Former renter in Greenwich Village, waiting out the turnaround in Manhattan's midtown. Working on a blog-to-book project about my NYC/NJ ancestors. Everyday I'm amazed by what I find with Ancestry and in old newspapers.

April 24, 2022

1912, Asbury Park, part 2: Undertaker Burtis goes for a drive in his new Haynes touring car

Photo: Norah Magrini of Avon Historical Society

"Another unfortunate event," the young reporter said. "But the Haynes got it good this time."

Ralph tipped back his bowler hat and waited. 

"I'm Fredus White from the Press. I wrote about your last accident, on Sylvania Avenue in Avon, in front of Mayor Thomson's garage? I live a block away, at Woodland and Main."

Asbury Park Press, 3 May 1912

"I remember you," Ralph said, annoyed that a reporter who looked the same age acted like he had something. 
"And here you are again, in the Highlands," the elder Burtis said. "Do you have a house here too?" 

"No, no. Shame about Doc Bryan's Flanders getting bashed up."

Asbury Park Press, 16 Jan 1912

White went on. "Good little machine for in-town trips but practically collapsed on impact. Shouldn't have. But when a big car crashes into a littler car--"

"He turned into my path," Ralph said. 

"And the roads were oiled," Burtis said.

"I felt terrible about it," Ralph said, "but Dr Bryan took it well. He was worried if I was all right, and since I was he started talking about his glee club. Pretty soon the town cop showed up and his son Joseph who worked right there at Thomson's garage and a small crowd of folks and shopkeepers gathered round, one was Harry Estelle, the electrician who rigged his fence for cats who try to get at his chickens. Yeah, yeah! 

Asbury Park Press, 26 Jul 1912

Well, all these people had heard the crash and were quite concerned about the doc and his car. He was truly a gentleman, upset that we had new cars. He invited me to sit in with his quartet as tenor because Walter Hubbard just died, you know, the militia captain who served in the Spanish-American War and led minstrels going all the way back to the Schuberts. He led all the shows at the Elks, the YMCA and other groups too all over the county. Even though I'm a baritone the doc knows I can sing falsetto. He wants more young people to take an interest in quartets and asked me for a song they might like so I said "Moonlight Bay." You know it? It's a new song that's great for quartets. I gave him the sheet music from our store. The Savoy is booking amateur groups now. Wouldn't it be swell if we got a booking there?"

All alone, unknown they find me
Memories like these remind me
Of the girl I left behind me,
Down on Moonlight Bay.

We were sailing along On Moonlight Bay,
We could hear the voices ringing,
They seemed to say
“You have stolen her heart,
Now don’t go ‘way!”
As we sang Love’s Old Sweet Song,
On Moonlight Bay

"Yep. Music's his passion," said White.

"My brother Elvin was in Schubert's Minstrels with him," Burtis said. "You know Elvin, the game warden?"

"I know who he is," White said. "So what brings you here today?"

Burtis paused. "Enjoying a Sunday drive, like everybody else." He was a little annoyed at having to explain himself to a kid reporter. "You know County Commissioner Howard Leroy, fire chief, president of the Asbury Park Wheelman? And our lovely wives."

White nodded.

"You hear about Doc's new chauffeur?" White asked. "Drove his Torpedo into a coupe. Doc only got it in January. Thank God the car's all right. It's a beaut. Dark blue with light gray tires. 

1912 Ford Model T Torpedo 

Asbury Park Press, 19 Jun 1912

"There's growing talk you know against young people driving by themselves. What'd you think about that?" White asked.

Asbury Park Press, 20 Jul 1912

"I hope you'll learn to drive more carefully, Ralph," his mother said.

"It wasn't my fault, mother."

"I was with him this time," Burtis said, "and the other driver had his father next to him too. That car ran into us."

"Hm. And drove off--" White said.

"That's a sign of guilt," Leroy's wife said. 

"Lizzie." Howard took his wife's hand to silence her, which was hard to do.

Ralph was back in the car looking out thoughtfully through the windshield. "Do you know what Doc Bryan said? He said, 'I had a feeling this might happen.' Now what do you think he meant that?"

"Who knows? He's a kook," Burtis said. 

Howard was frowning and Burtis wished he hadn't called Doc Bryan a kook. Howard didn't like name-calling. As a leader of clubs, the fire department and county government for years he could rise to national office someday. The guy just had it. He was beloved. They admired his conduct at big meetings, his athletic ability, his knack for saying the right thing, and he stuck up for his friends. What a sport! Burtis loved him and would be devastated if his friend thought ill of him.

"Bryan's a homeopath," Burtis said with emphasis. "Is that a doctor?" Howard's frown went away and Burtis cleared his throat. "I was happy to pay for damages since, well, the accident was no one's fault and, ah, my car was bigger." 

Howard gave him the nod. 

"Today's accident was not our fault and they drove off," Burtis said. "I have a mind to sue."

"That was foolish of them. I got the license plate," White said.

"You find out who they are, and I'll--I'd appreciate it."

"That woman was a New Yorker," Mrs Burtis said.

"Hm," Burtis said. "No one from around here would do a thing like that." 

Contact: Debbie Carter, (212) 925-3721, VillagerExpat@aol.com

No comments:

Post a Comment