The Little Old Glad Lady

By O’Ceallaigh

Bemus Point, New York, in the 1940’s, was a bustling post-war resort town on the shores of Chautauqua Lake. In the pre-depression years it was a hot spot for high rollers. 1hotel-lenhart

Big Bands would frequent the large hotels and clubs on the lake and play their music. The Dorseys, Glen Miller and others. Lakeside Drive was exactly what the name implied – a beautiful street following the shoreline with “cottages” crowding the North side of the street.

Now when I say “Cottages,” don’t be a-thinkin’ little one room shacks! These were summer homes of the rich and famous. Mr. and Mrs. Packard (yes, the Motor-Car Packard’s) owned two of them; one in Lakewood and one in Chautauqua! The one in Lakewood had about eight bedrooms, maybe more, maybe less, but it was constructed of stone and was three stories high on the upper (street) side and four on the lakeside! But, the Packard’s are another story. How many square feet? I don’t know, probably 6,000 – 7,000. Maybe more! It was big!

On Lakeside Drive in Bemus Point lived the Bemus family, the Loomis clan and a plethora of other wealthy folks who summered there in the little town where I grew up. We lived on the old farm about two and a half miles North-east of the town and my grandparents were just a little closer to town to the West of our farm.

Grandma’s house was one of those picturesque old farm-houses. One and a half stories, weathered wood siding and tall grass growing everywhere! Paths to and from the house to the barn, chicken coop and outhouse were well worn and the grass along the sides usually was well over my head! Those big black and yellow Garden Spiders with webs as strong as piano-wire guarded all those paths.

Grandma was a gardener. She had about an acre of ground in which she grew nothing but flowers. Zinnias, large daisies, others that I have no idea what they were, but mostly Glads! Gladiolas! Those beautiful long spikes of green with multicolored blooms protruding out of those spikes! I marveled at those flowers!

In season, Grandma would take those flowers to Bemus Point and sell them to the wealthy folks along Lakeside Drive.

Usually, there was someone to drive her to “The Point” so she could market her wares. My Dad often would take a little time off the farm work to run her down to the Village and leave her there to sell her flowers then go back to pick her up at some specified time.

1 Buggy
I remember at least one time that my older brother, who was perhaps 12 years old, was asked to hitch up the buggy and take Grandma to her market!! I was privileged to go along. What an excursion! With Jim driving old Bill, or whatever his name was; Grandma beside him in the seat and me and all those glads on the back floor, it was sheer joy. I watched the big wheels turn smoothly and listened to Bill’s “clop, clop clop!”

Times were hard. Grandma would run short on cash from time to time and the flowers would supplement her meager income. At fifty cents a dozen, it wasn’t much, but in those days pennies provided!

Grandma was always an old lady to me, but she was probably only in her mid-fifties. But when I think about it, it was still quite an undertaking! But she did what was necessary! When there was no ride available, she would gather several dozen glads in her large apron, don her broad-brimmed floppy sun-hat and strike out walking the two miles to Bemus Point to sell her flowers.

I went with her one time. Two miles may not sound like much, but in the heat of the summer sun, on the gravel roads, and, as Cosby used to say, “Uphill both ways” it became quite a chore! But as I walked with her I marveled at the stamina of this little old lady.

Then, on arriving, she would walk up to these mansions and knock on the door. When the doors opened, she would present herself with her open, beautiful and friendly smile! “Would you like some beautiful Gladiolas today?”

How could they refuse?

I have a Lawyer friend who lives on Lakeside Drive in one of those “Mansions” now and I’ve often wondered if he or his wife ever see a “Little Glad Lady” knocking on his door.

Oh, I know it wouldn’t be my Grandma, but it just seems that the place and the ambiance of the Mansions and the Lake-shore needs to have another tiny old woman with an armful of Glads smiling back at these wealthy folks when they open to her knocking.

If you live on a Lakeside Drive somewhere, remember the Little Old Glad Lady. And if you have one in your neighborhood, help her out! Remember the work she put into raising the flowers. Remember the walk to get them to you. Remember your grandma and the tough times she may have gone through. Remember my grandma! The original Little Old Glad Lady!

2 Grandma
Mary Adeline (Addie) Newville Todd Vincent.

I shall never forget her.

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7 Responses to The Little Old Glad Lady

  1. I would never have dreamed that Grandma could walk to Bemus Point with her glads. If you hadn’t said that you walked with her I would still doubt that she could do it!
    Helen

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  2. Santa Ward says:

    I know the secret to how she grew such large, beautiful Glads. As you know there was only an outhouse. In winter, we used what was called a ‘slop pail’. There was one in every bedroom. I slept in the attic so mine as hidden behind the chimney. Every morning we would have to empty them all outside in this special spot. I asked grandma why we had to dump them there and she said in the spring when the snow melted, it carry all the ‘slop’ into the ground. Even the toilet paper disappeared. It made her Glads grow large. She made me promise not to tell, if the town people knew her secret they would stop buying her flowers. Guess it’s O.K. now. So much for the old days.

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  3. Santa Ward says:

    I mean a “slop pail”

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  4. Eric Vincent says:

    Boy, the Kelly’s, the Todd’s and the Vincent’s just couldn’t seem to stay away from each other! She was a Todd and a Vincent, also! I only have a very vague remembrance of her but I do remember going with my mother every so often to the cemetery to leave flowers on her mother’s grave and we would also see where “Addie Vincent” was resting, as well.

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