Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Aid For Tall Men Sought By Mc Vitty

Today we have a guest author for the blog. Rex McVitty, husband of Honoria Livingston, wrote this article for his Florida newspaper after trying to test drive a car in 1959.


Rex McVitty (Right) and Honoria Livingston
I can’t very well remember any time in my life, that I wasn’t conscious of being too tall. Even when my mother packed me off to boarding school, she had to buy my suits about three sizes too large because she well knew that before the three month term was over, they would be much too small. So I felt that I was never sartorially right. Either my coat fitted like a frock coat or there was a draft between the top of my trousers and the bottom of my coat.
            I had similar problems in India. There, the standard price set by the Guild of Tailors for a white drill suit was three rupees eight annas (this as you may well guess was quite a long time ago). Now when I went for a suit, the tailor would look at me and figure he was bound to lose money on the deal, so he cut corners as much as he could. The result was a suit that fitted me like a glove, only the first time it went to the dhoby (wash) it shrunk, and from then on it would be just one more  “too small suit!” I used to plead with tailors “make me a suit larger, I will pay you more money, gladly.”
            “Sorry, sahib, no can do, guild price- three rupees eight annas.”
            So there I was, sentenced to a life of ill fitting clothes.
            On board ship, the bunks were too short and the deck headroom too low. I found a cork topee a most expensive luxury, and only “mad dogs and Englishmen” went about without them. I was always smashing mine on watertight doors or low ceilings. I wonder that my head is as sound as it is, I have cracked it so often. I often fancied that I had developed a kind of radar in the top of my head that warned me of low doors but I couldn’t always rely on it. I remember crossing over on one of the White Star liners-maybe it was the Georgic. The White Star Line is no more, having been absorbed by the Cunard, but in its day it boasted of having many fine ships including the ill fated Titanic.
The Georgic
            Well anyway, on the Georgic, we lived on the far side of one of the watertight doors, and any of you who have travelled on ships will know exactly what I am talking about. Do you know I avoided crowning myself for six day and six nights. You couldn’t but have admired the graceful way in which I slid under that sharp edge. When we were going up the gang plank in New York, I suddenly remembered having left my wrist watch by my pillow rushed back to get it, hit my head against the watertight doo and was carried ashore feet first on a stretcher.
            Well that’s the way it is. People have been awfully nice about it. On one small craft, the carpenter cut a hole for me in the wardrobe standing at the foot of my bunk so that I could shove my feet into the wardrobe and my top coat kept them warm. And one time on battleship, when we had to sleep on the gun-deck in hammocks, on eof shipmates got the brilliant idea of hanging his clothes on my feet which were sticking a good foot out of the end of the hammock and so were very cold. Instead of folding them up and putting them in his chest, his clothes looked better and my feet were kept warmer.
            I wonder could you guess the seed that is germinating in my mind-the one that is responsible for this entire outburst. Here in this United States, they have lowered the ceiling in the 1959
automobiles so that they rest on my head when I am driving. This my friends is the final blow. I get in, sit in the driver’s seat and you couldn’t insert a dime between the top of my head and the roof of the car. First time I hit a bad bump, I would probably break my neck, and this has happened in a country that is noted for having tall men. Last time I was abroad people would say to me: “You’re an America, aren’t you?”
            I didn’t think it was my accent or brogue that was giving me away, so I would enquire “How did you know?” only to be told “you are so very tall.”-It sure beats me!
            Of course, everything is not on the debit side. I can reach higher and wade in deeper water than the average man. They used to say to me when I was in the Navy “Paddy, I wish that I had your height a beer.” Maybe beer does taste better when it has such a long way down, splashing all the way.
            Then there was a time right here in Sarasota. They were having a baby parade on a Saturday afternoon- and I was walking along Main Street-the crowd were packed pretty densely along the curb, but as I walked by, I could see over their heads so for me to see the parade was a cinch. I noticed one undersized little party desperately trying to squeeze in so he could see what was going on. All of a sudden he spied me, cried out, “Brother you are lucky! You have a built in soapbox!”

            Now what can you do in a case like that but count your blessings? But I do think the time is right for the organization, a benevolent and protective one, for all likely lads who just forgot to stop growing after they had reached a useful height, to agitate for longer beds, higher automobiles and doorways. How about it, eh?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Do Not Expose Yourself Needlessly

Margaret Beekman Livingston, a real person
Margaret Beekman Livingston was a strong woman. There is no denying that. She raised ten children, nine of whom turned out pretty well. She was known as a competent business woman, running her massive estate for twenty-five years after the unexpected death of her husband, Judge Robert Livingston.

When the British burned down her house and all of her outbuildings in the fall of 1777 she was able, through sheer force of will and perseverance, was able to convince Governor George Clinton to
release men from their militia obligations so they could be free to rebuild her house. She met military and political leaders, from George Washington to John Jay, and charmed them all.

Not that George Clinton
Closer
That's the one
Robert R. Livingston

On August 15, 1776 Margaret wrote a letter to her eldest son Robert Livingston where she revealed that under her tough demeanor was a mother, scared for her child’s safety. A letter that could have been written by any mother to any child in any time of war.  She wrote:

“I hear you are to be with Genl. Washington but in what capacity I cannot hear – must you too be exposed to the fire of our Enemies oh my Dear Child Consider your situation with respect to myself, and my other children Do Not Expose yourself needlessly. You are in the Civil Department let others be in the Military your country has need of yr counsel as well as your family”




The letter in question
The British Army had landed on Staten Island on July 2, 1776, the same day Congress had declared Independence. By August 1, 1776 the British had more than 32,000 soldiers in New York Harbor along with a fleet of some 400 ships. Margaret, like Washington, was concerned with where the British would land next. Which of her sons would be in danger? Would any of them die like her son in law Richard Montgomery at Quebec? Would she and her family be in danger if the British came up the river? The British landed on Long Island a week after she wrote her letter. Robert was not with the army but her son Henry, a Lieutenant Colonel in the 2nd New York Regiment was trapped behind enemy lines for a period of time until he could escape to Connecticut.


Which brings up another reason for Margaret to be concerned about Robert’s safety. If something happened to him Henry Beekman Livingston would become the “man” of the family. While she had not kicked him out of the family as she later would he was still considered disagreeable at best.(Click here to read about Henry Beekman Livingston's less than stellar life)


Letters like this give us a glimpse into the real person, the very human, emotional person, who lived beneath the grand historical veneer that the Gilbert Stuart portrait puts upon her. We talk about her many accomplishments but can easily forget that she was a living breathing woman who feared for the safety of at least some of her children.