Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Brother Andrew Downie

My only sibling Andrew (Andy) was born in 1930 on May 30th just north of New York City in Tarrytown, as I understand. I was born on February 6, 1935 in Elmsford, New York. Andy's and my first homes were located in this area of New York because both Mom's and Dad's families immigrated from Scotland; Mom's from Dundee, Dad's from Glasgow. Mom's family settled in Bayonne, New Jersey, Dad's in New York around the area where Andy and I were born. Both families settled in ethnic conclaves of Scots though in Dad's location there was a much more concentration of Scottish than in Bayonne, NJ.

Independent of each other they both booked passage back to Scotland for a vacation sometime in the late 1920's. They met aboard ship in a storybook romance and their desires became realities when they got back home. The distance between Bayonne and Tarrytown was considerable so their courting was a long distance affair but marriage was its outcome with Andy and I coming along later. As a married couple they settled in New York State joining the other Scottish settlers living there. Football ( soccer ) was the rage for young men and Dad joined his brothers in playing for the Partick Thistle, a local club in an amateur league.

Along came a calamity, The Great Depression, and no work was to be had. Dad, a journeyman draftsman, lost his position and only found part time work in an A&P lugging baskets of fruit around until he was sidelined by a burst appendices. As he recovered all "want ads" were read and reread, over and over. Bethlehem Steel, in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, was in want of experienced draftsmen, Please Apply ! He did, got a job, and in the summer of 1934, with Mom pregnant with me, he came alone to Pottstown to work, and after a day's work, looked for a place to bring his young family here.

Like all young families around this time, especially those without family in the area, we rented and moved, rented and moved, from one school to the next. Brother Andy, we think, went to every school in the town. I lucked out because, by the time I entered school, our family was fairly stable in a house they were purchasing on Houck Road in Chester County. Andy and I went to Warwick School, a 12 grade school on Route 23, in Warwick.

Tragedy struck Andy at a young age : he went to his school buddy's farm to help mow grass and an adjoining hayfield. His friend of similar age was operating the old tractor equipped with a scissors cutting bar which reached out about eight feet. As the tractor moved forward this cutter bar out to the right would activate like a scissors during a cutting activity. Andy walked on the wrong side of the tractor to talk to his buddy and trying to retreat both feet got cut in the heels. The cuts were into the bone but thank goodness weren't high enough to sever the Achilles' tendons. Needless to say, Andy never was the fast runner he was before the accident. He and Dad had similar body frames, Dad's from a longtime running playing soccer. Andy's injury didn't keep him from joining the Navy during Korea at an age shy of twenty.

Our parents sold the house on Houck and bought one in Lower Pottsgrove on North Keim Street. When arriving there, I went to Lower Pottsgrove Elementry up on the hill on Pleasantview Road and Andy went in to Pottstown to Junior High School. We both graduated from Pottstown High School.

This is a glance at my family in the early years. Brother Andy would have been 87 today had he lived. He retired as a professor of The English Language from the New Jersey college system after teaching English for half a century. Though we were four and a half years separated in age, we both revered each other for what each of us had done with our lives. Brotherly love is a type of endearment needing little association between the individuals. It spans both time and space in a strange way. Rather than feelings it is more of a sense of being that allows substance between siblings without direct contact, it is what they call family.

Ronald C. Downie

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