Genealogy of Caleb W. Lawrence & Family
BAREFOOT BOY FROM TURKEY
By Arthur Lawrence
Some True Stories for my Grandchildren about My Early Boyhood in Smyrna
You were all born after 1950, some later still, in the I960's - whereas Gramps was born in 1905, when the Turkish Ottoman Empire (founded in 1300) controlled most of the Middle East and was ruled over by a Sultan who lived in a large, ornate palace, Dolma Baakchey, with his many wives, in Asia, across the Bosporus from Constantinople, or Istanbul in Turkish, (Istanbul is on the continent of Europe), The Bosporus is the river that flows from the Black Sea (actually a lake) into the Sea of Marmara and then through the straits of Dardanelles into the Aegean Sea, the northern end of the Mediterranean, between Greece and Asia Minor.
If you look at an atlas of the area, you will notice that Smyrna (Izmir in Turkish) is a seaport on the western end of the peninsula known as Asia Minor, The Black Sea is to its north, the Mediterranean to the south and the Aegean to the west. The Dodecanese Islands (Greek for 12) are in the Aegean and include Samos, Patinos and Mytilene, the latter on which I spent the summer of 1912, when I was seven, rode into mountains on a mule, learned to swim there and where I caught my first fish.
It’s amazing how much I remember, going back to when I was only two and three years old, but that’s not the point; rather it is to tell a few of the adventures I had as an American boy growing up in a foreign country in the days before we had automobiles, electricity, and of course all that the latter brought - telephones, radio, television, central heat and oil burners, vacuum cleaners and electric dishwasher, laundry, dryer and refrigerator. These did not exist. We did have movies, beginning about 1913, though.
Well, as a starter, let me tell you about my first camping trip and when I got "lost". In 1913, Mr. Ralph Harlow, who came out to teach at the International College, started a Boy Scout troop, I was too young to join, but he agreed to take me camping with the Scouts and the camp site was on a hill in the pine woods of a villa on the Bay, southeast of Smyrna, in a place called Yoss-Tepay. Several ferry boats covered the towns on the Bay and we arrived there that way on ours, pitched our tents and got comfortably settled.
Several days later, one afternoon, Mr. Harlow took us on the ferry boat for the trip back to Smyrna. We got onto the pier there and I was fascinated by some fishermen throwing their hand lines off the kay (an elevated paved stone waterfront boulevard that ran around the harbor, pronounced "key"). They were pulling in some tremendous "tsipora", which is Greek for red perch.
When I looked around, Mr. Harlow and the scouts had disappeared. I have since learned to stay put, but I thought that they had gone on the ferry to go back to camp, so I dashed on, searched all over the boat, and then to my consternation, before I could get off, the ferry boat had pulled out of the slip and was under way. Fortunately, I had enough piasters in my pocket to pay for ray fare. Well, I got off at Yoss Tepay, walked up to the camp site, found no one there, had a little supper and crawled into my blankets. What a furor I caused.
Mr. Harlow had planned to take us all to the movies in Smyrna, which I didn't know because he was keeping it as a surprise. When they couldn't fine me anywhere in Smyrna they thought I had been kidnapped by brigands for ransom, and they notified the Turkish police. Your great, grandfather was notified out in Paradise. Someone must have gone out by train since there were no telephones in those days, I don’t know how he managed it, but sometime after midnight everyone convened on our camp site. My father had hired a two-horse carriage and driven with the others six or seven miles to find me, wake me up sleeping peacefully under my blankets, and take me home.
I never got hell for what I did, because it all seemed logical enough, but if there is any moral, it is this - when you get lost or separated from the people you are with, stay put, make yourself as comfortable as possible and wait. They’ll come back looking for you. After your great grandfather and my mother finally got married, (they were engaged in 1897 and were married in July 1904 in Tanta, Egypt - my mother was then 26 and father 12 years older, or 38.), the first home we had was an apartment in a building on the campus of the American Boys School in Smyrna. We lived there until we came to America in June, 1908, when I was three, but I remember the bedroom I slept in. In 1907 I had scarlet fever and I was taken on a Mediterranean cruise that summer to recuperate. I remember being on a steamer. We were in a storm and the ship was rolling, Mother was sea sick and Father had a heck of a time.
When we came to America in 1908, I remember being in a Pullman berth and raising the shade to look out of the window at night as we traveled through stations and freight yards, fields and mountains on our way to Kingston, Ontario, My father had been given a year off from teaching, called a sabbatical to finish his studies for his master's degree at Queens University. He never had a BA degree.
There was lots of snow that winter, and we lived in a boarding house, eating at a big table with the other boarders. Father had two older twin sisters, Aunts Ophie and Mary, who had married the Fay brothers and were living in Elyria, Ohio, a suburb southwest of Cleveland. Late that winter in early 1909, Aunt Ophie insisted that Mother, Edward (who was one and a half) and I move to Elyria she had found a furnished apartment for us on the southeastern corner of the Common, Kingston is across the St. Lawrence River from New York State, opposite Watertown, but Mother claims in her memoirs that we took the stage coach across the frozen river to Oswego, N.Y., which is quite a way southwest of Watertown on Lake Ontario, Again, I have only one vivid memory of that trip. We all had to get out of the stage coach, because the ice had cracked and the right rear runner had got stuck in it. I don't remember seeing any land nearby.
The stage coach looked like the ones you see in western movies drawn by a team of horses, black covered top, with a door on each side and people sitting facing each other. The coachman sat up in front with a heavy buffalo robe over his legs. The wheels had been replaced with steel-faced runners. Well, we all had to get out onto the ice, which was melting, while the men pushed and lifted until the coachman got the runner free. I guess we took the train from Oswego to Cleveland and Elyria, where we spent the spring and early summer, before Father graduated (at the head of his class), picked us up and took us back to Turkey.
When we moved back to Smyrna in the summer of 1909, we moved into a real house and had a Greek woman cook-servant. Now that I was over four years old, I was beginning to feel my oats and started getting into mischief. We had a two-story house, our first real bathroom, the kitchen, downstairs water-closet, and laundry and servant's room on an ell, a nursery upstairs, half way next to the bathroom and a lovely garden with trees and shrubs, enclosed by a 10-foot high stone wall with broken glass cemented into the top to discourage robbers from climbing over.
In back of the wall were the freight yards and terminus of the Aidin Railroad, which was run by the French. The railroad brought in dried figs, raisins, tobacco and licorice root, etc, for export, and there was a big warehouse over the back corner wall, where these products were stored.
We used to love to chew on dried licorice root and we'd climb over the wall and sneak into the warehouse and pull out pieces of root, which were packed in large burlap bags.
There were no trucks in those days and most things were moved by camel trains. A camel train consists of six to eighteen camels, the halter of each being loosely tied to the pack saddle of the one ahead. The first camel's lead is fastened to the saddle of a donkey, on which the camel driver sits, and the last camel in the train has a big brass bell on his saddle that rings with each step. The camel driver, wearing a heavy sheep’s-wool felt cape without sleeves but with a hood, would ride the donkey, dozing away. If for some reason one of the leads between camels got broken, those behind were trained to stop and sit down in the street. The bell on the last camel would stop ringing, so the donkey would stop also, the driver would wake up and go back, get the camels in the broken, aft section of the train on their feet, get the last camel in the first section to sit down and tie the broken lead on to the saddle again, get that camel back on its feet, climb onto the donkey's back and proceed.
These camel trains used to parade down Miles Street in front of our house. Each camel carried two tremendous bags of licorice root, one on each side of its pack saddle, and we used to run along side and pull out pieces of the root to chew on.
I wish I could be sure of the date carved on the tortoise shell - I remember 1848, but it seems too long ago. Anyway, there was a large grey tortoise that I discovered living in our garden and he became quite a pet, eating lettuce and other leaves I used to feed him. He would come to me when he saw me. We had some orange trees in our garden, pomegranate, Japan apples and a huge, big jasmine with orange-yellow fragrant flowers that the bees used to love.
In 1910 we had a swarm of bees cluster on it and Father got a Turk to build a wood bee hive, capture the swarm and we kept bees (we had another swarm the next year, and a second hive). It was sort of messy getting the honey in the honey comb out, because in those days one did not have supers, separate honey comb frames, prepared wax sheets and honey extractors, but I remember the Turk coming back in the fall, making a smudge fire of old rags, smoking the bees out and getting chunks of honey comb.
I later became quite a bee keeper, when we lived in (Glen Head, Long Island during World War II. I had eight large hives, producing 500 pounds of honey per season, which I extracted and sold during the sugar shortage.
There are a few events that may be worth recalling about our life in Smyrna before we moved out to our new house in Paradise in the fall of 1912. One was Christmas.
You must remember that though the climate was semi-tropical, it could get quite cold like Florida. In all my years out there, I can remember only two light snow falls, but the mountains around us were snow-capped for a month or two in winter and several times we had enough of a frost to kill the upper branches of the orange and pepper trees.
But we didn't even have a fireplace. There was some sort of a coal, Franklin-type stove in the large, marble-tiled hall, but that was seldom lit. What we used was a "tandour”. This was a little bigger than a bridge table, but it had its own built-in floor lined with galvanized sheet steel top and bottom. In the center of it there was a round, inverted galvanized guard with slits cut in it, and under it a brazier in which a charcoal fire had been lit - out of doors - until the charcoal had burned down to glowing embers. The brazier was then put under the guard in the "tandour”. Over the tandour was a tremendous specially-made sheep's-wool quilt. We all sat around the tandour with the quilt up to our chins and our feet, legs and torsos were kept as warm as toast. (I must build a tandour here, where in spite of oil burner, fireplaces, electric heat, etc., my feet are always cold.)
To get back to Christmas, though. We had a wonderful tandour in our living room in Smyrna and we used to sit around it making decorations for our Christmas tree. My mother was very good at that sort of thing, entertaining us by reading all the old classic Christmas legends and stories.
We made chains of all colors of paper and though we had no glue, we found that a flour and water paste did a fine job. We had no fir or balsam in Turkey, so our Christmas trees were pine. We used little candle sticks that clipped onto the branches, and the candles were lit only once, on Christmas Eve.
We got a lot of small ones, but only one good present for Christmas. I remember at that time getting a large, stuffed elephant on wheels that I could shove myself around on our marble-paved hall. The next year Father got me a saw, hammer, nails and boards - I was so excited, I sawed off two wide boards pieces in a hurry and nailed them to a 2" x 2n support in between, and was I proud of the first table I ever built. But then, I was ashamed of my workmanship after my original enthusiasm cooled a bit. The boards were cut crooked! I was then six years old.
There are a few more incidents that might be worth recalling in those years before we moved from Smyrna, when I was seven, to Paradise, in 1912. Of course I had no friends, except my brother, Edward, who was two years and four months younger. There was a very lovely blonde American girl, the daughter of a missionary, who was about my age, and the first girl I kissed, but I saw her seldom.
The American School also ran a kindergarten and elementary school a few blocks from the house in which we lived, I remember going there and being sent to the blackboard to write something, which, being left-handed, I proceeded to do with it. I was criticized and taught to write with my right, which has always confused me but has made me pretty ambidextrous.
While in that school we had a picnic. The Turkish guard at the school, called a HAAVAAS, guided us. He wore a red fez, black baggy pantaloons, white sox, Turkish loafers, a white shirt, black vest and a wide, red sash around his waist with a dagger in a scabbard stuck in it.
I guess we walked a mile or so up into the foothills and into an olive tree grove beyond the freight yards of the other railway - the British Ottoman that also brought cattle down to the Smyrna slaughter houses.
All of a sudden, as we were eating our lunch, this crazed black bull with long horns who had escaped, came running up toward us. Oar Haavaas took his red fes off his head and waved it at the bull, while our teacher shouted to us to scram and hide behind olive trees. We were terrified and I'm ashamed to say that I didn't think about my brother Edward and his safety, but he followed me.
The poor old Haavaas got tossed once by the bull, while we watched in awe and fear from behind the trees. He was injured but got up and again waved his red fes at the bull. Again he was attacked and knocked down.
Fortunately, two men with rifles came along looking for the mad bull, and shot him before the old Haavaas was gored. He had several broken ribs but recovered.
In those early 1900 days people were pretty much used to being on their own. One had few places to go to, there was not much transportation except one's feet to walk with, no supermarkets or department stores, so most things were made at home. The orange trees we had in our garden were called bitter oranges - hardier against cold, no good for eating, but delicious for marmalade. My mother was a great jam maker and every year, when the oranges got ripe, she would get a Greek woman friend of hers to help her for a couple of days cooking the year's supply of marmalade. This consisted of slicing a bushel or two of the oranges very thin, putting them in a huge, 10-gallon caldron with sugar and other ingredients and boiling them for hours over an out-door fireplace, stoked, I suppose, with logs and/or charcoal. There was no pectin in those days but when the marmalade was done it was thick and would last for a year without getting moldy. It was delicious.
One of the delights, as a small hungry boy, was to have the bread delivery man arrive around 11 in the morning. The bakery was three or four blocks away, I visited it a number of times, just to smell the delicious aroma. The oven was built of stone with number of arched brick upper part over the baking area and a wide, metal cover that fitted across it. Wood and charcoal fueled the furnace below,and a chimney went up the back. Long-handled wood paddles, or spatulas, were "used to put the loaves in and move them around. Some loaves were large and round, but they also made the long, narrow loaves we now call French or Italian bread.
I would wait for the delivery man to knock on our front door, and then take a long, hot loaf of French bread into the kitchen, where Mother or our servant would cut off an end, spread it with butter and I'd crunch into it.
Bookkeeping was so simple in those days. The bread delivery man wore a big, white apron and carried his loaves in a huge wicker basket on his back. Attached to a sturdy belt, he had a bundle of willow sticks, about a foot and a half long, which had been split up the middle. Each customer had his half. When he delivered the bread, I would give him our half of the stick, which he would fit in to his half and, with a knife cut a notch for each loaf we took. At the end of the month he would fit the two halves together, count the notches - usually 40 or 50 - and we'd pay him accordingly.
Once we moved out to our new home in Paradise I got to know our milkman's oldest son intimately, but while we lived in Smyrna he would ride in early every morning on his horse with two large milk cans strapped to the saddle. There he would measure out the liters goat's milk into our containers and would also deliver grapes and ripe figs in season. He once took me for a ride on the back of his saddle.
Raising silk worms was a minor industry in Smyrna at the time we lived there. There was a 3-story factory across the street from the college, where the silk from the cocoons was unwound and spun into thread. Silk worms eat mulberry leaves and we had lots of mulberry trees out in Turkey. One of the hobbies I got involved in was raising silk worms. You'd get a thimble full of black, pin-head size eggs and they wouldn't hatch out until the mulberry tree leaves sprouted. One would cut fresh branches every day, put them in a large cardboard box and let the tiny caterpillars walk over them and feed. Finally they would grow to be the size of a little finger, and when they turned yellowish it was time to put in dense twigs. They would then pick locations supported on all sides by twigs and start spinning. In a day or two they would produce white or yellow, peanut-shaped cocoons - about twice the size of a large peanut. The silk producers would then kill the pupae inside by putting the cocoons on trays on their roof tops and let the hot sun cook them, to prevent the developing moths from cutting or dissolving the silk fibers in order to emerge. I used to let them come out as beautiful moths, mate and lay their eggs. If you haven't ever watched a moth emerge from a cocoon, their wings are all crumpled up and wet. Gradually, body fluids are pumped into the veins, the wings unfold, the moth; flutters them until they are completely stretched. When they dry, they are ready to fly with.
Saturday morning there were no classes at the college, so my father used to like to walk down to the market area and buy the roast for Sunday dinner, We lived closer to the next to last railroad station on the British Ottoman RR., the end being the point where the freight yards and piers were, on the harbor north of the business district and the large steamship docks.
Miles Street, where the college and our house were, ran from the next-to-last railroad station to the kay in the business district, but we would take side streets. They contained all kinds of little shops and each area specialized in one thing. The shops on one short street concentrated on roasting green coffee beans from Java that came in palm-leaf woven baskets, and then pulverizing them in giant iron mortars with pestles. Two men, each with a pestle the size of a crow bar, would alternately pound the roasted beans in rhythm, making a musical, ringing sound. The smell of the fresh-roasted coffee was delicious.
I might mention here that Turkish coffee is made like cocoa, 'and is served on every occasion. The haavaas of an office building had a corner on the ground floor with a charcoal brazier. If you called on business, and I accompanied Father on several such trips, the haavaas would automatically bring up Turkish coffee. The pulverized coffee is placed in a little brass coffee pot with a long handle, and sugar and water added. When it has boiled, the coffee pots - one for each person - are brought up on a tray - and the coffee is served in demi-tasse cups.
But the street I liked the best had the shops where meat and game were sold, These shops were about the size of small, two-car garages with large iron hooks attached outside and to the walls inside. The meat, poultry and game were not cleaned and packaged in Saran wrap, the way you buy them in the supermarket today. Instead, all the carcasses were hung up on the hooks, and that's what I got so excited looking at, because I had never seen most of these animals before. But what I got most excited about were all of the beautifully colored feathers of the various species of ducks. There were all kinds of wild ducks, shot by hunters for the market and hanging from their feet, and wild boar with their tusks showing, sheep, calves and so on. You picked out your own chicken live, from a crate and the butcher would chop its head off for you.
My father was the youngest of eight children and my Granny Nancy Temple Lawrence died when he was small, so he was pretty much on his own as an orphan boy. Before coming to Turkey he had worked for a while in Chicago as a butcher and claimed he knew all about the best cuts of beef. So he’d get the particular butcher to cut him a roast from a hanging side of beef, which we would take home for Sunday.
Without an icebox or even any ice, we had to cook meat within 24 hours, otherwise it would get smelly and spoil. The beef and sheep were usually slaughtered and dressed the afternoon before they were sold, and we always smelled what we bought to make sure it was fresh.
This was also before the days when you could go into a store and buy ready-made shoes. Sneakers didn’t even exist. That is why we had very few shoes to wear and went barefoot all summer long and always after school unless it was really cold. I have even walked barefoot in the snow. But our feet were perfect and mine still are. Well, how did we get what few shoes we had to wear? I guess I was getting outfitted for my first year at school and father took me to the shoemaker's where I had my feet measured, around and back and forth. About 10 days later we went back for a fitting. The leather uppers were cut and sewn but they were tacked onto the soles. I tried them on, the shoe maker made some adjustments and I came back several days later to try on the finished shoes, which fitted beautifully.
Of course, the time soon came when British and French companies opened department stores in which they sold some imported clothes, shoes and the usual variety of things that are now standard.
Before we talk about our move out to Paradise in 1912, and our new home, I should mention my great grandmother and my grandmother. Necaka, as she was called, (Greek for her being a great-grandmother) was a Williamson. She was married at 16 and had 16 children. When I first recall meeting her she was in her mid-seventies and lived with her daughter, my grandmother, Liela Lewis, who had 11 children. They rented a small but comfortable villa in Boudja, which included servants, a coachman, a horse and phaeton and a lovely garden with high hedges, lots of flower beds, shrubs and a fountain. They must also have had a gardener.
Boudja was a suburb of Smyrna, where the British and French business men lived in their villas. It was on a branch line turning off from the main railroad at Paradise, and all up hill. I mention this because the steam locomotive would pull up a long string of cars during the evening of commuter trek, and they would be parked on the siding. Then, during the day, there was practically hourly service, a car at a time, as they would coast downhill to Smyrna without engine. The first stop was Paradise, where the engineer would wind up the brakes. Once all aboard, he would release the brake and the conductor, helped by a few male passengers, would push the car to get it started. Down the hill from Paradise was quite an incline and we'd pick up so much speed that the engineer had to crank in the brake, but it was all downhill to the Point and the end of the line, and as a small boy I found it a lot of fun to stand up in front with the engineer and watch us hurtling down the mountain at what seemed break-neck speed.
The first time I remember going to Nenaka's and Granny's I must have been four or five. We took the train up to Boudja from Smyrna and were met at the station by the coachman. We sat down to what must have been Sunday (noon) dinner and I was the only small boy there, among six or eight grownups, who were talking. I butted in and was reprimanded by my grandmother with the admonition that "little boys should be seen and not heard." But they were polite enough to wait patiently, after they finished eating, while I slowly cleaned up what was on my plate.
The main reason that I remember that first occasion so vividly is that my father, who was smoking a cigarette in an amber holder, asked me to take it out into the garden and knock the cigarette butt out. I went out but decided to take a whiff. The next thing I knew I was coughing and crying for help, as all the grownups came rushing out to find out what had happened.
There are two or more stories to tell about living in Smyrna, before we moved out to our new home in Paradise. We always had cats, to keep mice and rats under control, and for a while I had some pet rabbits in a hutch in back of the kitchen and out-building ell. We'd get magazines from England and America, with all kinds of do-it-yourself projects.
Mother built me a regulation, miniature Indian teepee. Bamboo poles were set up, tied at the top, then strings around the sides to which newspapers were attached, so that for a day or so I had my teepee, I even built a fireplace, had a piece of tin on top and cooked some mud pies!
But the big thrill was our hot air balloon! Mother got blue red and white paper, very thin (almost like tissue paper) and cut out six oblong sides, gluing the edges together. The opening at the bottom, about 10 inches across, had a wire ring, and a wire across the middle on which was tied a big wad of cotton.
On the evening of the Fourth of July in 1911, when I was six, we assembled on the college football field for some rockets and fireworks. We had sparklers, Roman candles, but the climax was sending up the hot air balloon. Fortunately there was very little wind and the sky was clear. Alcohol was poured on the wad of cotton and lit with a match. The balloon - which was about six feet tall and four feet across its widest - filled with the warm gases. It kept getting lighter and finally it was let go and sailed away up into the night sky, the alcohol flame shining through the colored paper, visible for fifteen minutes until it drifted out of sight.
There was one event that I always remember vividly, and that was seeing Hailey's Comet. Father was quite an amateur astronomer and had a good size telescope, though it wasn't needed to see the comet. Halley's Comet was last seen in 1910, so I was five years old at the time. I was woken up at two in the morning and led to an upstairs front window. I can still see it clearly with the comet tail up and to the left, as bright as could be.
We used to love to watch and hear the Bambakgee. He came every year or so to fluff out the sheep's wool in our quilts and mattresses. He would remove the tie strings that held the wool in place, between the upper and lower covers, and then unstitch one end, dumping the contents on the floor.
He had a heavy, five-foot bow, strung with a thick gut thong. The bow was hung from a curved, wood support by its middle so that its string was a couple of inches off the floor. He could pull it down, grasping the bow with one hand he pounded the bow string with a short, heavy wooden club held in the other, making the bow string vibrate.
Sitting cross-legged, he'd feed in the matted wool under the bow; the vibrating string would pick the wool up, fluffing it out and sending the separated hairs flying into a soft pile 20 times as big as the original. He struck one blew after another and the bow string would give out a musical sound, "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bang, bomb, bomb", as long as he kept it up. When he got through, he would stuff the wool back into the mattress cover (sometimes a new one), stitch up the end, then, with a very long needle, stitch string through and back out again at regular intervals, tying the ends evenly so that the mattress was flat and the same thickness all over. The same was done with our quilts.
A word about Miles Street. Whereas it was a four-lane, divided thoroughfare, it was divided by an open sewer, at least in front of our house. Before the days of large-diameter steel and concrete pipes, sewers were built with mortar, flat stones on the bottom and sides, and brick. A trough was built underground with flat bottom and sides, and a gentle slope, and then it was covered over with a brick and mortar arch. Unfortunately, construction was held up for some unknown reason, so that all the time we lived in Smyrna we had this open sewer running. But we did have sidewalks and gas street lights. I can remember the lamp lighter coming by every night at dusk to light the lamp in front of our house. He had a long pole with an iron bracket on one end, and a lighted taper. He would reach up, open the glass door, pull the valve lever to turn the gas on, then light the mantle, and close the door. He had to come around in the morning to shut the gas off.
In the early spring of 1912 we used to walk to our railroad station weekends, at the end of Miles Street, and take the train out to Paradise to see how our new house was progressing.
A widow - a Mrs. Kennedy - had been out on a tour of the Near Eastern biblical high spots on a cruise, and in Smyrna met Dr. MacLoughlan, president of now what was being called International College.'" He was a Canadian Scottsman who sold her on giving somewhere between a half and one million dollars to build a new college that would be the great educational center for western Asia Minor, and a million went a long way in 1912. There was Roberts College, on the upper Bosporus, north of Constantinople,but there was nothing between that and the American University in Beirut, which is now in what is called Lebanon.
So, several hundred acres of flat plain were bought, architects hired and quite an operation followed.
Three main buildings were erected, plus a residence for the president and several cottages for faculty. As usual, the first job was to build a 10-foot high stone wall to enclose the campus, and iron gates, plus a gate cottage at the entrance.
Paradise has biblical connotations, but in Greek it means a woodland place, and this it was, south of the campus, overlooking the Meander River and the two old Roman aqueducts crossing it; they still supplied water to the city of Smyrna.
I would say that the flat plain measured 5 miles by 10 miles roughly, out of which the foothills rose gradually to hills and higher mountains, at least on the north, and east and southeast. To the west was the city of Smyrna, and there was a barrier hill in between, on the top of which still remained the ramparts and ruins of an old Roman fort and subsequent rebuilding by Saracens and Turks, They overlooked the city of Smyrna and the Harbor, In fact, the Turkish quarter was built up the hill to near the top, where it got too steep for houses,
We took walks to look at and climb over the ruins a number of times, as well as look at the beautiful view of Smyrna, the Harbor and the Bay, It reminded me of the Bay of Naples with Mount Vesuvius in back, which I had seen on our return trip from America in 1909.
Father had a coin stuck in a piece of Vesuvius lava. He went up the mountain with a guide and stopped beside a trickle of hot lava. He broke off a piece with his cane, dropped the coin on it and pressed it in with the end of his cane, then waited till the lava cooled and hardened. It was a proud souvenir of his. We had no volcanoes in Turkey, though we had earthquakes, about which later.
The property we were building our house on was one quarter of a five or six acre rectangular plot, longer from front to back than it was wide. The other three plots were bought by faculty members who built two-story houses similar to ours.
Because of earthquakes, the construction was somewhat different. The frame skeleton was built and cross-braced with heavy timbers and the walls were filled in with stone and mortar. The outside walls were then stuccoed over in a natural finish.
We had occasionally severe earthquakes while we lived in that home, strong enough to shake pictures off the walls, but during that whole time we only had one crack, on the living room wall plaster, while the mud brick houses in the peasant villages would be badly damaged and residents killed. However, we all slept in four-poster iron beds, with heavy chicken-wire over the top, in case the ceilings fell in. I remember two real quakes, the first at night. It was soon after we moved into our new home, when I was awakened by my four-poster pounding against the back and side walls of the corner it was in. My bed was shaking violently. My younger brothers were crying in the darkness, but Father got the lights on and Mother comforted us and that was the end of that one. We did not even bother to rush downstairs and out into the garden.
The second earthquake occurred in 1920 or 1921, during the day and I was out of doors to see and hear as well as to feel it. Our property was on the main road to the college. Next was the Caldwell's house, then a bridge over the brook across which were the main gates and the gate-keeper's cottage. Opposite the Caldwell's, across the brook, were the college tennis courts. We had just finished our afternoon tennis games and were standing around talking, when all of a sudden this supersonic earth tremor came at us from the direction of Smyrna. It sounded like the distant rumble of thunder, yet passed right under us. I happened to be facing in the direction of the Caldwell's and our houses, and, all of a sudden, the chimneys were swaying back and forth, the walls and the trees also. We could feel the ground rise and fall under our feet. As this tremor came through from the direction in which I was looking, the air got darker in a low, narrow bank, but there was only one quake and one rumble. We all rushed to our home, to find Mother picking up pictures shaken off; but fortunately, there was no serious damage to our house.
The brook that flowed along the college property was the overflow from a large spring, back in the foothills to the north. The spring had a stone retaining wall all around it and a brick-clay pipe that ran out, down to the nearer aqueduct, as part of the water system for Smyrna, It was less than two feet in diameter, so it didn't carry much water.
The Romans had some very good civil engineers. Because they didn't have high-strength steel pipe, that could stand high water pressures, they had to lay out very carefully planned gravity flow water systems, with a fixed drop in elevation of a couple of feet or so for every 100 feet of pipe. When they came to a river or a ravine that they had to cross, they built an aqueduct of stone arches and maintained the same constant, gradual pitch for the clay pipe, not to break it, to keep the water flowing at a constant speed. Of course, when they came to hills, the pipe line had to go around them and it still amazes me how their surveying could have been so accurate.
When one thinks that when I was a boy in Turkey that the water for the city of Smyrna was still being supplied by a system designed and built by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago, it is difficult to believe.
The water pipe was near the surface and in places where a trail crossed it, the upper side had been chipped away just enough so that one could lie down on one's stomach and take a drink. I did that a number of times when we were out on barefoot hikes, in the heat of summer.
Our brook, then, was clear, spring-fed water, with fish in it and bamboo clumps growing along its banks. On the average it was only about a foot deep and 10 feet wide, but we faculty kids built a rock dam below a pool which was two feet or so deep, in which we'd go swimming. The brook flowed into the Meander River, near the aqueducts.
The Meander River, at the southern end of our valley, after flowing under the two Roman aqueducts, wound around to the right, through a Greek village called Prophet Elias. The village was only a mile or so from where we lived. It had a bakery with a stone-brick oven, where we would take our home-made bread to be baked and it was there, on the near side of the river, where our Smyrna milkman lived. I got to know his eldest son, older than I, whom I shall call Tani, which is Greek for John, though I forget his real name.
Since it didn't rain in the Smyrna area for about five months -from raid-April until sometime in September - the water in the river got quite low, but there was a large pool under the nearer aqueduct and we used it as a swimming hole. There was usually a battle between the Greek and Turkish boys to see who would use it,
I learned to speak Greek the way Summer, John and Billy learned to speak Spanish when they were in Chile, We always had a Greek servant, all the trades people were Greek, and my mother, having been born in Turkey, spoke Greek fluently. So, I naturally went swimming with Yani and his Greek friends.
The village the Turkish boys came from was up the road beyond the aqueduct. If we were swimming (bare-ass, with shirts strategically placed on rocks to be grabbed quickly If we had to make a hasty retreat), and a group of Turks appeared, they would count how many of us there were. If they outnumbered us, they would grab handfuls of rocks and come racing down, hurling them at us, shouting "Giaour, Giaour"! We'd get out of there fast, putting our clothes on after we got out of range. We always tried to get a big enough group on our side, when we went "Swimming, to drive the Turks out, if they were in the pool, and we did so on more than one occasion using the same tactics.
Yani and I got to be good friends, and he taught me how to trap birds. Yani and his family lived in a fieldstone shack with a dirt floor, through which their goats and chickens paraded. They had a large mattress and some quilts in a corner of the room, on which everyone slept, and a fireplace in which they did their cooking. They had a dug well for water and a stone wall around the goat pasture and their small vineyard and a fig orchard. They also raised some wheat.
I put together quite a collection of live, wild song birds in the four years, between 1914 and March 1917, after which we started back for the United States in March, after the United States declared war on Germany. I guess that Yani kept his family supplied with meat by killing most of the birds he caught for the pot.
The bird net was a fascinating contraption, and I'm still hoping to build one to catch the many starlings and English sparrows that plague me here in Essex. It was made from a piece of two-end-a half or three-foot wide, light, string fish net with about a one-inch mesh. I enclose two diagrams of it, one open and the other sprung. The net, 25 to 30 feet long, was bunched up and tied in the middle. One edge, the outer, had string loops tied to it so that it could be staked to the ground. It looked like the end view of a house, with the top sides sloping out like the roof and then straight back down to the ends.
To the inside edges were tied four willow wands, two on each side, a little shorter than the width of the net. Two were tied where the net ended, and the other two about three-quarters of the way up the sides. A short piece of string with a peg or large nail was tied to each of the other wand ends. To the inside ends of the net were tied a long enough piece of line to form a shallow vee, and from the center of that a long line led to a blind.
The result was that when the line was given a good yank the loose sides of the net flopped over, the wands acting like hinges, one side over-lapping the other, and trapping all the birds in the area inside.
Well, of course, the birds had to be persuaded to land inside the trap. The trap was usually located near some small trees and in these and on the ground we placed small cages, each with a songbird "caller" in it. Then in the middle of the trap we would build a small drinking pool and place a bundle of thistles, which the goldfinches loved.
As a final persuader, we had a live decoy in the center, a double-loop, string harness, tied together on the back and chest, with one loop passing under the wings and the other in front of them, permitted the decoy to flutter its wings naturally. To get the bird to flutter, it was tied with a four-inch lead to the end of a stick, with another one forming a bow. The ends of the bow were staked down, as was a short string tied to the center of the bow, from which led a long string back to the blind. When the string was pulled, the perch lifted to a 60° angle, with the decoy on it. When dropped back, the bird fluttered its wings and landed on the perch again, enticing the wild birds to fly down.
Whereas there are a lot of different species of song birds I caught and kept in my collection, I knew their names only in Greek as in those days we didn't have bird books on East European and Mediterranean birds. So I'll only write about the European goldfinch, which was my favorite, anyway. The first one, which I had for several years became a real, favorite pet, He was a great singer and “caller" and would perch on my finger and pick bird seed I held between my lips.
A flock of 30 to 4o goldfinches are easy to spot on the wing. They are similar in size, shape, habit, the way they fly and what they eat to our American goldfinch. But whereas ours is olive-gray with a yellow face, the European is much more colorful. Its face is dark, blood-red, from under its chin and around in back of the eyes to the top of the head, Then, black feathers start in a narrow band on the forehead and stretch back around the ears to the neck. Between red and black is almost a full circle of white feathers. The breast and under -tail feathers are white, shoulders -are brown and the wings are grayish-black with forward yellow wing feathers,
I must have been about 10 years old, when, having learned to mimic my goldfinch caller, I gave the "tsi-tsi-pit" at a passing flock and they all swooped down and landed in the apricot trees in our garden where I was standing. Was I delighted!
As I became more involved in trapping and collecting wild song birds, I needed a place to keep them. Mother and Father gave me their bedroom, the window of which overlooked our middle garden, the windmill and "havousa", the latter a round, raised, brick* and concrete cistern, into which the windmill pumped water from our dug well, from which we irrigated our vegetable gardens. The "havousa" was about three feet deep and eight or ten in diameter, and we used to swim in it in the summer time.
I had nails in all the walls in ray bedroom, from which hung the bird cages, plus a large breeding cage on a stand for my pair of canaries, Every Saturday morning I would lower my bird cages on a line from my second-floor window so I could clean and wash the pans, fix the birds' bathing and water dishes, and give them some fresh greens to nibble on, I would lower one of the bigger cages with several smaller ones hung on it with wire hooks. Once I dropped the whole works, which went crashing to the ground. But instead of like human beings trapped in a falling elevator, so that when it hits your legs are broken, the birds got air-borne by fluttering their wings and escaped uninjured.
One of my big problems was hawks - about the size of our pigeon hawks. I used to hang my bird cages outside the house -on the porch or from my window when I was around - so that the birds could get fresh air. When a hawk appeared, all the small birds would scurry for shelter in the thick blackberry patch across our wall near the apricot trees. And all species would give the same warning call which sounded like a "Dziou, Dziou". That was a signal for me to race to my birdcages. If I hadn't been quick, my pet goldfinch would have been grabbed from its cage. The hawk landed on the front of it, pulled the wires apart enough to reach in and actually broke my pet's wing. But I dashed up just in time to scare the hawk away and eventually the wing healed.
I had two other kinds of traps for birds; one was a "Kapanzee" and the other "axoveryes". The former was a small cage with a hinged side that hooked onto the "caller's" cage. In its tray one put bird seed and it was set with a sliding perch and a pointed stick between perch and top. The pointed stick was tied to a spring-loaded boom, which in turn was attached to the folding door. When a bird hopped on the perch, the pointed stick would pop loose and the spring-loaded boom would snap the hinged side shut. This was where Gramps got the idea for building the double-ended bird trap we had on Centre Island.
The "axoveryes" were long, willow wands coated with a substance similar to that on fly paper. I forget the formula now, but we boiled a combination of honey and other ingredients until it got quite thick. Before it cooled we coated the wands. They were placed around the "caller" cage on the barbed wire fence and when birds perched, their feet would stick and we'd run over and pull them off.
But the trap that caught the most birds was the fish-net one. Sometimes we would catch l£ or 20 at a time. Those that Yani wanted for the pot he would kill very simply by holding each bird with wings folded, put its head in his mouth and bite through, breaking the neck without cutting the skin. It felt kind of funny the first time, I tried it.
What was our daily life like and what did we do for excitement? Well, we boys lived dual lives. When we associated with our Greek peasant friends, we learned to do what they did, copying their primitive ways and habits. As American missionary children, plus Mother's British clan of great grandmother, grandmother, great aunts and uncles, numerous cousins, in-laws, and other aunts and uncles, our early up-bringing was more British Colonial than American.
The British out there were the elite class, the master race. The Anglican Church fostered this feeling of superiority. My god-father arid great uncle, Arthur Kitchens, (married to my Granny's sister) after whom I was named, was the cannon of the Church, and head of the diocese in the Smyrna area. He christened me.
Mother, as a matter of course, did her best to bring us up as gentlemen. I once asked her what a gentleman was. Her reply? "A gentleman is a sensitive person with understanding and with the manners which makes his behavior toward other people friendly and considerate. He appreciated the fact that poorer and less educated people are human beings, no matter what their race or color, and treats them politely and with respect as equals. He is always ready to help the less fortunate," This also applies to a lady, and Mother spent her life out in Turkey helping and caring for the less fortunate; she was a selfless lady She kept emphasizing to us that we were better educated and had Christian, moral backgrounds) we were being observed by the natives and we had to be leaders and set good examples for them. So we always set ourselves apart, a little bit.
What did we do as young children? We started going to school early - I must have been about four when I went to kindergarten. At that time there were just Edward and I, and in 1910, the year Alfred was born, Nancy Averill came from England to be our governess.
Mother had met her there before she came back to the Near East to marry Father in 1904, while she was taking her nurse's training course, Nancy, later to become an aunt, was engaged to Mother's brother, Uncle Alfred Lewis, Nancy lived with us for a year or more, before going out to Rodesia, Africa, to marry Uncle Alfred.
Nancy was full of fun, always had amusing stories to tell and plenty of interesting things for us to do. When she left, she wept real tears, but made a joke of it, secretly wetting her handkerchief under the faucet and ringing the water out on a plate to show us how much she had cried over the thought of leaving us.
The faculty houses in Paradise were finished so that we could move into them in the fall of 1912 - the president, Dr. MacLaughlan, and his family of two boys and a girl, the Sam Caldwell's with two boys and two girls, and us. By that time there were three of us; Edward, baby brother, Alfred, and I.
I can't believe that when I was so young that I commuted from Paradise to Boudja by myself to attend Miss Shackelton's private school. In 1912 I was seven years old. But I used to walk the equivalent of three or four blocks to the station and, when the train arrived at Boudja, I had another walk of six or more blocks to the school house. I don't recall that we were fed lunch at school, unless I went to Grandmother's for it. Nenecka and Grandmother had moved from the original house I remember to another bigger one, about which more later. But after school I always went back to Granny's for a snack, since I had some time to wait for my train back to Paradise.
During that fall, winter and spring the three main college buildings were being built. In the fall of 1913 a room was taken over in the chapel as a school house for the faculty children, which we all attended. The following year, at nine in 1914, I went to classes at the college. Of course, it wasn't so much of a college as an elementary and high school for teaching Greek, Armenian, Jewish and Turkish boys, English, arithmetic and all that was regarded as education at that time. In addition to us Americans, there were a few English, French and Italian students, though most of them were sent back to boarding schools in England, France and Italy by their parents.
In addition to the American faculty we had some Greek and Armenian teachers, and Professor Seylar, a Swiss, who taught French . Most of the students were of high school age, primarily Greeks and Turks, and commuted from Smyrna by train. There was a boarding department, as well, for students that lived farther away. They had dormitories on the third floor of the main building, with the dining room and kitchen on the first floor. Classrooms and President Mac's office were on the second floor, as well as Father's college library, where he also held his classes. The gymnasium building had some classrooms on the first floor, plus the direct current generating plant, over which Professor Sam Caldwell presided.
There were two tremendous single-cylinder diesel engines with 10-foot diameter fly wheels, around each of which ran a heavy, leather-belt to the generator pulleys. These engines were operated several times a week to charge a room-full of large, glass-contained wet batteries. All the faculty houses and the college buildings were wired to the system, which as I remember was 30-voltst D.C. This was the first time we had electric lights.
I didn't own a bicycle until I was almost 13, when we lived in Melrose, Massachusetts in 1918 during the first World War, But I did get for Christmas, 1912, our first winter at Paradise, a child-powered go-cart. It had solid rubber-tired wheels and you steered it with your feet. There were two wood levers, one for each hand, attached by iron rods to cranks on the rear axle. The cranks were off-set, one from the other, so that you couldn't get hung up on dead center, but it was a little confusing, you pushed one lever and pulled on the other, back and forth. Once you got used to it, it worked fine and I rode it around all over the place.
But I was stupid enough, one morning to ride it up the dirt road to Boudja and school. I never really knew how far Boudja is from Paradise, but one could see the red brick tile roofs of the village houses quite a distance up in the foothills; it was a long walk, Remember that it was steep enough for the engineless railroad passenger cars to coast downhill to Paradise at a fairly good clip.
I remember that it was a bright morning in early spring. Why Mother let me go I do not know, I passed the Paradise railroad station at a fairly good clip, crossing the tracks, and then the gradual climb began. I was not yet seven years old at that time, but I wasn't going to give up. Along the way a Greek peasant on a donkey passed me from the Boudja direction and stopped - which I also did, thankful for a chance to rest. He was most interested in looking my vehicle over - the first he'd ever seen, which goes for me too. I've never seen one like it before or since.
Well, I finally arrived at Granny's home where I parked the vehicle and got my blistered hands washed and bandaged. Needless to say, I took the train home after school, but when my blisters healed, I did ride it back. That was easy - it was all downhill.
Sports and Games
We did not learn to play tennis or golf until 1919, when we returned to Turkey after the first War. Father, who was an excellent golf player and had won several tournaments playing, with British friends, did introduce me to golf when I was seven. I am left-handed and there were no left-handed clubs, but he had a flat-sided putter with a wood shaft which he cut down to my size and wrapped with a leather binding.
The Paradise campus had a nine-hole course, of sorts, which was never mowed, with sand-covered greens and tin caps for cups in their centers. In late spring when the grass was tall, one spent more time looking for golf balls than playing but I did get an early start at the game.
Everybody played soccer, which was called football, practically the year round. I had a soccer ball and we played and practiced every day after school and during recess. I learned the game so well that even though I hadn’t played for five years, I was a regular and made my letter on the Brown soccer team, when the sport was introduced my senior year there, in 1926.
We had many games we picked up from our Greek friends -marbles for instance. One marble game consisted of digging a pit, about the size of a cupped hand, against a stone wall. The idea was to toss two, four, or more marbles from a line about eight feet away and see if you could get an even number in the hole. One person was "it" and stood by the pit. If you got an odd number of marbles - one, three, five, etc. in the pit - he kept them and you continued throwing. When you got an even number in, he paid you that number and you changed places. Any number could play and I accumulated a big can full of marbles. We had two kinds. There were the small ones made out of brick, and glazed over in various colors, and larger glass ones. You could swap ten small ones for a glass one.
We had a stick game that was also a lot of fun, something like one-o-cat in baseball. Again you used a small pit, on the side of which you leaned a short, thick stick. With a longer stick you hit the tip of the short one, which sent it spinning through the air. If you hit it just right it would bounce straight up and you'd hit it again. A stone was used as a base and the batter had to run, touch it and get back before the person in the field could pick the stick up, touch you and put you out, when you'd change places. Several could play, of course.
Conditions were ideal for kite flying, in the early spring after our fall and winter rains were over. Skies would be blue, and steady, southwest winds blew for hours at a time. I remember tying a flying kite to a tree in the morning and it flew all day until I pulled it in that afternoon. Building and flying kites was quite an art in Smyrna. Whereas Father bought me my first one, I soon learned to copy it and build my own.
The chief -difference between American and Turkish kites was the use of a split bamboo bow. There was a big clump of Turkish bamboo that grew down-stream from us along the brook at about the middle of Yani's large truck garden, across the road in front of our house. This bamboo grew larger in diameter than Japanese but was lighter. We'd split out a long, green section about one-half inch wide and then bend it so that it was only slightly bowed in the middle or top, but pulled in on the ends, which we shaved down thinner and which were held in position by a piece of string. Some things we had to buy - the square-section wood dowels to go down the middle, the very thin sheets of colored paper and the balls of string. The dowel had to be twice as long from the bow string to the bottom than to the top, with one-half inch on each end to tie the kite guy string to.
Well, you twisted the dowel around the bow string to form a loop with the ends passing over the front, made a small notch in the center of the bow and tied the dowel to it} then you tied a string to each end of the bamboo bow and ran it down to the foot of the dowel. Then you laid the kite front down on your paper which you cut so that there was an inch to lap over the bamboo bow and the strings; using flour and water as glue which you put on with your finger tip, you turned the edges over, pasted them down and the job was finished - almost.
The secret of a maneuverable kite, is to make it very light though strong, stable and then rig it properly. For stability you rely on a tail that is neither too long nor too short; if too short the kite flies erratically, if too long it is sluggish and not maneuverable - about 1 1/2 to 2 times the length of the kite is about right, But this depends on how much wind drag the tail has and how heavy it is. We used to make our high-drag tails out of white tissue paper, cut in 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide strips, 16 inches long, doubled over. Then tying slip knots about 6 inches apart on the tail string, we'd bunch up the middle of each tissue paper strip, put each strip end into a slip knot and pull it tight.
For a kite to rise, of course, you need an upward force of air pressure, which means that the wind has to flow off it downward. As a rule-of-thumb we used to tie a halter or guy string top and bottom that would reach to the end of the bow string. The kite string was then tied at that point, taking two turns, for the first half of the square knot, so it wouldn't slip.
It's amazing what you can learn to do with a good, properly-rigged kite. By pulling the kite line rapidly, hand-over-hand, it will climb rapidly; paying out line it will lose altitude fast. Pulling in line and then jerking it to the left will cause the kite to move to the left; right, it will swing in that direction. By getting it to swing to the left, then paying line out, the light, fluffy tail will cause the heavier kite to turn upside down. Then pulling in line rapidly the kite, having performed a loop, will climb again.
This was the way we used to have kite fights. The idea was to cut a rival's kite string. First you'd maneuver your kite to left or right over his, loop your kite over and under his kit string and then pull your kite in fast. The loop in your line would stretch out straight but make a loop in his. By pulling in line fast, your string would saw through the loop in his, his line would break and his kite would go floating to the ground.
Father and Mother liked to take us on walks, particularly Sunday afternoons, after we had our roast beef dinner. A favorite' area was the rocky foothills beyond the Paradise station to the left, off the road to Boudja. There was a barren section with too many rocks to be cultivated. Wild shrubs with holly-like leaves grew in clumps, which as soon as they were big enough, the peasants would cut back, even digging up the roots, for fire wood. In late January and February the grass would get green and among the rocks one would find tall, large anemones in bloom with the most delicate colors - red, pink, purple, blue and creamy white. We would pick large bouquets and always dig up a few tubers to plant in a shady, protected flower-bed. There were also a lot of wild cyclamen, but the flowers didn't keep when cut so we would dig ur> an occasional tuber for planting.
About that time one of our neighbors gave me my first dog, a black-and-white, short-haired fox terrier with a docked tail. We either called him "Flip" or "Spot", I don't remember, and he loved to go on these walks with us. He'd always flush at least one hare, the large, European hare, and off he'd race yipping away.
Of course, these hares have tremendous hind legs, and to my disappointment, he never caught up with one, nor did I ever shoot one, after I was old enough to go hunting.
Later in the spring, wild mustard could be found in uncultivated fields. The long, main stems, before the yellow flowers bloom on them are tender and very tasty when boiled like asparagus, so we used to pick bunches of them. Wild caper vines grew along paths and roadsides. Once the flowers have bloomed, the green fruit grow to be the size of large, green olives, full of water. When touched they would break off the stems, the water would squirt out from stem ends, jet-propelling the fruit quite a few feet - nature's way of scattering their seeds. But we would pick the young caper buds in quantity and then pickle them in vinegar. I'm very fond of pickled capers.
Still later on, the wild blackberries would ripen. Some of the patches were so big each would fill my entire back yard here in Essex. We'd always fill at least one large pail, sometimes two and three. The blackberries were so juicy, and what a flavor!
Of course, we kids would eat quantities while picking. The next day Mother would make blackberry jam in her big cauldron, over an open fire in the back yard. She had a huge jam closet in the cellar stacked with jars containing jams of all kinds. We had some kind of baked hot bread twice a day - corn or bran muffins every morning with breakfast, and scones with our afternoon tea - and jam was always served with them. The varieties of jam were tremendous - fig, grape, raisin, rose petal, black walnut, cherry, plum, watermelon rind, blackberry, currant, orange marmalade, and if you can name any others, we had them.
As you may have noticed, most of our walks were concerned with gathering things to eat. On our walk up to where the anemones grew, there was a large almond tree. Almonds grow like other nuts, in a pithy green case, and when ripe fall to the ground, the cases splitting in half. But they could be picked when almost ripe and the shells had not yet hardened, so that we could bite into them and get at the green kernels - delicious!
Another walk Edward and I took several times was to go down a trail to the Meander River to fish. Now this is a true "fish story" - we caught the fish with our bare hands, and enough to feed all the family for supper! This was during summer vacation and the soles of our bare feet were so tough they were like leather. There was a nasty vine that grew along the trail with a round seed-pod burr that had sharp, heavy spines a quarter-inch long. I remember stepping on one but the skin on my foot was so thick, I just rubbed my foot on the ground and brushed it off.
The reason we could catch fish bare-handed was that in summer the river water-was so low. One of my Greek peasant friends tipped me off to the secret, though. During flood periods, the swift current hollowed out small clay deposits in the banks on the bed of the river. The water stayed nice and cool in them while the pools in the river were too warm for the fish to live in. So the big fish, particularly, would hole up in them during the day, coming out at night, after the river water cooled off, to feed.
The trick was to paddle barefoot in the water along the banks, looking then over carefully for any small, subterranean caverns. Having found one, you would crouch down, and with the fingers of both hands spread out, reach in and grab your fish. The big surprise, of course, was that when Edward reached into one of these holes he pulled out a huge, 6-foot water snake. But on this day we came home with a bucket of fish that Mother cleaned and which we had fried for supper - enough for us all. I must have been 10 or 11 and Edward eight or nine years old then.
This is a good place in my story to tell about what we had to eat - what we lived on. Vegetarians - people who never eat any meat - seem to live healthy lives if they eat a variety of non-meat foods, such as cheese and ripe olives. We were not vegetarians, but we didn't have a meat - steak, roast veal, chicken, lamb or roast beef - every day for dinner. But we had meat a couple of times during the week and a roast of some sort every Sunday for noon dinner. We didn't get too much roast beef - Father used to say it tasted so much better when sliced very thin -but we’d get second helpings. And there would be roast potatoes and gravy and some vegetable. There was always home-made bread and butter and jam. We always had fruit for dessert, or a jello or pudding.
We also kept large supplies of staples, cheeses, cured and green olives, dried figs, raisins and other fruits. Mother fried doughnuts by the hundreds and we were always welcome to help our-selves. Figs were kept in a 100 lb burlap bag inside the front door.
Under the sink were two huge crocks filled, one with black and the other with green olives. The goats' milk cheese looked like Roquefort and came in a shorn goat's-skin container with the leg and neck openings sewed up and the skin turned inside out. All we had to do was open the bread box, cut off a hunk of home-made bread, get a slice of cheese or a handful of olives and have a snack, or we would take a handful of raisins or two or three figs. We never went hungry.
We had large quantities of fresh fruit for a good part of the year, much of it from our own fruit trees and vines. I have never tasted anything as delicious as our apricots. Our property had ten apricot trees growing in a row just inside the low stone wall on the southwest side of our property (the left side when going in the front gate). Father gave us each the choice of picking out a tree for one's own, and being the oldest I picked out the best one - the last in the row. It was pretty good sized, some 15 to 20 feet high, well branched out, and you should have seen and tasted those apricots! They were the size of small peaches and just as juicy and flavorful as could be. We used to climb into our trees and eat a dozen or more at a time. We also had the privilege of selling them and peddled baskets full to our neighbors.
Mother always had the habit of planting a seed from any piece of fruit that was particularly tasty. By the time we moved out to Paradise she had a number of young trees growing in pots which were set out in our garden. It was amazing how fast they grew; I was soon climbing them - several kinds of plum, peach, cherry, apple and Japan apple.
Though we had a few grape vines in a small vineyard, and a fig tree, we depended on the natives for grapes and figs which cost practically nothing. This was also true for melons and watermelons. Of the former, the Casaba melon is world-famous for its delicate fragrance and taste.
Oranges were imported from Jaffa, on the east coast of the Mediterranean in what is now Israel. I got some in a local market before Christmas. They have a very thick skin which is easy to peel and are sweet and Juicy.
World War I
World War I broke out in the summer of 1914, when I was nine years old. I was on a second camping trip with Mr. Harlow and the scout troop at Toss Tepey, and remember learning to swim quite well, copying the older boys in the back, side and breast strokes. The salt water on the bay, a short walk down the hill from our camp, was crystal clear.
I used to like to stand on the beach and watch the fishermen haul in their nets. They caught small fish, probably sardines. The fishermen, in two large dorys , would pay out their net quite a way off shore and then each tow a long, heavy line attached to its ends to the beach, where they would land about 100 feet apart.
They had a very interesting way of hauling the net in. Each man wore a wide leather belt to which was attached a light piece of line about 18 inches long. On the other end of this line was a wood knob the size of a walnut. As each man moved down to the water's edge, he would swing his line over the taut net line. The knob would spin around several times, the fisherman's line gripping it tightly. In this way they pulled and walked the net in. As each man got to where the net line was being coiled, he would detach his thong, walk back to the water and start over again, until the net was hauled to the beach. There were some eight men to a boat and the hauling was slow so that the last man could walk back in about the time the others had advanced four paces. They caught enough fish to fill their boats. Once they caught and killed a huge sea turtle which must have been over three feet long and wide and could have weighed a couple of hundred pounds. I was very interested in it, particularly its large flippers.