Tag Archives: Philadelphia

Tad Freezes in Armor to Advertise Crusade

During World War II, we were living down in Philadelphia because Daddy was stationed there in the Navy. He lived with us, but would travel elsewhere when the Navy asked him to go one place or another for short periods of time to help with accounting.

Wally and Mother started “Crusade for Christ” in our home. We would invite school friends and every Saturday night, we’d have a little get together in the living room. Sometimes we’d have special speakers.

I invited Patty Dohan, a school friend. She came once or twice when we were in the eighth or ninth grade.

All of the sudden, I found her address some years ago and sent a Christmas card. We hadn’t seen each other for seventy years. And she called on the phone. We picked right up where we’d left off.

By the time we were back at Newton Corner (Mass.), Crusade was large enough meet at church. Lee was already at Gordon College (Then she went to Wheaton.). This was when we lived on Washburn Avenue.

armorTo advertise the beginning of Crusade for Christ, Wally found some armor. The only one small enough to fit in it was Tad, so he wore it. Wally put him on top of the hearse and drove around.

story as recalled by Betty in a conversation with Dawn Harrell (Steve’s daughter), November 13, 2013

Tad was maybe 15 years old (~1952) and he was the only one small enough to fit into the suit of armor. It was real armor that Wally had gotten from an antique shop. I don’t know how they let him borrow it.

Anyway, in those days, people were much smaller, so Tad had to wear it. He only wore the top part, though, because if he’d worn the bottom part, he wouldn’t have been able to bend.

He knelt on top of the car on a roof rack of some sort, and Wally drove around making the announcement over a loudspeaker that was connected to the car. It seems to me this was one of those Duncan schemes.

Tad couldn’t wear a sweater or coat under the armor because it wouldn’t fit, and it was cold as anything, maybe October. 

story as recalled by Steve in a conversation with Dawn Harrell, December 8, 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.).

  • Have you heard this story? What can you add to it from your memory?
  • What happened to the armor? How did Wally manage to convince the antique story to lend it to him?
  • Has anyone got a photo? We would be so lucky.
  • Aunt Betty remembers Lee attending Gordon College. How long was she there?

Taylor Takes a Job at Bentley

[Barb]: You had four children at Drexel Hill and somewhere along the line you had two more.

[Virginia]: Those were all in Massachusetts, after I got to Massachusetts.

[Barb]: During the war you were moving back and forth, Philly to Mass.

USS Squalus under construction at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in 1938, courtesy of wreckhunter dot net[Virginia]: I think—I don’t exaggerate—we moved first from Boston to Philadelphia. Back again to Boston again because Daddy [Taylor] was sent to the Navy yard. You know, before that he was all over. Then back again to Boston. This time he was sent to New Hampshire.

[Barb]: Portsmouth.

[Virginia]: To the Navy yard in New Hampshire, which was on the border. I mean, it was easy to get from there to where we lived. He was up there most of the time. It was many hours in between.

Bentley College, 921 Boylston Street, its location since 1919, photo after building facelift in 1962, courtesy of Bentley LibraryIn the meantime, he applied to the Bentley School of Accounting and Finance [now Bentley University, Department of Accountancy] because he could see the writing on the wall that the war [World War II, ended 1945] was going to end, you know. He wanted to be prepared, to see if he could get his job back as a teacher, as an instructor, as a professor. He was never a real professor because that’s a specialty, but he was an instructor under Bentley. Mr. Bentley was a very exacting man. My husband didn’t get along too well with him. As you can imagine, they were two of a kind. He thought an awful lot of my husband’s ability. I was always very proud to have him working there because you had to have a pretty good standing or you could never get a job in that school.

All this time our family was growing up. Wally especially was into this and that and the other thing because he was getting older. He had graduated from high school and college. He hadn’t graduated from college yet, but he was going into college, into Gordon, Gordon Seminary [now Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary]. He loved it very much but it was pretty confining and Wally never was one to be confined much. He always wanted to spread out.

partial conversation between Virginia and 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.).

  • What do you remember of all this moving around about which Grandma speaks?
  • Presumably Grandma is speaking about World War II when she says it was ending. Can you verify that?
  • Can you tell more about Grandpa’s work in Portsmouth, New Hampshire?
  • Can you tell us more about his work at Bentley?
  • Can you pin down the exact year that he went to work at Bentley? Had he worked there before the war?

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) 

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  • 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?

Virginia Accepts the Lord

This was in Washington. We went to Washington DC then, where Daddy had a job. He was an auditor, an accountant with the Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC. He was considered a top-notch accountant. He was a CPA in the state of Pennsylvania and in the state of New York and in the state of . . . ah . . .

[Barbara]: Go ahead. In the state of? In where?

In Philadelphia, New York, and in Washington. He had a CPA. He was a very smart man.

[Barbara]: You’re doing all the talking on this tape. I’m wondering how long your voice is going to hold out almost single-handedly in this conversation. You’re doing all the talking with a few interruptions.

I was married in June. June? July? July I guess [July 25/26, 1925]. I became pregnant about six months later than that. We went up to Connecticut to my mother’s house. That’s where I had the baby. Lee was born in Connecticut [b. October 26, 1927].

[Barbara]: At home?

No. I went to the hospital. That was the only baby I had in the hospital.

[Barbara]: Is that right? OK.

All the rest, I had them at home.

[Barbara]: Isn’t that funny.

I went to the hospital. I didn’t have much trouble. I was 26 years old, you know, so I guess I was young enough and strong enough that I. . . . ‘Course it was not easy. No birth is easy. I don’t have to tell you that.

[Barbara]: So you named her?

I named her Virginia Lee. Well, her father named her. He liked, he loved Lee. He loved General Lee, so he wanted to name her Lee after General Lee.

[Barbara]: Well that’s a very interesting bit of information. I just found out on your last trip here. Because we have a Barbie Lee [b. May 30, 1976; daughter of Wally]. And of course, let’s see, the new baby in Bob’s family is Jessica Lee [b. July 2, 1987; granddaughter of Bob]. And I’m sure there are other Lees. But I never realized that the derivative of that was. . . .

You did name her after my Virginia Lee?

[Barbara]: Yeah, we did. We thought it was a nice-sounding name, but primarily it was because we had an Aunt Lee that we really loved. But it’s interesting that where it really came from was General Lee and I never knew that.

General Lee.

Then we went back to Philadelphia to live and we lived in what is known as Chester Avenue in Philadelphia. Out, you know, out . . . in Philadelphia. After that we moved to Menoa in Philadelphia. And from Menoa, we . . . then the war came along again. See this was the next World War. Daddy went back into the service. . . .

[Barbara]: Well wait a minute, back to Philadelphia because I know Wally was born in Haverford.


[Barbara]: So it was in that time that you were in Philadelphia that you went from Connecticut with Lee and then to Philadelphia.

I went back and forth. We went back and forth. We moved two or three times.

[Barbara]: But now Wally was born how many months later? Eighteen months later, I think you told me.

Well, first Lee was born, you know. She’s the oldest. Then Wally [b. May 9, 1929]. They were all born in Menoa.

[Barbara]: Oh, Menoa! At home this time, though.

At home, yeah. And then Betty was born in Menoa. Then we went to Drexel Hill.

325 Riverview Ave, Drexel Hill, PA, n.d.  courtesy of Colin Duncan[Barbara]: What was the address there? [325 Riverview Cove, Drexel Hill, PA].

I can’t remember.

[Barbara]: You can’t remember. We tried the other day to figure that out.

I could take you to it, but I do not remember what that. . . . I think Wally asked me that the other day.

[Barbara]: Yeah, we had met that gentleman.

I cannot remember. I know that it was in Drexel Hill.

In the meantime, you know, I had met Mrs. Caley of the Caleys. Wendell and all of that Caley family and Wally were very friendly.

[Barbara]: Of course.

She was the one that introduced me to the Aldan Union Church [7 East Providence Road, Aldan, PA 19018]. Wayland Baptist Church, 11603 South Wayland Road, Meadville, PA 16335We didn’t go to that Wayland Baptist Church [11603 South Wayland Road, Meadville, PA 16335] very long because we moved away, see? So then I went to the Aldan Union Church and that is where we really found the Lord, you know. I can’t remember exactly, but I do think that that’s where I was saved. It was in the Aldan Union Church.

[Barbara]: That’s a story, yeah. Mrs. Caley worked on you for a time, didn’t she?

Oh, yeah, she worked. Every time I’d come out the door, it seemed like she was standing there waiting for me because she kept wanting me to go over to that church. Before that, you know, my husband was a Baptist and he wanted me to go to the Baptist church. Well, I went to the Baptist church but it was so uninteresting to me. It was so cold in that church as far as people were concerned.

[Barbara]: Now by this time, you had a growing family. You had what, three children? Four children?

Four children, yeah?

[Barbara]: You had four children.

Aldan Union Church, 7 East Providence Road, Aldan, PA 19018Anyway, we all went over to the U and I never was sorry. That was the most glorious church. That’s really where I found the lord in all his glory. I tell you I almost lived in that church. It was because my husband was away, you know.

[Barbara]: Tell me how you met the Lord. You probably want to put that down. That’s probably one of the best stories you have.

How I met the Lord?

[Barbara]: Yeah.

Well, he gave the invitation. We went into the Sunday; no, it was the daily vacation Bible school. We were all assembled together in this outer room. He said, “Is there anybody would like to give their heart to the Lord?” or something. I don’t know how he put it. Anyway, I was so thrilled. I can never tell you the way the Lord spoke to me about becoming his child. Here I thought I’d been saved many times before. In Washington and so on, I went to the church. Many times I thought I was accepting him, but this was a real acceptance under Mr. Dean. His name was Mr. William Allan Dean.

He gave this invitation: “Wouldn’t you like to accept the Lord as your savior?” I raised my hand and almost in a trance, I walked forward. I just took more courage than you have any idea. Here I was an old Episcopalian. They don’t do it that way, you know. When you got to be twelve years old, you got confirmed and that’s when you really was supposed to accept the Lord.

Anyway, that was the beginning of my interest. I always say I have to thank Mrs. Nell Caley for my salvation. She never left me alone. She was bound I was going to go over to that church. The funny part of it was they didn’t stay in that church very long themselves. They left me there, not having her to talk to me or anything. I just considered that the Lord called me and I accepted him wholeheartedly at that time. So that was the beginning of my interest in things Christian.

[Barbara]: Now the Caleys were still in Philadelphia. They didn’t move away, did they?

They lived in Philadelphia, but they were the kind of people that were always having some kind of an altercation with somebody, you know. If you knew Mrs. Caley, . . . did you ever meet her?

[Barbara]: No.

She’s a redhead. I love her to death because she really was the one that introduced me to the Lord. But she is not easy to get along with.

[Barbara]: Oh, so they stayed in the neighborhood, but they just left the church.

Yeah. That’s right.

[Barbara]: Because I know Wally has a lot of nice stories about growing up with them.

Yeah. That is a good family, beautiful family. Not the father.

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.)

•   Who else bears the “Lee” in their names? Virginia? Anyone else? What do you recall of being given that name?
•   Virginia says that she was pregnant with Lee six months after their marriage, but that would have Lee born in October of 1926, not 1927. Also, I have two different days for Virginia’s marriage, though I believe 7/26 to be accurate. Can someone confirm Taylor and Virginia’s marriage date and someone confirm Lee’s birthdate, just so I can be sure? Thanks.
•   Did you ever meet Mrs. Caley? Dad? Betty? Lee? What do you recall of her demeanor?
•   Do you recall the circumstances of the Caley’s leaving Alden Union Church?
•   Virginia ends on an ominous note about Mr. Caley. What do you recall of him?

The Courtship of Taylor and Virginia, Including the Story of Elsa Wood

That [the Navy] is where I met my husband, Taylor.

[Barbara]: We’re all interested. Tell me how it happened.

Well, he said to me. Well, first I went down there and he was working down there [96th Street and the North River or the Hudson River]. And so he said, “You know the war’s about over. We think that it’ll be over in a day or two.” He said, “I’ll be working here a little while. Then,” he said, “I’m going to go to Philadelphia. If you feel like you want to leave this job and go to Philadelphia, I’ll see if I can get you a job down there.”

[Barbara]: Now were you dating? Was it romance?

Taylor Albert Duncan in Uniform, courtesy of Virginia GormanOh, yes. He liked me right away. He asked me if I would go out with him and, you know, he was an attractive man and in uniform he was superb! [Sighs.]

[Barbara]: I’m sure.

So, when he. . . .

[Barbara]: He wasn’t a captain? When he died he was. At that point. . . .

No, he was just second lieutenant. Then first lieutenant. That’s the way it is in the Navy. He was first lieutenant at that time. So then he still stayed in the service for a while. He should never have left. If he’d have never left, I’d have a good pension. But he couldn’t wait to get out.

[Barbara]: Now he was still in the Navy in Philadelphia.

Oh, yeah.

Springfield Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, courtesy of Google Maps[Barbara]: And you did go. You told me before that you decided to go and find, to take the job in Philly.

Bob's birthplace, 5101 Springfield Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, courtesy of Colin DuncanIn Philly, yeah. Well, I mean, all these were interwoven. I went from New York to Philadelphia and when I got down there, you know he asked me. . . . He lived in 5101 Springfield Avenue. That’s the house we eventually bought, but I lived in 5103 Springfield Avenue, the house right next door. See? And he still stayed in that boarding house. That’s what that was in those days. And I used to come to the boarding house to get my meals, but I would go home to 5103 at night, see?

Birdie Wyler, Taylor's first wife, (m. 1906), she remarried in 1943, courtesy of Virginia GormanThen, we got. . . . Well, we went around, we went together for nearly four years before we were married. Yeah. So I mention the fact he had married before [Birdie Elizabeth Weyler, 1906; she remarried in 1943], you know, after Kathryn and Paul. Well, he divorced that wife. Then he was unmarried for a while. Then he married my girlfriend [ca. 1919]. Elsa Wood was her name. They only were married, I think it was a year and a half. She had died in childbirth [ca. 1921]. I know that my family don’t know anything about this.

[Barbara] Well, Wally told me that. He knew that.

Well, anyway, she died in childbirth. And then we got engaged in a spell of time. I mean it wasn’t right on top of it.

[Barbara] You knew, did you know, you knew him married to your friend Elsa?

Yeah. I knew, yeah, but I didn’t have anything to do with it.

[Barbara] Yeah, I know.

Taylor Albert Duncan and Elsa Wood, 2d wife, ca. 1919-1921, courtesy of Virginia Gorman

See, I went to see. I got this notice she was going with him. And then I got this notice that they were married and that they had this baby. I sent her a pair of little baby shoes as a gift. I always loved to give shoes to new babies. And so the shoes arrived the day she died, if you can imagine that. And the baby died, too. She was buried with the baby in her arms.

That was from Philadelphia, but this was before I lived there. I didn’t go there until he kept coming to see me, you know. It was a space of time, of course. Nothing was happening right then. He was very lonesome. He would write to me. The writing was thick and fast. He used to write long, long letters. In later years, you couldn’t get him to write a letter to save his soul. You know, when we got married, he just didn’t want to write. But at any rate, we got along very well together.

People in the boarding house never knew Elsa at all. That was her name: Elsa Wood. She was a lovely girl. When I did get married to my husband, why he always, he had nothing but the highest praise to say for her. Well I knew her because I worked with her when I was in the Navy. It was only when I got notice that the baby had died and that she had died and that the shoes arrived and I never knew what he did with them, but he must have given them to someone.

[Barbara]: Let’s get closer to wedding time and dates, so that, just so our kids will know.

In 19. . . . We were married in 19. . . .

[Barbara]: Well, ‘25.

1925, I guess it was. July 26, 1925.

[Barbara]: Well, I know that because this week we celebrated that, didn’t we?

Yeah, that’s right.

[Barbara]: That was two days after Dad’s birthday or before?

That’s right.

[Barbara]: And your sister’s birthday was the same time.

Yeah, my sister’s [Ella] was the 27th and my husband’s was the 23d. They all came in there together.

Virginia Mary White Duncan and Katheryn Duncan Ramey, 1920, courtesy of Virginia GormanWell, when the time came, as I went with Daddy for four years, and we had a lot of fun together after so long, after the mourning period was over. The lady of the house, Mrs. Armor, her name was, she was very congenial, very understanding, the lady of the boarding house. After so long a time, we got married. We considered it was sufficient time after she died, four years.

[Barbara]: Now where did you get married?

We got married in Weymouth Baptist Church in Philadelphia.

[Barbara]: Oh. OK. Well, Dad was a Southern Baptist.

He was a Southern Baptist and I was an Episcopalian. You know, he wanted to be married by the Baptist church. Well, that was better that it happened that way.

[Barbara]: What did you wear?

I wore a white dress and a white veil.

[Barbara]: You don’t have pictures?

No. He would not let me get pictures. He did not believe in white, I guess because of his background.

[Barbara]: Maybe.

At any rate, we were very happy. When we were married, we went to Downingtown [PA], a little resort that was used by young people. Oh, what would you say? I can’t think of what you would call it. Well, anyway it was a young people’s camp, like. We spent two weeks there. That was where we went on our wedding trip with a whole lot of other young people. We were old enough that they didn’t realize that we were just bride and groom. We had a very nice time.

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 recall other stories of Grandma’s time in the Navy?
  • Do you recall stories of Grandpa’s first wife? What was her full name/maiden name? Can you tell the story of their circumstances and what led to the divorce?
  • Did Grandma ever meet her?
  • Where were Kathryn and Paul during this time? Did Grandma know them? What did they think of Elsa?
  • I cannot locate a Weymouth Baptist Church in Philadelphia. Does anyone have more information on it? A marriage license?
  • Can you confirm the dates that I’ve placed in brackets in this transcription? Can you add month and day? Where does your information come from?
  • I know there’s a photo of Grandpa in his uniform somewhere. I’ve seen it, but I’d appreciate some direction from, perhaps, Virginia or Colin, as to where I might find it. Thanks.


The Family Attends Park Street Church

Park Street Church as seen from Suffolk University Law School, 9.28.2012, courtesy of David BruceFollowing World War II, Daddy [Taylor] left the Navy and we returned from the Philadelphia area to Boston. Since Mother [Virginia] and four of the six children had found Christ during the war years, we needed a solid, Bible teaching church and a friend suggested Park Street. We found what we needed and began growing in Christ. All us teens found great friends and areas of service. I played piano for the Mayflower Pulpit services and Singspiration. Three of my brothers rang the church bell, among many other things.

Through various meetings while still in high school, I felt God’s call to missions, though I didn’t know where. Youth for Christ met at Park Street and in one of those meetings, for the first time, I heard of Europe as a needy mission field and God spoke to me that very night about serving there. I looked forward to the Missions Conference every year, and was amazed at how the missions’ emphasis was evidenced throughout the year.

Then I met [my husband] Harley [Smith] and separately and together we appreciated and benefited from the ministry of Park Street.

written by Betty for Colin Duncan (Bob’s son), March 18, 2011

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  • Where were you when it happened? What were you doing at the time?
  • In which season or year did this story take place?
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  • What house was the family living in? What was the address?
  • Name the make and model of the family car at that time. What color was it?