REVIEW POTPOURRI: Memories of Grandma

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Memories of Grandma

I am going to try something different this week but tie it into earlier reading, listening and viewing experiences, sharing a few memories of my grandmother, Annabelle Ingraham Cates (1888-1974).

Grammie Cates was born and brought up in the coastal village of Rockport, Maine, to Enos and Marian Ingraham. In 1906, she rode the narrow gauge to East Vassalboro where several kinfolks on her mother’s side had been residing already for 25 years, and she took a teaching job at the one room Perley Schoolhouse, one of about 20 such buildings in the Vassalboro territory, back during the years when teacher certification requirements were pretty well non-existent.

Within three years, she met and fell in love with Benjamin Harold Cates, married him and gave birth to 12 children, after her cousin, Lena Upham, told her, “He was a good catch.”

A longer bio will have to wait for another day so as to cut to the chase.

Despite her very busy life of being a wife, mother, homemaker, and chief disciplinarian with her not always angelic kiddos, she did find time to read. And the book that sticks out most vividly is her humongous Modern Library copy of the collected writings of that narrative genius, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), which she read and re-read thoroughly from cover to cover. It included his four novels, The House of the Seven Gables, Blithedle Romance, Scarlet Letter and Marble Faun, of which, again, more another week. I remember her keeping it on a kitchen bureau for easy reach.

More about music. The first record that sticks out in the memories was Nelson Eddy’s 1948 Columbia LP of Stephen Foster songs – examples being Old Folks At Home, Camptown Races, Oh Susanna – which for my money is still one of the best collections of that early American composer (1826-1864) who, after several years of fame and fortune, would die as an alcoholic in poverty in New York City with just 37 cents in his wallet.

Grammie had a Columbia LP changer with a very heavy tonearm, a needle that was rarely replaced and a hookup through the expensive Dumont TV set with tremendous sound.

A mid-’60s Christmas present for her was an anthology of Ray Charles hits including Georgia On My Mind and Hit the Road, Jack! She was quite captivated by his sense of swinging while singing.

My grandmother’s favorite movie may have been the 1965 Sound of Music, which she, myself and other family members first saw during Christmas vacation of that year at the Westbrook cinema, where it stayed and made money for at least a year. Within the month, a cousin talked her into joining the RCA Victor Record Club, where new members could get five LPs for 99 cents, provided they purchased five more at list price. She purchased 10 copies of the RCA Victor Sound­track of the Sound of Music, kept one for herself and gave the other nine for birthday presents.

She introduced me to her favorite TV show, Wagon Train, during the spring of 1959, and was a big fan of its star, Ward Bond.


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