Tad Somehow Liked Fire

Steve, Tad, Taylor, late 1940s, courtesy of Colin DuncanTalking about having known [Tad], I think probably I’ve known him more than anybody here, since I’m his little brother. That would be more than twenty, twenty-five years. [Laughter.] 

We grew up in Philadelphia. My father had been transferred to Philadelphia because of the war. He was in the Navy. He was a captain in the Navy and we were moved to Philadelphia. That’s when my first recollections of Tad were. 

At that time—and none of you have known him as this—it was “Junior.” Junior was the son of his father, who was Taylor Albert Duncan. And Trey is “tre-,” which means three, Taylor Albert Duncan III. So, he was Junior. He was Junior to all of us. 

I grew up learning something, a lot of things through Tad Junior. I’d like to tell you just a few little snippets of things that talked about his character and maybe some of them are humorous because we lived through them as little kids, some of them. 

One day when Tad was playing with a neighbor kid, they decided that they would be firemen. And they had to make it a real story, so they got a lot of wooden boxes out in the back yard. They piled them one on top of the other. Now some of you will remember how they would pack fruit in the old days. They would use some sort of wood cuttings, wood chips. So this house of wooden boxes was filled with that. And to make it a realistic story, they put little brother into the house and lit it on fire. Ingenious. 

They would then go to the neighbor’s house, get the bicycle around which they had wrapped a hose. My job was to yell “Help!” which of course dutifully I yelled and yelled and yelled. The story goes that the neighbor boy was then called by his father to come on in, “Philip!” Weaverling was his name. “Come on home, Philip!” So my brother was alone. He didn’t know how to ride a bike. And he surely didn’t know how to take care of the situation. It got too hot. Yours truly broke out of the structure. 

playhouse fire, not actualHe also, he somehow liked fire. There was a playhouse that we had in this home in Philadelphia and it was made in the structure of the regular house, but it was much smaller. It was just a playhouse, just for the kids. Again, he got called into the house. They had had a little bit of a fire and they put the ashes behind the wall of the [play]house. Before long we had a charred [play]house. Completely. Completely done. 

A third episode happened when we moved up to New England to Boston, the Boston area. We lived in a three-story house. In the family, there were six kids. He was the next to the last and I was the last. He had another friend and they were in the cellar. They were again checking fire out and its characteristics. He understood—someone had said to him—“if you take gasoline,” which we had for washing bicycle parts, “if you take a match and you put it in fast, it’ll go out.” If you do it fast enough. The next part of the story is that the fire department is there. The chicken that we had in the first floor as a pet from Eastertime had to be rescued. My father went in and rescued that. But the house was just covered, filled with smoke, and the cellar again, black. Completely black. Had to be rebuilt. 

So Tad had some propensity toward fire for some reason, but he was very ingenious.

Steve, speaking at Tad’s memorial service, Wildwood Baptist Church (950 County Line Church Road, Griffin, GA 30223), June 22, 2012, transcription of audio provided by Gloria Boyer (Tad’s daughter) 

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.).

  • Can you tell other stories about Tad and fire?
  • Can you tell other stories of Tad as a youngster in Philadelphia?
  • What years would you guess these stories took place? How old was Tad at the time?

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