Saturday, February 20, 2016

Mr. Andrew Stirling - Memories of Childhood Neighbor

   Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings posted his Saturday Night Fun Genealogy Challenge for tonight. It was to write a blog post about a childhood neighbor. 

   My family moved next door to Mr. Stirling, when I was four years old.  My parents had been warned about the grumpy old man in the house next door.  It turned out that this widower, whose only daughter had died, and who did not seem to be close to his sons, became the reason for many pleasant childhood memories.  He was a character, for sure. He had nicknames for some of the other neighbors which were not flattering at all.("Old Horse Face" and "Old Stanhole" were two that come to mind. Never would he buy cookies from us when we sold them to benefit our 4-H club.  In fact, he made reference to "the damned hache fours."  He was very upset when Benjamin Franklin's likeness on the half dollar coin was replaced with the likeness of John F. Kennedy.  Mr. Stirling's parents had come to Massachusetts from Scotland.  His deceased wife had also been born in Scotland. (Clearly, he was not a fan of the Irish, although my siblings and I really did not understand it at the time.) He told stories of his time working on the Panama Canal, and occasionally he mentioned his deceased wife and daughter.
   I remember climbing the apple tree, and playing croquet in his yard, and growing my 4-H vegetable garden on his property.  My sister and I would pick dandelions from his yard for a nickel a bucket full.  (This kept another neighbor with a meticulously kept lawn, very happy.) Sometimes Mr. Stirling would give us those chocolate covered marshmallow cookies, or Archway oatmeal raisin cookies as snacks.  Other times he would come outside and tell us to quiet down so he could take his nap.
   A dog he named, Sally, came to live with him at some point. She was of  mixed breeds, part Pointer, I think.  Sally would wrap her body around us and knock us over in the snow banks created by the snow plow. She was fed hamburger and steak, while Mr. Stirling preferred to eat crackers and milk.
   My parents had a cordial relationship with this neighbor. My father mowed his lawn in the summer, and was allowed to store the lawnmower in his barn.
   One summer we came home from summer camp and found that Mr. Stirling's funeral had been that very day.  He had been found dead in his rocking chair, after other neighbors became concerned that Sally had been outside for an extended period of time and had been barking.
   The following year Mr. Stirling's young grandson and his wife became our neighbors.