Tag Archives: Dawn Harrell

Vacations on Cape Cod

16 Washburn Avenue, Auburndale, Mass., 1985Miss Ring was a librarian in Boston. When we bought the house in Auburndale [16 Washburn Ave.], she was part of the deal. She got to keep her room in the house.

When Tad/Junior and I were about nine or ten years old, she invited the two of us down to a house in Chatham that belonged to her sister. They were two spinsters: Miss Ring was thin and her sister was stout. Her sister had been married, but her husband died. She had also lost a son in World War II.

Tad and I played in the ocean with an inner tube. I remember that eventually my chest hurt from rubbing against the rubber.

Eventually Miss Ring built a house right beside her sister’s. I’ve gone back to try to see those houses, but I’ve never found them.

Otherwise, I only remember coming to the Cape three or four times and mostly for day trips. There was no Route 6. We came down over the Bourne Bridge and followed Route 28 the whole way. I was so car sick that my father had to pull over on the bridge, so I could vomit out the window. The only thing I had to rinse my mouth was Coca Cola in a bottle.

Chatham Bars Inn, courtesy of Chatham Bars InnOne Fourth of July, we drove down to Chatham, but it was so cold and foggy we could only get out of the car for a few minutes. We got back into the old black Pontiac and wrapped ourselves in a blanket. Most of the family was squashed into the car, so that I, being the smallest, only had a corner of the back seat bench. I was so uncomfortable.

Another year, Betty took a job as a waitress at the Chatham Bars Inn, where they allowed her to practice at the grand piano every day. One of the guests heard her and arranged for her to play a concert for all of the guests. The family drove down for the concert. I think she played the Warsaw Concerto.

story told by Steve to Dawn Harrell (Steve’s daughter), July 2014

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.).

  • What was Miss Ring’s first name?
  • How long did she live with the family? What library did she work in?
  • What year was the house on Washburn Avenue purchased?
  • Can anybody else add details concerning other Cape Cod trips and when they were taken? Photos?
  • What year did Betty work at the Chatham Bars Inn?
  • Was Steve correct? Did she play the Warsaw Concerto?
  • What year and model was the black Pontiac? Does anyone have a photo of it?

MKs Don’t Write Home

[Ken]: You [Virginia] were away from home in high school, weren’t you?

[Lee]: No. Yarinacocha [Peru]?

[Polly]: You were in Colombia, weren’t you?

[Bob]: Steve’s kids.

[Lee]: They came to the States.

[Virginia]: I just don’t. . . . I would not be able to do that.

Ben Lippen School[Ken]: I’m talking about high school.

[Bob]: The thing is I often felt badly for [Steve’s] girls. They didn’t have a prom. . . . Heidi had to make her own dress. . . . For all those high school years, the kids were out of the country [Angola].

[Lee]: Well, by the time she [Virginia] got into high school, we were staying a lot more time in the center.

[Virginia]: Yah, I do remember that now. I just don’t know how. . . . I kind of disagree with that, but that’s their life and not mine. I just feel that. . . . I can’t believe it. I just don’t understand it.

[Bob]: Now if you could send your wife away to school, that would be all right.

[Polly]: Here we go again.

[Bob]: I agree. I completely agree. I can see a wistfulness in Marcia’s eyes. . . . the girls. We were closer to them than they were. That’s not true anymore. I think we were closer to the girls during high school years than Marcia and Steve were.

[Polly]: Oh. Oh, ya.

[Bob]: But that’s not true anymore, of course. We were there as their substitute parents.

[Polly]: As Marcia said once—Aunt Marcia—to me, she said, you know it was so hard, she’d get these letters, maybe most especially from Dawn, but from the others too. And they were going through some crisis. We knew a little bit about it, but they didn’t want to burden anybody, but they would burden Mum and Dad by letter. And even the phones were horrible.

[Virginia]: Oh, and they were so far away.

[Polly]: In Angola. You couldn’t even reach them by phone. Those were terrible years. Anyway, the point being, Marcia said, by the time we got this letter—and my mother’s heart is jumping all over the place—the kids have long gone past that. But little by little, as they got older, they weren’t quite as ready to do that, knowing that it was paining their parents and that they couldn’t do anything about it by the time they got a letter. Forget it, you know.

But on the other hand, I feel like I said, a child or a young person needs their parents. They need to share with them. When Aunt Marcia and Uncle Steve came home, especially early on, and then went back and then came home for good, at that point in time it was very hard. They said you hardly know your kids. You know them. You greet each other. You talk about things. But to really know them. And it’s only been since they’ve been home on a permanent basis that they’ve really gotten to know the girls and it’s been wonderful.

[Virginia]: What age did they start the boarding school or whatever it is?

[Bob]: Seventh grade.

[Polly]: High school.

[Lee]: They sent them also to. . . .

[Polly]: They came down to Ben Lippen School and Dawn, well all of them, all of them were freshmen in high school.

[Bob]: Ninth grade.

[Polly]: Ninth graders. Whereas Betty and Harley had—Sandy was with them until tenth grade. Yah, she went through tenth grade.

[Virginia]: Oh, they did the same thing with them?

[Bob]: Yes.

[Polly]: In France. Then they went to Ben Lippen and they came home. But Debby went the whole four years to Ben Lippen.

[Bob]: Now today they would do that differently with Black Forest Academy. They would be there.

[Virginia]: That’s what I’m thinking. I guess that’s why I’m confused.

[Bob]: I don’t know how long that was that Black Forest Academy has been around. I don’t know why they didn’t choose Black Forest Academy.

[Virginia]: I was thinking they were running . . . but is that just with Sandy?

[Bob]: No, Debby.

[Virginia]: Debby.

[Bob]: Debby teaches there.

[Virginia]: Oh, OK. Oh, OK. I was, for some reason, thinking that they were helping to run that or something.

[Bob]: Debby’s a teacher of French and she’s involved in the mime ministry and all that stuff. I don’t know either.

Now with boys it’s different.

[Polly]: I think that they felt that they would come back to the United States because they had family here. If they had gone to Black Forest Academy, there were no family members.

[Bob]: I wasn’t thinking about them. I was thinking about Betty and Harley.

[Polly]: Oh, Betty and Harley sent Debby and Sandy there.

[Bob]: Black Forest?

[Polly]: No. No, no. It was Sandy sent Rebecca and Christopher there.

[Bob]: I don’t know how long it’s been working.

[Polly]: I don’t know how long Black Forest Academy has been in, um. . . .

[Bob]: Operation.

[Polly]: Operation. But quite a number of years. They’ve . . .  it quite a number of years. But that was different for Sandy and Randy—I know I’m jumping around here but—to send because they were only in France. They could visit, eight hours away, but they could visit. And they certainly phoned. So when Rebecca and Christopher were there, when they were on the Continent, and Sandy and Randy were back home on the mission field, in France.

[Virginia]: So they did the same thing with them?

[Bob]: Yes, but there’s no place. . . . You should hear Rebecca talk about French schools and what it did to her.


[Bob]: You talk about that book Letters Never Sent. Very, very interesting, from a missionary.

[Virginia]: Is that the one you sent me?

[Lee]: No. No, that’s not the one I sent you, but you have read that one because I got it from somebody else. It was about a missionary. . . .

[Bob]: Kid.

[Lee]: Kid, who wrote this letter to whom?

[Polly]: To her parents.

[Bob]: Well supposedly. She never did. . . .

[Lee]: It never got mailed.

[Bob]: No. They were never mailed. They were just, kind of, entries in her diary. But these are what she would have liked to have written to her parents.

The book was very interesting. Polly has recently read that. But who gave that to me? Oh, yeah, Barbara gave it to me. I think it was somebody she knew that wrote it [Ruth E. Van Reken].

[Lee]: Barbara. That’s where I got mine from, too. Yes, it was somebody she knew.

[Polly]: But Marcia, years ago Aunt Marcia had mentioned it to me. Because I had it written down. Every once in a while, I do this. Somebody will mention a book and I’ll write it down and I’ll tuck it away in my wallet and unless I change my wallet I may never find it again. In this case, when Bob got it, when Uncle Bob brought it home, I thought I know that book. I know that book. I know that book. Where do I know it from? And eventually it surfaced that it was one that Aunt Marcia had recommended years ago, that it was very helpful to her girls.

redacted transcription of a conversation between Bob, Polly (his wife), Virginia (Lee’s daughter), Lee and Ken (Lee’s second husband) during a visit to California in January 2004

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.)

  • What years did Sandy attend Ben Lippen?
  • What years did Debby attend Ben Lippen?
  • Maybe Heidi, Kimberly, and Stephanie should all write their Ben Lippen dates down, too.
  • When was Black Forest Academy established? Was it an option for Sandy and Debby? If so, why did they end up at Ben Lippen?
  • Lee’s kids boarded at the SIL center when their parents were in the tribe. Was this true up through high school? Were they ever cut off from communication with their folks over long periods of time?
  • How does Barbara know Ruth E. Van Reken?
  • What else is lost in Polly’s wallet?

Wally Gets His ’28 Ford Running and Gets Arrested

My [Wendell Caley’s] father was driving a 1936 Packard eight-passenger with fold-down seats behind the front seat. We had five kids so we needed a big car.

When I was 16, I started driving and I was driving a 1933 Chevy for not much money. He gave it to my brother Paul and me when we were just 12 and 13 years old. We took the car apart and then rebuilt the engine. We were living at 100 Fairview, Yeadon, Pennsylvania (19050) and we had a big yard, so we’d drive the car around it. I eventually registered the car.

Camp Sankanac ca. 2012Our family had been sent to Camp Sankanac [68 Bertolet School Road, Spring City, PA 19475], near Pughtown, Pennsylvania. One of the men, Vaughn Smith, at Aldan Union Church was director of the boys’ camp. I think I was 16 when Wally and I were both counselors there.

1928 Ford Closed-Cab They had an old, maybe 1928 or 1930, Ford truck that had been sitting there for years. It had no registration on it. Wally saw this old Ford truck and wanted it. And I don’t remember whether he paid for it or just took it.

I towed that car from Sankanac to the Duncans’ home with my ‘33 Chevy. I can remember driving along those narrow Pennsylvania roads, with a creek on the left side and a gully on the right, and looking in the rearview mirror to see Wally’s terrified face. I was going too fast. Thankfully, there was no mishap.

1930 Ford RoadsterWally got the car home to Riverview [325 Riverview Cove, Drexel Hill, PA 19026] and he drove it around Drexel Hill with no registration. He had to get it running first. After he got it running, he was arrested by the police. As I recall, he was not yet 16.* The truck was brought back to the Duncan home and he was reprimanded severely by the police and by his father.

I did help him work on it, but I don’t think he repainted it. Painting in those days was very tedious: paint brush and paint can.

Wally came over to my house in Yeadon and he was helping me work on the ’33 Chevy. He was using an old-fashioned pump. He was pumping the tire up on my car or my bicycle. His hand came down quickly and the tube cut his hand. It was a pretty bad cut, but I don’t remember if we took him to the local hospital, which was Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital, near where I lived.

He could bike over to our house. And I would bike to his house, too. It was quite a trip. We lived 6, 7, 8 miles apart. We took busses also. 

*NB: Wendell Caley was born in January of 1928. If he was 16 in this story, then it was 1944. Wally was born in May of 1929, so he would have been 15.

excerpt from a Skype conversation between Wendell Caley (longtime friend of the Duncan family) and Dawn Harrell (Steve’s daughter), January 29, 2013

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 this story? What other details can you add?
  • Does anyone have a photo of the actual car?
  • Is there a photo of Wally around 1944 that we could use?
  • Do you have stories about your own or your parent’s time at Camp Sankanac as a camper or counselor?
  • Can you contribute any pictures of Sankanac that are period of close to it?
  • Dad, can you tell the story of Wally spray-painting the car by attaching the vacuum hose to the opposite end of the vacuum?

Wally and Lee Decide to Follow Christ

Wally sneaked in the stage door of the Word of Life conference because he couldn’t get in the regular way. After the collection, the ushers brought the plates forward and put the plates in his hand. This may have taken place at Mechanics Hall in Boston.

Wally came to faith in his later teens.

excerpt from a Skype conversation between Steve and Dawn Harrell (Steve’s daughter), February 3, 2013

We were at Alden Union Church and Rev. William Allan Dean was the minister. That’s where I came to know the Lord in my teen years. I remember the place in the church where we sat. I didn’t go forward because we didn’t do that in those days. My faith grew in a slow progression throughout those years. There were certain times when we emphasized coming to know the Lord. Youth group met on Saturday night and I just grew in the Lord at that time. I graduated from Upper Darby High School in 1945.

Mother [Virginia] never had a real personal relationship until we went to Alden Union Church. She grew up Episcopal. The Bible study Wendell mentioned met on the sun porch; it had windows all around but it was closed in. There were maybe twenty to thirty women there.

Dad [Taylor] went to Alden Union because it was a Baptist church, but he never had a real close walk with God. He was definitely in favor of faithful church-going.

When Jack Wyrtzen was in Boston, we would go down to his campaign. Wally sneaked in back door because he didn’t get there on time. As he came in, they handed him the plates to take up the money. He passed the plates. I think I was looking for him. I got into the wrong area and then in to the men’s room. It was such a confusing place.

excerpt from a phone conversation between Lee and Dawn Harrell (Steve’s daughter), February 6, 2013

325 Riverview Cove, Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, ca. 1944--1945The first time we had any contact with the Duncans, we lived at 222 Stanley Avenue, in Menoa, Pennsylvania. I lived there with my family. We had five children. The Duncans lived not far away at 325 Riverview Cove, Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. We were sitting out on the front steps, and this lady with a baby carriage came by. That was Mrs. [Virginia] Duncan with Lee walking along. It was probably Bob [b. 1933] in the carriage. I can’t really remember how old I was but probably between four and eight years old [Wendell was born in 1928, so this was ca. 1932–1936]. I believe that’s how my mother met the Duncan family.

Next time I remember the Duncans, I was a teenager. My father said, “I’d like to take you to the church where they were having a Christmas program.” Lee Duncan played the part of Mary. It was a liberal Baptist church. We went to Aldan Union Church in Aldan, Pennsylvania and my father was interest in getting the Duncan family to come to Aldan Union. William Allan Dean was the pastor at Aldan Union. It was an independent denomination. The original church building still exists. They came.

My mother was part of the contact with the Duncans. She invited Mrs. [Virginia] Duncan to a women’s Bible study. It was taught by a lady at Aldan Union. She came. In fact if I remember correctly, they met in the Duncan home, a beautiful big home in the Drexel Hill section of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.

Lee Duncan, ca. high school, courtesy of Virginia GormanI think I was in high school. We were in youth group together at Aldan Union Church. Lee [b. 1927] was older than I. Wally [b. 1929] was younger. He was not in the youth group Lee and I were in.

excerpt  from a Skype conversation between Wendell Caley (longtime friend of the Duncan family) and Dawn Harrell (Steve’s daughter), January 29, 2013

When I visited him a few weeks ago [Fall 2006], Wally told me that he made a decision to accept Christ as a young teen, as did his sister, Lee. Their mother [Virginia] took notice of the “change” in their lives, explored the reason, and then made a decision to follow Christ herself. Grandpa [Wally] credits her strength of character and commitment to Christ as the reasons that the rest of the family took seriously the invitation to follow Christ. His mother taught the adult Sunday school class at Park Street Church in Boston for many years. So there is much in our heritage for which to be grateful.

written memories of Wally, contributed by Jim Duncan (Wally’s son), on the occasion of Wally’s death, November 7, 2006

Wally describes the one year anniversary of Pearl Harbor as the most wonderful day of his life. On December 7, 1942, Wally (age 13) accepted Jesus as his personal savior. It became the most defining moment of his life. He knew that he was a new creature, a child of God, never to be snatched out of His hands. He had gone to a Jack Wyrtzen [a founder of Word of Life Fellowship and inspiration for Youth for Christ] rally in Boston and at the end there was an altar call for those who wished to announce that they had personally accepted the grace offered at the cross. Wally was too embarrassed to go forward. He waited until the rally was over and the auditorium had cleared out. He went backstage and saw the evangelist packing up his briefcase.

“Mr. Wyrtzen,” he said. “I want to tell you that I have accepted Jesus into my heart as my savior.”

“That is wonderful, young man.” Mr. Wyrzten replied. He sat down and spoke with the young boy who realized he needed a savior. The two prayed together.

Wally was so excited; he told me he ran along the railroad tracks as fast as he could all the way home. He never lost the thrill of reliving that wonderful moment. He never doubted again that he wouldn’t see his Father in heaven one day and meet Jesus face to face. Indeed, when he died on November 7, 2006, he died with the blessed assurance that he was going to meet his savior.

written memories of Wally, contributed by Barbara Duncan (Wally’s wife), December 12, 2012

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 this story? What other details can you add? I’d love to have a fuller telling of this movement in the family history. It seems pivotal.
  • This may come up in the interview with Grandma Virginia, but can anyone tell the story of her decision to know Christ on a deeper level?
  • Lee, do you recall this rally? Did you attend? Can you talk about your own experience of trusting Christ?
  • I have a family calendar that someone put together, which says, “Grandpa Taylor Duncan was in the Navy and was assigned in Philadelphia during WWII. Wally spent his freshman and senior years in Newton, Mass.; his sophomore and junior year of high school here [Drexel Hill].” Can anybody (Lee or Betty) talk further about those moves back and forth and their impact on the family? I guess the family lived in this house between 1944 and 1945. Can anyone confirm or modify this guess?
  • The house-photo I’ve included is a photo of a photo from the family calendar. Who put this calendar together? Are the photos in digital format? Can you send me to that link or email them to me? Thanks.