought he was only teasing, and Dad, being quite a tease himself, decided he'd have a part in the fun. He began explaining that he'd tried to tell Mom she was mistaken in the date, but she wouldn't listen to him. Knowing our dad, we knew he'd never have made that cold drive had he really thought Mom was wrong. It was only when Erna put on his coat and cap and picked up his lunchbox that they really accepted the truth. Looks of horror, embarrassment, and disappointment replaced their happy smiles.

In his chagrin Dad announced they wouldn't be returning the next day, bringing remonstrances from all of us (by that time several of the children had been awakened by the sound of strange voices and were standing around sleepy eyed and wondering what the commotion was all about). When Erna finally told him to forget it, we wouldn't tell on him, and that Christmas only comes once a year, you know, Dad replied, "The heck it don't! It's come twice THIS year."

The rest of the story is anticlimactic I suppose, but the tale would be incomplete without it. Erna left from work to meet the afternoon train while Velma and I spent the time comparing notes. Seems we each had been in a near-hysterical state throughout the day, bursting into sudden spurts of laughter, followed by floods of tears as we pictured the faces of our parents and knew how embarrassing the incident must have been for them. We agreed we'd spare their feelings and not reveal the occurrence to our other guests, but Dad, being a good sport, couldn't resist the opportunity to let the others in on the secret.

Yes, they did return, bright and early, but in a somewhat subdued attitude from that of the previous morning. And it was, truly, a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

The End

Audrey and Erna (on sofa) surrounded by family,
Christmas Day 1948.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

When the Leaves Turn

by Audrey L. Barclay

Nature has provided the leaves with a calendar to tell them when to start changing from the faded, dusty green of their summer attire to their "Jacob's coat of many colors." It seems to happen almost overnight. Nowhere is the scene more glorious than right here in our Ozark hills, especially the one I see from my kitchen window.

A light frost only hastens the process, but a hard one brings a quick change to winter dress of drab browns for all except the evergreens dotting the landscape.

The tall hillside is a tangled mass of many shades, of many colors. Indian paint brush and some kinds of oaks burn like flames of fire, others of the oak family are of bronze or burnished brown. The scarlet of the sugar maples mingles with the bright yellow of soft maples and hickory-nut trees. Here and there a crimson vine of poison ivy twines its way up the trunk of a tree.

The fencerows are overgrown with drooping stalks of pokeberries, the raisin-purple fruit still clinging tenaciously to the parent plan, which is almost smothered by huge clumps of crimson sumac, with its orange-red berries. Not quite so plentiful are the lovely bittersweet shrubs, with their tiny, orange-tinged-with-red berries, and countless other colorful trees and vines of which I do not know the names.

A small lake at the foot of the hill reflects the picture, adding a background of blue sky where light popcorn clouds float lazily by.

Although many have tried, only that Master of all artists, God, has ever succeeded in producing such a scene of splendor.

Jason Rust, grandson of Audrey Barclay, shot this photo of
the Ozarks' autumn colors that Audrey described as "glorious."

Friday, October 25, 2013

Little Ghosts and Goblins

This newspaper clipping came to me without a date on it. I can't be sure what year Audrey and Erna hosted this Halloween party, but then, sleuthing is half the fun of exploring family history.

According to the guest list above, eight of the nine Barclay children attended this event. The only one missing was Shirley, the youngest, who was born in 1933. I believe that if Shirley had been there, even as a babe in arms, her name would have been included in the newspaper story. Don't you think so? Glenn, the sibling closest in age to Shirley, was born in 1930, and he showed up on the party list. So, my first guess was that the party was held between 1930 and 1932--post-Glenn and pre-Shirley.

But wait! The article mentions that the party was held on a Wednesday night. Why would people have a party for children on a school night unless it was actually Halloween--October 31st?

I went to the Internet and checked old calendars to find the day of the week for October 31st on each year of the early 1930s. The first Halloween that fell on a Wednesday in that decade was in 1934.

Sorry, Aunt Shirley, but it looks like they partied without you. Maybe they thought it would be too scary for a one-and-a-half-year-old girl. I hope you've had enough treats since then to make up for what you missed that night.

UPDATE 10/28/13: Apparently, my detective work wasn't thorough enough. I just checked my genealogy database for Velma Brower (Audrey's sister and party assistant) and discovered that by the time October 31, 1934 rolled around, she had been Mrs. Raymon Tracy for nearly eight months. So, what year was the party? I dunno. I give up.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Casper Hamilton

by Audrey L. Barclay

The dapper little man stepping briskly along, the soft April breeze ruffling his thinning black hair, was Casper Hamilton, head of the history department in a New York City school. He was planning to celebrate his fifty-second birthday by settling himself for the evening with the new novel he had tucked beneath his arm, a story of the Civil War. Such stories were a hobby with him, and he anticipated an enjoyable evening.

Casper lived alone in a modest two-room-and-kitchenette apartment in Manhattan, with neither wife nor television to interfere with his reading. He was a timid little man, so it was inevitable that he feel ill at ease and in the way on those rare occasions when he did join the few friends he had among his colleagues. This timidity and his slight stature--he was barely 5'7" tall and had never weighed more than 147 pounds, sopping wet--had earned for him the appellation "Mr. Milquetoast" among his students. Privately, of course.

Casper had been born in Reading, Pennsylvania, where his father worked for civil service in the State Department of Commerce. His mother taught kindergarten and was unable to hide her frustration when her frail child failed to behave with the maturity of her small pupils, almost from the day he could walk. As a result he came to rely almost wholly on his own resources for companionship.

The boy was a good student and graduated from Penn State at the age of twenty. He realized he must choose a vocation requiring little physical ability. Teaching seemed the logical choice, so, having majored in history, he went to Pittsburgh and secured a position teaching that subject in one of the high schools there.

The first rumblings of World War II were being heard then, and the young man kept an alert ear tuned to the progress of the European conflict. It was history in the making, and he was among the first to offer his services following Pearl Harbor. To his chagrin he was rejected because of faulty vision; the best he could do to show his patriotism was to serve as air-raid warden for the duration.

After twelve years with the Pittsburgh school, the little teacher went to New York. He'd had an attractive offer to teach history and economics in the system there, and he was ready for  change. It was a good move, resulting eventually in his present position with the large high school that had come to be a second home to him.

The 52 years sit lightly on the erect little shoulders as he hurries homeward, the bright black eyes looking neither to right or left. He whistles softly beneath his breath the strains of his favorite song, "Mine eyes have seen the glory-----."


Editor's Note: Audrey's vivid descriptions in this story make it one of my favorite examples of her writing. I don't know if Casper Hamilton was a real person or a character born of Audrey's imagination, but she made him seem real to me. In fact, if I had to guess, I would speculate that the writing assignment that generated this story might have been to interview someone and then write a short biography based on those interview notes. Except I can't even imagine where Audrey would have met a timid little teacher who lived in Manhattan. Can any of you Barclays out there shed any light on this?