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William Samuel Fay, Sr.
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My Grandfather Fay [Samuel Edwards Fay, 1827-1908] in his later years recounted some stories of his early family life, and these were taken down by his daughters, my Aunts Sue and Louise.
These stories have been read with great interest and so enjoyed by those near and dear to me that I think it worthwhile to follow my grandfather's example and leave behind some of my memories which otherwise might be forgotten.
It might be well to say at this point that memory is a rather uncertain faculty, and if some of my brothers and sisters read what I will write, they may not agree with my version, and no doubt with reason.
What I believe to be my earliest recollection was of an evening at dusk, when newsboys came through our street shouting 'extra, extra!" with the news that President McKinley had been assassinated. I checked the date of this event recently, which was September 6th, 1901. This strengthened my belief that my recollection was genuine, because I would have been four years and eight months old.
When I look back over my life I realize that I have been privileged to live through a most remarkable period of history. I say this because at the time of my birthday in 1897 civilization was just on the verge of advancing from the last influences of the primitive into the advent of a period of amazing progress and development. The first electric generator began operation in 1881-2, built by Thomas A. Edison. Trolley cars and the first electric light bulbs soon came into use, and not long after that we had a telephone. It was not until some years later that we had electric lights and indoor plumbing in our home, as we were rural.
I was born in my paternal grandfather's [Samuel Edwards Fay] home at 227 West Mulberry Street in Springfield, Ohio. When I was three years old we moved to what was called a double house which my father had purchased. It was almost directly across the street from the home of my maternal grandfather [William H. Guthrie, 1843-1933]. A double house was built for two occupancies in which each occupant had an up and downstairs side as compared with the so-called flat of two-family houses of two complete floors. We lived here until I was six years old.
In March 1903 my parents found their growing family of six children [Eunice, Guthrie, Cyril, Harriet, William and James] too large for the present home, and we moved to a fourteen-room house on two acres of ground and several out-buildings, including a large barn. [Here the twins George and Miriam, and Allen were born.] This barn turned out to be a great convenience for my mother, for on rainy days she could send us out there to play and have a little quiet in the house. Our house sat back about two hundred feet from the street, which provided a large front yard. As spring came on, no attempt was made to cut the grass, and by the time school was out the grass was two feet high. We had great fun beating down trails through the high grass and establishing stations in the trails, and soon had a young labyrinth going, which was a source of great fun.
However, this was not to last long. With a growing family and all that grass, the answer seemed to be a cow. So it wasn't long before a fine cow, Blanche, appeared. She soon came fresh and there was so much milk that the word got around, and our neighbors began to ask if we could supply them with milk. This began the milk route, and over the years it grew until we had sixty customers and eight cows.
Our daily round was: up at five-thirty a.m. We dressed and went out to feed the stock, milk the cows, cool and bottle the milk, and then we went in to breakfast, which included family prayers. My father read from the Bible, said his morning prayer, then each child repeated the golden text for the coming Sunday and then a verse from the Bible, giving the reference. The youngest child always started with John 11-35: "Jesus wept", which we thought was the shortest verse to be found.
Breakfast and prayers over, we hitched up the pony and "went with the milk," as we termed it. This took about three-quarters of an hour and then home, unhitch, put the bottles away, and get dressed for school. We walked ten city blocks to arrive before eight-thirty.
The first pony carts were rented. The pony was named Ganymede. We called him Ganny. When we started out on the route, Ganny knew the exact point when we were farthest from home. Up to that time it was necessary to do a good deal of urging to make any progress. But once we turned back toward home, you could hardly get him to stop for a delivery.
We had the first pony for only about a year. Ganny had been rented, but now Father bought a pony mare named Midget. I seemed to be the one who usually took the reins, and it wasn't too long before we found out that Midget was what is known around horses as "skittish." If a piece of paper carried by the wind should cross her path, Midge would be likely to take the bit in her teeth and set out for parts unknown.
After several of these escapades and a wheel broken in the trolley tracks, I learned to slide right down against the dashboard, and holding the reins about three feet from the bit and using all my young strength, I could bring her under control.
The pony cart had no top, so in rainy weather we held an umbrella over our heads and had a waterproof lap robe. Of course we were out in all kinds of weather, and sometimes it was pretty rough. In later years my father remarked that he felt bad to send us out in bad weather. But I told him that I didn't recall any of us finding it too rugged, and that I thought it had made men out of us.
When it was very cold we had a piece of soapstone that we kept in the oven until time to start. We wrapped it in newspaper and then in an old blanket and put it under our feet in the cart. It would keep warm for the better part of an hour.
One rainy morning I had gotten pretty well soaked running in and out with deliveries when I met a friend. He asked me if I was going to school that day, and not thinking or trying to be funny I said I was going home and go to bed till my clothes got dry. When I arrived home I told Mother about it, and she was very angry with me, as she said the boy would think my wet clothes were the only ones I owned.
When the snow was deep, we hitched our sleds together and tied our bottle carriers to the sleds and mushed our way around the route. We had certain stops where we knew our customers were pretty likely to ask us in to get warm, and we did all right.
One time with deep snow on the ground, a customer phoned for an extra quart of milk after we had gotten home from hauling our sleds around the route. I was elected to make the delivery, and I said I had done enough walking and would ride the pony. Mother advised against it, but I was determined, so I caught the pony who was frisky from lack of exercise, and started out. I hadn't gone fifty feet along the driveway when she dashed off into the deep snow and threw me off. Mother and several of the family were witnesses to this fiasco, and I was a source of uncontrollable mirth when I came up still holding the quart of milk but with a tower of snow a foot high on top of my head. Then I walked to make the delivery.
We had some interesting experiences with some of our customers. One woman took a pint of milk a day, and washed the bottle thoroughly. She set it outside her kitchen door on the latticed porch and always kept the porch door locked. We could see eight or ten nice clean pint bottles beyond our reach. We were often short of pint bottles, but could rarely get her to answer the door.
Another customer always wanted buttermilk and when we delivered it she always said rather apologetically that they didn't like buttermilk but they drank it because it was so good for them.
One woman took one pint of milk a day and always had some complaint. Either we were late with the milk or in winter it was frozen or in summer turning sour. Something was always wrong. We would come home and tell Mother that Mrs. Cox was hollering at us again today. So one day Mother said that for one pint of milk a day she didn't think we should be subjected to all that grief. Doctors in our part of town were recommending to mothers that they take milk from Fays' for their young babies and we had a waiting list for people who wanted to be our customers. So she wrote a note to Mrs. Cox saying she regretted that we would no longer be able to supply her with milk. It was summertime with the windows open, and as I went around the house after delivering the note I heard Mr. Cox say, 'Cora, I told you that if you kept abusing those boys you would be sorry.
We had a young friend who lived close by named "Bud" Otstot. He spent a lot of time at our house, and sometimes accompanied one of us on the milk route. We had a customer who had a house full of babies and young children, and she took four quarts of milk a day--two morning and two evening. She wasn't careful about returning the bottles, and would put out six or eight at a time.
The house had a high terrace, and we would go up the steps on the way in but use a short cut down the terrace coming out. I had a pair of heavy leather gloves, but because the day was mild I left them at home and wore light cotton gloves. We had had a thaw, and as I came down the terrace I slipped in the mud and fell on the sidewalk with six empty bottles under me. The broken glass cut the back of my left hand right through my glove. I think I was eleven years old at the time. As I got up and looked at my hand I was so shocked by what I saw that I left Bud and the pony cart sitting there and ran for home, which fortunately was only three blocks away. Mother called the doctor and arranged for me to go to the office, which was a half-hour trolley ride away. She sent my sister Harriet with me. The doctor had to put several stitches in my hand and the injury was quite serious. My hand was permanently crippled.