Fathers Day: June 17, 2018
In the past I’ve written about the paternal side of my family, and several times about my father who I adored. It is quite easy for me to write about people who I knew and loved.
But how do I write about someone who I didn’t know at all, and who my mother disliked? Yes, its true. The attitudes of our mothers greatly influence how we feel about people. Though I researched my maternal grandfather, Charles Aloysius Manning, I didn’t like him either, but only because my Mom didn’t.
I think it is long overdue for me to revisit his life and death. In all fairness my grandmother loved him, at least enough to have 12 children with him, and to remain devoted to him to the end. Charles financed the raising of their 10 children (who lived to adulthood). Some of his children even returned to their home when things got tough. Surely my grandfather had some tolerable qualities.
Charles Aloysius Manning was born 23 May 1879 in Manchester NH, the son of Irish immigrants, Thomas & Mary (Lyons) Manning. His parents had arrived in the United States and settled in Manchester 12 years before he was born. He was the middle child of twelve born to the couple who now used the surname Manning (formerly Mannion). His mother ran a boarding house for Irish immigrants, and no doubt it was a busy household.
Charles had chores to do, even to help care for his younger siblings. A well-worn photograph shows him pushing his sister, Rose Manning, in her baby carriage. That little girl would only live to age 16 when she would die of pthisis (tuberculosis), a common malady of the day.
He attended the local Manchester schools. The 1940 U.S. Census shows that he finished the first year of high school. By 1900 (aged 21) he was working for an insurance salesman named Fred A. Palmer, employed as his “hostler” (caring for horses) and living in his household. Charles probably also filled the role of chauffeur, no doubt driving a horse-drawn carriage.
Two years later, in 1902 he married Addie C. Ryan, whose father was also an Irish immigrant. She had come down from northern Vermont to live in Manchester, and worked briefly as a maid. She used to joke that she and Charles met in a back alley. Later my mom mentioned that they met in “Cat Alley” in Manchester. It was a regular walking thoroughfare between two areas of the city, but during some years it had a bad reputation, and thus the ‘cat’ name. Two years later Charles and Addie started having children–12 in all counting everyone and including a set of twins who did not survive long.
In 1917 Charles registered for the WWI Draft on 12 September 1918. He was 39 at that time, at the far end of the age range that the recruiters were hoping for. Only two months later the Armistice was declared, and so even if he had been accepted in training camp, he would have been sent home. That same document states that he was of medium height and build, however it is obvious from my mother’s description and his photographs that he was rather short and skinny.
I am told that Charles A. Manning had some delights in his life. He loved horses. I can entirely understand this. “Fascination with horses predated every other single thing I knew. Before I was a mother, before I was a writer, before I knew the facts of life, before I was a schoolgirl, before I learned to read, I wanted a horse.” The quote is from the book, A Year at the Races: Reflection on Horses, Humans, Love, Money and Luck, by Jane Smiley. The quote expresses my feelings entirely. At the age of four I was glued to a bright blue wooden rocking horse that I rode so much that it made grooves in the linoleum floor. My Mom had this same love of them, did we both inherit this from her father Charles? He not only groomed horses for his chauffeur work but I was told that he loved to drive horses in sulky races, (also known as harness racing). Unfortunately I have no photographs of him with any of his horses or horse-drawn carriages.
Charles A. Manning must have liked dogs too, for he allowed his children to have them. My mom had several dogs when she was young. They were mutts, not pure-breds, because mixed breeds were supposed to be smarter. Charles’ employers had dogs, and of course he would have had to at least tolerate them. Did they like him back? I’ll never know.
Charles A. Manning smoked cigars, and in his rare spare time he would read detective and mystery novels of the day. My mother would tell me this, then wave her hand dismissively. Apparently he enjoyed “dime novels,” low-brow books not worthy of review by discerning readers. Always having had a fascination with detective and mystery stories myself, I could relate to this habit. The Nancy Drew book series was my first love, though I did include some Edgar Allen Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and later Stephen King in my reading mix. With the advent of television I graduated seamlessly into watching Perry Mason, Dragnet and Alfred Hitchcock.
Despite the great number of children, he took his family out on some local outings, as evidenced by at least one photograph. He changed jobs several times, eventually having to learn to drive motorized vehicles when his employers began to prefer that over horse-driven transportation. He was a good driver, and reportedly drove one of the first automobiles in New Hampshire. [see story].
My mother was the next to the youngest of the children. Her father, Charles, was already 40 years old when she was born. She remembers him as being a crabby, gray-haired, unaffectionate man. She related to me that he would sometimes be cross with her mother, and that upset her very much. Their home was large, and while Charles worked the family never went without food, clothing or a comfortable home. Charles’ father had been known to drink too much, and as a result he did not allow any alcohol in his home. It was ironic that near the end of his life the medicine prescribed for him was mostly a mixture of alcohol.
In 1940, at the age of 60, he was still working as a chauffeur. It would not be long after this that he had to give up his job. My mother relates that within a short time he developed what we now think of as advanced Alzheimer’s disease, but the doctors of that time called it dementia. His medical condition became dangerous when Charles began to leave the house in cold weather in a state of undress. He did not recognize his wife or family and became frantic and physically combative with them when they tried to help. With really no other options, Charles A. Manning was admitted to the New Hampshire State Hospital for the Insane. There he stayed until his death.
My mother related to me a story about one of the last visits that she and her mother made to visit him at the hospital. He was shouting out what my mother thought was the name of women and her mother, Addie, began to cry. On the way home when asked whose names he was calling out, my mother was told they were the names of his racing horses. His mind had returned to things he had loved in the past.
Charles A. Manning died on 26 June 1945 at the State hospital in Concord, New Hampshire, aged 66. He was waked in the family home on Shasta Street, the casket being placed in the family’s front living room. No doubt it was an Irish wake with the house full of people. His funeral took place at Our Lady of Perpetual Help church on Cypress Street (that church has since been closed and dismantled). At the time of his death, only one of his many siblings, James “Jimmy” Manning was still living.
I would not be born for another 13 years, and so I have no memories of Charles A. Manning. I hardly heard his wife (my grandmother) speak of him at all. It was only through persistent questions of my mother that I learned what little I did of him. I know that my grandmother called him “Charlie” and my mother called him “Pop.”
I remember my mother mentioning two instances when my grandfather laughed over a joke between himself and my grandmother. One event had to do with their unexplained joke about there being a horse thief in the family, and the second regarding their first meeting in a back alley. Charles did not seem to enjoy being teased, for he would bristle when anyone mentioned that my grandmother was older than he was (she was only 2 months older).
I have compiled a gallery of photographs of Charles A. Manning. As I hunted through several old family albums I was surprised at the number I was able to find. Included in this gallery is a youthful photograph of him that I did not even realize I had. As you can see he didn’t smile for photographs which perhaps enforced the idea that he was ill-humored. William Butler Yeats said about his heritage, “Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.” Was this my grandfather’s inheritance? Did his DNA contain more of the melancholy and less of the celebration?
New Hampshire: Celebrating Father’s Day (2011) About my Father