Friday, April 3, 2009

Fathers, Part 15

(Four generations, photographed in 1977)

Some families are made differently. In them, a business is started, and it is handed down for generations. This newspaper is a good example; right now it is being run by the fourth generation of family members. Some editors in this 200-year-old business have ended up sitting in the same chairs once occupied by their fathers.

If there could be an opposite to this, my own family would be an example. In keeping with tradition, what I have passed down to my children is a path NOT to take. They chose instead to follow their mother. After college, both went to work and then put themselves through graduate school, both earning master’s degrees in fine arts. They live frugally, as painters must do.

Had things worked out a little differently, they might not have to worry so much about money and might not be so burdened by their grad-school loans. After all, the Burroughs family at one time had great wealth, way back before 1929. There was still a considerable estate left after the death of A.H. Burroughs and the market crash, but my wayward grandfather was effectively disinherited and benefited little. Nothing of that fortune trickled down to my generation or to our children.

In the early 1950s, Woodlawn, the estate in Irvington, N.Y., was sold and Florence – A.H. Burroughs’ widow – moved to Ashville, N.C., where she died at the age of 97. Woodlawn was demolished and replaced by an apartment complex.

(The Lynchburg house buned in August 2006)

Florence and her husband and the remains of several of their children, including my grandfather Alfred, are entombed in a mausoleum in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, right next to the old Dutch cemetery through which Ichabod Crane fled the Headless Horseman in Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

The grand, castle-like house that A.H. Burroughs built in Lynchburg, Va., suffered a long, slow deterioration. It was used for a while as a fraternity house, then divided into apartments. It was destroyed by fire just a few years ago.

So goes the march of a family through history.
As fathers, we are glad to have made the walk.



Anonymous said...

My father used to wear pants just like your father's in the four generation portrait- must have been snappy menswear back then.

Anonymous said...

How about your pants and your dad's that would be a look!

I'm does it feel growing up wealthy and then not being able to live that lifestyle any more?

Park Burroughs said...

Well, I didn't really grow up "wealthy." As I said, that fortune never got down to us. I went to public grade school and we lived in a very middle-class neighborhood, and then my father began to do well for himself, enough to send me to boarding school and to college, and to retire early to Florida.
I suppose there have been times when I was bitter that my income and Alice's income was so small and that I had no option to send my kids to private school, and that my kids started out their adult lives with such huge debt from college and grad school. But eventually, you learn to redefine "wealth." Being healthy and happy is worth a lot.
I remember my daughter coming home from college and complaining that her family was so poor. "Poor?" I said. "We're not poor! We're... middle income," I told her.
"Oh, you are so wrong," she said. She explained that she had been going to school with kids who drove Mercedes and had $1,000 monthly allowances. "We are poor," she kept saying.
But I never thought of it that way.

Ellipses said...

Hey now! I am wearing red, white, and navy plaid pants today!

Your family's history is really interesting... from its roots in Virginia to the stint in NY... I mean, SLEEPY HOLLOW CEMETARY?!?! You can't make this stuff up!

Brant said...

Great job. But I also was frightened by those trousers.