Friday, July 20, 2007

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 when he took me to see the movie “The Strawberry Blond” (I was all of 7 or 8 years at the time...1940) and we danced and sang 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. He had been a medic in that war and this is a picture of him in uniform 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


Blogger kenju said...

He sounds like a wonderful papa. One of my grandfathers was a farmer/school teacher and principal, but I hardly ever saw him. The other one was even less accessible to me when he was present in the room! My step-grandfather was a lawyer and judge who only barely tolerated small children, so I don't have the warm experience you had. I envy that!

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A great tribute to your GrandPa. Wonderful!

3:34 PM  
Blogger KGMom said...

He sounds like a remarkable man. It is wonderful that you got to know him and can carry his memory with you.

7:11 PM  
Blogger Pam said...

A man I would have loved to have known. Accomplished and fanciful at the same time.

His poem is wonderful and makes a lovely statement. There are many I would like to share it with.

6:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such a poignant post and Papa sounds like a very special man. How fortunate he gave you such wonderful memories. Thank you for sharing them with us.
And he was QUITE distinguished! He LOOKS like a writer and I can almost see him in the company of Hemingway and F. Scott.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Maya's Granny said...

A delightful post. Your Papa sounds like a wonderful man to have for a grandfather.

My father was in a band in the 30s and The Strawberry Blond was one of the songs he used to sing to me when I was little.

I'm tagging you for a meme. Come to my site and get the details.

1:15 AM  
Blogger Ginnie said...

Maya's Granny; thanks for thinking of me for a meme...but I just don't do those. I got a kick out of question #1 on your list and am not annoyed ... just decided a long time ago that my blog is not for that purpose.
I also have the same type of aversion to emails that tell me I must send that message to 5 other people......etc, etc.

6:19 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

That's quite a family tree that you have.

5:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some great poetry was written about 'courage and comradeship' during WW1. As a medic your grandfather probably knew more than most about it.

6:45 AM  

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