Duncan (Brett), Gloria’s son is writing a paper in history class about his family history and as a part of the paper he needs to present two filled-out interview sheets by someone with at least a one generation gap. He asked Uncle Steve these questions, so he could get a bit of information on his own grandfather’s (Tad’s) young life.
Name of the person interviewed is Bertrand S. Duncan (Steve) and the brother of Tad, Taylor Albert Duncan Jr. and son of Taylor Albert Duncan Sr.
1. What is your full name? Why did your parents select this name for you? Did you have a nickname?
My full name is Bertrand Stevens Duncan and I was named by my mother after a bishop in New York. She grew up in the Episcopal Church and recognized this as a favored person in that church. My father didn’t like the full name because it started with William: William Bertrand Stevens so the name that was finally given to me was simply Bertrand Stevens Duncan. At first my nickname was “Stevie,” then graduated to “Steve,” and later in the teenage and college years “Chip.”
Taylor Albert Duncan was your Great-Grandpa Duncan’s name. His second wife died in child-birth as did the child, whose name was also Taylor Albert Duncan. My understanding is that the grief of those losses prevented Great-Grandpa from naming another son after himself until he and Great-Grandma Virginia White Duncan had successfully birthed four children. Then he tried again with your grandfather. “Junior” was your grandfather’s nickname at first and then “Tad” because T. A. D. were his initials.—DCH
2. When and where were you born?
I was born in Newton, Massachusetts, at the Newton Wellesley Hospital on December 19, 1939, 74 years old as I answer this question.
I believe your grandfather was born at the same hospital two years earlier.—DCH
3. How did your family come to live there?
When I was born we lived in place called Newton Highlands, which is a suburb or a subunit of Newton, Massachusetts. We lived there for two years and then were transferred by my father, who was in the Navy to Philadelphia to a place called Drexel Hill.
4. Were there other family members in the area? Who?
While we were in Newton Highlands there were no immediate family members other than brothers and sisters. My father had grown up in the Louisville area of Kentucky and my mother had grown up in the Bronx in New York City.
They met in New York City, where they were both working for the Navy at 96th Street and the North River or the Hudson River on a retired ship that served as office space. Soon after the war, probably in 1919, Great-Grandpa Taylor was transferred to Philadelphia and he got Great-Grandma Virginia a job in Philadelphia so they could continue their courtship.—DCH
5. What was the house or apartment the farm etc. like how many rooms, bathrooms? Did it have electricity, indoor plumbing, telephones?
The house in Philadelphia or Drexel Hill was a large house. It had all the plumbing, the electricity and facilities that were necessary, but it was a rented house while my father was in the Navy in that area and before we moved up to the Boston area—Newton, Massachusetts—and we then bought a house in the place called Auburndale which was also a large house with all the facilities that were necessary. We moved to that area because my father, then out of the Navy, had a teaching job at Bentley School in the Boston area.
6. Were there any special items in the house that you remember?
When we were in Newton Highlands, I was only up to two years old and don’t recall anything except that when we returned many years later we saw in the front walk there was an imprint of Taylor’s footprint. We could vaguely remember when it was placed in there—that was the rest of the family; I didn’t remember it; only recall it as we saw the second time.
In the Philadelphia area, the Drexel Hill house, I do recall that it was a large house. There was a large garage in the back which, having returned to it is not very large at all. It did have a hole in the first floor, through which I fell at one point. I didn’t break anything, but I do recall falling through it. The house had a lot of windows. Particularly there was a porch on the second floor, which had windows on two sides of it. I recall—it’s an intense memory—I was told by my brothers, Tad especially, that there were Japanese airplanes on the outside, especially when we had blackouts in the Philadelphia area and were required to not have any lights on at all [World War II].
7. What is your earliest childhood memory?
I think probably that earliest memory was sitting around the radio listening to news about how the war was progressing, that is, the Second World War. I recall when the war was finished. It was called VJ Day [Victory over Japan Day]. There was great celebration, but I think the earliest memory was sitting by that floor-model radio, which had push-buttons. It was an old analog type radio.
8. Describe the personalities of your friends and family members.
Lee was the oldest sister and she was not there very often. She was off to college at West Suburban Hospital as part of the Wheaton College program for nursing.
Wally was around and was the provocateur of many of the problems. He got a car or a truck actually that could turn only one way and without a license, we rode around in it. It didn’t even have floorboards in the front seat area.
Betty was two years younger than Wally, as he was two years younger than Lee, and she was interested in music early in her life but was sort of secondary to the other older kids. I just remember that she was an affectionate person and easy to warm up to.
Bob was the next child and he was six years older than myself, two years younger than Betty. He was a friend of one of the neighborhood kids, I recall, and brought him home frequently.
Tad, who is called at that time Junior because he was the named after my father, was immediately above me—two and a half years older than I was. He was the one who got me more involved in troubles than any of the others, simply because of the age proximity. I can recall him saying to me, for instance, “You’re glue and I am rubber and glue doesn’t bounce.” And I thought this was a terrible insult but he kept it on me. He also pushed me to vote, or think of voting at the time of the election, for Dewey who was running against Roosevelt. So I was always the underdog.
9. What kind of games did you play growing up?
I recall playing with tin soldiers, although they probably were made out of lead at the time. Because it was wartime, soldiers were the heroes of the day. I had a whole bunch of these. I kept them under the couch in the living room because that’s where they seemed to be fighting from.
I remember playing with the dog. The dog was named Princey and that was something that was particularly fun for me to do.
Tad always liked to play with fire, one way or another, and he burned on the Playhouse. He also set up a house of crates. I played the person yelling for help for protection against the fire. With a neighbor Peter, he lit the house on fire and then I was to yell for help, which I did. But Peter was called away by his father and Tad/Junior was not able to get the bicycle going, which had the hose wound around it and which was going to come and save me from this horrible fire. Anyway, I up and got out of the “house” before it got on top of me with flames. The fire took all of the crate house and destroyed it, which brought a little bit of ire from my mother, when she realized what had been happening.
10. Did you have family chores? What were they? What was your least favorite?
Yes, I did have chores. I do remember having to put out the trash and the garbage and cut the lawn, which was not very much fun. My brother Tad was the other side of the house and responsible for cutting grass as well. He did a better job. I was injured. We changed it eventually, but I still never could do it as well as he did.
11. Did you receive an allowance? How much? Did you save your money or spend it?
No, I never did have an allowance, but when we moved back up into Auburndale, in the new area, I did get a paper route. I was able to keep the money and spend it. I didn’t have to give it back to the family, so I did have, in that sense, an allowance.
12. What was school like for you as a child? What were your favorite and worst subjects?
I never did enjoy school, but there were a few highlights. I do recall a teacher by the name Miss Share and she was able to get me to like to learn mathematics, called “arithmetic” at the time. I also liked the class with Mr. Gray and he was good in teaching science. I think that’s probably where I picked up my desire to do science. I did do a little bit if the fife, but it broke and that ended that career. I was then put on the drum, but I couldn’t keep a beat at that time and therefore that ended that career.
13. What school activities and sports did you participate in?
In junior high school, I joined the football team, contrary to my father’s wishes. I had to forge his name to get permission to play the game. I enjoyed it, but didn’t play it for very long for fear of my father finding out. I also participated in music at the junior high level and played the trombone in the junior high orchestra. Later when we went to high school, I played the euphonium, which was sort of a combination of bass and tenor horn with bells on it. I enjoyed that and played that in football games.
14. Do you remember any fads from your youth? Popular hairstyles? Clothes?
I personally had a “whistle” or a “butch” haircut, as it was called, and never did have a desire to have longer hair styles until I got into junior high school. Then hair styles were getting to be longer but really didn’t take effect until high school, though I enjoyed longer hair that I saw in pictures, like Prince Charming. The only particular clothing style that I enjoyed was the work jackets that had tiger skin around the sleeves. Of course it was cloth, but it was a trend that people were wearing and I enjoyed doing it.
15. Who were your childhood heroes?
I think the heroes that I had fit more with the idea of missionaries because of Park Street Church in Boston. When we came back up to that area, I was five years old and the church itself was the first for all of us to join. There were missionaries there and they became heroes. Earlier while we were still in Philadelphia, my older siblings were my heroes. My sister Lee did some work at the camp for children of color and that was an outreach and she enjoyed it but I also thought that would be a great thing to do it myself, so I was sort of envious of her that she did that work. I do recall Superman comic books as being a hero, but not an awful lot of other heroes.
16. What were your favorite songs and music artists?
I guess along the way Elvis Presley got to be favored but earlier than that Pat Boone was a favorite singer. Since we were in church very often I got to enjoy certain Christian music.
17. What was your religion growing up? What church if any did you attend?
I attended with my parents place called Alden Union Church in Philadelphia and when we moved to the Boston area, I joined with the Park Street Church in Boston. It was a few years before I was able to join because I arrived there when I was five years old. Finally I did join and was baptized at the Tremont Temple Baptist Church across the street [because they had a baptistery] and continued to grow spiritually there in my early faith walk.
18. Where you ever mentioned in the newspaper?
I don’t recall having been mentioned although I think I was as part of a school program, printed in the newspaper.
19. Who were your friends growing up?
My two friends that stand out in my mind are Drew Weyland, who retired from teaching in the school, went to MIT and became an engineer, joined the Air Force, and is again in retirement. My other friend was named David Mabey and David was a friend through high school. We did a lot of things together even caught a skunk together at one point. David just recently had a stroke and died, just this month (December 2013). There are many other friends and I had a crush on many a girl in the high school era but no other major friends. Actually in the high school era I did have a very good girl friend. Her name was Carol Adcock and maybe a few others in the church, but Carol was because she was in the high school Bible study together with me.
20. What world events had the most impact on you while you were growing up? Did any of them personally affect your family?
The most important in the early part of my life was World War II. Its ending meant that my father was discharged from the Navy and we all moved then to the Boston area.
21. Describe a typical family dinner. Did you all eat together as a family? Who did the cooking? What were your favorite foods?
We did have a regular dinner together and the whole family attended, except for occasionally when there was some responsibility that one of the siblings had, but generally we were together. My mother did the cooking. My favorite foods were chipped beef on toast and hot dogs.
22. How were holidays, that is birthdays, Christmas, etc. celebrated in your family? Did your family have special traditions?
All family birthdays were celebrated. Christmas was a joy always because there were some presents though maybe not very many around a Christmas tree. On Christmas morning, we would open up the packages all at once, not separately, as we do now.
23. How is the world today different from what it was like when you were a child?
I’m not pontificating, but it sure seems to me the morals of the society have deteriorated a great deal. There is a great deal more of violence in the society and fear of being injured within our community or wherever we are. It may be childhood trust but it seems there is a great deal more mistrust between individuals today.
24. Who was the oldest relative you remembered as a child? What do you remember about them?
The oldest relative that I recall was an Aunt Ella in New York, who was a sister of my mother Virginia White Duncan. She was a fine woman, but she also contracted or had cancer, cancer of her tongue, which took her to her demise early in her life, probably about in her 50s. My mother was her younger sister. I never did get to see or meet any of my grandparents and we had other aunts and uncles, but I never saw them. I never met them.
25. What you know about your surname?
The name Duncan is a Scottish name and it means Brown Warrior. We had the opportunity to go to Scotland and to do some research on that name and the history in Scotland four years ago. I guess we have recognized that there was a good possibility that some of our relatives back then were moved, probably against their will, to Ireland and then to the southern states of the United States—Kentucky and Tennessee. King Duncan, of course, was I think, in MacBeth and was killed in that story. However we saw a memorial to King Duncan. This was a seat on which he was said to hold court, really just a rock, and so we took pictures of that when we were in Scotland, up near Inverness, but the rock was not very well preserved.
26. Is there a naming tradition and your family, such as always giving the firstborn son the name of his paternal grandfather?
No I recognize no particular name sharing except my brother Tad was named after his father, our father Taylor Albert Duncan.
Your Uncle Trey is the third to carry that name. Also, Tay, Wally’s youngest son carries the name.—DCH
Steve, Lee, Bonnie, Jesse, and Curtis are recurring family names, too.—DCH
27. What stories have come down to you about your parents? Grandparents? Many distant ancestors?
As far as grandparents are concerned, I have only some old pictures, not very complementary, of grandparents, but I never knew any of them. Stories came down about them through my mother. They were very favorable toward her. My father never did have a very favorable relationship with his parents and indeed ran away from home, not to return for years, and so that was a different type of relationship there. My father has a brother, who was a physician. He died young. I surely would like to have met him because of my profession being in medicine as well, but that never occurred. My father never really spoke too much about him and mother never knew him as well.
28. Are there any stories about famous or infamous relatives and your family?
I recall hearing that a great grand-uncle or something. His picture is in Faneuil Hall in Boston. Someone said that we had some relationship with Lincoln, somewhere back there. Others have said that there are Native Americans in our ancestry and I was told that there is Algonquin Indian relatives way back there somewhere. Specifically I don’t know about it.
29. Are there any physical characteristics that run and your family?
I do know that what has demonstrated itself as an inherited disease into the sisters, which works in the elastic tissues of the body, often seen in the neck tissues, but also is more significantly seen in the retina of the eye and has been involved in the blindness of the sisters Lee and Betty. It came through my father to other our half-siblings from his first marriage. A recent eye exam that I had for myself demonstrated the same characteristics.
30. What was the full name of your spouse? Siblings? Parents?
My wife was Marcia Lee McGregor. She then took my name Marcia Lee Duncan. Her siblings are listed as Scott MacGregor, who married Louise MacGregor, and they have two children which are Ian and Karis. Marcia also has a sister 6 to 8 years younger than she is, named Cynthia married to a man by the name of Ralf Montalvo and they have three children, Mark, Kirsi, and Merin.
31. When and how did you meet your spouse? What did you do on dates?
I was part of a gospel team that visited her church while she was in junior high school, ninth grade. She had some preferences for me at that point, but I didn’t realize that they existed. I met her later when I was coming out of the Army (Vietnam). I was brought on a blind date, a double date with my brother Bob and sister-in-law Polly and we went to see The Sound of Music together. It was love at first sight. Even before that, when I saw her picture, it wasn’t fully there. For a blind date, it was very much a pleasant encounter when we spent an evening together with Bob and Polly. It wasn’t long after we first met that we thought of spending life together. In four months on April 10, after the Christmas season past, we got engaged. Then I went off to Peru, working as a lab technician in a jungle clinic until our wedding on December 10.
32. What was it like when you proposed to her? Where and when did it happen? How did you feel?
I felt great. I proposed to Marcia on a beach on Easter sunrise morning. There was nobody else about and at that point I gave her a ring. We had already spoken of getting married, almost from the first date.
33. Where and when did you get married? On December 10, 1966, we got married at the Presbyterian Church in Newton. It was a rainy day, contrary to the highest expectations. We had looked forward to having snow on that day.
34. What stands out the most from your wedding day?
The day was rainy, but was very joyful. Many people had to stand in the rain to get to the line to greet us after the wedding itself, but it was a very joyful day. We have a wonderful reception and a lot of people to celebrate with us.
35. How would you describe your spouse? What do you admire most about them?
Marcia is a very pretty woman. She has been and increasingly over the years she has become a very good teacher and is very intelligent as well as well-read. She is a great homemaker and a good cook and a friendly, caring person.
36. What do you believe is the key to a successful marriage?
If indeed the personalities are self-centered, there is not a great success in the marriage. I believe that the fact that we—from the beginning and before the beginning—wanted first to worship God, then to serve, and then our relationship has kept the 47 years of marriage together and enjoying each other
37. How did you find out you were going to be a parent for the first time?
I was studying in the country of Italy when we found out that Marcia was pregnant. Then we planned for her to go back to the United States to deliver. Three months prior to the delivery, she was sent to her parents’ home in Watertown, Massachusetts. I then joined her after I got out of that third year of medical school and was able to get home to the United States. She had an illness in the meantime and it was the best for me to be home and it was still a very good time for us to be together.
38. Why did you choose your children’s names?
Dawn Christina, our first-born, was a combination of preferences. Marcia wanted Christina. Dawn was my preference. I had been to Peru and was very influenced early in the morning to see the beauty of the east and the coming up of the sun on the lake at Yarina Cocha.
Heidi Lynn received her name again as a combination. The name Heidi, because of the German name that we had come to like because of a book called Heidi. Lynn seemed to fit well with Heidi and it was a beautiful name that we both liked.
Kimberly Beth was chosen after just exploring names and finding two names that we thought were very beautiful together. Stephanie Ruth was named after me Steven. Ruth was an Old Testament word to mean “friend,” which seem to fit and still does.
39. What was your proudest moment as a parent?
To see my children be born, twins and all. It indeed was a privilege.
40. What does your family enjoy doing together?
Christmas celebration seems to be a very joyful time, as it has always when the family has been together in different continents, in different countries, but together.
41. What was your profession and how did you choose it?
My profession, most enjoyable and most rewarding, has been as a caregiver. It is first the caregiving of introducing someone to a new life in Christ. I have enjoyed very much doing medical surgical work with patients, but only as a stopgap to the helping them understand what life is all about, not just simply the body’s health.
42. If you could have any other profession but would it have been? Why wasn’t it your first choice?
If I could have another profession it would’ve been to be an architect and to design and to be creative in that design. The creative pleasure comes even now as I do any woodwork, specifically framing of houses or our house but also in the sculpting of some driftwood to make it look more attractive clean and serviceable as in a lamp.
43. Of all the things you learned from your parents, which do you feel what is the most valuable?
Not only the fact that God exists, but God is a personal God in the person of Jesus Christ and the fact that he wanted and still wants my life to be changed to a life more and more to honor his name. As a practical down to earth question, and practical in the sense of very functional, my day by day answer: my dad taught me “Don’t buy something that you can’t pay for,” with the exception of perhaps a home in which you can get on a loan. As a second lesson, Dad taught me, “If I job is worth doing. it’s worth doing well.” And as a third lesson, the necessity of measuring twice cutting once.
44. What accomplishments are you most proud of?
In a foreign country, in a foreign language, doing medicine and surgery. Getting an M. D. degree. The second most impressive and pleasant joy has been to give birth to a new person in Christ and discipling that person to a deeper walk with Jesus.
45. What is the one thing you most want people to remember about you?
That I was/am loved by God and renewed by Him.