Extract from The Life and Times of Edward Fred Kermott
The Life and Times of Edward Fred Kermott
I owe much to my mother and father who gave me my life. I regret circumstances did not allow them to play a part in the life they gave me.
But, I dedicate this book, first and foremost to my beloved Grandfather Crary and Aunt Marion Crary King. Grandmother Crary also receives my grateful thanks. She, who molded the first 10 years of my life, perhaps deserves even more appreciation. Sadly, the memory of those trying years for her are dim in my memory.
These three people provided love, shelter, education, and inspiration to a sickly little boy. They loved and comforted me through endless illnesses. They unstintingly provided a home life few could ever hope to enhoy. I adored them and am forever grateful.
To my three daughters I also dedicate this book with love and appreciation. To middle daughter Claudia, who is the inspiration for this work, I give even more honorable mention. She has been constant in her love and concern for me always.
Like all men, I owe much to sincere and loyal friends. One of them, Bert Jaqua, once said, “Those few who can count in their lifetime five people who are true friends are among the blessed.” I have been lucky. My five have been Milton A. Cornwall M. D., Roger Bourland, Raymond Livermore, Russell Hagge, and my sister Nancy C. Kermott Austin. Not listing other friends, who have been and still are of great importance to me, in no way diminishes my love for them.
Lastly, but perhaps most important, I dedicate this work to my beloved wife Betty Jean Hagge Kermott. Had she not come into my life and always, without reservation, given of her love, steadfastness and humor, I would not be here today. Her belief in my, as strong as Aunt Marion’s, has enabled me to live a long, fulfilling, and happy life. She was, and always will be, my “Miss Perfect”.
I feel most people would like to write their autobiography. Everyone must feel they are unique and I agree. Time, individual circumstances, and ability to put their life down on paper, deters most. And above all, one must be driven to want to do it and stay with it.
My main driving force was to preserve my history on paper for my three daughters who, because of divorce, did not live with me for some of their formative years. Even if they had been under my roof, material contained in my manuscript probably would not have been of interest to them at the time. Young people have young people’s interests. But I have reasoned that someday they and their progeny will want to know about their ancestors.
My life is unique for a variety of reasons. In a way, I was almost an orphan, though cared for in a loving family home. I was of delicate health, but overcame the difficulty with my surrogate parents’ assistance and time. I suffered the curse of alcoholism. Still, on a day-to-day basis, I know that even though over thirty years have passed without alcohol, I could again succumb to its charms. My rearing in a Victorian household was different than most. That background certainly made me odd or, to be a bit more kind in myself analysis if not odd, I was and am different in how I look at any given subject or situation. My astonishing luck in achieving unusual success in the business world is worthy of note.
My daughter, Claudia Ann Kermott Rhymes, Santa Rosa, California planted the seed for this autobiography. Product of a divorce, she longed to know more of my life and of her ancestors.
Divorce is worse than death. When a death occurs, those left to pull together and try to get on with life. Divorce shatters the family solidarity. The family is now being pulled apart, sides chosen, and hurt of heart may become set in concrete. The pain of divorce continues for all those involved until death.
Pamela, the eldest was age 11, Claudia age 8, and Katherine was not four months old at the time of my divorce. There was an unusual amount of contact between my children and me after the divorce, and yet, our lives were unalterably changed forever.
In the summer of 1989 I embarked on the project of writing my life story. I took the years from my birth until 1973 when, at age 53, I retired from my business activities. I produced 33 chapters within a four month period.
Travel, major surgery, and attention to ordinary problems of life slowed the final editing and rewriting. Also, after the major work was done it became difficult to pick up the pieces and rewrite.
A close friend, former editor and publisher, Roger Bourland of Peoria, Arizona, accepted the job of final editing. He labored long and hard. I am indebted to him for his kindness and help.
Unblushingly I submit, on the back cover, some comments on this book. I conclude them to encourage the hesitant to enjoy an intimate view of the life and times of one unimportant American who survived. I hope you like what you read in the following pages.
822 Third Street
Little Buddy was a ‘preemie,’ or so his Aunt Marion told everyone who listened. It bothered him not a little, and especially so, after he had returned from his tour of duty in the army following World Ward II. His maiden Aunt Marion would gush and smile at him adoringly, after he had started to mature and would say, “Why, we used to carry him around in a little basket, you can imagine, this great big strong boy!” Buddy would wince and say, “Oh! Aunt Marion, everyone has heard that old story and couldn’t care less.” But she could not be deterred and continued to tell the story whenever she found a lull in a conversation. She was game in any conversation to make her point and push her Buddy to the forefront.
Buddy wasn’t his name. He was born in Dallas, Texas, on April 29, 1920, the son of Edward Eugene Kermott and Margaret Lorraine Crary. Some time between that date and September 12, 1920, his parents brought him, with his two sisters, back to Hudson, Wisconsin where both sets of his grandparents lived or had lived. Registered at birth as Fred Crary Kermott he was baptized February 9th, 1921, Edward Fred Kermott. The name change was discovered forty-five years after his birth. Planning to make his first trip out of the country, he had applied to the State of Texas for a birth certificate. The name change was then realized. Aunt Marion, astonished at this discrepancy, could not explain the change. Probably the second name was better. If there was to be any inheritance for his parents, why not please both grandfathers?
On his paternal side was gruff old Edward Payson Kermott, MD, and on his maternal side was genial, free-giving Fred Oren Crary. A perfect solution was to use both grandfathers’ names. Edward, (he was the 5th generation to bear that first name) and Fred for that grandfather, who in just a few short months, would undertake to rear him to manhood.
Not much is known by Buddy about his mother. She was delicate, beautiful, talented, and full of charm and gaiety, or so he was told. Her obituary bears this out. Her delicate health, giving birth to three children in five years coupled with an apparently irresponsible husband, proved too much for her. She took her life by poison on September 14, 1920. Little Buddy was four and one half months old with no mother, as were his two sisters, Nancy Crary Kermott born June 9, 1918 and Mary Lorraine Kermott born November 16, 1916.
For all practical purposes little Buddy was an orphan. He was age 14 before he set eyes on his father.
His paternal grandparents, Dr. & Mrs. E. P. Kermott had moved to California in 1920, the year of Buddy’s birth. The general practitioner saved his money and took early retirement. Little Buddy’s father, bereaved and widowed Edward Eugene Kermott, also moved to California, taking the two girls with him, leaving sickly Buddy in the care of his maternal grandparents. His grandmother, Ada Marie Jewell Crary, was age 62. Quite a responsibility for two elderly people, who had just lost their daughter. Ada Marie died August 16, 1930. She would have been age 75 on October 13th of that year.
All during the period from September 1920 to August of 1930 she had served as surrogate mother to the infant, and then boy-child Buddy. She also provided off and on mothering for the two girls, Nancy and Mary. They were unceremoniously shipped back to Wisconsin for care when it became too much for their financially strapped, and now alcoholic, father.
The Crary house where Buddy lived was big. It had steep pitched roofs, clapboard siding, an interior with generous use of oak and pine, and lath and plaster walls. The central heating system, a luxury not found in most homes before the turn of the century, was its only unique characteristic. But it was, or had been, an affluent household and always a genteel one. Only time caused ill fortune to the Crary’s financial position. The home consisted of the standard two living rooms, but at the Crarys the front room was a true music room rather than a parlor reserved for special occasions. It held a Chickering baby grand piano and three mahogany cabinets filled with music. Rooms were big. Ceilings were 13 feet above the solid oak flooring. The main living room was 14 feet square, with a bay window on the South exposure. The living room was separated from the dining room by two huge, sliding pine paneled doors. On both sides of the bay window were bookshelves. A portion of both the north and east corner of the room also had bookcases. Mr. Crary was an avid reader.
The dining room was also 14 by 14 and meals were always served in this room. It had a beautiful beamed ceiling and a plate rail around three sides except where interrupted by windows or doorways. It was, to anyone’s eye, a handsome room. Between a large swinging door and the kitchen was a pantry to hold dishes, silverware, and other necessities for serving a meal plus the linins and vases for flowers.
The kitchen, a model of inefficiency, contained no less than seven doorways. Doors led to the pantry, Mr. Crary’s office, the basement, back stairway, garage, side porch, and the seventh, a former doorway that had been used to go to the living room. Now boarded up, it contained in it’s opening a Norge refrigerator. In defense of the poor kitchen layout at the time the house was built large amounts of foodstuffs, common to our day in the 1990’s and indeed some years back, were not kept on hand. Shopping was done on a day-to-day basis and much easier than the modern housewife could imagine. It was delivered to the house twice a day.
In the 1930’s Mr. Crary, always ready to try something new, had oil burners installed in the stove and a five gallon oil bottle placed alongside, with copper tubing running to the burners, providing the fuel. Starting a fire every morning to get on with the cooking and baking were no longer a chore. Gone was the wood burning stove that produced soot and ashes. Gone was the age-old burden of keeping a wood box filled to feed the fire. It is hard to imagine in this day and age the conditions considered normal and agreeable just 50 years ago.
Off the kitchen was the office where Mr. Crary conducted his insurance and trout hatchery business. The room, cozy and with a low ceiling, had served various functions over the years. It was complete with a fireplace, large picture windows on the north, and a doorway and window on the east side. It might have been used and built for Mr. Crary’s father, Judge Edward Crary, who lived with the family in his later years. It had also served as a den and library.
There were four large bedrooms upstairs, reached by an ordinary staircase that clung to the north wall. Three of the bedrooms had walk-in closets, an unusual feature for the times. There was also a full bathroom, up-dated as new products came on the market. All bedrooms and the bath led off the long hallway. Toward the east end was a doorway leading to the back stairway, and the maid’s room that was directly above the den-office. It was a poor accommodation for a person who contributed so much to the welfare and comfort of the inhabitants of the home. The maid’s room had a slanted ceiling. An oil stove, small and smelly, heated the room in winter months. With its one poor windows, it was no doubt hot in the summertime. For the times it was considered adequate.
Next to the maid’s quarters was the family store room where little Buddy loved to examine the endless treasures of a bygone era. They included a sword from the Civil War, high silk hats (one that was collapsible), and walking sticks. Old and discarded toys needed to be looked at, a moldy metal coat of arms examined. Its contents provided a source of much happiness for him. There were also extra chamber pots. The older members of the family used chamber pots well into the 1930’s, though a toilet was available. I don’t know why. The storeroom also held several beautiful chests filled with blankets and clothes of a different time.
At the entrance to the maid’s room and storeroom was a large covered laundry basket where soiled linen and underclothing were deposited through the week. On Monday family laundry was collected. Beds were stripped of linen, or flannel sheets, if it was winter. All was brought down through the kitchen, from the back stairway and then down more steps to the basement to be washed. Due to the large size of the house, there was a vast basement. Laundry could be hung up in the basement to dry in the winter