The Saga Of The Little Whitehouse  - page two


 

by Ellen May Bernadine Smith Fagan

 


Hot tea, corned beef and cabbage, A boiled potato pile, 

And lots of bread and butter To make Grandfather smile. 

"We'll bow our head in blessing For these gifts of food, 

We knew a day without them And rocked a famished brood." 


A bit of pie or cake To follow, made the fete

A simple homecooked meal A thing we'd not forget. 

Lace curtains at the window Oilcloth on kitchen board

Blue Onion English China So proudly used and stored


In Grandma's china closet, On doilies she'd crochet. 

"Come on, our Elle, I'll wash them up! You dry and put away!" 

And then, into the parlor Or front porch for the rest

And lap chores done by suppertime " Let's see who does them best!" 


"Sing the old songs, would you, While we snap the beans? 

Make the list for shopping... I'd better mend the jeans!" 

My favorite time with Grandma For stories she would tell

Of days before my memory, When she was quite the belle! 


And dances were life's heaven! Feathers for the hair! 

Beaus in line on dancefloors, To woo a Lady Fair

Her Father's consternation was Her secret, happy goal, 

He'd fuss and fret and fluster, And care about her soul; 


Forbid one dance too many, Insist she get her rest; 

So out the backyard window, She crept, said she knew best, 

What lively occupation Would keep her in the pink... 

Fathers! Such a bother! Dear! What he must think! 


Among the handsome fellas, One did win her hand

But marriage did not suit him- He left to join a band. 

The wedding ring - their baby - Neither lasted long... 

Happy days at dancing, But now a sadder song! 


A sadder lass, and wiser, Less eager for the guys- 

And mem'ries of the baby, Would tear her hazel eyes. 

On her own, she 'plied her trade, And sewed fine leather seams, 

Feeling all was over, Her life bereft of dreams. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

A days ride off, by buggy, Big Jim had woe as well; 

The lass he loved had left him! His youthful spirits fell! 

Only in his twenties! His tears went all the night! 

His legs would not sustain him! HIs black hair turned to white! 


Back to folks in England, He took his aching heart! 

And soon back to the USA, To make a brand new start! 

His soul was a romantic's, but, this time, to this land, 

He brought a firmer head... And a trained hand! 


At sight of Emily Robinson, He knew he'd met his fate! 

He loved her and He won her! They soon would set the date. 

His tiny doll to carry Through their own front door, 

To start new life together, Alone and sad, no more! 


Being Irish Catholic t'was painful for them tho' 

Took time and and tears and trouble To clear from former beaus. 

But more than fifty years from then, Jim and Elsie stood- 

Time and toil and trouble Had only done them good! 


Grandma's eyes, still smiling At Grandpa's "blarney" talk : 

"My dear, my queen, my honeybee! It 's time to take my walk." 

A child's eyes, learning wisdom, My memory is clear: 

"Marriage gets more "worth it", with each succeeding year" 


The small considerations, Affections true and fine, 

The special, simple moments 'Tween two of such long time! 

Love's fires honed through trials; Life's share of good and bad! 

But Jim and Elsie made it... And now the fun they had! 


Proudly side by side, still, Scores of fine descendents! 

The "Little Whitehouse" busier Than ever with dependents. 

And on the porch, one Sunday, While rocking in the breeze, 

Grandpa, "Chief","Big Jim" Had words for me like these: 


"Now, Elle, we'll soon be "passing", but I will not leave this earth, 

'Till you've found your Irishman To love for all yer' worth

And brought him here to see me, And proper' beg your hand, 

For, with my will and blessing , The marriage will be grand !" 


To each of near a score of us, Such words, I'm sure he found - 

To each of near a score of us, Such words, we felt, profound ! 

Destiny is funny- It did work out that way! 

He found and wooed and won me, Before Grandpa's last day... 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 


For more than half a century, The Front-porch occupations

Included observation time, Of passing population. 

Of course, the scene before them Changed with passing days, 

From horse-and-buggy-rutted dirt, To streamlined cars and ways. 


Jim 'n' Else, young parents- They knew each passing soul, 

And joyed in observations As each life would unfold! 

"There's this one and there's that one, Out for Sunday air

And isn't this one growing fine, And that one growing fair ?" 


Each passing soul identified, And each one's story told: 

The Story of a Century In time, did true unfold! 

Time and population growth Were bound to have their way. 

So no one was at all surprized 'Tho sad, when came the day, 


Chief pronounced most solemly, He'd no longer thrive: 

"Just can't watch these cars go by!" -His last words said alive. 

Ten steps over from his chair We heard his figure drop, 

His heart as big as Heaven, Came to final stop. 


First Selectman Sullivan Head the long cortege

Of mourners' cars lined up for miles To lay Jim to his rest. 

But not without a plenty To carry on his life

Ninety years on God's Green Earth, And Elsie for his wife! 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

The fire that struck the homestead occurred this February

The feelings running 'way too high -To dare the literary

Photos of the home today Would not be ones to charm

The fire gutted much of it. In order to disarm


The raging of the flames that night The lilacs standing near

Were chopped away near' totally As sense dictates, I hear

But in 1911, Grandpa bought the home- 

from one of Southport's seamen who much preferred to roam


And so, the house a shack, at best, From little use and care

But with the shack came property Whose worth could well compare

In fact Big Jim took pleasure, sure, That the house was small

Tiny Else felt fine in it, And Big Jim felt so tall! 


With all his skills and talent He feared not o'er the thought

Of home improvement labors And proud of all he wrought! 

A woodsy wagontrack was all The road there was before it

And path for wagon on the right And a barn to store it


Grandpa's old days tales to me, 'times involved his horse

Several worthy animals in all those years, of course! 

He'd call all of them "Dobbin" to keep the telling plain

But honored faithful service- Each one earned their grain! 


At one time the lot next door was a shallow pond

Organized by reservoirs, the water there is gone

Sturdy black rock ledges that gave the road its name

North and West about the house, Provide a natural frame


Grandma's rambler roses, at southwest aspect, 

love to climb the rock edge And thrive right through neglect

When the road got busy, East and South were placed

Trees creating privacy The view was surely graced


And land once used for farm crops, And bantam rooster coops

Bore my Father's shop; And bunkhouse where Scout troops

Enjoyed the camp experience; now houses Smith descendents- 

The youngest of "the boys" And house pet dependents! 


Lilies, mums, peonies, Rose of Sharon, too! 

Bring us back to Elsie's house, With its folks, it grew. 

In time, "The Chief's" additions to the Captain's shanty

included airy sunporch, parlor, bath and pantry! 


Big Jim built the chimney, teaching sons the art

of placing brick and mortar- A box for chimney form was smart- 

It helped with sound construction, beauty and good flue, 

The sons surrounding father- a fascinated crew! 


Several days'production, a few feet every day

The form slid up along each time, Until it made its way

to the rooftop level, then its mortar seal

They told the story better - They made it seem so real! 


Gas and then electric replaced the coal and wood

The mantle, left "for looks" alone But still the chimney stood. 

A dormer for the upstairs, And for the porch, new floor

Failing white birch trees replaced, that once had graced the door


But Jim and Else were older When they became a pair

And their age was motive To their many heirs

Who came in love and duty To effect repairs

But, sometimes, now the fixups Only added to their cares! 


Their children were perplexed at this, With no AARP

To help with helping seniors With needed remedies

And so they did their best To deal with true compassion

And stopped with home improvements And updates in the fashions


To stop time from passing, -the house kept in the style

of Jim and Else's heyday And ease their days awhile

Big trouble with that logic showed up later, though

When there was real need for change, They couldn't make it go! 


The place became first "charming", Then "a bit run down", 

Then "just plain eccentric"! At odds with all the town! 

But just then, grown grandchildren Learned of the situation

Arrived with reinforcements, of work and love and patience. 


We seemed to be a vitamin, Good order was renewed, 

For needs of health and safety And some beauty,too! 

I myself was able due to relocation

to spend some helpful time onsite- nostalgic work/vacation! 


We cleaned, and fixed and hauled away- replaced, restored, renewed! 

By "quittin' time" in fixup days, We really earned our food! 

Ladies love a makover, And so, though inconvenienced, 

The project was a big success And earned us all some lenience! 


And at days' end we did it As in days of yore : 

Sang Jim Smith's old favorites And tucked down wanting more! 

More work to be done yet, But a break was needed

Some would have no more for now And so the rest conceded


Talk of late was leaning toward project renewal... 

Time had passed, neglect was feared, a state which would be cruel

My work had taken me away; I felt it not my right

To impose myself on them, and stay again onsite. 


And just a few weeks later The housefire did its worst! 

The feelings of its residents are still now being nursed... 

But all were safe and sound Who resided at the place

We calmed, and counted blessings, And thanked Him for His Grace! 


And at this writing, study of plans for restoration, 

may ,in the final tally, bring the devil consternation! 

To hold a hand marked "loser" And turn it into winner, 

Builds character they say, and so we still just "earn our dinner". 


These lines are just a portion of The Little Whitehouse tale, 

But I'd better stop for now Or find myself in jail! 

A promise, or a warning ? There's much more to come... 

A tale so rich in telling, The writer's overcome! 



End of Chapter...more to come! 

...and, of course, to contact the artist
with interest or comment, Email: 
esfagan@ellefagan.com


.....'till next time! 

elle


Update: June 9, 2004
Yesterday we stopped at the Little Whitehouse, and time has healed the property from the fire, the damaged lilacs are growing back, the sweet and quiet of it is there...no one lives in the little house and offers for sale have been made... the crisis scene yellow tape is long gone, and the house itself temporarily mended neatly with boards at the windows shattered by the fire... I hate the disability, now mended , too, that impoverished me...the property is valuable, and I cannot get my earnings mending fast enough to buy the place. So I have spent real time with my feelings...I truly had every reason to believe we were one notch above ever having to sell it... but that is how life is, I guess. But as long as those whose roots are there are alive, and as long as our photos , paintings, stories, and this poem are alive, the spirit of the Little Whitehouse lives. 
....we'll have to see how it goes. 

 

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