Tag Archives: Francis Hall


Measles and other infectious diseases of childhood have been much in the news recently. Modern day children are mostly free from the epidemics that sometimes threatened the lives of my ancestors. My own children had chicken pox, an illness my grandchildren won’t have to deal with.

Polio was rampant in the mid-1950s, and I remember my mother’s relief when she drove us to Dr. Salinger’s office in New Haven to get our first dose of the polio vaccine. Summertime was the most dangerous season during this epidemic. I wasn’t allowed to swim in the community pool, go to the zoo when we took the train through Chicago on our way to Montana, or be in any large gatherings of children. And to put the fear of God in me about these situations, my mother took me to a trailer on the outskirts of a local circus to I could see for myself a girl in an iron lung.

Pneumonia, diphtheria, typhus, scarlet fever, and measles threatened lives in the generations before mine. The loss of a child to these diseases was common, and no generation before mine was spared. Many of my great-grandmother’s journal entries report the sicknesses of her family and her neighbors. And in 1924 the measles came to visit the Hall farm.

Friday, April 11, 1924 – “This is a fine day. Francis not feeling well – is staying home from school. He has some fever – seems to be ailing. His mother is dosing him with calomel and physic. He thinks he may be having the measles coming on, as they are in the school.”

Thursday, April 17, 1924 – “Francis is broken out with the measles. Dr. is coming out to quarantine us. Suppose we have a siege of it now, for a month or two. Hope we will come out all right.”

Tuesday, April 22, 1924 – “Frances is well again of the measles. We are expecting Lydia and Janet next.”

Thursday, April 24, 1924 – “A nice day. The children are home from school. Lydia and Janet are coming down with measles.”

Tuesday, April 29, 1924 – Pleasant day. Lydia and Janet are still in bed with the measles. Gradually getting better.”

Saturday, May 3, 1924 – A nice day. The children are better. The measles are letting go. All dressed and downstairs but Lydia. She is downstairs but not dressed, lying on the lounge. Think she will be all right in a day or two. They have surely had the measles this time. They have troubled Lydia the most. The mother has taken good care of them. Feels tired from going up and down stairs.”  -–  Lydia Jane Hall

The mother – my grandmother Agnes Hall – certainly would have been tired after nearly a month nursing the sick children in their upstairs beds. Up she went carrying trays of food, glasses of milk and water, and bottles of nasty-tasting medicine. Back down she came with the empty trays, dirty linens, and full chamber pots. There were three sets of stairs in the house and she probably used them many times each day – not an easy task for a large woman with a bad hip.   But she was a good nurse and a devoted mother, and in the end, as my great-grandmother hoped, it “came out all right.”

"Front Staircase," Carol Crump Bryner, gouache and colored pencil, 2015

“Front Staircase,” Carol Crump Bryner, gouache and colored pencil, 2015

On Wednesday:  Wallpaper


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