The Saga of A Little Whitehouse
text and painted images by Ellen May Bernadine Smith Fagan
Introduction & Dedication, particularly to our children
The old homestead on my father's side of the family was iconic and I loved it. So when it suffered fire on February 18, 2000 , the event galvanized me: got the story down - 100 verses in one sitting, before it's lost to time and passing of all the players.
The stories surrounding the Smith Family Homestead, its people and their lives for a century may help your understanding of your part in the continuum. The story is a sampling of the feeling, adventure, humor, romance and trials of "ourrown" .
"Be good Americans, grow and prosper!" their mandate.
They were challenged and they often triumphed!
They celebrated robustly...
They created and invented!
Their stresses were sometimes primal and cruel.
Their goals won only by persistence, working free or dogged with difficulty.
They did nothing halfway.
They clung to commonsense as a daily staple!
Their souls were human - some days were dreams and some were nightmares,
but the stamina to go on and win the day came from the love, the laughter, the loyalties and beliefs that bore them up and fed them to go on....
to reach days of triumph and satisfaction in the work of life!
If you can get into the rhythm of the many verses, it goes quickly, but the stories were too good to be abandoned - at least I hope you find it so.
Every word is true!
It seems long this saga - or I'd call it haiku.
But it does have a peppy pace to it so you can go thru the whole thing quickly. Or not. It's your read. Find me with question or comment.
You are "Most Welcome!"
The Saga Of The Little Whitehouse
Comments on the events of February 18, 2000
The moon was full, the hour late, When the phone call came
Your Father's family homestead Has been consumed by flame!
The folks are safe, the fire put out; But don't, just yet, come'round -
Since we're all adjusting To the house done down to ground.
Not quite a hundred years ago, On a finer day,
Big Jim, "Chief", Smith brought Elsie To live and love and stay!
His six-foot-four, her four-foot-six, Borne lightly in his arms,
Would work, and bear, and laugh and fight And work the little farm.
For fifty years and more 'tis known, For love of God and Man;
For one fair daughter, seven sons, Who helped to till the land.
For fifty years and more 'tis known, The house a family forum
For joy and woes unnumbered, And often quite a quorum!
So much so, in later days, Each morn the flag was raised
At the "Little Whitehouse", And all about it praised.
But that skips the story, So let's resume the tale,
And take it back to early days Such memories don't pale:
The house was small; times were hard, Days it fair would quake,
From the very din and doin's That such a brood could make!
But to him the house a palace, Since from starving Eire came he,
To train in steel, first in Sheffield, America's entry fee!
Immigration laws had changed, the streets were lined with hordes
Of unskilled starving workers, And so they said, "No more!"
It isn't fair to them or us, A new rule must be made!
From now on, new arrivals must have a decent trade!
Young, and brave and work-proud, New goals and free from want!
New home in fair Connecticut; New work with grand DuPont
The Fairfield Coated Fabrics plant Was part Big Jim's construction
His finely trained steamfitter's skills Enabled grand production
Not one weak joint, not one down day At Fairfield's plant, for sure!
He steamed and worked and wrought ,until Becoming too mature
Then Big Jim Smith, a workproud man, was called upon once more
"It's just the new addition, Chief -They're tearin' up the floor!"
"The plant you built so long ago - Well, Chief, they've lost the plans,
Drawn to show the fittings Installed by Jim Smith's hands!
And now they can't connect the pipes from older wing to new,
And since your work installed them, We thought we'd come to you!"
And so, at age of eighty-five, With hair of snow, and cane,
He led a workman's entourage, To save the day again!
"Start your workmen, here!"he points, "And fifty feet due west,
but there you'll find an angle joint, Turns South for all the rest!"
And through the plant that day, Each steam pipe mapped anew!
And when the men went by his word, Each bit of it went true!
Each fitting where he said it was And so the job completed
The new addition - and the boss no longer overheated!
And if Jim Smith felt aged, and obsolete till then,
From that day on 'twas not the case, His memory served his men!
His Irish barrel-chestedness Now swelled about the house
Bringing smiles of pride and joy To his adoring spouse!
To run the show at work that day, Took his mem'ry back
To years of sweat and labor, Time of awful lack!
Promises of fortune inspired large investments
And even larger families-Then came the Big Depression!
His work alone was not enough To keep his family thriving,
So make the garden large enough To earn some extra living.
And so, with homefarm underway, Jim could work his trade,
And, even at the worst of it, A week's pay honest wage.
And, meanwhile,now, back at the ranch, Was industry as well,
And quite a crew came running When they rang the dinner bell!
The farm, the chores and seven sons And Elsie riding herd,
With her little Emily To pass along her word
Good corned beef and cabbage And sometimes lean of that!
But grace o'er all, all the same And please remove your hat.
And, in the evening, such a brood Was Grandpa's built in choir!
To sing the holy lyrics And best you never tire!
Picnics in the summertime, Father in at Christmas,
Years passed, the children grew, And a change in business.
Hitler to be put to route, And later on Korea:
Jim and Elsie's sons were Patriotic panacea!
One marine, one air corpsman, And so on down the row
One Engineer and one MP, As off to serve they'd go!
And home again with grateful hearts, And hearts aburst with pride!
And little Elsie waiting there, And Big Jim at her side!
The joyful vets homecoming, though, had come at awful cost!
The five fighting Sullivan Brothers Had recently been lost:
In Patriotic Brotherhood, They'd asked to serve together-
A happy, fighting Irish show They made in finer weather!
But then the game went serious, Their ship under attack-
The barrage so brutal, Not one of five came back!
Their parents stunned forever, A grieving country ceded,
"Such a tragic happening Must never be repeated!"
A law passed, nearly instantly: Separate fields of combat duty,
The law for all large families, Saved scores, absolutely!
The Smith Brothers returned intact To study war no more!
They left home boys,but came home men, From the work of war!
Full of new maturity To make their grownup lives
And work for peace and plenty, And all in need of wives!
Fairfield girls, look out this year! Our boys are back and fine!
Grandma's frontyard lilacs, And love this year-divine!
With our bachelor heroes In search of love and marriage
A driveway full of hotrods Replacing Big Jim's carriage!
Postwar weddings in a row, And livings to be made
And life was on to grand new work, Hitler's plan unmade!
The eldest, Em, now on her own a wife and mom to four-
at summer trips to "Auntie Em's" No day was a bore!
Gail,"theGolden Pipecurls Girl", "52-pick-up"Billy,
And Donna "Midge", with beauty that was cool, but not too frilly...
And, still there was our Lynn to come, like Gail, a valentine!
Come pitch in and help with chores; Let's get this place to shine!
Then out to games with Ginger-pup, Or help to feed the sheep
And fun with roadside veggie stands- Earned an angel's sleep!
So, Em was "set for life",they'd say, And getting in her stride,
Her seven younger brothers Working side-by-side:
Bill Smith did construction In the Battle of the Bulge
Sarge, he brought 'em back alive- A grateful tear indulge!
So the AlCan Highway Got his work man's hand
New roads and worlds and lives- This country's getting grand!
Young Jim had ways with critters, so the game preserve was his
And Animal Control, as well, at local and state biz.
His gardens and their produce became a second focus
He's got so famed for all of it! It must be "hocus- pocus!"
R.Charles found his stride of course Behind "The Chief's" fine start
At DuPont's coated fabric plant And brought it up to art
American involvement,now, In space exploration
Was in the headlines every day, To fascinate the nation.
E.I.DuPont, with science strength, Was honored and invited
To manufacture spacecraft parts The whole town was excited!
And NASA's work for Charlie Smith, Was Gold Mylar production:
"Lunar Landing Module Wrap Stops hurtful heat conduction!"
"One small step for Man" took place, We shared a private pride,
Good and simple folk rejoiced At so profound a stride!
Tho',"Don't be makin' such a fuss!", Was Charlie's stock reaction,
Forever after, memory Brought secret satisfaction!
Henry, Army MP Veteran, found his finest place
in Fairfield's Police Force And Sunday Cycle Race!
He grew to fine Detective work and civic work in town.
There doesnt live the man who could ever do him down!
Joe's the one we pray for Born with health so frail-
Leukemia took him from us Too young to leave a tale.
But not before he married, So there were children three
To say he'd graced this earth awhile Before eternity!
Al, our All-American with Entrepreneurial inclinations
Does success and failure Without exasperation!
He's good at family conscience- Lest, busy, we forget
Who shored us up when times were hard And made us better, yet!
Youngest, Bob,was gifted with a fine mechanic's hand
On any point of logic, He'll talk "to beat the band"!
Rain or shine, each Sunday found A quorum of the brood
At the Turnpike homestead For ball and talk and food.
The front-porch overflowing with The casual convention-
With rocking, it was easy, To resolve "bones of contention!"
We were just rapscallions, then The grownups such a din!
But what a world of wonder Our stars had popped us in!
And who's up next for Governor? And the city mayor?
Is it prince or thief we're voting In to boss the players?
And who's the Home-run leader, now, In our New York Yankees?
Will they beat"'dem bums" again Or send us for our hankies?
In summertime we'd take our turn At Grandma's house to stay
Creating summer memories That warm us till this day.
The rooster's crow alarm clock And feet on icy floor...
A warm and smiling breakfast And soon right out the door.
My morning walk with Grandpa White-haired and with cane
Along the flagged backyard path That led to wooded lane.
The special-ness of morning! Grandpa's hand for mine!
How blessed and graced to know it! A special trusting time.
"Where we going, Grandpa?" .... "...Off to Praying Rock.
There we'll say the Rosary And with our God we'll talk."
Up hill and winding pathways Led to a lovely tree,
And "Praying Rock" placed at its foot...A help for bended knee.
A simple cross carved on it's trunk, A prayerful perfect place!
To know the Lord's own sweet delight...And thank Him for His grace!
The Holy moment passing, Once more we'd take the path
Away from woodsy silence, To Grandma's welcome laugh!
"if you give the door a rap,
it will take you to part two of the Saga of the Little Whitehouse!