Memories of my grandfather……HARRY LEE
Papa Lee, as we called him, was a gentle, almost child-like man who lived with my Grandmother, Mary, in Plainfield, NJ. He was a writer and his head was often in the clouds. That may have been of concern to his stoic and hard working wife but for his grandchildren he was a delight. One of my fondest memories is from 1940 when he took me to see the movie “The Strawberry Blond” (I was 7 years old) and we danced and sang “And the Band Played On” all the way home....
“Casey would waltz with the strawberry blonde, and the band played on. He'd glide cross the floor with the girl he adored and the band played on. But his brain was so loaded it nearly exploded, the poor girl would shake with alarm. He'd ne'er leave the girl with the strawberry curls, and the band played on".
Papa worked for Warner Brothers, writing movie reviews. His column was in one of the NY papers of the time (in the thirties) and he was also a published author. His first book, written in 1920, was titled “High Company”, and was a book of poetry portraying courage and comradeship in World War 1. The picture above shows him as a medic standing behind a soldier in a wheelchair.
Shortly after “High Company” came out he produced a play that depicted the life & times of St. Francis of Assisi… “The Little Poor Man” (“Il Poverllo”) It was published in 1920 and actually had a short but successful run on Broadway.
Papa’s best known work was “More Day to Dawn” written in 1941. It is the biography of Henry David Thoreau, written in prose and poetry...dedicated “To Mary”, (my Grandmother) and with a forward by his friend Brooks Atkinson. I love the last page of that book:
"The Sixth of May, 1862. May and morning...winds that sigh in cool trees yearning toward the sky. A couch that pillows a weary head. “Have you made your peace with
God?” one said. Silence...and then the calm reply: “We have never quarreled…God and I”.
Papa spent a lot of time volunteering at the Henry St. Settlement House in NY City but he rarely spoke of that. I have often wondered if a tempestuous youth was a fore-runner of the gentle man that I knew. No matter……..he was my Papa and he enriched my life immensely.
P.S.(I have originals of all of Papa's books and just recently did a book search to see if I could get "High Company" for one of my sisters. I was amazed to find that a company named Kessinger Publishing, LLC. has printed this book in paperback form and is currently selling it "new" for $18.51. I was outraged but find that the copyright has run out and I don't have a leg to stand on. I guess they are free to do as they please.
This computer age certainly has it's benefits and drawbacks!)