Monthly Archives: August 2014


Whirlwind Hill was once crowded with trees whose lavish spring blossoms ripened into round, bright fruit in late summer. The orchards that were already starting to diminish in the 1950’s are completely gone from the hill now, replaced by fields of hay, acres of new houses with long driveways and tidy lawns, and a winery and vineyard.

"Orchards in Spring," Carol Crump Bryner, ipad painting, 2013

“Orchards in Spring,” Carol Crump Bryner, ipad painting, 2013

For many years peaches brought work and cash to my ancestors. There were apple orchards on the farm for decades when, sometime after 1875, my great-grandfather, William Ellsworth Hall, introduced peaches. But by around 1920 my grandparents were concentrating on dairy cows and apples, and the peach trees were few.

In 1912 my great-grandmother still writes about selling peaches.

Wednesday, August 21, 1912 – “Another close day. Picking peaches. Sold twenty-four baskets for seventy cents a basket. Pretty good for the first.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Thursday, August 29, 1912 – “We have been very busy canning peaches besides our usual work. Canned eleven quarts. They look very nice.” – Lydia Jane Hall

By 1921, other farms on the hill had taken over the commercial selling of the crop.

Monday, August 29, 1921 – “A nice day, warmer. September days are coming. Apples and peaches are ripening fast. Large truck loads of peaches going past to the depot toward evening.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Saturday, September 10, 1921 – “Nice day and a busy one for all. Agnes has canned peaches pears & tomatoes. We have had all our peaches off the few trees that were left on the hill lot, which were very nice to eat and can.” – Lydia Jane Hall

For the past two years I’ve been slowly transcribing journals kept by my great-grandfather William. His journal entries tell me very little about him, and I’ve hesitated to try to sum up his life from sentences like this.

January 10, 1861 – “Went to New Haven with apples. Mother spent the evening at Widow L. Hall’s. Put up some cider in the evening.” – William E. Hall

January 11, 1861 – “Finish putting up cider.” Went to the mountain after wood in the afternoon.” – William E. Hall

But I learned more about him through a speech and poem he wrote to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the Wallingford Grange. Paper-clipped to the speech was a letter of sympathy to my family from the Grange written after William’s death in 1920. In this letter, the writers call my great-grandfather “The Father of the Wallingford Grange.” This photo of him as a young man was taken before he and thirty-one other people founded the town Grange in 1885.

William Ellsworth Hall, around 1875

William Ellsworth Hall, around 1875

Granges were organized to bring farmers together. It was through the Grange that Wallingford became home to so many fruit orchards. When I buy peaches at the farmers’ markets here in the Pacific Northwest, or buy beets and carrots at the markets in Alaska, I feel the same spirit that must have driven the early farmers of Wallingford to respect the land and to work together as a community to bring their produce to market. In his speech to the Grange, William said:

“Our hills are covered with fruit trees. Wallingford has come to be recognized as a center for great peach orchards. There is no fairer sight than the hills covered with blossoms, no more earnest sight than the industry of gathering and sending to market the product of our labor. For years much of this land had gone to waste. It has been recognized as pasture or at least, barren hill. But now there are everywhere vineyards and orchards. Our Grange has done more than its share toward bringing this about. Because from the first the organization has aimed to support conservation of all natural resources…Every possible precaution for preserving the soil should be taken, and the fact that no one has a right to become robber of the soil should be taught in the home, the school, the church, and the Grange. For in this and all other things we say, ‘The greatest good to the greatest number.’ ” – William Ellsworth Hall

"Blueberries and Peaches," Carol Crump Bryner, watercolor and colored pencil, 1994

“Blueberries and Peaches,” Carol Crump Bryner, watercolor and colored pencil, 1994

On Monday:  The Porch



"An Ear of Corn," Carol Crump Bryner, pen and colored pencil, 2014

“An Ear of Corn,” Carol Crump Bryner, pen and colored pencil, 2014

My grandfather, a man of few words, looked up from the bags of corn he was husking as he sat on the porch swing, and muttered, “Corn, corn, corn.”

It does start to get a little old. After the excitement of the first ears of summer and the exclamations about the sweetness of this batch compared to that batch, the abundance of late summer corn can be overwhelming, especially on a farm.

One of the ways my family varied the corn diet was to make succotash. I’ve never really understood succotash. Why ruin a perfectly good bowl of corn by adding beans to it? But my mother and her family loved succotash, and my grandmother made it frequently. Her succotash was very plain – lima beans, corn, salt, pepper, and butter. The secret, my mother told me, was to scrape the “milk” from the cob after cutting off the kernels.

Saturday, August 6, 1921 – “Nice day. Men working at hay at Peterland. Corn is coming & potatoes are looking nice on the hill lot. Busy times for everyone now, gathering in the products of the farms. Lilla our good neighbor sent us some sweet corn of which Agnes made us some nice succotash. Ellsworth’s corn is nearly ready to pick for eating.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Tuesday, August 16, 1921 – “Agnes and Lydia went over to Durham, took over some succotash and a nice apple pie, some potatoes & corn – two loaves of bread & a cake for which they were very thankful.” – Lydia Jane Hall

"A Bowl of Succotash," Carol Crump Bryner,1992

“A Bowl of Succotash,” Carol Crump Bryner, 1992

Everyone has theories about corn – how long to cook it (my brother says to boil it until the steam smells like corn, my husband claims 12 minutes to be ideal) – how to store it – how to butter it – and how to eat it (I employ the typewriter carriage method starting at one end and eating three rows at time, then pushing the carriage back to the beginning and starting over – my husband eats it round and round like the gears of a clock) – and how to make it last through the winter.

My parents had strong opinions about the handling of fresh sweet corn. Dinner conversation in summer was punctuated by pronouncements about the freshness, sweetness, and toughness/tenderness of the corn. My dad subscribed to the theory that husking should be done immediately. He claimed that sweetness seeped from the corn into the husks if you left them on too long. One summer, when I was visiting my parents, my cousin Sue and I went to Lyman Orchards where she bought a bagful of corn to take home to grill (in the husks) for dinner. After storing it in our refrigerator to stay cool until she drove home, Sue and I sat outside with my mother drinking tea and having an afternoon chat. Meanwhile, my father, horrified to find un-husked corn in the fridge, pulled it out and stripped it naked thinking he was doing my cousin an enormous favor.

My mother spent September days carefully blanching, cutting, scraping, and freezing corn. She was very particular about the process, and I have to admit that I’ve never tasted frozen corn as good as hers. In the winter she rationed these bags of gold – one per week – and heated the contents over a double boiler. She put a chunk of butter on top, and stirred the kernels gently as they thawed. To eat that corn at a Sunday dinner in December was to taste summer all over again. Only better.

Our grandson, who is sweeter than all the sweet corn in the world, came to spend the afternoon with us after a recent Sunday visit to the local farmers’ market. We husked the corn we had bought, and it was so lovely that I wanted to preserve it on paper. Henry helped me choose the colors, and I showed him how to squeeze just the right amount of paint onto the palette and how to wet the brush before picking up the color. We painted the kernels together, and he painted the “green parts” a very bright green. When I asked him to sign his name he insisted that we needed to add more facts. And so we did. Opinions about corn and about art start early, and I’m happy to encourage them.

"Henry and Carol Made a Picture of Corn," Henry Thomas Kennedy and Carol Crump Bryner, 2014

“Henry and Carol Made a Picture of Corn,” Henry Thomas Kennedy and Carol Crump Bryner, 2014

On Wednesday:  Peaches

The Little House on the Hill

"The Little House," Carol Crump Bryner, 2013

“The Little House,” Carol Crump Bryner, 2013

When the little house moved from the glen to the hill, it left its bottom behind. The 1912 foundation was made from the large and abundant stones that both plagued and blessed most Connecticut farmers. The unending supply of rocks made difficult the plowing and planting of the fields, but easy the building of the walls. My great-grandfather William recorded “picking stones” as a frequent activity in the fields. The little house’s rocky footprint is still visible and accessible.

Kirt Crump at the glen house foundation, 2013

Kirt Crump at the glen house foundation, 2013

Yards away from the foundation sit two boulder-like stones. They cover an old well and keep animals and people from plunging into its depths.

Well stones, 2013

Well stones, 2013

Sometime between 1925 and 1943 my grandfather and his helpers lifted the little house off its stone base, transported it through the orchard, and positioned it on a new cellar at the top of the farm’s hill lot.  Red painted, white trimmed, and dormered, the little house seemed a cousin to my own house – the one my father built in 1946 on Center Street in Wallingford, Connecticut. I couldn’t find a photo of the little house on the farm, but you can get an idea of how it looked from this picture of my own childhood home.

The Crumps' house on East Center Street, 1947

The Crumps’ house on East Center Street, 1947

The little house on the hill was a dollhouse compared to the big farmhouse. In winter we climbed the pathway from the farmhouse driveway to the top of the hill. We borrowed big pots from my grandmother, saved pieces of cardboard from Christmas presents, gloated over new “flying saucers,” and fought over the prime sledding transport – the “Radio Flyer.” We took turns going up and down all afternoon with the promise of popcorn and hot chocolate in the farmhouse kitchen afterwards. The hill was short, but mighty. We often poured water on it to freeze a faster ride. Now, in my dotage, I feel sorry for my aunt, uncle, and cousins who had to walk up and down that hill after a Sunday afternoon of sledding. Ice is better for sitting down than for standing up.

Sledding on the hill, 1950's

Sledding on the hill, 1950’s

In 1943 my mother’s older brother Francis married Glenna and brought her to live in the little red house on his parents’ farm. My cousin and his family live there still.

Francis and Glenna Hall, 1943

Francis and Glenna Hall, 1943

In summer we walked up the hill to the red house in sweaty pursuit of popsicles. Our Auntie Glenna led us down the cellar steps into the cool dirt-floored basement and opened the lid of the deep freeze to find the fruity popsicles nestled in their metal beds. Our mothers made their own popsicles – grape, strawberry, orange, and lime. But Auntie Glenna’s tasted best. Care was taken not to stick a tongue onto the frozen metal mold. It was so tempting. Maybe that hint of danger, and the descent into the dimly lit cellar made the treat more special – or maybe it was the warm and cheerful welcome we always got from our sweet Auntie Glenna.

"Grape Popsicle," Carol Crump Bryner, 2013

“Grape Popsicle,” Carol Crump Bryner, 2013

On Monday:  Corn


The Little House in the Glen


"Tools," Carol Crump Bryner, watercolor, 2014

“Tools,” Carol Crump Bryner, watercolor, 2014

It’s hard for me to ask people to do things I can do myself. Finding babysitters for my children when they were young, hiring someone to clean the house, asking a neighbor to feed the cat, or even asking my own grandson to pick his coat up off the floor require a sense of authority that eludes me.

For my grandparents, great-grandparents, and the generations before them, asking for and hiring help was a necessity. The journals of my great-grandmother Lydia lament the everyday problems of getting and keeping workers. She records the trials and tribulations of Pauline, a woman who worked for them for several years.

March 13, 1913 – “Pauline busy in the morning sweeping, etc – very quiet, don’t say much – suppose she is disgusted with the Halls.” – Lydia Jane Hall

April 15, 1913 – “Pauline said she couldn’t come to help us. She wants a change – good bye.” – Lydia Jane Hall

April 28, 1913 – “Rosa helping the best she can, but wishes she was at home. Distressing to have such help.” – Lydia Jane Hall

May 25, 1913 – “Ellen went to town to meet Mrs. Arnold at the car line. She came and seems quite pleasant.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Mrs. Arnold lasted a few months, and was replaced by Rosie.

August 5, 1913 – “A fine day. Cool for ironing. Rosie done the ironing – it looks very good. Pretty good young girl I think.” – Lydia Jane Hall

In December that year, my grandfather Ellsworth married my grandmother Agnes and brought her home to the farm to live (and to work). My great-grandmother’s load was lightened, but complaints about “the help” pop up in the journals.

December 14, 1914 – “Jennie Cella says she cannot wash for us anymore. Has to help her mother.” – Lydia Jane Hall

August 8, 1921 – “Ellsworth is getting very tired and worn very thin. I feel worried about him and wish he could have a few days rest for a change. It is hard to get good strong help.” – Lydia Jane Hall

But throughout Lydia’s journals there are always kind words about Andrew and Mary Rossi and their son Peter, and notes of appreciation for their help in the house and in the barn and fields. The Rossi family was for many years an established part of the farm, lured there by the prospect of steady work and by one other wonderful thing – the little house in the glen.

A glen is a valley-like ditch, with some kind of water running through it. Our glen – or “gutter,” as it came to be called later on – was a shady stream with steep banks. An orchard on a sloping hill separated the glen from the farmhouse. Now the orchard is gone, and a big green field has replaced the trees.

Walking to the Gutter, 2013

Walking to the Gutter, 2013

In 1912, before my grandfather met my grandmother, there were always problems with keeping a hired man. The farm was a long way from most of these workers’ homes, and boys and men got homesick or eager to move on to something more exciting. So in August 1912, my grandfather, with the help of friends and hired labor, built a house.

August 29, 1912 – “Men working at the new cellar of the new house on the place.” – Lydia Jane Hall

October 14, 1912 – “Men busy putting up the house in the glen.” – Lydia Jane Hall

February 17, 1913 – “Ellsworth and men worked in peach orchard in morning – in afternoon worked with John Botsford painting the new house.” – Lydia Jane Hall

March 11, 1913 – “A nice spring-like day. The birds are singing – the blue birds especially. The men are trimming peach trees in the Orrin Land. They expect to hire a new man soon. I hope they will get a willing worker. –Bargain made – will move the wife and child soon.” – Lydia Jane Hall

March 26, 1913 – “Raining hard…the new family [Andrew, Mary, and Peter Rossi] moved into our house in the glen.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Unlike the farmhouse, which burned in 1971, the little house is still a part of the farmland. I don’t know how the house looked when it sat next to the gutter, because sometime before 1943 it was moved, and I’ll talk about that on Wednesday. But my mother remembers being scared and running as fast as she could whenever she was sent to the little house on an errand. She admits that most of these errands took place after the evening meal, when dusk must have made the woods around the glen seem darker and bigger and maybe just a little bit haunted.

"The Little House," Carol Crump Bryner, 2013

“The Little House,” Carol Crump Bryner, 2013

On Wednesday:  The Little House on the Hill


After my mother had her stoke in 2007, I began to know my dad better. As a Christmas present I’d given him a little black notebook with instructions to please write down memories of his life. It wasn’t a surprise to me that he complied. I think it helped him after my mom became sick. And it helped us. He wrote. I read. I edited. He approved. I found out things about him and his life that I hadn’t known. I heard stories in more detail. But most of all, working on this project formed the basis for a closer relationship, something that had gotten lost amongst my mother’s needs in the last decades of her life.

Charles Grantham Crump II

Charles Grantham Crump II

My parents’ personalities complimented and aggravated each other. Where she was sentimental, he was fiercely independent. Janet clung to the past. Charlie forged ahead into the future. She laughed, and he often earned one of his nicknames, “Grumpy Crumpy.” But I admired and loved him. We understood each other. We argued, but they were good and productive arguments. He never held a grudge – his anger passed quickly.

Wallingford, Connecticut was a small town. My parents were born there and grew up there, and their families knew each other. Charlie was a close friend of my mom’s brother, Francis Hall. They hunted together and spent time with their other high school friends at a cabin near Tyler Mill called “The Shanty.”

Francis Hall and Charlie Crump in front of Whirlwind Hill farmhouse

Francis Hall and Charlie Crump in front of Whirlwind Hill farmhouse

In a letter to my mom at college in 1938 my grandmother mentions my future father.

“Not a visitor today except Crump and Cooper. I hadn’t seen Charlie Crump since last summer until this afternoon.” – Agnes Biggs Hall

My dad loved animals, especially horses, and spent as much time as he could at his aunt and uncle’s farm in Northford, Connecticut. But he never looked like a farmer. He had style, and he demonstrated it early.

Charles and Charlotte Crump riding horses at Orchard Beach

Charles and Charlotte Crump riding horses at Orchard Beach

He wouldn’t want me to write anything about him that sounded like an obituary. He hated the cemetery, he hated funerals, and he never “dwelled in the past,” as my mother would have said. He was what people describe as a self-made man, and he was proud of it.

After high school graduation in 1936 Charlie got on a bus and headed west. I always thought he’d run away from home, but in a letter to his parents he says,”

“When I get home I’m going to make you go someplace for a rest Dad. I’m big enough to look after the shop [my grandfather owned a printing shop] at the desk now, you’ve done more for me than anything in the world by letting me take this trip – I wouldn’t have missed it for 10 new cars, so I ought to be able to do a little something for you now.” Charles G. Crump, September, 1936

He was away from Wallingford from June until October. On a ranch in Montana he milked cows, herded horses, cooked meals, acquired his favorite nickname, “Buck,” and found himself a life-long identity as a cowboy.

Charlie "Buck" Crump in Montana, 1938

Charlie “Buck” Crump in Montana, 1938

When summer ranch season ended, he went to California and worked for a time for Lee Duncan, owner of Rin-Tin-Tin.

“Well, well, well. I have a job, – and guess who with! Lee Duncan – the man that owned and trained Rin-Tin-Tin…He saw me on the street the other day with my big hat on and stopped and asked me if I’d like a job taking care of his horse and dogs and helping him in general.” – Charles G. Crump, September, 1936

He returned to Montana for many summers after that, and sometimes took us with him when we were growing up. When asked what my father did I always answered, “He’s a cowboy.” Stockbroker was too hard a profession for a young girl to understand.

Carol, Charlie, and Kirt Crump, Hank, Wayne, and Barba Rowe, Norris, Montana, 1956

Carol, Charlie, and Kirt Crump, Hank, Wayne, and Barba Rowe, Norris, Montana, 1956

My grandmother Hall was right in a way about him being a “playboy,” but sometime in 1941 he began in earnest to court my mother. When cleaning out the basement at my parents’ house a few years ago I found boxes and boxes of letters written back and forth between my engaged, and then married, mom and dad. But the one thing I looked for and never found was a record they made together on their honeymoon in New York City in 1943. In those days there were little booths where you could make your own record – audio selfies. They sung together “Let me call you sweetheart.” Their two pleasing voices harmonized like professionals. Even now, when I hear it only as a memory, the happiness they shared in those heady first years of their life together shines through.

Charlie and Janet, Whirlwind Hill, 1942

Charlie and Janet, Whirlwind Hill, 1942

On Monday:  The Little House in the Glen


"Birthday Cake for Janet," Carol Crump Bryner, watercolor and colored pencil, 2014

“Birthday Cake for Janet,” Carol Crump Bryner, watercolor and colored pencil, 2014

My mom, Janet Hall Crump, appears often in my blog posts. She was my most direct connection to the farm. The stories she told became part of my stories – as though I’d been right there with her when things happened. Her sentiments became my sentiments, and sometimes it seems she lives on in my head, speaking to me moment to moment – thinking out loud the way she always did.

The other day, while making lunch, I heard her say, “Never put tomato on a chicken salad sandwich.” The lovely heirloom tomato I was about to slice stayed whole – my chicken salad unadorned. She’s been gone for six years, but there are times I feel she’s not only always with me, but that I’m becoming her. When I look at my hands, I see her hands. My sideways glance in the mirror shows her face. Her words come out of my mouth when I speak to my children and my husband and my grandchildren. Her adages and advice (“break your ear before you eat it” – “he who hesitates is lost” – “you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”) and mispronunciations (“clorestoral” – “bronical pneumonia” – “Manatuska Valley”) have become part of my family’s vocabulary. She was so full of life, always, and memories of her – both loveable and annoying – keep me company as I cut tomatoes, boil corn, do my shopping, and work on this blog.

Carol and Janet, near Palmer, Alaska, 1971

Carol and Janet, near Palmer, Alaska, 1971

Yesterday would have been her ninety-sixth birthday. On the farm they celebrated birthdays with cake and ice cream and presents. They donned their best clothes and took time away from chores to mark special occasions – birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. On her last birthday, her eighty-ninth, when she was in a nursing home after a stroke, we gave her a party. She was paralyzed on one side and could barely speak. But she still had her cheerful smile and her sense of humor. My brother gave her a toy hippo dressed in a pink tutu. When the hippo danced across the table to “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” my mother laughed so hard tears ran down her face. She watched the hippo do its act several times, then turned to me and said, “Where’s my cake?”

In my very favorite photo of Janet, her face is hidden. She’s at a party, and she’s falling out of a little chair. It was typical for her to be in motion. Her personality was outgoing. She thrived on the chaos of farm and family life, and avoided quiet solitude. She didn’t hold anything back, and gave generously of her love, opinions, and judgments.

Janet Falling off a Chair, 1919

Janet Falling off a Chair, 1919

Another photo taken that same day shows her sitting in her white outfit – still just a baby, but already with her grown up face. She always looked like herself. She had powerful features and dynamic hair, and she took great pride in looking just right.

Janet in a white bonnet, sitting on the ground, 1919

Janet in a white bonnet, sitting on the ground, 1919

One of her most frequent complaints about her childhood, which seemed otherwise idyllic, was that because she was the third child, no one had time to cut her hair properly or dress her in new clothes. But in entries from my great-grandmother’s journals it’s obvious Janet was loved and celebrated.

Friday, May 13, 1921 – “Nice day. Janet Hall went to the barbers with her mother and sister & brother – came home with her hair all nicely cut. Looking so sweet and peachy. Everyone admires her.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Her family threw a festive party for her on her third birthday.

Tuesday, August 9, 1921 – “Agnes & Hattie, Lydia, Francis & Janet went to Meriden to do some shopping. Janet has a birthday tomorrow. She is three years old. They are getting up a little party of cousins for her all near her age, the oldest seven, youngest three. Agnes is making birthday cake & cookies. She has returned from Meriden with her arms full of packages. Emily is making caps of red, pink & blue paper for each one.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Wednesday, August 10, 1921 – “A very nice time for everyone. All busy with getting apples outside and getting ready for the party indoors. Emily & Agnes setting the house in order, etc., which looks very homelike. The party came about half after three & stayed until after five. Such a happy crowd came marching in with their gifts for little Janet. She was so sweet in receiving them. Ellen with her two, Alice with two, Gertrude with her two, Agnes with her three. Mrs. J. D. McGuaghey with little David, & Hattie. It was a treat to see them around the table eating ice cream & cake. Nine cousins, ten in all. The party a success. Very pleasing to me.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Janet's third birthday party - Janet in front on right, 1921

Janet’s third birthday party – Janet in front on right, 1921

In the photo from the party, the cousins are dressed in white outfits,  the standard in those days for party wear, maybe because ice cream stains could be bleached out. She does look, however, in need of a haircut. For the rest of her life she took great care with her appearance –she loved nice clothes and red lipstick and a proper hairdo. She posed over and over for my dad’s camera when they were courting, wearing stylish suits, dresses, coats, and shoes.

Janet near Muddy River, 1942

Janet near Muddy River, 1942

My brother, father, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and I were the happy recipients of her party-loving nature. We each had a special cake or pie for our own birthdays – my brother an orange cake for his June birthday, my grandfather a coconut cake for his December birthday, my uncle Aaron a blueberry pie. On my ninth birthday she gave me a party at the farm, and invited twenty-one girls, our entire Girl Scout troop. She wouldn’t let me pick and choose my favorite friends – I wasn’t allowed to leave anyone out. She organized games and party favors and food, as she did for all my birthdays. She always made me feel special.

Carol's Farm Birthday Party

Carol’s Farm Birthday Party

In 1938 she went to college in Boston to study art. She stayed only one year, but she was a good student and became an accomplished painter. As much as she loved school, however, her heart was at the farm. My grandmother wrote her weekly letters relating the news of Whirlwind Hill. In this note Agnes talks about her own birthday.

“Dear Janet, Just a line or two this morning to thank you for the dearest birthday card I have ever had. Did you get your piece of my birthday cake? I forgot and left it in the oven all night and it was a little dry in spots, but I took your piece out of the middle, or center, should I say.” Agnes Biggs Hall

The happiest occasion of her life may have been marrying my father. She always knew what she liked, and she liked my dad. My grandmother warned her that he was a “playboy,” and not to be trusted. But as my mother told me often, she was madly in love with her Charlie. They married during the war and wrote letters to each other daily. On Wednesday I’ll talk about my dad – the other half of the equation that made me.

Janet's Wedding, February 6, 1943

Janet’s Wedding, February 6, 1943

I never knew until I had my own children about the fears that plagued my mother. She suffered panic attacks, and it was sometimes torture for her to drive long distances. But if she loved someone, she made a beeline through her anxiety, and got to where she needed to be. She drove me to New York, to Massachusetts, to New Hampshire. She flew to Alaska by herself to visit me seventeen times, and I never realized how hard those trips might have been for her.

Janet told me once that she wanted to be remembered the way she looked in this 1966 photo, taken on a bridge on the Wheaton College campus in Norton, Massachusetts during a visit to me.   She looks so happy – so well dressed in her suit, gloves, and matching shoes and pocketbook. She had arranged her legs just the way she always told me to pose for the camera. “Bend one knee, Carol, so you cover up your other leg, because you have a ‘funny’ leg.”

If you’re listening Mom, I still try to hide that funny leg. And I still think of you every day. Happy, Happy Birthday. I miss you!

Janet, 1966

Janet, 1966

On Wednesday:  Charlie

Painting the Cottage

“Here comes Carol with her camera!” one of my uncles said when I visited the cottage as an adult. (See “The Cottage”). I found endless and evocative images both inside and outside this brown-shingled summer home. The light through the windows and the doorways and on the wide front porch made shadows and patterns both dramatic and restful.

I admit to having cottage envy. I wanted a cottage like the one my cousins had. Our family rented summer homes on Long Island Sound for a few years, but on Sunday afternoons we still seemed to end up on the sea wall in front of the Norton’s cottage. For me there was only ever one “Cottage.”

But to make a painting of something is to make it a little bit my own. I can carry the places and the scenes I paint with me forever because of the process of recreating them on paper or on canvas.

One of the first pieces of art I made about the cottage was a drawing/collage – a pencil drawing of the cottage with a collaged photo of my aunt Ellen as a young woman sitting on a porch with some friends. They all wore upswept hairdos and puffy-sleeved dresses. I wish I had a reproduction of the drawing to include, but I’m away from home as I write this, and can only see the drawing in my mind.

Since I did that drawing in 1975, I’ve used paint to create my tribute to the house overlooking the blue water. I’ve painted it from the inside looking out.

"Sleeping Porch Windows #2," Carol Crump Bryner, 2011

“Sleeping Porch Windows #2,” Carol Crump Bryner, 2011

I’ve painted it from the side, looking toward the Marsh.

"On the Marsh," Carol Crump Bryner, gouache, 2006

“On the Marsh,” Carol Crump Bryner, gouache, 2006

I’ve painted it from the front.

"Upstairs Window," Carol Crump Bryner, gouache, 2006

“Upstairs Window,” Carol Crump Bryner, gouache, 2006

I’ve painted a picture of the old AGA stove in the kitchen before it was replaced during a kitchen remodel.

"The AGA," Carol Crump Bryner, oil on panel

“The AGA,” Carol Crump Bryner, oil on panel

But most often I’ve painted the porch. The place where so much family gathering took place looks timeless in the late afternoon and evening light. This painting from 1985 is a favorite of mine, and hangs in our entryway in Alaska.

"Madison, Connecticut Porch Evening Light," Carol Crump Bryner, oil on linen, 1985

“Madison, Connecticut Porch, Evening Light,” Carol Crump Bryner, oil on linen, 1985

And here’s one from 2005.

"Two Porches, Late Afternoon Light," Carol Crump Bryner, oil on canvas, 2005

“Two Porches, Late Afternoon Light,” Carol Crump Bryner, oil on canvas, 2005

I’m so glad to have done all these paintings – a few of them still keep me company every day. But there’s nothing that beats being on the cottage porch with a gin and tonic and with people I love as the sun sets over the water, and the moon begins its nightly travels.

Margy Norton Campion and Kirt Crump on the cottage porch

Margy Norton Campion and Kirt Crump on the cottage porch

On Monday:  Janet

The Cottage

Taking a vacation was a rare event for my grandparents. The most they could afford in summer, when so much work needed to be done, was to go on outings for the day. And it seems, from reading journals and letters and post cards, that the favored outings took place near bodies of water.

My Aunt Ellen, (my grandfather Ellsworth’s older sister) lived on the farm until she married Henry Norton and moved into downtown Wallingford, Connecticut. Ellen and Henry, to escape the summer heat, took trips to the Maine, Massachusetts, and Connecticut coasts. In the early 1920’s they started going to what my great-grandmother Lydia refers to as “East River.”

Monday, June 6, 1921 – “Nice day. Men busy hoeing corn. Agnes went to town to the dentist…Ellen and family went to East River yesterday afternoon. Got home about eight. They expect to spend their vacation there soon.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Ellen and Henry must have rented a cottage in East River during the summer of 1921, and my grandmother Agnes took my mother and her brother and sister there for outings.

Thursday, June 30, 1921 – “Stormy some of the time…Agnes is all ready to go. Children are delighted. They have finally gone about half after eight. Went after Hattie and went town way. Hope they will get home safely…All reached home safely at six o’clock.” – Lydia Jane Hall.

In 1928 Ellen and Henry bought a cottage near Circle Beach in Madison, Connecticut, and we have all been delighted ever since. I began my visits to the shore when I was six or seven months old.

Janet and Carol Crump at the cottage, 1946

Janet and Carol Crump at the cottage, 1946

I took my own children there often.

Carol, Mara, and Paul Bryner in front of the cottage - Betty Norton on the porch

Carol, Mara, and Paul Bryner in front of the cottage – Betty Norton on the porch

Unlike the farmhouse, with its half-remembered rooms, the cottage still sits on a grassy knoll above Long Island Sound. The rooms, with their spare, comfortable furnishings, have changed little over the years. My aunts and uncles, and now my cousins, have gently and lovingly cared for every inch of the house, so that the next generations can also be delighted. It’s a happy place, and a place I’ve tried to make a little bit my own by painting it over and over. On Wednesday I’ll talk about painting the cottage and show you a few of those paintings.

Margy Norton Campion and Austin Campion on the back porch of the cottage, 1984

Margy Norton Campion and Austin Campion on the back porch of the cottage, 1984

On Wednesday:  Painting the Cottage

August Window

Before air conditioning and before electric fans, people who lived in old houses with heat-trapping upstairs rooms relied on cool breezes and leafy shade to get them through hot summer days. My grandfather wore long underwear winter and summer. He coped with the dog days of August by moving slowly, keeping a cotton bandana around his neck, and wearing his summer underwear beneath denim overalls that had faded to the exact color of his blue eyes.

"August Window," Carol Crump Bryner, monoprint

“August Window,” Carol Crump Bryner, monoprint

Sunday, August 9, 1914 – “A very warm day – sitting in the yard all day to get the breeze.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Thursday, August 4, 1921 – “This day much nicer, clear sunshine, floating clouds, much warmer and could enjoy sitting outside. Have been out most of the afternoon visiting with old friends…Ellen and children came out – spent the afternoon. It is her birthday (42 years). Men been picking apples. Brought in one load of hay.” – Lydia Jane Hall

See also:  April Window, May Window, June Window, July Window

On Monday:  The Cottage