Memories from Helen Brown Thayer

Helen Brown Thayer was my mother.  I always knew she saved her memories in poetry but never knew why or who inspired her to do so.  When she was 90 years old I took the poems she had given me and put them into a book and had the local printer print it for me.  She was so pleased and she signed many of them for her friends and relatives.  When she died Shirley, my sister gave me her treasures that were left and in them was an envelope of here poetry labeled Helen’s Letters   Poetry   They all good.  I put them away with the family history material and thought no more of them thinking they were the poems I already had from her, these were the orginal poems on small pieces of paper.  Last week I dug them out to put on this page and found a couple poems from her father’s best friend and distant  cousin by marriage and from them I realized who had inspired her to write things down in poetry.  She wrote often about her father and so did Claude E. Rockwood.  Both Grampa Brown and Mr. Rockwood were dyed in the wool Republicans.  For those of you who never grew up around a woolen mill as my Grandfather and I did I will explain that.  There is two ways to dye wool cloth.  One is to weave the cloth from the wool fibers and then when it is a nice piece of cloth you color it with what ever dye you like.  This way fades quicker and gets washed out easily.  The other way is to dye the wool before it is carded or spun, long before it is woven into cloth.  This way the color stays truer and never washes out or changes.  So dyed in the wool means you are true to the core and never change.  Well my Grandfather was a dyed in the wool Republican, he had no use for Democrates.  He collected stamps for over 80 years beginning when he was 9 years old.  He had a very complete collection but when Roosevelt was president he swore he would never put a Roosevelt stamp in his book.  When Roosevelt died he tried to keep this word but finally his stamps got the best of him and he did include the Roosevelt stamp, but only because he was dead and could “do no more harm”.  He swore then no matter what he would never put a Truman stamp in his collection and he died before Truman so he died a happy man, he never had to buy a Truman stamp.

Among the poems I found one that I know my Grandfather must have loved.  I am a Democrate and normally would never publish this poem but in tribute to Grampa Brown  at this special time of the year I do publish it for all the Republican to enjoy.


A stanger stood at the gates of Hell

And the Devil himself had answered the bell.

He looked him over from head to toe

And said, “My friend, I’d like to know

What you have done in the line of sin

To entitle you to come within.”

Then Franklin D. with his usual guile,

Stepped forth and flashed his toothy smile.

When I took charge in thirty three

A nation’s faith was mine, said he,

I promised this and I promised that

And I calmed them down with a fireside chat.

I spent their money on fishing trips

And fished from the decks of their battleship,

I gave them jobs on the P.W.A.

Then raised their taxes and took it away.

I raised their waged and closed their shops

I killed their pigs and burned their crops

I doubled crossed both old and young,

and still the fools my praises sung.

I brought back beer and what do you think

I taxed it so high they couldn’t drink

I furnished money with government loans

When they missed a payment I took their homes.

When I wanted to punish the folks, you know,

I’s put my wife on the radio,

I paid them to let their farms lie still

And imported food stuffs from Brazil’

I curtailed crops when I felt real mean

And shipped in wheat from Argentine,

Whey they started to worry, stew or fret

I’d get them to chanting the alphabet.

With the A.A.A., and the C.C.C

With these many units I got their goats,

And still I crammed it down their throats

My workers worked with the speed of snails,

While the tax payers chewed their finger nails.

When the organizers needed dough

I closed the plants for the C.I.O

I ruined jobs and I ruined health,

And I put the screws on the rich man’s wealth.

And some who wouldn’t stand the gaff

Would call on me, and how I’d laugh

When they got to0 strong on certain things

I’d pack and head for old Warm Springs.I ruined their country, their homes, and then

I placed the blame on the nine old men

Now Franklin talked both long and loud

And the Devil stood and his heard was bowed.

At last he said, “Let’s make it clear

You’ll have to move, you can’t stay here

For once you mingled with this mob

I’d have to hunt myself a job.”


This poem is about Grampa Brown and was written by Claude Rockwood I believe.


Some time ago I was full of grief

When my dear friend, Brown, sneezed out his teeth.

And now my heart’s plum full of woe

‘Cause the poor old cuss just stubbed his toe.

He hied himself way up on a hill

And commenced to bat around a little pill

Just for the sake of exercise

In a game that’s lauded to the skies.

The score turned in looked very nice

For a decrepit old cuss that was fain to slice,

And for one that’s getting so old and weak

With palsied hands and bones that creak.

When he finished he tottered down the hill

Towards his darling wife who loves him still

Tho’ how she can love a man like that

Is something the whole world’s wondered at.

But as he neared his home abod

His weak old heart seemed to overload

And when on the plazza step he placed  his foot

He pitched right forward on his picked old snoot.

His wife came out and cried: “By heck

You’d ought to have broken you goldurned neck.”

But she was wrong, for I’ll have you know

If he’d broken this neck he’d have nowhere to go.

For a broken neck means sudden death

And altho’ he’s old and feeble and short of breath

We’d hate to have the old buzzard up and die,

For God and the Devil don’t want him, I don’t know why.

He survived very well that awful shock

But a little later by the old Town Clock

He tried to climb to the eaves up a ladder

But now he’s wiser and a damned sight sadder.

For as he ascended above the ground

He placed his foot on a rotten round,

And tho’ he weighs no more than a blade of grass

It broke the round and he bumped his —shin.

In keeping his balance he may be nil

But he’s still going strong with his same old grin

In spite of the fact that he’s lost lots of skin,

But laying all my bum jokes aside

I’d have felt like hell if the old cuss had died

For I’d be sure to miss him time after time

When I felt the urge to concoct a rhym.

“Sympathetic Brother”

*****************  And now my favorite


Daniel Farrar was born in Lincoln Mass., March 25, 1755.  Being sort of an aggressive cuss he joined the Minute Men and was at Concord, Mass at the “Battle of the Bridge” where he discharged his blunderbuss with such rapidity that the British soldiers set up a world record between Concord and Boston which has never been equalled.  Among these British soldiers was a grenadier by the name of Hawkins who led all of the rest and of whom we will hear later.

Farrar had only a short time to serve in the Minute Men on June 17, 1775 at the battle of Bunker Hill where, according to the Town History of Marlborough” a musket ball clipped a lock of his whiskers”.  For the story of that famous fight I am indebted to a veteran of the battle now living in Troy, Arthur E. Dexter.

He tells me that the British gallantly charged up the hill three times and were repulsed and again started up the hill and when they were about half way up Farrar suddenly remembered that he had come away to war and left the radio running – it was a battery set- and so he started for home, wife and mother!   At this time he had a long flowing beard and as he ran his beard floated behind his shoulders making an appearance somewhat like a flag flung to the breeze.

This was noted by the above mentioned Hawkins who was a noted shot and th took deliberate aim and with the first shot shot away the end of Daniel’s whiskers, then ran forward and gathered them up and later had them made into a mattress which is still a cherished heirloom in the possession of the Hawkins family.   It might be noted in connection  with this gallant grenadier that one of his decendants is now emplyed in the office of the Troy Blanket Co. and is noted for honesty and up-rightness although his personal character is somewhat sullied by his association with another employee of the company that lives opposite the baptist Church on North Main Street.(This is Grampa Brown)

As to Dexter’s part in the fray history does not record that he got shot but it is related that he thought he had in the latter stage of the battle as he felt something running down his leg which he thought was blood but after a minute examination he found he was mistaken.   However history records that he had to change his pants.

That ended Daniel Farrar’s military service and soon he arrived home safe and sound but minus his whiskers a fact that seemed to please his wife.

On Jan. 23, 1776 he became the proud father of a daughter, Elizabeth, who later became the wife of Samuel Rockwood and to them a son was born wich they christened Samuel who became of age and married Malinda daughter of Samuel Stone.  This union was blessed by a son named Charles who at the age of twenty-one married Alma L. Foster and it was a blessed event when their little son Claude arrived on the scene on March 2, ’77 (18, I don’t mean 17)(This is the man who wrote this history)   He after a checkered career married on Sept. 7 1909 Ina M. Mason and of this marriage a daughter was born named Alma who spends her spare time defending one of her elderly male associates(Granmpa Brown) in the Blanket Mill Office against the violent verbal attacks of her revered pater familis.(Claude)

It is a strange coincidence that exactly one hundred and twent-five years and four days from the day that Daniel Farrar lost his whiskers that his great, great grandson Claude ran seventeen miles in nothing flat to get away from an overwhelming force of Boxers in Chaina.   However he did not lose his whiskers as he had taken the precaution to shave before landing but sad to relate he lost his wind and has not regained it as yet after over thirty-four years.

Well, to get on with my family tree.  Daniel Farrar had a brother George who was of course my uncle many times great.  He had a son George who married Miss. Naomi Starkey.   Now my aunt -by marriage-Naomi had a cousin Daniel who was the father of Daniel Alden Starkey.

Daniel alden Starkey married a fine looking girl by the name of Lang.   It was at this point that my research into my family history got its rudest jolt.   Hurridly I looked up the genealogy of the Lang family.  Alas!  It was as I feared.  Augusta, whife of Daniel Alden Starkey was the own aunt of that long-legged bandit and lollypop stealer, Fred Land, who is built along the lines of a blue heron but which is called by a somewhat vular name.(Shut Poke)

Disgusted but not dismayed I cast my eye along the list of Starkeys hoping for extenuating circumstances.  Vain was my hope for as I reached the last on the lis I found to my horror and amazement that Lilliam B. Starkey had married- it must have been during a fit of mental abberation –  Joseph Carver.  (This was my mother’s uncle.  See the Carver Family Tree) .

Of course one can’t blame Lilliam for that because Joe is the smartest man that works in the basement of T.B.M. when there is no one else there and besides he is not so bad to look at providing one keeps their eyes bery tightly closed.

I have nothing against Joe except that I am a trifle jealous of his ability to quote scripture but when I remembered that he had for a brother in law, Warren C. Brown, well that was the last straw.  I can stand it to be related to Lang or almost anyone else providing that it is very distant or by marriage but when it comes to finding Brown roosting on my family tree it is something that I or any other self-respecting person would not stand for.

Accordingly I decided that the tree would have to go.   I yelled for Mrs. Rockwood to bring the axe but as usual she was out in Joe Roger’s car and I got no answer.   One thing I will say howver to Joe’s ever-lasting credit and that is he never gets stuck in the mid and makes Mrs. R. walk home.

I went for the axe but found upon my return that the poor old tree had rotted to such an extent due to the presence of Land and Brown squatting on its lower branches that it had fell of its own weight, of grief, my wife who had just returned from her joy ride tried to console me by saying, “Well, it might have been worse, just think how you would have felt if you had founf yourself related to John Lahiff or Ernest Birdsall.”

If such had been the case however I would have never entertained the thought of cutting down the tree for those old roosters would be an ornament hanging to anybody’s tree, family or otherwise.

And so for the reasons enumerated above i nearly became a wood-chopper and was only saved form that sad fate by the action of old mother nature coming to the rescue and relieving the old tree of its burnden of remote relationships which were of such a nature ath no self-respecting tree could stand under such a degrading burden.

Claude E. Rockwood



Another poem about Grampa Brown —


Born in eighteen seventy-three

There’s few of his age as chipper as he

The old cuss is mostly bones and skin

And his nose is working toward his chin.

Shuffling along he walks the floor

Ears sticking out like an open door

Still having “what it takes”

Mking the rest of us look like fakes.

But you can tell he’s getting old

For the old boy don’t like getting out in the cold

So when the Sons goes visiting you see

He lets his wife go along with me.

Of course I can’t fill the shoes of “Daddy”

But she says “By Godfrey, you’re a darn good laddie”

Alas, I’m not much good, no not me

For I’m not as young as I used to be.

We’ve done some traveling, you and I

And we’ll do some more before we die

Running around where the Sons all meet

We’ll keep it up while we’re on our feet.

And when years hence on that other shore

We can’t go around with the Sons any more

Our thoughts will turn back to those days on earth

And old Camp 4 in the town of our birth.

The times we had and the places we went

Suppers we ate and cards we sent

And as we think of days gone by

We’ll flap our wings and away we’ll fly.

Way back down to “Mother Earth”

Where we’ll alight in the town of our birth.

And totter along toward the old Town Hall

Being mighty careful not to fall.

We reach the steps, climb up the stairs

And there sprawled out upon the chairs

We find the same old bunch

Waiting around for Homer’s lunch

We folded our wings and flew no more

And camped right there on the Town Hall floor

There we staid, not giving a cuss

We were where we belonged, ’twas enough for us.

May you ever keep adding on to your years

And linger long on this vale of tears

When it comes your turn to go

Give me a ring and let me know.

Then side by side up the “Golden Stair”

The “two old cusses” with graying hair

Will bang at the Tate, then ring the bell

And if we’re not admitted we’ll tackle Hell.

Claude E. Rockwood


A couple more writings from Claude E. Rockwood will follow as I have the time, then I’ll get Helen’s on also.

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