GrandPapa's Letter part 9


Franklin B. Van Valkenburgh

In Vivid Colors Sound Gospel Truths

Father's wedding present from his parents was a "BLACK," as they called their recently manumitted slaves; and from Mothers family came "The Family Bible," in which we children all "learned our letters," and over which, (especially over The Apochraphy and the pictures, ) we often pored with bated breath. You may see it in my library now; but you can never realize anything of the way in which those pictures impressed us; We saw very few pictures of any kind then, probably those in that Bible were as fine if not the finest specimens of art in the village. Look at them now; See Adam and Eve in their first estate, before that vile snake enticed them from the paths of ignorance and innocence and gave them to eat of tree of good and evil, surrounded as they are by representatives of all the birds of the air and the fishes of the sea, and imagine if you can how we felt when we looked on them as portions of God's Holy Word, not to be looked upon except with reverent eyes, and not to be criticized or scoffed at under penalty of being devoured by those scriptural bears of which we were so often reminded.

Look at that benificant old man in his swallow tailed coat, preaching to the heathen, and remember that to us he was the representative of the highest type of manhood, that type to which by the grace of God we might possibly attain if we "believed and did all good works," or look at that "Old Satan," chained for a thousand years, and led by his attendant angel to that studded iron cellar door, out of which the flames of HELL arise, and remember that to us that represented in vivid colors sound Gospel Truths, and we dared not wonder, except in the secret recesses of our souls, whether the angels feet were hot, or if his hair would be singed when he opened the door to thrust the horned monster in, for THAT would have been sacreligeous.

All these pictures excited our wonder, not alone because they were the finest we had ever seen, but because they MUST be faithful and true representations of the things they claimed to show, The Deluge; The Ark; The Tower of Babel, 8ic. &c. "True as the Bible." and I can not look upon them to day, without a feeling of mingled awe and reverence, which is very funny.

Such a thing as a colored plate in a book was unheard of, Later on Godey's Lady Book, and numerous "Gift Books," and Parlor Annuals &c. &.c. were to be found on the parlor tables, "to be handled with care," but not then, I remember a colored plate, representing "The Madonna," in a red cloak, holding a babe in blue, which my sister Kate brought to me from Albany, shortly before I left home, as the first colored plate I ever saw, It was put into the door of the old wooden clock in the dining room, as the most suitable frame for it, and was there when I last saw the old clock.

The first school I attended was held in an old wagons shop, next door to Grandma's house, and all I remember of it was being carried across the Square to its door on the shoulder of my brother Dave, one winters day, when the snow was very deep, and noticing some great splashes of brilliant paint by the sides of the door, reminders of its former occupant. The next was the DISTRICT SCHOOL, which I have described, and the next a small school, kept by my sister Getty, in a little building next to our Father's store, which he had formerly used for his office. Here a dozen or more little ones were taught their "A B C's ", and such other lessons as came within their comprehension; My chief recollection of this school, in which I doubtless did learn something ?? was of the punishments to which I was subjected by my auburn haired preceptress, Once, for some misdemeanor I was directed to "Go and sit with the Girls," - This was supposed to be a most ignominious punishment, but was found to be so much to my taste, that some other method had to be devised, and, it being mid-summer, I was invited to stand on the stove, with my face to the pipe; Standing thus it occurred to me that I was or should be hungry, and when the teachers face was turned from me I made pretence of catching and eating some of the flies which came buzzing around my head. Naturally I was at that particular time "the observed of all observers," and the other children were soon either laughing obstreperously, or choking in their attempts to avoid doing so, and I was reduced to the ranks. This last breach of decorum was too much for the schoolma'am, and I was despatched to my father with a note, saying that I was a bad boy (Oh--oh--OH) and needed a whipping: THAT meant business, for when Father whipped a boy it was very apt to H U R T the boy and I knew it, but I was not hurt that time, for, meeting Gare on the street I became very anxious to get to learn my lessons, and hired him for a Bulls Eye to carry the note to father, and he got my deserts; Alas for me, the best laid schemes of mice and boys sometimes miscarry and although Gar got the whipping, he was so conscientious about it that he gave it to me with interest when next we met.

After this we were sent to the ACADEMY which institution stood just EAST of the Presbyterian Church, and was a two storey building, with a square cupola wherein a noisy bell was hung; On the first floor of this building were two large recitation rooms, separated by a wide hall near the front end of which wide stairs lead to the second floor, Here were the Library and Labratory, and other school rooms, and a ladder by which one could climb to the roof, and pass over that to the cupola or belfry.


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