Friday, February 08, 2008

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!)


Blogger kenju said...

He was such a handsome young man! Too bad about the cost of the current paperback.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Bud said...

What a wonderful tribute Ginnie. He obviously was quite a guy.

2:19 AM  
Blogger Chancy said...

Ginnie Now I know where you get your writing talent. From your Grand Dad.

3:22 PM  
Blogger kenju said...

GInnie, thanks for the visit today, and as to your suggestion: I can't wait! I hope to be able to do that sometime in March, if not before.

6:55 PM  
Blogger Pam said...

Ah, now we know know where you're writing talent comes from. The artists in my family have my grandfather' s sister to thank.

3:25 AM  
Blogger KGMom said...

Interesting about the copyright. I wonder what the time frame is on copyright material--how long does it run?

6:18 PM  
Blogger Ginnie said...

Thanks for all the comments.
KGMom, I checked up on the rules for copyrighting and it seems that, after a certain time they have to be renewed (by the family if the writer is dead) unless they have opted for an "all time" copyright. I'm sure my Grandfather's wasn't for more than 75 yrs and his book was published in 1920.
Part of me is angry but the other part is just glad that his words are being brought to light again.

4:42 AM  
Blogger Crayons said...

Hi Ginnie,
It takes great skill to capture the life and personalty of a person in just a few paragraphs. Bravo. That first photo is just wonderful.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wonderfully written. I certainly felt his presence as I read it.

BTW, you have been tagged at Shimoda's Dream.

6:13 PM  
Blogger Bonnie Jacobs said...

"Part of me is angry but the other part is just glad that his words are being brought to light again."

That's what I wanted to comment about. Just be happy that there are still people wanting to read what he wrote nearly 90 years ago! That's amazing, isn't it?

The alternative would mean that he had been forgotten by all but family.

10:57 PM  

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