Tag Archives: Henry Thomas Sweet

The Closet Politik.

PappyAndTheGirlsAtTheBeachCirca1929
L to R:  Dora Mae; Lydia Elisabeth (“Betty”); Henry Thomas Sweet; Front row, L to R: Martha Louise; Frances

My grandfather was a closet Republican.

Harry Truman was his hero.

Born in Wilkes-Barre, PA, of parents who’d hailed from Cornwall, England, he’d brought his young wife, Mae, across the Commonwealth on or about 1915 to build cranes at Bucyrus-Erie. Yet, Erie, newly founded, was up and coming and this move – for a working class conservative – was, at its heart, progressive.

But, after having attended a tent meeting led by Christian evangelist Billy Sunday, this naturally gruff dogmatist had experienced a conviction of belief which would solidify his politics for life. He brought with him to Erie a Bible thumping, street preacher’s passion and, after meeting two elders of the Plymouth Brethren at the City Mission, would join their fellowship at the Gospel Assembly Hall on East Avenue.

But, Henry Thomas Sweet would not register to vote.

He and the rest of his fellow fundamentalists would populate a small, but ardent, segment of this growing town. Their teachings were the most extreme among conservatives; preaching that only those things due Caesar would be rendered, the rest would be left up to Almighty God – who would put into office whom He will.

Still, Henry Sweet taught his family all the values upheld by the Republican party. Hard work having yielded sufficient income, all resources would be put toward the sustenance of family and a tenth toward “the Lord’s work”, all capital kept close to the vest for just such purposes. The downtrodden were to be regarded as slacking, irresponsible, vagrant, and were admonished – from the street corner pulpit – to “Get up out of the gutter, repent, and get a j.o.b.”

What Henry and Mae did was work. Raising four daughters, they used their hands – baking bread, and delivering it door to door; hooking and braiding rugs, from old, discarded wool coats rescued from the Salvation Army; planting vegetable gardens, and fruit trees, gathering their harvest (had poultry been permitted inside the city limits, they’d likely have had hens and chickens); “slaving” over the stove, preparing meals for the entire, extended family for every holiday and birthday celebration. Mae also sewed, repairing and altering all manner of clothing, and creating from remnants everything from pajamas to suits and spring coats, draperies, and furniture slip covers. Henry, after a long day at the crane factory, maintained every inch of their humble property on East 29th Street, as well as their royal blue Chrysler.

In his final decade, disaffected and excommunicated from the Brethren for “railing”, sunken into his harvest gold La-Z-Boy recliner in the northeast corner of the livingroom reading his National “Geographs” and his Bible, listening to talk radio (and, calling in daily), he would brood.

Sympathy was not part of his lexicon. Compassion was merely a concept, to be contemplated while meditating upon the person of the Christ. Weakness was not to be indulged; one was given a life, and one must take up the reins of it and serve the Lord with all one’s might. Paying income tax was the bane of existence.

Three of the four daughters carried on the traditions of his closet politics. All honorable citizens they, nevertheless, also never registered to vote – raising their children to accept having come out from among them, being separate, avowing to touch not the unclean thing. There were us, the elect bride of Christ, and there were them, the reprobate, damned to hellfire lest they repent and believe the Gospel.

I don’t know what happened, but something did. Time, and its inevitable evolution. Being Republican of mentality used to mean such noble (if self centered) intent, even if it appealed to the most narrow minded among them. One wonders if the GOP was forever affected by those who would only vote for he or she whom their God had ordained. Being a Democrat came to defy such selfish, belief driven ideals. In between, I now find myself – a registered Independent, caught, without a closet in which to hide. We are all part of America, a nation of so many countries, fighting to stay socially intact, more exposed than ever before, members of a globe of earthly nations pushing and pulling and hanging on.

And, the world’s eyes are still on our family.

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©10/15/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sonnet to Nadine Elisabeth Moon.

 

Lydia Elisabeth “Betty” Sweet was my mum. She was born on February 11, 1919, in Erie, the second of four daughters to Henry T. and Mae Learn Sweet.

“Astrology impels, it does not compel”, so said the syndicated representative who appeared for years in our daily newspaper. That said, I do recall reading that Aquarians were natural dreamers, but that some of them would live against type. Mum was one who, ultimately, did.

While we’d collected more than one of Mum’s creations these three gems had been nearly lost to the ether until, as the family historian, our cousin Lydia Todd recently unearthed and sent them to me in a letter. Especially devoted to Mum, Lydia shares her birthday.

Though the poems were written in 1935, when she was 16, I can’t help but think about what eventually unfolded only four years hence in the United States: the Great Depression. Just prior to that tectonic shift in reality Mum had been hot on the trail of a dressmaking career, and would win a contest whose prize would have been a trip to New York.

Herewith her prophetic state of mind and heart, just before the door slammed on all those dreams.

 

“A Sonnet to Nadine Elisabeth Moon”

                                                         by Betty Sweet, about 1935

 

I saw a babe this afternoon

So dear, so loving, and so sweet

Lying there, so clean and neat

Ah! She is proud to be a Moon!

I’m sure she’ll show a smile soon

And, find enjoyment in her feet.

Her parents (surely, it is meet!)

Are proud, and hum a happy tune.

This babe, so pure and innocent

Knows nothing of what life will bring

Into her life, just now begun

Ah! Grant that she, whom God has sent

May live for Him and always sing

Of Him, the true and faithful One.

 

“God is Near”

                              by Betty Sweet 1935

 

As each morning dawns, anew

Filling the sky with a ruddy hue;

I know God is near.

When the sun is at its height

Revealing God’s great strength and might,

I know God is near.

Even when the sun sinks down

Silencing the country, lake and town

I know God is near.

When at midnight’s smallest hour

I feel God’s matchless love and power

I know God is near.

by Betty Sweet 1935

 

“Trusting”

Trusting Jesus, all along life’s way

Trusting Jesus, each and every day.

Trusting Jesus, whether sad or gay

Trusting, all life’s way.

 

by Betty Sweet.

 

Had Mum not been determined to live a life of faithfulness to Jesus, like her own mother before her, I am certain that I would not even be here today. Her model of what many termed “a Godly life” kept each of us in the family from coming apart, and taught us resistance to those things which would bring down our very lives. She led an honorable, committed life, both to her God, our father, and to us as her children, sacrificing her every want and need in deference to ours. Have not met another like her, since. ❤ Mum.

 

© 1/16/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo, quoting her mother, their author. Please respect our family. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com