Well, my mom thought the

Well, my mom thought the story below was hilarious, never having heard it, and has urged me to ask my dad about the time he showed up at his dad’s office at seventeen years old, carrying a silver-tipped walking stick, and the story of how he arrived for his first day at Harvard in a white linen suit. I seem to remember the white linen suit story; apparently, the amused upperclassmen, like the jaded Yalies in a Dink Stover story, carried the young swell’s trunks up to his room for him. But he’ll tell the story better, I’m sure.


Here’s the walking stick story, just arrived:


SUBJECT: Not to Worry

No word of my Welsh son ever got back to me. This is probably an
appropriate moment to tell you that, in one of my own experiments in changed
identity, I once went into town brandishing Grandfather Howell’s walking
stick and even visited my father’s office with it. God only knows what I
thought I was doing and why my father didn’t whack me with it. I was probably
posing as an English literary club man (a Drone who’d actually read a book) or
perhaps a boulevardier out of Stendhal or Balzac. On the streets of
Philadelphia in the 1950s you can be sure I was an anomaly.

NB: “Grandfather Howell” was Lardner Howell, my great-grandfather, who was described by my grandfather Young, his son-in-law, as a “howling swell” and a “triple-jointed ball of fire.” My grandfather Young, in turn, was a member of Philadelphia’s First City Troop, and wore a cavalry saber on ceremonial occasions. And that’s not to mention his father, Brigadier General Charles Duncanson Young, who was fond of having his portrait taken in his regimental puttees, so I guess I come by it honestly.

Well, my mom thought the

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