Grandma’s Congenial Family

It’s confusing to know where to begin—a life as long as mine, 88 years last June. It is difficult to imagine that I can go back so many years and review just what has transpired.

I will mention the fact that I was born in New York in the Bronx in 1899. I was on 146th Street and Saint Anns Avenue in the Bronx. We must have lived there for around five years because that seemed to be the number of years my folks lived in one place. Then we moved to various other apartments in the Bronx there.

Now my grandmother, my father’s mother, lived in Harlem—and mother and father lived in Harlem. They had six boys of which my father was the second oldest. The oldest boy was William, who died just a little bit after I was born. And there was the other five boys that all were close brothers and used to come visiting once in a while in our house or we would meet them at Grandmother’s house, who—grandmother and grandfather lived in Harlem. They must have lived there many, many years until my grandfather died.

E146th and St Anns looking northIt was a relatively congenial family. I never remember anything that every disturbed the contentment of any of the boys. There was one son Ralph that lived not too far from us in the Bronx. And then there was Morten, who was the youngest one. And my father was second oldest as I mentioned. He just, they all seemed very congenial.

E146th and St Anns looking westEvery Christmas and a good many of the other holidays during the year, we all assembled together and went to visit the old folks in Harlem. There was always singing going on as we’d go up the stairs, especially at Christmastime. My father would say, “Remember the first thing to say was ‘Happy Christmas. Merry Christmas to you all.’” And everybody answered. It just seemed as if that was the place to be.

E146th and St Anns looking southIt was a great interruption when Grandfather died and then Grandmother died very shortly after that.

[Barbara asks:] How old were you when they died?

I was about eleven years old, twelve years old. I just don’t recall.

E146th and St Anns looking eastI can remember the unfortunate thing was Grandmother came to visit us. My grandfather had died just a few months before. He died in December and she came to visit us in June. And she died. When they laid her out, they laid her out in the living room. And my bed was in the living room. Just a couch was where I slept. I can remember hearing those drips of water. They must have always put them on ice. And I just laugh at it when I think of it. How uncanny it was to hear the dripping of that water.

Well, we’ll just go to something else. 

[Barbara asks]: Now this was the White—was this the White side of the family?

White. Yeah. White.

partial transcription of Virginia’s life story as told to Barbara Duncan (Wally’s wife) in the summer of 1987, courtesy of Barbara Duncan

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.).

  • Do you remember the month and/or year that Grandma was visiting the Chicago Duncans and told this story?
  • Do you remember her telling other parts of her childhood? (More will come . . . eventually . . . from the transcriptions.)
  • What do you remember about Grandma?
  • Do you have photos of her when she was a girl?
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4 thoughts on “Grandma’s Congenial Family

  1. Dawn Duncan Harrell Post author

    Aunt Barbara says, “I just went through all my old tapes to see if I had put a date on the original cassette. Unfortunately, I didn’t. I am sure it was in the summertime when Grandma spent summers with us. It was probably the last, or next to the last summer she was with us before she died.”

  2. Pingback: The Ideal Couple: Virginia’s Parents, Ella Choate and Eugene White | Eight Duncans

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