Interview with Grammy
Scene: My grandparents live in a quaint one story home in Aiken, South Carolina. After the short commute from Augusta to Aiken, I have arrived at 431 Dupree Place. As I drive down the lengthy, cedar-lined driveway, I think about the memories I have made at this house. After I park my car, I walk up to the side door. As I open the door, I am greeted with the familiar smell of Grammy and Grandpa’s house. I see that Grammy has laid out all of her family history documents and photos on the table in the living room. The walls and shelves of Grammy and Grandpa’s living room are full of interesting things. Grandpa has an extensive gun collection in one corner of the room. Grammy’s wall pocket collection covers the walls. An African shield from from Dr. MacMaster’s time in Zanzibar hangs by the door to the kitchen. As I sit down on the unbelievably comfortable Aiken sofa, Grammy walks into the room.
Grammy: Good morning Duncan!
Duncan: Good morning Grammy.
Grammy: How are you?
Duncan: I’m doing good. How are you doing?
Grammy: Oh, just fine. You know, this is my first interview with a grandchild.
Duncan: Let’s hope it’s a good one then.
Grammy: OK. I’m ready.
Duncan: Okay. First, I have a few questions about your childhood. Then, I will ask questions about our family history more in general, like in the long run.
Grammy: Sure, sure.
Duncan: And then, we will narrow down the focus to your grandfather, Frederic Duncan MacMaster Senior.
Grammy: Yes. It’s a beautiful day, isn’t a beautiful day?
Duncan: Yes, ma’am. The weather has been great here this whole past week. Except for yesterday. It got a little rough yesterday. But yeah it’s a great day today.
Grammy: Yes, it is. Alright. Go ahead. I’m ready whenever you are.
Duncan: Okay. First question. Where were you born?
Grammy: I was born in Ballston Spa. And that is spelled B-A-L-L-S-T-O-N. And that is just outside of Saratoga. There was a hospital in Saratoga, but my mother didn’t like that hospital. So she went to the hospital which was like in the next town over.
Duncan: Oh okay.
Grammy: Yeah. That’s where I was born. And actually, that hospital isn’t even there anymore.
Duncan: Oh really?
Grammy: Yeah, Ballston Spa, near Saratoga.
Duncan: Did you grow up there? Or did you grow up in Saratoga?
Grammy: You know; I did not grow up in Saratoga. Um, let’s see. I was born there. When I was about… You know I was born in 1942. So that was during the War. And so my grandmother, Dimpy, who is Clara Billings MacMaster.
Duncan: Yes, ma’am.
Grammy: They were living together because Daddy had just gone off to the war. So then he came back from the war, his first uh, when he was in the war when he was over in Hawaii. And then he came back from that and at that point in order for him to get a job or for some other reason, they moved to northern New Jersey. No no no. They moved to Long Island, where my mother’s brother, Russ, had a house. They moved there. And then he was drafted again. The first time he enlisted. But then the war was still going on and he was drafted, so that’s when they moved to Long Island and stayed with my mother’s brother. And he went off to war again. And so I was in kindergarten in Long Island. And then in first grade, they bought, no they didn’t buy a house, they rented a house in New Jersey and I went to first grade through fifth grade in New Jersey in a town called Wanaque, which is spelled W-A-N-A-Q-U-E. And you know; a lot of the New Jersey towns are Indian names.
Duncan: Yeah that’s what it sounds like.
Grammy: Yeah and then we moved three miles to Pompton Lakes. And that is where they bought their first house. I was in fifth grade then. And it was a house on a lake. A little house on a lake. And believe it or not, Duncan, it cost eleven thousand dollars.
Grammy: The whole house!
Duncan: That’s crazy to think about.
Grammy: Yes! Isn’t it? And so I was there from fifth grade to high school.
Duncan: So is that like the house that you think of most when you think about your childhood?
Grammy: Well, yes. Well my young childhood. That was a very small house and then when I was in eighth grade, they bought a bigger house that was closer to the center of town. And that’s really the one that I think of because that’s where I spend my high school years, in that bigger house.
Duncan: What was that house like?
Grammy: It was what’s called a Dutch colonial and it had three floors. My grandmother — and my father was her only child. My grandmother had her apartment on the top floor, which was so cool.
Duncan: So she lived with y’all?
Grammy: Yes. She was a registered nurse companion. And so she, most of the time, worked for very wealthy families, who would have a sort of live-in nurse companion for someone who wasn’t really sick, but was not able to take care of themselves, so they needed someone there all the time that had medical experience. So she was a companion as well as a nurse. So if something did go wrong, like a medical issue, she was capable of handling it.
Duncan: Yeah exactly.
Grammy: Yeah so she wasn’t home very often. She would come home for her day and a half off, and the rest of the time she was living with a woman she was taking care of, who was quite wealthy and lived about a half hour away.
Duncan: Oh okay.
Grammy: And we were allowed to have the occasional pajama party in my grandmother’s apartment, which was very cool.
Duncan: What kind of party?
Grammy: Pajama party. That you know, maybe six or seven girls.
Duncan: Oh, like a sleepover?
Grammy: You know, things were so innocent then, Duncan. I mean we would have soda and cookies and that kind of stuff.
Duncan: How old were you?
Grammy: I was young. I graduated high school when I was just seventeen. And I think there a couple of girls who were maybe a little bit older. My graduating class was less than a hundred people.
Duncan: Oh okay.
Grammy: So, it was a very close class and I was on like student council and… Do you want to know about my history in high school?
Duncan: Sure, yeah!
Grammy: Yeah. I was the art director of the yearbook. And I was secretary of student council. And I was in the art club and I was in the French club. And I played field hockey.
Duncan: Oh cool. I never knew you played field hockey.
Grammy: Yeah. You can’t believe the gym suits we had to wear though. They were awful.
Duncan: What were they like?
Grammy: They were… it was a jumpsuit. Like an all-in-one thing you know. And each class had a different color. My particular class had white. And they were designed… so they were shorts, which were kind of mid-thigh and then under the shorts, because of course they wanted everything to be very discreet when you played, they had pantyhose type things that would have elastic around the leg, so that God forbid you should you see your upper thigh. So what we did was we pulled all that elastic out. We pulled so that all the stitching came out from the shorts. And so what that did was they hung down like to your knees in like kind of a balloon shape. They were bad looking!
Duncan: That sounds funny.
Grammy: It was funny! It was funny. We had a great time. It was kind of like an old-fashioned movie high school experience.
Duncan: It sounds cool. You were involved in a lot of things.
Grammy: I was involved in a lot of things. I spoke to the uh entire school twice my senior year.
Duncan: Oh that’s scary. That’s what I had to do at graduation.
Grammy: Yeah, that was scary. I was just thinking about how we had our lockers. They were done alphabetically. And Joey Longstreet, who was a tough guy, was right next to me. You know, Longstreet to MacMaster. And then on the other side of me was Al Malston, who was a very tall, goofy, but sweet Jewish fellow. Very tall. The kind who would kind of trip on his own feet. But, really nice and really smart. And then on the other side was Joey Longstreet who was short and Italian and rough hahaha.
Duncan: That’s funny.
Grammy: It was! It was fun to think of that.
Duncan: So you were the oldest of your siblings right?
Duncan: Can you talk to me about what your siblings were like when y’all were growing up?
Grammy: Sure. They were kind of in pairs. Connie and I were two and a half years apart. And then there was a five-year space. And then there was Fred and Gloria, who were two years apart. And then there was like a four-year space. And then there was David and George.
Duncan: Were they close together too?
Grammy: Yeah, they were exactly three years apart. So it was Connie and I. Me and then two and a half years later, Connie. Five years later, Fred. Two years later, Gloria. And then almost four years later, George. And then, David.
Duncan: So were you closest to Connie when you were growing up?
Grammy: Yes. Definitely. And I would say she is the one that I would, that I’m… George, Connie and George are the ones that I’m still closest to.
Grammy: And when we were growing up, um Connie was probably a little quieter than, and is still quieter than I am. Hang on just one second. Grandpa is going to the store.
Grammy: And she went into nursing school and became an RN. And then came Fred, and he was really, really smart. As we grew up, we were all smart, but I mean… he was super smart. And he… but he was also kind of a loner. And kind of a, not a rule-breaker in the sense that he broke laws, he wasn’t that kind of a rule-breaker. But he was kind of a social rule-breaker.
Duncan: Okay I think I know what you mean.
Grammy: Yeah, and ultimately, he left the United States, you know. And went to Canada and was a conscientious objector from the Vietnam War.
Duncan: Oh really? So did he leave to avoid the draft?
Grammy: Yes. Well, you know, he enlisted. So enlisted and he was like second in his class. They offered him officer’s training because he was so smart. And then he decided that he was not going to stay in the Army and he left and went to Canada.
Duncan: Is that—we still have some relatives that live in Canada, right?
Grammy: Yes. And that’s him. That’s him. And when he went away, I was actually the only one who knew where he was.
Grammy: Yes. Neither of my parents knew where he was. And it was very scary because that was a rather dramatic thing to do then.
Duncan: Yeah I’m sure.
Grammy: And um. And you know, years ago, any of the men who did that, or women, and there were a lot of them who did that, were offered amnesty to come back into the United States. So it’s not considered anything, so like if he were to come back into the United States now, it’s not like he would be put into jail or anything. And he came back into the United States a number of times while my parents were still living, and went to family reunions in Saratoga and that sort of thing. But now, I don’t think he would ever come back because his family is up there. He has three daughters and one son, and he prefers Canada. He thinks there is too much crime in the United States.
Duncan: I never knew that.
Grammy: He’s still kind of a social outsider in a way.
Duncan: Yeah just sort of unconventional I guess.
Grammy: Yeah, unconventional is a better word. And then came Gloria, who also somewhat unconventional. She drove herself, by herself, out to Portland, Oregon. Got herself — she was also very smart and very musically inclined — got herself into the University of Portland. And she graduated from the University of Portland. And ultimately, got her Master’s degree in musical education.
Duncan: Oh wow.
Grammy: Yeah, she could play the piano. She had a beautiful singing voice. But um… she traveled by herself in Europe.
Duncan: That’s cool.
Grammy: Yeah she was pretty much a full-blown hippie.
Duncan: Oh really?
Grammy: I don’t know if she smoked pot, but she may have. But uh… I think even briefly she lived in a commune in Connecticut somewhere. And she never — well she did marry late in life — she married a man named John Parsons, who had a really odd sense of humor.
Grammy: Yeah and she chose to — you know she has one son, Adrian — and she chose the man she wanted to have as the father of her child, but she would not marry him.
Grammy: Yeah and his last name is Salvetti, which is Adrian’s last name.
Grammy: And she said it was the worst mistake… She told me one time, it was the worst mistake she ever made, not marrying him.
Grammy: Yeah, he had a big, friendly Italian family and she felt kind of swamped by the family.
Duncan: Oh that’s understandable.
Grammy: Yeah and she said that was a real regret as life went on that she hadn’t become a part of it because his mother was so nice to her. I think she just felt overwhelmed by them.
Duncan: Oh okay.
Grammy: And then George. George was the go-getter from the beginning.
Grammy: When George was five years old, he used to ride his bike from… Do you remember my friend, Susan Carroll?
Duncan: Yeah, I remember meeting her.
Grammy: Well yeah, she lived two or three houses away from us. We grew up together. And her mother had a great sense of humor. And she used to sell, she used to give to George, her day-old New York Times newspapers. And you know, the New York Times is a serious paper, I’m sure you’re aware of that.
Grammy: And he would go around to our other neighbors and sell the day-old papers. And they would buy it! Because you know, there he was, this cute little five-year-old kid on his bike selling the newspaper that was already a day old. And he used to walk around the whole neighborhood with the mailman and help deliver the papers and deliver the mail. And uh when he was in grammar school, that’s when they had moved to Saratoga. They had already, then moved to Saratoga.
Duncan: Oh okay.
Grammy: And when they moved to Saratoga, I was already married. So, I did not move with them. But, of course we visited them there all the time.
Grammy: And they lived about nine miles outside of town. And George used to… he was a great baseball player. I mean, real crack baseball player. And he didn’t have a car, so he would run home the nine miles from school after baseball practice every day.
Grammy: Yeah. He would ride the bus every morning, but he would stay after school for practice so he would run home.
Duncan: That’s impressive.
Grammy: And he also worked at a hamburger place in town called the Red Barn and he would run home from that at like eight or nine o’clock at night.
Grammy: Yeah, so whatever he has in life, he earned it.
Duncan: Yeah I believe it.
Grammy: Yeah… David was the comedian in the family. He was the baby. And he used to disappear a lot. Like he would just walk off down the road. And in fact when he was between two and three, my mother had a harness that she would put on him and she would tie him to the clothesline so that he could, you know how like a dog can run up and down the line?
Grammy: That’s how David was on the clothesline.
Duncan: That’s really funny.
Grammy: Yeah. It also kept him safe, you know. And he used to always walk Mike, the dog. And at dinner we would always have to say, “Find David!” and “Where’s Mike?” you know. And so each one of us was sort of a character in our own right.
Duncan: Yeah. Can you tell me a little something about what your parents were like when you were growing up?
Grammy: Sure. My mother would rather have been an outside mother. You know her specialty, she went to college in the Forties, when very few women went to college.
Grammy: And she graduated from college and she was a physical education major. And she like to play games, she liked to be outside. She did not like to cook and she did not like to be inside. So I always wanted a mother who would be in the house baking cookies you know and that kind of… and she would be outside playing baseball.
Duncan: Really active?
Grammy: Yeah very active. And very strong. For quite a few summers she was a lifeguard and she would walk to the lake with Dave and he knew, David knew everybody in town because of being at the lake. And then she went back to teaching when I was in high school. And she taught after that. And she taught phys. Ed. And she also started a club called the Crooked Cane Club.
Duncan: What was that?
Grammy: When she was in her late sixties, she started a hiking club and they called it the Crooked Cane Club and they met every Thursday. And next time you come over, you know in that alcove in the big room, where the buck stove is?
Duncan: Yes, ma’am.
Grammy: We have a couple of canes from that Crooked Cane Club.
Duncan: Oh I remember seeing those. I never knew what they were from.
Grammy: Yeah and it started out about twenty people and it ended up to be occasionally fifty people. They met every Thursday and they never missed a Thursday for over one thousand Thursdays.
Duncan: That’s impressive.
Grammy: Yeah and they would hike up mountains. There are a lot of mountains in northern New York. So they would hike up different mountains or go for a lake hike or you know just different types of hikes. But for over one thousand Thursdays they hiked every Thursday.
Duncan: That’s awesome.
Grammy: Yeah she was a very interesting mother. And then she also spoke at West Point in her sixties about physical education for seniors at a national phys. Ed. convention.
Duncan: That’s cool.
Grammy: Yeah. My father was always like — you know he was a writer and a painter. He was a very artistic person and the painting that we have in the dining room that shows the house from the side. I’ll point it out to you next time you come over. So he painted that and he was a newspaper man.
Duncan: Yeah I remember reading about that in the book that he wrote.
Grammy: Right. And he used to send stories into the New York Times and they bought them.
Grammy: Yeah that’s called being a stringer. He was a stringer for New York Times. He would send in stories to submit and then sometimes they would choose it and they would pay you. And he also had his own newspaper toward the end of his life that was called um what the heck was it called? I have the front page of the first paper. The Schuyler… Schuyler… hang on let me see in the dressing room. And Schuylerville was right next to Saratoga. A small town right next to where he went to high school. And so that was kind of like going home for him. And he was the editor and the writer and the person who sold the advertising for the Saratoga Communicator. And that was published in the town of Schuylerville. And the first edition, Volume one was August 14, 1976.
Duncan: So he started that himself?
Grammy: Yeah and he ran it himself for about four years and then it just became too much really. I guess he was in his sixties then. And he hated selling the advertising. He thought if he sold it to them one time they should buy it every time. But of course people don’t do that.
Duncan: No they don’t. Okay so what do you know about your family name MacMaster?
Grammy: It means son of the master. You know “Mac” means son of. And so we were the MacMaster clan. That’s our sect — it’s called sect. spelled S-E-C-T.
Duncan: This is in Scotland?
Grammy: Yeah. So we were part of the Buchanan clan. You know that plaid that I have given you at various times?
Duncan: Yeah I have that blanket here.
Grammy: Yes. And the Buchanan clan was in the area of Loch Lomond in Scotland. Which is in the northwest side of Scotland. Not all the way to the Highlands, but in the northwest side and pretty far north.
Duncan: So not quite to the Highlands, but close.
Grammy: Right. And if you look at a map and you know there’s a map of Scotland in the boys’ room, in your room here.
Grammy: If you spot Loch Lomond you can see. We went there when we went to Scotland.
Duncan: How do you spell the name of that loch?
Grammy: L-O-C-H is loch and L-O-M-O-N-D is Lomond.
Duncan: What was it like when you went to Scotland? What did y’all do?
Grammy: You know what Duncan? It felt so familiar to me.
Grammy: It felt — you know we had already been in England. And England is beautiful. It’s very cottage-y and nice gardens and lovely people and very picturesque. Just like any movie you can picture. Like gorgeous countryside. But when you go to Scotland, its further north. It’s more austere. There are less trees because it’s quite far north.
Grammy: It’s like equivalent to Canada here. If you look at Scotland on a map and see how high it is, you know just look across and compare it to North America, you’ll see it’s much further north than you would think about it being.
Duncan: Yeah I’ve never really thought about that.
Grammy: Yeah you look at it. And it felt so much like home to me. I couldn’t believe it. And everybody there looks like our family.
Grammy: I mean they all look… I mean you could walk right in and be like “There’s someone I’m related to” and “There’s someone else I’m related to!” They just have that coloration you know. And that sort of look. Kind of that plain-ish look, well not plain but um… I don’t know quite how to describe it. But very familiar. I loved Scotland. It was wonderful. I hope you get a chance to go there.
Duncan: Yeah I hope so. That sounds really interesting.
Grammy: It is. And it’s beautifully green and open. And you know in Scotland, all the sheep range free. There are no fences.
Duncan: Oh really? I didn’t know that.
Grammy: Yeah and the way that um shepherds identify their sheep is that they take spray paint and like, for instance, you would spray your sheep dark blue on the left shoulder and I would spray my sheep maybe dark green on the left hip. And then at the end of the fall when they are getting ready or at the end of the spring rather, when they are getting ready to shave them, they gather them all up. And all of the ones that have the green hip sign, I take. And all of the ones that have the blue shoulder sign, you take.
Duncan: That’s a cool way to do it.
Grammy: So you see sheep everywhere in Scotland. Like on the side of the road you’ll see two sheep curled up.
Duncan: Haha that’s bizarre.
Grammy: It is! It is.
Duncan: That’s cool how you felt such a connection when you went there. Like how you said it was like home.
Grammy: I really did and I was not expecting that.
Duncan: Do you know if we have any roots going back to other countries?
Grammy: Oh yes. Um you know I got my DNA done.
Duncan: Oh yeah. How did that go?
Grammy: It came out 59% English and Scottish. So I’m considered a native of England. And then it was 28% North European, which we interpreted as German.
Grammy: And then it was 4% Irish, 2% Italian, and 8% Scandinavian.
Grammy: My mother’s mother’s last name was Bomsaal. Which is B-O-M-S-A-A-L.
Duncan: What is that?
Grammy: That is Scandinavian and German. And her father was pure English and we even know the house that he lived in on the street that he lived on in Manchester.
Duncan: Wow. That’s crazy.
Grammy: I know! You can look it up on google! It is crazy.
Duncan: Okay so do you know — do you have any idea when our family left Scotland?
Grammy: Yes. We have recently traced it back to 1740.
Duncan: Because I was trying to pinpoint that in my research and I could never find an accurate answer.
Grammy: I could find — when do you have to turn this report in?
Duncan: I have a few weeks.
Grammy: Okay I’ll get that for you
Duncan: Okay yeah that would be awesome.
Grammy: And we came into Connecticut.
Duncan: Oh really?
Grammy: Everybody came in through Connecticut. I within the last couple of years, got membership into the DAR, which is Daughters of the American Revolution.
Duncan: I have heard of that but I don’t know what I’m not too familiar with what it is.
Grammy: You have to be able to prove your ancestor was part of the Revolutionary War.
Grammy: And we were able to prove that. A friend of mine who is in DAR did most of the research. And our patriot is Ethan Hickok. And that is spelled E-T-H-A-N H-I-C-K-O-K.
Duncan: So he is the one that fought in the Revolutionary War?
Grammy: Yes. Well he actually wasn’t a soldier, he was a surveyor. But that qualifies as helping with the war effort.
Duncan: Yeah definitely.
Grammy: Yeah it’s pretty amazing. And down in that family you know, we are related to Wild Bill Hickok.
Duncan: Oh okay. I have heard you — you’ve told me that before. So that’s the connection?
Grammy: Yeah I have one of his mother’s spoons.
Duncan: Oh really?
Grammy: Sarah Hickok. It’s a coin spoon, which means it’s literally made out of coins. The coins were pounded into the spoon. It’s silver. I’ll show you when you come over. It has a monogram on it. SH.
Duncan: That’s really cool.
Duncan: So you said when they left Scotland our family settled in Connecticut?
Grammy: In Connecticut. In the Wilton area of Connecticut. That’s W-I-L-T-O-N.
Duncan: Okay so in one of the documents that you gave me a while back was a picture of MacMaster Island. Can you tell me about that?
Grammy: You know I don’t know much about that.
Duncan: Yeah I couldn’t find much about it.
Grammy: It’s in Canada and it may just be a coincidence Duncan. You know I just laid out — here it is. I just laid out all the… I think George found that. Um you have that page. It’s near St. Andrew’s in New Brunswick, Canada. And uh I really don’t know anything about that.
Duncan: Yeah I was just wondering if there was any story or anything about it but it’s fine if there isn’t.
Duncan: I was trying to do some research about it and I just couldn’t find much. It’s pretty small.
Grammy: It is. Yeah it must be tiny. You know when I retire, I’m going to go up to Wilton, Connecticut. There are a lot of our ancestors that are buried in Wilton, Connecticut.
Duncan: Oh that would be cool to go to.
Grammy: Yes, and I’m going to do that. And you know when they moved to New York, they moved to an area that was not very far away from where Mommy and Daddy lived at the end of their lives, also called Wilton. And that was Wilton, New York. And I don’t know if they came to New York early enough to sort of bring the name with them, which I think is possible because it’s very curious that they were in Wilton, Connecticut and then Wilton, New York.
Duncan: Yeah it is. That’s an interesting coincidence.
Grammy: Yes! Yeah so I will try to find out more information about that.
Duncan: I mean I am definitely going to try to keep up with this too. Once I turn this project in I’m still going to try to figure out as much as I can about our family history. I think it’s really cool.
Grammy: It is so cool. It’s your history. It’s your life.
Duncan: Yeah exactly. Okay. What is the first thing you think of when you think about your grandfather Frederic?
Grammy: You know I never met him Duncan. He passed away before I could. You know I would think, believe it or not, rogue.
Grammy: Yes. He was a doctor and he was the only son of a doctor. And Marion was a doctor in the 1870’s, which was extremely rare for a woman.
Duncan: Yeah definitely.
Grammy: And he was very spoiled by his mother. He was a doctor that did not practice medicine a whole lot. On and off.
Duncan: Yeah when I was reading the book Turning Home it was saying he was like a paradox. He was a doctor that didn’t really want to be a doctor.
Grammy: Right. Exactly. He was an excellent horseman. And if he hadn’t been, he wouldn’t have been able to get into the Rough Riders. And he wanted to do adventurous things. He got into fights.
Duncan: I read about that.
Grammy: Yeah, I think he must have had a bad temper. You know there’s that picture of him, where he is looking straight on. You know that picture that is in the book?
Grammy: He looks kind of obstinate a little bit.
Duncan: Yeah he does a little bit. I can see that.
Grammy: Yeah, and then he was assigned to the Consul and went to Africa. He was married three times. My grandmother was his final wife. And he was almost fifty and she was eighteen.
Duncan: Yeah I remember reading about that.
Grammy: A huge age difference. And he was also a gambler.
Duncan: Tell me about that.
Grammy: I mean he used to bet on the horses. I know that for sure. And let me think about what else.
Duncan: Horse racing is really big in Saratoga right?
Grammy: Oh gosh yeah. For some people that’s their entire livelihood, gambling. But yeah I would say rogue. If I had to pick a single word it would be that.
Duncan: Interesting, I like that. What kind of doctor was he specifically?
Grammy: I think in general. You know I don’t think that back then — he became a doctor in the late 1890’s and he passed away in the Thirties — I don’t think there were many specialties or maybe not even any specialties, although some of them probably went into some specialties, but I don’t think any of them went to school for any specialty.
Duncan: Interesting. So what do you know about how he got to be one of the Rough Riders?
Grammy: Well you know I just laid out all the papers before you called. And I was just looking through that again and let me see if I can find… Uh I think he wanted the adventure Duncan. I think he wanted — and you know he looked a lot like Teddy Roosevelt.
Duncan: That’s what it said in the book and they really do look pretty similar.
Grammy: Yes, and I just reread the part of the book, the part of Daddy’s book that talks about that and it said he was considered for a movie role because he looked so much like Roosevelt. And you know we have here, and this is really quite amazing, in the big room, do you know where in the big room Grandpa has that really cool thing to hold all of his fishing poles?
Duncan: Yes, ma’am.
Grammy: Well there are three letters back there that I framed. The top one is from the secretary of war and it is dated 1898. August 6, 1898. It’s from the war department and what happened was my great grandmother. Frederic the first, Frederic Duncan, FD the first, he was her only child and he was spoiled. She wrote the war department and said, “When is my son coming home?” which of course mortified him and here’s the letter it says: Dear madam, I have your letter of August 1. You have doubtless seen in the meantime the reports of the determination of the Department to remove all of General Schafter’s command to this country as soon as possible. Among those who will first come home are the Rough Riders. Very truly yours, the Secretary of War. And this is the original letter.
Grammy: Yeah so we have that and then let’s see, what’s this one? The next one is from the White House, Washington D.C. May 26, 1906. Dear sir, your note of April 28 has been received and the President thanks you for your courtesy in sending him the photographs you enclosed. He was interested in seeing them. Thanks and truly yours, Secretary to the President. And that’s addressed to Dr. Frederic MacMaster, Zanzibar, Africa.
Duncan: Wow. That’s really cool.
Grammy: Yeah and in the middle, on stationary that has two lions and a crown in gold leaf, it says, The Palace, Friday. Dear Sir, his highness is going by rail to, oh I can’t read this, this afternoon at three thirty. If you have no other engagements, his highness would be glad to see you. Yours Truly, and then there is a name, Private Secretary to the Sultan. And that was from Zanzibar.
Duncan; Wow that’s really cool.
Grammy: So he was invited to tea with the Sultan.
Duncan: That’s awesome.
Grammy: Yeah it is actually.
Duncan: Those are all really cool.
Grammy: I wonder if I could send — I might, I was trying to take pictures of them with my phone so I can send them to you.
Duncan: Yeah that would be great. Let’s see… Do you know — Can you tell me anything about the relationship between Theodore Roosevelt and Frederic Duncan MacMaster Sr.? Do you know anything about that?
Grammy: No I don’t know anything about that. Although, I would think they must have had some sort of a friendship/ professional relationship because he was appointed the Consul.
Duncan: Yeah that’s what I was wondering about.
Grammy: And I think, you know he was a doctor in the war. I mean he was a private but he worked as a doctor. And then he was discharged so he could work as the Assistant Medical Officer. So then he was officially a doctor. And so somehow he must have made some contact that made some sort of impression because otherwise I don’t think he would have ever been appointed as Consul.
Duncan: Yeah exactly. Roosevelt must have held him in some sort of high regard to be able to appoint him as Consul.
Grammy: Yeah and you know they trained in Texas. That’s where they trained with the horses and everything and Teddy Roosevelt was also an excellent horseman. So there could have been some sort of contact there or something.
Duncan: That would be cool to find that out but I don’t think there would anyway to do that. So while I was researching I read that your grandfather had an impressive collection of Native African weapons and animal trophies and stuff. Don’t y’all have some of those at your house?
Grammy: Yeah we have one shield. And it is on the wall just as you’re leaving the big room and going to the kitchen.
Duncan: Oh I know exactly what you’re talking about. Kind of weird like geometric shape.
Grammy: Yep and it’s all handmade and it was I mean it actually saw some action. It was not made for the trade. It was an actual shield that people used as a shield.
Duncan: That’s cool. So what do you know about the article that you gave me that is titled “Syracuse Doctor’s Adventurous Life”?
Grammy: You know George found that. And it was, I was astounded by it. I had never seen it before. I mean that’s some, that’s absolutely fascinating because I mean you’re hearing him talk.
Duncan: That’s exactly why I think it’s cool.
Grammy: It is so cool and you know George, we had a strong box that was in my father’s possession and then Mommy’s possession, GG’s possession. And when she passed away it came to me because I’m the oldest. And I had it for, I don’t know, quite a few years. But then I decided to move it to Atlanta and George would keep it. He’s the one that is solid and he’s very interested in seeing it. And in that strong case are several letters. Three to be exact, maybe four letters that FD sent to his mother during the war.
Duncan: Oh okay. Those were mentioned in the Turning Home book.
Grammy: Yes. And there those actual letters are. They’re very, very faded. They’re written on very thin like rice paper but before they faded too faint my father translated them not translate but wrote them out you know typed them out so you could read them before they were too faded like they are now. And I could get that information to you too because he says things like “the bullets whizzed by my head”.
Duncan: Oh that would be really cool.
Grammy: Yeah we have that.
Duncan: Okay that would be really helpful and interesting to read his personal account.
Grammy: And you know what? His mother put one of those in the paper and it made him absolutely furious.
Duncan: Yeah that’s what it said in the book.
Grammy: Yeah hahaha.
Duncan: Okay let’s see. Do you know what FD did when he came back from Zanzibar?
Grammy: Well let’s see, when would that have been? That would have been…
Duncan: I think he was Consul from 1905 to 1906.
Grammy: Yeah and so that’s still really early and that was before — I know he tried to get into World War 1, but he was too old. And I would say that could’ve been when he was possibly gambling. Or maybe doing a little bit of doctoring. But I don’t know a whole lot about that period. He died — let’s see when he died, I just looked at that. Yeah 1936. He died either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day 1936.
Duncan: When I was researching, I came across an article that mentioned on his way back home from Zanzibar he stopped in France and pretended to be another U.S. Consul for where he was in France. Is it Nice, France?
Grammy: Yes, haha really?
Duncan: And it said he pretended to be the U.S. Consul and took out a bank loan for one thousand dollars as the other guy.
Grammy: See! He was rogue.
Duncan: Yeah that’s exactly what I thought about when you mentioned rogue. Have you ever heard of that before?
Grammy: No I have not heard of that before.
Duncan: I found two separate articles.
Grammy: I wonder if George has heard of that.
Duncan: Let me pull up the headlines really quick.
Grammy: I think he thought he could get away with anything.
Duncan: Yeah and when he was in Zanzibar he got into quite a few fights with people.
Grammy: Now that I did know. You could kind of see that he has an attitude when you read that article. You can see that he’s got a bit of an attitude.
Duncan: So here’s the headline, “Hunting for an Ex-Consul — State Department wants Frederic MacMaster, Late of Zanzibar — Diplomat accused of imposing on colleague and securing one thousand dollars”
Grammy: Oh geez! He’s lucky he didn’t end up in jail.
Duncan: Yeah I don’t know what happened but
Grammy: I bet his mother bailed him out.
Duncan: Probably something like that. But it says he was dismissed because of his misconduct in Zanzibar which was because of some of the fights he had gotten into and then he did this on the way back.
Grammy: Geez. I would have loved to have met him just for the quirkiness of it. I didn’t meet either one of my grandparents. They were both gone before. I mean I only met one grandmother.
Duncan: Oh I got lucky I guess.
Grammy: You sure did.
Duncan: I’m glad. Do you know, if you don’t mind me asking, do you know why your grandparents ended up getting separated?
Grammy: I think that she was so young and I think that he fooled around. I mean I don’t know that for a fact but I’m thinking that has to be it. Or he was a gambler and she didn’t like that way of life. You know there had to be some real basic change. You know they were only married for a couple of years. I mean they were only married for three or four years. I think she was eighteen when she married him.
Duncan: Yeah I think she was. I think that’s what it says in the book.
Grammy: As far as the reality of that goes I don’t know. But it’s pretty easy to guess that their lifestyles were quite different.
Duncan: Yeah that’s what I was thinking too. So did your father ever talk about your grandfather?
Grammy: You know not a whole lot. I wish that I had, you know my grandmother was so interested in history and she did a lot of research on trying to find out our heritage and she was really interested in that. And she read so much and she was very interested in England and certainly was headed in totally the right direction. And she and daddy talked about history all the time. They talked books all the time. But I wasn’t old enough to realize to ask a lot of the question that I wish I had asked. I was twenty when my grandmother died. And oh I wish I could talk to her again. And even with Daddy. But you know life was so busy and people weren’t talking about that as much as some people are now, which is one of the reasons why I am talking about it.
Duncan: Yeah definitely.
Grammy: And my dad he was also an only child and he was also quite spoiled and I think they had a strong, they both had very strong personalities so sometimes they clashed but he felt very close to her all his life.
Duncan: Oh I was just about to say something… So your grandmother was the one who started the book right?
Grammy: Yes. The first part of it was written by her.
Duncan: And then your dad finished it?
Grammy: Yes. And she did it for Fred. My brother, Fred, asked her to something for a paper that he needed at school and she did that for him.
Duncan: Oh okay. So when did you end up leaving New York/ New Jersey?
Grammy: Right. So your grandfather was very bright and he was in, he worked for DuPont right out of high school and he worked for DuPont the whole time he was going to college. So it took him I don’t know five years, maybe six years to graduate because he was working. And then after, we got married when he was only twenty-one and I was nineteen, almost twenty, and so he worked through that whole time. And I guess when he had been working with DuPont for maybe six years or seven years and he was due for a promotion and I said I would go anywhere except for the South. And the reason I said that of course was because Brian and Matthew were already born and I was concerned about their education and I was worried that if we went South the education would not be good enough. You know your dad was speaking French in kindergarten.
Duncan: Oh really?
Grammy: Yeah they were both in a really good school. But when we came South. When we finally found out we were definitely going to be transferred to the DuPont company here. I was so upset about coming south that he said, “If you want to have another baby, we can have another baby, or I’ll buy you a horse.” Hahaha neither of which I did. So when we came south we decided we were going to put the boys in private school, but then we decided we were going to keep them in public school and be very active parents.
Duncan: Yeah that was a good idea.
Grammy: Yeah and both of them did well. You know how well your dad did and Brian got into the hardest school to get into in his field too. So they both did just fine. And I love the South. I would never live anywhere else.
Duncan: I thought it was funny how you said you would go anywhere but the South.
Grammy: Yeah I didn’t know what it was like. And both Brian and Matthew had a more old-fashioned childhood being here. Yeah a much more old-fashioned childhood, which I totally approve of.
Duncan: Yeah definitely. Do you know how your parents met?
Grammy: Let’s see… They skied together… Oh I know how they met. Mommy had already graduated. She was a young teacher and she was riding her bike to school. And you could take your dog to school then. She had a dog named Pepper, a black and white English spaniel. She used to put Pepper in the basket of her bicycle and ride her to school. And she lived on the second floor of a house and my grandmother lived on the first floor. And Daddy was in the war. When he signed up, he signed up the first time in like ’38. When he was a boy. He signed up right out of high school. And when he came home to see his mother, he met my mother and they started to date. And there’s the whole beginning. Dimpy, my grandmother, and Mommy lived in the same building, in two separate apartments in a big house.
Duncan: Oh cool.
Grammy: Yeah just one of the coincidences of life.
Duncan: Alright well that’s all of the questions that I have. I would love to keep talking but I don’t have any more questions and I have class in a little bit.
Grammy: Yes, I know you have to get to your 11 am.
Duncan: But we can definitely follow this up again some other time. I can give you an update once I am closer to finishing the project. And definitely any information you can get, like those letters or anything from when Frederic Duncan Sr. was in the Spanish-American War that would be really cool.
Grammy: Yeah I’m going to call George today. They are in storage somewhere but I am going to call him and get him to find that and at the very least get them copied and maybe he can mail the copies to you.
Duncan: Yeah that would be great. That would be awesome.
Grammy: And I will try to take pictures of those letters that are here Duncan. I’ll see if I can get them clear enough.
Duncan: Well alright. That was really helpful and really interesting. It doesn’t even seem like an hour went by.
Grammy: I know! When you said it would take a half hour to an hour, I was like my gosh what are we going to talk about but there you go.
Duncan: Yeah well alright. I love you.
Grammy: Thank you for being interested Duncan. I love you.
Duncan: Thank you for your help. Goodbye.
Grammy: Goodbye. Love you.
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