About George F Conniff
It always seemed to me regrettable George and his hairdresser wife Catherine never had any kids. I may have been a ringer for that role, as I was with Aunt May and Aunt Frances. But at more of a remote with George than with the ladies. Even so, he let me borrow his 1929 Buick to take my future mother-in-law with me on a visit to Prep classmates in training at Wernersville to become Jesuits -- a loonier context on reflection I find it hard to imagine. Mazie and I drank it up over Tom Collinses at The Crystal Inn, over a sort of late lunch down in Reading en route home. George must have seen me as a steady Eddie to have let me borrow his car, then and on other occasions. Not a good judge of character. But like Uncle Tib a whiz at stocks. At one point think I told you Kidder Peabody gave George a seat on the Exchange. Quite a coup.
(from J.C.G. Conniff)
Looks like they're at the boardwalk in Belmar, I recognize those benches and the depth of the beach in the fifties. I disagree with your father about George and Kathryn having children. George was so neurotically tied in to the "Girls" and Kathryn was so tied in to the bottle (probably related to the previous point) that any child they had would have been in a very precarious position. She was a lovely person and always a lady, sober or not but our uncle was emotionally wrapped tighter than white is wrapped on rice. (You guessed it, the "Girls" are his sisters, the infamous Marie and the "she lived with Marie too long and started to morf into an altogether unreasonable facsimile" Elizabeth. Too bad too, because my father had a special place in his heart for Elizabeth, the graceful and lovely young woman, closest to him in age and temperment, who, after a lifetime with the total wacko younger Marie, became unpleasant and strange. Very sad.)
My father told me that George tried to teach him how to drive in his new (at the time) roadster, when they lived in Jersey City. He was doing all that "up on the clutch, give it the gas," coaching that people do and my father got fed up. He stopped the car on the Boulevard at the entrance to Lincoln park, on a Sunday afternoon, got out and walked home. George wanted to kill him.
I got to know him a little better after Kathryn died. By a little better I mean at all. He and my father lived in the same town (Belmar) for close to 30 years and visited 5 or 6 times. I asked my father once if he and George were estranged for some reason. He said no but they just didn't have any great interest in getting together. On the rare occasions when they did they seemed to enjoy being together but not enough, I guess, to make it happen more often. Mostly these get togethers were arranged by Kathryn and my mother. But, for some reason, at Kathryn's wake he came and sat next to me and took my hand in his and said that he hoped I realized that he always loved me. It was lovely and touching but the thought that poked me behind the eyeballs was that I wasn't sure he even knew me let alone loved me.
He had a stroke shortly after that and I saw him often, both in the hospital and later in the nursing home. He was always sweet and warm and even seemed to welcome hugs and kisses and other demonstrations of affection. A departure from the affect he displayed earlier, or maybe I just hadn't read him correctly. He lost his ability to speak clearly after his stroke and drifted into depression. No big surprise there. He had been a real dog lover and the nursing home had a resident pooch on the floor below George's. The sicker patients were on George's floor and the dog never came up there. I asked the nurses to give it a try and let the dog visit George. It really was a wonderful meeting to witness. The sad old man's eyes lit up as soon as the paws clicked across the linoleum and he bent forward and reached out his hand to touch the happy, furry head. The dog climbed up on his lap and Uncle George started to c ry and then said one of the few understandable word he had uttered in weeks, "Good boy". Everyday, until George died, Good Boy came to visit. Actually he was allowed to hang out in George's room and curl up on the bed with the man who was apparently his favorite patient.
I saw in him then something very like a quality that my father had, this well spring of emotion, gentle, loving, demonstrative, that unfortunately was kept so restrained. It made me wish I had had the opportunity to have known him better years before. He could certainly show love, even mushy, cuddly, nutty love to a dog. May be could have done it with a child. Maybe your father was right. That's not something I like to admit.
Anyway, thanks for the picture.
Oh, one other thing. Those benches reminded me. When my kids were little I took them to the beach in Belmar every day. One day I stood up and shaded my eyes with my hand and rotated to just scan the scene. I was surprised to see, at a fair distance, my father sitting on one of the benches on the boardwalk. I took Fred and Mary Jane by the hand to take them up to where he was to say hello and to see why he was there. As soon as they spotted him they raced to run up on the boardwalk and try to kiss him to death. They adored him and the feeling was very obviously mutual. He told me that he came to the beach several times a week just to watch them play. He didn't want to bother us, he just liked to sit and watch them. Years before he had had phlebitis, with a pulmonary embolus that almost killed him, and since then wore an elastic bandage on his leg and never went without it so he wasn't a beach and bathing suit kind of g uy. But he came to sit and watch little people he loved having fun. After that day the three of us regularly turned west and watched to see if he was there. If he was he got assaulted by little wet and sandy bodies with sloppy kisses. He would laugh and send them back to me and he would stay and watch awhile longer and then quietly disappear.
The Conniffs of that generation were a very interesting group.
Kathleen (Conniff) Capolongo
One more thing about Uncle George, well two. He was a very good golfer. I don't know his handicap but my father said he was very good and always very good at whatever he set out to do. Okay, three things.. He and my father used to box in their backyard after dinner each evening, for exercise and I suspect to let off steam too. They did this spring into summer into fall but stopped at one point when they discovered that neighbors were betting on the bouts.
This brings me to the primary reason for adding to the George lore. He was an accomplished tailor. When he retired from Wall Street he wanted another hobby, in addition to golf. So he took lessons at the Singer Sewing Machine store and began making clothes, drapes, you name it. He even made his own suits and suits and clothes for Kathryn. He was very proud of his work and everything looked like it was purchased at Macy's.
That's it for now. If the file guys in my head pull out any other cards I'll let you know.
Kathleen (Conniff) Capolongo