Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Reminiscences of Lockwood Barr of Pelham Manor Published in 1940

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Lockwood Barr lived in Pelham Manor for nearly 40 years. He wrote and published a popular book on the "History of the Ancient Town of Pelham" in 1946. He served as Village Historian for the Village of Pelham Manor for a number of years. The home that he had built for himself and his family still stands at 20 Beech Tree Lane. The Pelham Preservation Society recently awarded the "Lockwood Barr Home" a "Historic Home" plaque.

In 1940, Lockwood Barr wrote his "reminiscenses" as an article that appeared as part of a series of such articles by prominent Pelham citizens published in The Pelham Sun. The text of the article appears below.

"Starting From 'Scratch' - Reminiscences of Prominent Pelhamites, Recalling the Days When They Began Their Business Careers.

By Lockwood Barr

Public Relations Consultant

When I was a youngster there were lots of ways open to us to earn money that are closed to the present generation. . . and it is too bad.

I was born and reared in Warren County, Bowling Green, Kentucky, a typical southern agricultural community. When I was a boy there was no such thing as 'hard money'. . . and the community operated on a long time credit and barter basis. The farmer raised one crop - tobacco or wheat. He swapped vegetables, milk, butter, eggs, furs, hides, ginsing roots and other produce for immediate needs. The storekeeper in the town swapped their [sic] merchandise with each other. . . . . and the professional men were paid for their services in produce and merchandise. The banks had no money. They dealt in credits and extended until goods were sold or crops were made.

In my father's barn I had nests for a big flock of pigeons and I sold the squabs. I raised fighting game cocks, also Bantams which were in demand. None of us kids ever saw a nickel unless we swapped and bartered as did our elders. We exchanged chickens, pigeons, and eggs with each other, with the storekeepers, with the housewives. In the fall we went to the woods and gathered black walnuts and scaly bark hickory nuts which were just as good as gold to buy what we wanted at the store. We trapped skunks, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons and sold the skins.

There were no telephones those days. You wrote 'notes' asking people to Sunday dinner, making a date with your best girl for the strawberry festival or the dance, and generally transacting the business of the community by notes instead of now by telephones. These notes were 'run' by us kids on foot or horseback.

There were no milkwagons. Everyone had their cows which must go out to pasture lots in the early morning and be driven home by the late evening to be milked. Boys would have the job of gathering together the cows of half a dozen families, driving the cows out to pasture and bringing them home at night and often milking the cows for those families that had no hired help.
Most families had a stable, a horse and carriage. The horse had to be curry combed, the carriage washed, and the harness and saddle cleaned and oiled. Every home had its vegetable gardens and there were always weeds to be hoed in the rows of corn and beans.

In those days there were no de luxe summer camps for boys and for girls in the mountains. But there were vacations in the country where we earned our board and keep for two or three weeks and a silver dollar at the end. . . doing our share in harvesting the wheat, killing tobacco worms, milking the cows, churning butter, watering and feeding the stock.

My chum in high school drove the laundry wagon early in the morning before school and in the afternoon and evenings. I was his principal helper. His family owned the laundry. My first real job, where I got paid real hard money regularly once a week, was working in that laundry during summer vacation. I collected the dirty clothes, marked them, checked them in, and wrote the tickets. During the day I ran ironing machines, collar and cuff shaping machines (yes, in those days men wore separate cuffs and collars). I finally got so good I was promoted to folding shirts and became the champion in the laundry. At the end of the day I sorted the finished laundry and wrapped bundles. My day was done when I had mad deliveries and collected the cash. It was the rule, 'No cash, no clean laundry' and it being a hot country, clean laundry was essential - so I usually came back with the cash. Several summers I sweat it out in the laundry.

I organized during the winter months a bill collecting agency, specializing in attempting to collect money owed doctors, dentists, oculists and other professional men. I did the work after school and earned my first real money. I got 25%. I might present a doctor's bill for $125 to the grocer to find that the doctor owed $110 to the grocer. I would accept $15 cash from the grocer or accept the grocer's credit on his books for $15 on future purchases by the doctor's family. But I got my $25% [sic] from the doctor and mine was in cash.

After I graduated from College I came home and worked for the local daily newspaper, collecting bills, keeping their books, answering the phone, as a pinch hitter setting ads, running the linotype, collecting personal news and items for the social columns. Later I became a full fledged reporter, covering the Court House, police court, sheriff's office, jail and undertaking establishment, drug stores, railroad station, the livery stables and other loafing spots where the town characters gathered and gossiped. It was a real education in itself to meet the people and learn the town in which you had been born and reared.

For a while I worked as an engineer with the Illinois Central building 20 miles of railroad through the swamps of Mississippi below Memphis. I ran a Transit and Level. Then in 1907 I came to New York as an engineer to run a Transit and Level for the Turner Construction Company on a big concrete building in Jersey City. My boss, the superintendent, was none other that [sic] the late Harry H. Fox, one time mayor of Pelham Manor.

That year I got a job as a draftsman on the Wall Street Journal drawing railroad maps to illustrate a series of stories about the railroad empire then being created by E. E. Harriman. For ten years I was with The Wall Street Journal - holding jobs in the mechanical department such as proofreading, setting ads, make-up man, headline writer and generally pinch hitting for others who were on sick leave or vacation. The last three years I was Managing Editor. In 1916 I resigned to go with Jas. H. Oliphant and Co., members of the New York Stock Exchange. There I met W. C. Durant, president of General Motors, and the next year I went to work on his staff doing financial publicity work. That was how I started from scratch.

(Editor's note - Mr. Barr was with General Motors for 13 years, on the staff of presidents Durant, Pierre Du Pont and Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. He organized and was in charge of public relations work, financial advertising and stockholder relations. Since 1930 he has been a consultant in this type of work for such organizations as Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Co., Pittsburgh Plate Glass, Sinclair Refining, W. T. Grant Co., The E. Ingraham Co., Pathe Exchange, Radio Corporation of America, New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants, Borden, Associated Dry Goods, Fiduciary Truck Co, Socony-Vacuum, the New Jersey Council and others. Mr. Barr lives at No. 20 Beech Tree Lane and is a past president of the Men's Club)."

Source: Starting From "Scratch" - Reminiscences of Prominent Pelhamites, Recalling the Days When They Began Their Business Careers, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 30, No. 20, Aug. 16, 1940, p. 3, col. 1.

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