Both sides of my family grew up in Georgetown, CT.
I wrote a little story about that a couple years ago – you can catch up on the history here.
This is a picture of my great grandfather, Gustave Kramer, and his brother, Uncle Charlie.
Everyone called my great grampa Gramps.
Gramps and Uncle Charlie were both carpenters (among other things), and this is a picture from a cigarette ad they were “models” for.
Gramps was my grandmother’s father and my dad’s grandfather.
He had a farm on the Georgetown end of Weston.
My grandmother got married and moved to the heart of Georgetown with my grandfather and they had four kids – my Aunt Linnea, Dad (Papa), Uncle Mark, and Uncle Peter.
Their backyard abutted Route 107 and the train tracks and right beyond the tracks was the Gilbert and Bennett Wire Mill.
All this will become relevant eventually so just keep reading…
September 2 is my grandmother’s birthday.
She died a few years back. She would have been 100 this year.
I happened to stop at my parents’ house on the 2nd, and my mom gave me a present.
A poem my grandmother wrote in 1968.
My grandma and I were very close. We have so many things in common.
Lots of parallels in our lives.
Unhealthy marriages. Lots of kids (she had four I have five).
She was a nursery school teacher and I was an elementary school teacher.
She loved flowers and cats and I love flowers.
So anyway, when I got this poem I really started to get curious and I wanted to see some pictures.
My dad dug around in a drawer somewhere and found this photo album from 1956.
My dad was eleven years old at the time.
The album was from my dad’s Aunt Joan’s birthday.
Aunt Joan was my grandmother’s sister. There were two other sisters.
Aunt Peggy and Aunt Carol.
Here are (from left to right) Aunt Joan, Aunt Peggy, and Aunt Carol on Aunt Joan’s birthday back in 1956.
My grandma was 33 at the time, so Aunt Joan was probably in her late 20’s or maybe this was the big 3-0.
Anyway, here’s my dad (circled in red) and my uncles (with cousins and aunts and my great grandmother) in his backyard at Aunt Joan’s party.
Right behind them are the train tracks (not visible).
To the left of them is Route 107.
If you know Georgetown that’s the bridge right in front of Gilbert and Bennett.
And back in the distance, across the way, up on the hill, you can see a white house.
Where that red arrow is pointing will become relevant shortly.
Okay so fast forward 12 years to 1968.
My parents got married in 1965 and my dad had been moved out of the childhood home for a few years.
I think all the kids (there were four of them) may have moved out of the house by this time.
My grandmother was alone in a house with a husband who was an alcoholic and verbally abusive and just a pretty miserable human being.
(I loved him, and he loved me, but he was not a good husband).
And Gma (as we called her) didn’t have a driver’s license, so I imagine she was feeling a little trapped and wondering what to do with herself since she’d been a stay-at-home mom her entire life.
My grandmother was not a great speller, but she was a gifted writer.
And she loved to write.
She was the BEST about sending handwritten letters and cards and she had tons and tons of journals.
I didn’t know she wrote poetry, though.
Until my mom gave me this piece of paper on what would have been her 100th birthday.
Duck on the Rock is a game that was popular around the turn of the century.
According to Merriam Webster:
a game in which each player places a stone on a rock for other players to try to knock off before retrieving their own stones without getting tagged by the first player
Basically you put a small rock on a bigger rock, and then players toss small stones at the “duck” and try to knock it off the rock.
But that’s not what the poem Duck on The Rock is about…
Duck on the Rock
It was near Thanksgiving when I glanced to the hill.
The leaves had fallen, I felt a slight chill.
Familiar white houses, more visible in fall,
Protected by pines, stalwart and tall.
Smoke trailing upward this cold autumn day –
I still felt a chill, it was black it was gray.
I searched the horizon for a rosier view,
The dark clouds parted, Old Sol peeked through.
A sudden reflection dazzling and warm, covered the hills revealing nature’s charm.
No longer hidden by summer’s garb of green,
There was an “OLD FRIEND” making the scene.
Bevelled panes sparkling at four by the clock,
Flashing a warm message from “DUCK ON THE ROCK.”
At the bottom of the poem is this note:
Note: Duck on the Rock was my Uncle Charlie’s home – designed, built, and named by him. He passed away there. It is located high in the Georgetown hills on Highland Avenue. The top story set into & rose above a humongous rock ledge. Uniquely original & impressive! It has long since been hidden from view and has had several owners – perhaps none aware they owned a “DUCK ON THE ROCK.”
Duck on the Rock wasn’t built in 1958 when this picture was taken, but it’s somewhere around that red arrow.
I obssessed over this poem for about 24 hours and then got in my car and drove to my parents’ house. I called them on the way down.
I asked my parents if the house was still there.
My dad knew exactly where it was.
I picked him up and we drove to see Duck on The Rock.
On the way there we were talking about what it was like growing up, and my dad said, “Your grandmother was THE BEST mom… she was just THE BEST.”
I know Gma would have loved to hear that. What better compliment can you get.
We pulled up the driveway to the house.
It’s totally abandoned.
We were trespassing I guess, but I figured if anyone asked us what we were doing and we explained, they would understand.
But we didn’t see anyone.
This is the back of the house. Not the side my grandma could see across the way from her house.
You can see where Uncle Charlie built the house into the ledge.
We walked up the steps to the side of the house that would have been visible to Gma in the winter when all the leaves had fallen off the trees.
The back of the house has had some changes over the years.
Dad walked along the ledge he played on when he was younger.
Poor, old Duck on the Rock.
I wish I could buy it and bring it back to its glory.
I could restore the house for one of the kids.
They could live there with their kids.
Uncle Charlie would love that.
And then I’d buy Gma’s old house too.
I’d turn it into something she would have loved.
A dreamy, romantic, private writer’s hideaway.
I’d sit in the upstairs bedroom that looks out over the backyard and write and write and write, in a room full of fresh-cut flowers and memories.
Every night as Old Sol started to settle in for the night, I’d flash the back porch light across the way to my grandkids, our secret, special goodnight handshake.
And they’d flash their lights back to me.
Bevelled panes sparkling at four by the clock,
Flashing a warm message from Duck on the Rock.