Saturday, October 24, 2020

A Son & His Father

Earl Starrett Goudey, 1937

I always hoped to circle back to Earl Starrett Goudey, born in North Adams, Mass. in 1895, a man who took a circuitous path to his vocation.

Earl Goudey spent 35 years teaching biology and sex education to students at the public school in Bronxville, N.Y., a suburban village outside New York City, 29 minutes by train to Grand Central Terminal. Unruffled by controversy, he worked calmly with parents and pastors who wished to keep a lid on things.

The eldest son of Nova Scotian immigrants Henry and Mary Goudey, Earl battered his way out of his boyhood home and navigated through the thicket of church and school before launching himself into the world.

Mary Goudey died of consumption in 1906, leaving her husband with four children, the youngest just two years old. Their father, Henry James Goudey, was a minister affiliated with the Advent Christian Church. He preached in North Adams and Lynn, Mass., Hartford, and Brooklyn.

Reverend Goudey often delivered a speech, “Facts About Hell,” at the local YMCA. With his mother, sister, and brother, Henry had sailed on the schooner Gladiator from Yarmouth to Boston in 1871 and imbibed some sort of gladiatorial ferocity along the way.


Reverend Henry J. Goudey, 1935

He directed his abusive temperament at Earl, forcing the boy to memorize long passages of the Bible as punishment for scrappy behavior. At the age of thirteen, Earl ran away from the family’s wood frame home in Lynn and became a loom setter. (During the late nineteenth century New England’s textile industry had begun to shift to the South, but plenty of cotton and woolen mills remained.)

Earl finished high school at night and, trying to please his father, entered the Newton Theological Seminary in Newton, Mass. In the spring of 1917, on both the verge of graduating and the eve of the U.S. entrance to World War I, Earl headed to the Boston Navy Yard and enlisted. He joined the Navy Medical Corps as an apprentice seaman and served as a Pharmacist’s Mate First Class. 

A PHM1 is a petty officer who – under the supervision of physicians – offers care to naval personnel. In the course of his work on a hospital ship, Earl came to know David Linn Edsall, dean of the Harvard Medical School and an expert in preventive medicine and public health. They worked together on a study of the 1918 flu pandemic, and Edsall encouraged Earl to become a doctor.

First he needed a college degree, so he enrolled at Boston University where he met his first wife, Marjorie Pelton. Her father, who ran a business college, told Earl to skip medicine and go into the brave new world of sales.

Once again Earl danced for others, climbing the ranks to become a top salesman in the soap and ice cream businesses. To assuage his conscience, he also directed “boy’s work” at the Tremont Temple Baptist Church in Boston. He would always have a soft spot for wayward boys.

Imagine Earl during these years. Is he frantically trying to find a place in the confusing decade that followed World War I? Is he philosophically ticking through the professions in order to figure out which one is right for him?

When I interviewed Earl’s son Pelton in 1997, he did not know how Earl came to the attention of the superintendent who presided over the nationally-known progressive school in Bronxville. But Willard W. Beatty had a nose for great teachers, and in 1928 Earl joined the faculty.

Clipping about "Elementary Biology," the
sex education class Goudey taught in Bronxville

During the 1920s, Reverend Goudey remarried and divorced and remarried. In 1936, he hopped on a train to Miami, where he felt welcome and decided to stay a while. The Adventists gobbled up his screwball theories about astronomy and physics.

“The earth is an outstretched plain,” he explained, “founded upon the waters of the deep; the sun, moon and stars in motion above; over the whole being the firmamental vault or floor of Heaven.”     

In 1941 Henry published Earth Not A Globe, Scientifically, Geometrically, Philosophically Demonstrated, in which he summoned 75 reasons to explain why the earth is flat.

It was as if he couldn’t stop punishing Earl but realized he’d have to swap out Bible passages for scientific bunk in order to torture his son to the greatest extent possible.




Henry Goudey died in Boston in 1947.

http://www.throughthehourglass.com/


Friday, October 9, 2020

Chasing Jack White (part 3)

The shape of things to come:
more scandals for the White family

 

I couldn’t understand why John Jay White, Jr. and his wife Grace, glittering New Yorkers with indisputable ancestry, decamped to Washington, D.C. in 1908.

Certainly, Washington had great appeal.

President Theodore Roosevelt and his wife Edith had banished the gloom, transforming the capital with modern manners both aristocratic and democratic. Progressive politics livened the discourse and expanded the realm of women activists.    

Yet Grace and Jack would seem to belong in their Fifty-Seventh Street brownstone, or in Bar Harbor in the summer, or visiting their unhappily-married daughter Louise at her millionaire husband’s home at Blue Point, Long Island.

Born in New York City in 1861, “Jack” White and his two sisters and two brothers would inherit a fortune upon their father’s death in 1903, but for years before the windfall it was not necessary for any of them to have paid income. Most of the time Jack occupied himself with a few interrelated hobbies.

Around 1890, Jack and Grace started traveling together through the western U.S. They joined the Women’s National Indian Association, formed in 1879 to oppose the white settlement of the Oklahoma Indian Territory.* Captivated by Native American design, the couple began collecting art and objects. Their collection now resides at the National Museum of the American Indian.

Parfleche saddle bag, Cheyenne, around 1900
(National Museum of the American Indian,
gift of John J. White, Jr.)


Increasingly, while Grace stayed in New York City where she volunteered as a public-school inspector, Jack went off to visit tribal leaders and officials with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He spent some time in Yellowstone National Park. Several of his photographs and articles appeared in popular magazines.   

White's photographs of the construction of a lodge
by the Cheyenne appeared in Forest and Stream, 1907. 


Collecting wampum belts, Jack grew interested in currency. He became a booster of the American Numismatic Society and a member of the American Anthropological Association soon after its founding in 1902.

Surely the scholars in these fields regarded Jack as a dilettante but he took himself seriously.  

Jack came by his third hobby, shooting big game in the American West and East Africa, when wealthy men began the tradition of trophy hunting during the 1890s.

Jack White is at the far right in this photograph, which appeared in an article he wrote for Forest and Stream, 1910.

Unfortunately, Jack wasn’t well in mind or body, according to the masseur who treated him on Friday, September 20, 1907 at the Whites’ home in New York City. The house had been boarded up for the summer and Grace installed in Maine, but she unexpectedly walked through the front door at the very moment that the corpse was being removed by employees of the burial company.

It was a suicide, the masseur reported. The 40-year old woman, Marguerite Carter, lived in a studio on Twenty-Ninth Street where Jack visited often and paid the rent. With Grace’s approval, Marguerite often nursed Jack when he was drunk and upset. It was an arrangement that seemed to work all around, and Jack’s doctor, George V. Foster of New York Hospital, relied on Marguerite to care for his patient.

Grace told the Evening World: “I knew Mrs. Carter. I met her through charitable work. She was undoubtedly insane. There was nothing wrong between her and my husband. She called here to see him and when he would not see her, she killed herself.”

Marguerite had arrived around 8 in the evening with a package she wished to give Jack personally. The masseur blocked Jack’s bedroom door but Marguerite waited around. Finally, at 4 in the morning she shot herself through the head. The package turned out to contain two $100 bills, a pair of gold cufflinks, and a receipt for $700. 

While Marguerite’s friends viewed her body and accompanied it to a crematorium, Jack suffered a breakdown. Dr. Foster came to the rescue. He was a great help to the Whites, fending off a police investigation that was launched when correspondence disappeared from Marguerite’s apartment under mysterious circumstances. 

The doctor asked the coroner to write a letter stating that Marguerite’s death had been a suicide. He explained that the Whites wished to leave town and wanted an assurance they would not be stopped.

Now I understand why Grace and Jack moved to Washington in 1908.

White accompanied Rainsford, rector of St. George's Church
in Manhattan, on several trophy hunts to Africa.  

Four years later, their daughter Louise would follow Marguerite by taking her own life. Not a single reference to the 1907 scandal appeared in the extensive newspaper coverage that followed.

In 1914 Jack moved permanently to London and Grace carried on the pursuit of peace and women’s rights. He died in 1923 and she in 1937.

While Jack could be considered a philanthropist and Grace an off-kilter altruist, they are reminiscent of Daisy and Tom Buchanan, immortalized by F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby:

“They were careless people . . . they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness . . .”

Rainsford with his trophy, 1909


*Unfortunately, the WNIA also advocated for Indian boarding schools and the Dawes Act, both devastating to Native American culture and community.

 https://www.throughthehourglass.com/

A Son & His Father

Earl Starrett Goudey, 1937 I always hoped to circle back to Earl Starrett Goudey, born in North Adams, Mass. in 1895, a man who took a circu...