Thursday, April 17, 2014

Old Home Town Boys Make Good - Talbot Times In Review - December 1986


“My first recollection of St. Thomas was the day I decided to take my baby brother, Percy Webb, on a sled to my father’s china store, in the old Claris opera house block in Talbot street, from our home in Medcalfe street, where I was born,” writes Mrs. M. E. Daniels, a practicing nurse in Los Angeles, California. “We had our two dolls made from long stockings.”

As we reached the Michigan Central Railroad tracks at the Medcalfe street crossing a train was almost upon us. The street covered with snow and ice went downgrade into the tracks. I stuck my foot under a rail and laid my head on the sleigh to keep my little brother and the sled from slipping and the train passed over us. People on the other side of the crossing stood in horror, expecting us to be torn to pieces; but I got up and trotted on with the sleigh and my little brother to N. Webb’s China Hall. You saw that sign advertising my father’s business on the rail fences all over the country.

“I recall on Sunday, in July 1885, of father taking me to see Jumbo’s body lying beside the Grand Trunk tracks, with a large piece of flesh torn from one huge leg.”

“I also recall sitting on the lap of P. T. Barnum’s famous midget General Tom Thumb, in the Claria Opera House over Webb’s China Hall. I attended the matinees for children and admired the watch and chain Tom Thumb wore.

“And then I recall holding my father’s hand at Alma College and seeing the cornerstone laid for McLachlin Hall. My father was one of the members of the College board and we entertained members of the faculty at our home, then at Queen and Wellington streets. My father died there on April 7, 1889. We moved to Margaret street from Medcalfe street where my brother Frank was born. How well do I remember my mother in her dark tea-gown showing me the baby basket a short time before Frank arrived. I was taken across the street to “Eden Lawn”, where my mother’s father A. J. Allworth, manager of the Southern Loan and Savings Company lived. John Farley and the M.A. Gilberts were neighbors of my grandparents.

Returning to our home my father carried me in his arms and as we entered our house, the doctor was coming down the winding stairs. There was a fishing basket in the hall with divided compartments. The doctor said to me: “You see that basket — one side had a colored baby and the other a white baby. The side I
 opened had your little brother in it.”

A Great Actor

“How I adored my little brother,” Mrs. Daniels continues. Frank Webb, who became a great actor under the professional name of Frank Allworth. Years later as I sat in a box in the Mason Opera House in Los Angeles, to see the play, “It pays To Advertise,” Frank Allworth, the star of a hundred Broadway plays gave his usual marvelous performance. I think of his passing later on the stage in Philadelphia in the arms of Lenore Ulrich, his leading lady. That made the front page news of the world and came over the March of Time film in 1936 of Frank Allworth in action. Recordings of his magnificent voice are in the archives of the Lambs Club in New York City, also that film for future generations to hear and see. He was another St. Thomas boy who made good on the stage.

How well do I remember also the first day that my brother Percy, attended school in the red brick school (the old Central) in Wellington street. I laid an apple on his desk. Shortly after the teacher appeared in a black dress. Her parents had lost their lives in the Port Stanley excursion train wreck and holocaust on Talbot street. She was so brave and so calm after that awful tragedy.

Percy Webb, who was a master technical sergeant of the United States Marine Corps and a great writer, made the front pages of the papers as Percy Webb, the Rudyard Kipling of America. Barnes Gibson Raymond Division of the Association Spring Corporation of Detroit and Ann Arbor published a card carrying the caption “I Am Old Glory.” I have letters from the company’s head quoting my brother’s now famous words. “I Am Old Glory,” stating: “I firmly believe that your brother’s words will be handed down as long as Old Glory waves. We obtained permission to use the inscription from Brigadier General Robert L. Denig of the United States publicity bureau. We have received quite a number of offers from others who would like to reproduce the idea but we have not tried to commercialize it.”

My brother Percy Webb passed on in May 1945, in New England Hospital at Atlantic City. He had full military honors and would have rested in Arlington Cemetery, Washington, but wished to sleep with his wife and her family in Waterbury, Connecticut. Percy Webb is another St. Thomas boy who made good in the field of letters. His books and writings are well known.

“Yes, I lived in the St. Thomas of boardwalks and long dresses trailing in the dust,” Mrs. Daniel states. “I lived in the era of gas jets and copper-lined bathtubs. I remember our first residential telephone a box on the wall and a crank that we turned to ring central. Professor Jones was my music master and I was so little I could hardly sit on the stool of the big square piano. Mother was an Episcopalian: father was a Bible class teacher in First Methodist Church. Father Flannery from the pulpit of the Catholic Church commended father for supplying dishes etc. for teas given in that church. Father Flannery would say: How much do we owe you, Nat?” and Father would reply: “I’ll send you the bill.” Which he never did. He and Father were great friends.

Crossley and Hunter the evangelists had their meetings in the Central Methodists Church, called the Crossley and Hunter Church in 1889. Dr. Crossley gave me a small Bible marked:” Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, Oh, God, my Strength and my Redeemer.” I think now of my parents, my little brothers and I listening to a chapter from the Bible then kneeling in prayer before my Father left for his China Hall. On some of our billboards were painted these words: “The Family that Prays Together, Stays Together.” Memory to me proves the immortality of the soul. The roots of my life are in Canada, the Land of the Maple, and its children. God bless them all and keep them good citizens, wherever they may be.”

Mrs. Daniels maiden name was Mabel E. Webb.

Submitted by;    Mary E. Young, Santa Rosa, Ca. December 1986

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