The Tener Family

This is a journal kept by Dennis Holmes and friends concerning the Tener Family.
The links below will take you to the "Tener Blue Book" - "TENER: A History of the Family in France, Ireland and America"; and to a Finding Aid.

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Thursday, November 11, 2004

More from Hampden Frost Tener

It has been a while since I posted some the the writings of Hampden Frost Tener. He wrote many, and I found them very interesting, and telling, of his growing up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh - across the river from Sewickley, Pa.

So, here are a few more of his stories.


We once had a hired were no starters, no heaters, and no storage batteries. They were equipped with hand wipers, hand horns, hand brakes man who was almost useless around the farm but my father kept him on. He did so because the man had worked on the building of hard-surfaced Pinchot and macadam roads.
Our lane from the hard Beaver Grade Road back to the buildings was along one--about 2000 feet, and it was unpaved. When the frost of winter left the ground, or in the wet seasons of spring and fall, the bottom went out, literally. The topsoil was clay 18 inches deep, then a four-inch layer of blue clay before running into a strata of shale and clay. When this became saturated with water, any weight simply sank.
My father commuted to work in Pittsburgh via the P&LE, which he caught at the Coraopolis Station five miles away. Before he made this trip by automobile, he did so with a team of Shetland ponies and cart and the mud lane was bad enough in the wet seasons, but when he began commuting by car, the lane was impossible.
I remember those early mornings when the farmer would hitch on to the front of the car with the team of horses and would pull it through the mud all the way to the hard road. In the evening the farmer and
team would be at the entrance when Dad arrived and would pull him back in again. Many of the country residences had two or more lanes so that when the short one became too bad they could use another.
So my father kept on the man who had experience in building the foundations of the hard roads and kept him working on the worst places in our lane. With team and stoneboat, he gathered up all the flat stones around the farm and hauled them to the lane. He dug a trench along the wheel ruts and filled the trench with these stone laid upright, on edge, back to back. He then brought the trench up to grade with broken stone or gravel.
Such was the basis of the Pinchot road. The macadam road went one step further and covered the base layer of stones-on-edge with a mix of tar and gravel to grade. Thus, Governor Gifford Pinchot, and Henry Ford with his Model T with its high wheels, are both credited today as getting the back country farmer out of the mud, here in Pennsylvania
H. F. TENER, 1983


In the early days the families on Coraopolis Heights must have felt much the same as any pioneers in a new country. Perhaps the very fact that as young people, having decided to leave the city and make a healthier life for their children in the country, they were more vigorous and spirited individuals than the usual city dweller. In any event, they, like all thinking people, banded together for community services beyond the individual's ability to provide.
When we were very. young and riding our ponies allover the back country we swam in Lochart's pond and a pond with a spring in the Thorn Run Road extension valley. That is, until one of us came down sick with typhoid fever.
Boys will be boys, and, on hot days, they will find a place to swim. A dozen families went together and built Meadowbrook Swimming Club. This pool survived for more than forty years until the county took the property from which its water came and the national environmental move to sewer the suburbs condemned the property.
During those years many youngsters learned to swim and dive there and a number went on to make the teams of their schools and colleges. I remember that in addition, I swam for both the Coraopolis and the Sewickley YMCA's, when they needed a swimmer.
Again, these early heights families formed the Coraopolis Heights Protective Association and hired an off-duty policeman to patrol the area at night.
Also, over every Labor Day holiday, everybody went camping together. Even back then, they recognized the danger of Fourth of July fire-works and got together and had an expert come in to conduct the displays while the youngsters watched.
Almost everyone of these families belonged to the Montour Country Club and supported it.
The natural attrition of time, the progress of the years, the coming of the airport, rural electrification, public sewers and water, the paving of the dirt roads, have all changed the area to modern living. But, the children of those early families remember the early days, and remember the leadership shown by those early parents.
H. F. TENER, 1983


I was somewhere around six-plus, or minus, when a neighboring family took me with them to Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard Island, off the coast of Massachusetts, as a companion and playmate for their son. My memories of that adventure are of dory fishing boats in the dirty, oily water of the bay, of overhearing the comment that many Portugese people had settled there for the fishing industry, and fishing for cod. Although everybody on the boat tried to hook a fish for me, I did not catch anything that day. The others caught flounder, blowfish, small shark and cod.
The beaches had globs of sticky, black oil or tar and the group left early. We went somewhere for little oysters on the shell and then another place for lobster. I remember picking out the largest live,
green one and watching it turn red as it cooked in the boiling kettle, and not being able to eat it because of the gall-green when it was broken open. I have never eaten lobster since. I did find out how delicious was the firm flesh of freshly caught swordfish, which became my favorite seafood.
I could dog paddle a little before I went there but I did fine with the extra lift of saltwater. There was a float anchored some 100 feet off shore with a low diving board and a 12-foot high diving board. I can never forget that high board because at times my back will hurt me even now. I dove too straight down from the high board one time and my legs came over my head when I hit the water and kinked the small of my back.
What a fine, happy adventure that Martha's Vineyard trip was, although the trip by night boat back to New York was so rough that every passenger including me became seasick during the voyage.
Two years later, when I was seven plus, this same neighbor family took me with them to their summer fun-place on an island in the western end of Lake Erie. The island had been a sailing-canoe club for Cleveland people for generations. It was complete with cottages around the island facing the lake, dining hall, and a large recreation building that also housed the canoes.
This island was 200 miles away from home and we had to stop on the way for lunch. Because it is an island we could reach it from the mainland only by motor launch. This added to the charm. Every day we went to port for mail and groceries by boat.
I remember that a bald eagle was determined to build a nest on the water tower. Also, the big lake excursion boats would blow their horns in salute as they passed the island. When the island arrived in its hot day, so many people visited the island that the big boats would stop regularly. At that time, they just blew their horns.
We swam and fished. I recall that my small friend and I were in a rowboat that was anchored only twenty feet off shore, but the gentle swell and the hot sun beating directly down on us caused both of us to get queasy stomachs at the same time. This feeling quickly went away as soon as we got on shore.
The island is located in the heart of the Ohio vineyards and the older people would have a bottle of wine to celebrate their sojourn. There I had my first swallow of Virginia Dare wine. I remember that it tasted fine but not special. It was years later that it came to my attention again that Virginia Dare was the name of the very first white child born on this continent.
During the following thirty to forty years, it was my good fortune to return to that island for weekends of fun at the lake.
H.F. Tener-1983


Everybody has heard of the one-room, one-teacher schools of yesteryear, with their outdoor privies. I am sure that everybody thinks of such schools as being back in the days of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn 0r The Little House on the Prairie. Not so. Such was my first school on Coraopolis Heights--known today as Moon Township--across the Ohio River and only about five miles from Sewickley, Pennsylvania as the crow flies.
My birthday is in August so I must have been six. While the teacher was teaching the other three classes the rest of us just sat and waited. Six years old and just sitting with nothing to do was not my idea of a good time. When I was naughty at home my mother would send me to my room to play alone. In that one-room school with four classes, it was like sitting in a corner facing the walls. When recess came, I would run home the two miles across country.
The next year was better. We went to Carnot with its four-room, four-teacher school. I have some good memories of that.
We got into a snowball throwing squabble at recess and I got hit in the eye. It hurt so much that I claimed the thrower had put a stone in the snowball.
Some older boys put up a "poke" of candy as a prize. A bow-legged boy and I were to run around a standing lad and back. We met at base and the heavier runner knocked me down and I lost.
We were sweeping the stoop and the other boy put snow down my neck in fun. I swung the broom at him but broke the glass in the school's front door. I had to confess to my father and ask him for my share in the damage--50 cents. I had never seen that much money and held it in my hand all the way to school until I could turn it in.
There was a blacksmith near the school and we could hear the ring- ingof the hammer as .it struck the anvil. There was a huge tree - an elm, I think, shading it. I always think of that old-fashioned black- smith shop when I see, read, or think, of Longfellow's poem and the smithy under the spreading chestnut tree.
The top of Carnot hill has a high shale bank. With my sister and brother, I walked the three miles home after school every afternoon. Mother, of course, watched the clock and was relieved to see us but never said so.
One day, we found that mice lived in that high shale bank and we had a happy, exciting time digging them out with our hands and chasing them. Such was our concentration that we had no idea how long we had spent doing it until the hired man arrived in the horse and surrey.
What a scolding we got when we got home: We had to promise to come right home after school in the future without fail, and no excuses.
The next year was 1915 and we went to Sewickley Public School and lived happily ever after.
H. F. TENER, 1983


What beautiful buildings are being built on the grounds of the old Sewickley Public School on Broad Street in the Summer of 1983. I am certain the school's alumni will approve just as I do. I am delighted with this opportunity to say so.
I had been in the new post office and on the opening day of The Talbott's sale went in there in search of my wife who was some where among all those happy women shoppers.
With my sister and two brothers I attended the Sewickley Public School for a year but because of the many times I came home with bruises, abrasions and black eyes, the family sent we three smaller ones to Miss Munson's the following year. While at the public school I became good friends with, and remember to this day, a number of the students who were there with me. I remember that I tied in the chinning contests with another Coraopolis Heights boy and we became such good friends that he was my best man in our wedding.
At the time we attended school there the Pennsy tracks ran down the present boulevard. Coming off the bridge we were often held up by many a slow freight at that crossing. It seemed that our timing was bad
because many mornings we would be held up so long that we would be late for class. The powers-that-were at the school always accepted a train on the tracks as an excuse for our being late to class and there was never a penalty.
I was out of the area when they moved those Pennsy tracks from the present boulevard down along the river's edge and under the bridge which was a real improvement. Today the traffic light on the boulevard at the bridge, plus all the present day traffic, compounded with the closing of the Ambridge Bridge, has created much the same delays getting into Sewickley. Speculate, if you can what it might be like had they not moved the railroad and we still had that crossing to contend with as well as the present condition.
H. F. TENER, 1983


Mother did not drive a car and Dad caught an early train to Pittsburgh. My oldest brother, Graydon drove us all in the Model T to Coraopolis, where they ignored the fact that he was only 13 going on 14. Pete Petrie drove us from Coraopolis to the Sewickley Public School on Broad Street and we three younger ones walked down Thorn Street to Miss Munson's.
Now and then, I still see around some of the students who were there when I was. As I look back, I realize that I was happy there, probably because I did all right in classes. I have at least three extra-curricular memories of that time.
The reason we were transferred to Miss Munson's was because of all the fights I got into at the public school with a certain group of my classmates there. One morning as the three of us siblings were walking down Thorn Street, we saw three of these kids approaching. I told my sister and brother to keep walking on if my adversaries stopped us, which they did. I remember delaying as long as I could, then hauling off to throw one punch at the boy directly in front of me, I then dashed for the protection of Miss Munson's.
During the winter, sleds were in our fun at recess. I remember borrowing one and riding down the icy hill of Thorn Street but I had not done it before and didn't know the route or how fast it was. I wound
up crashing into an abutment at the end of the run. The jolt and jar of the sudden stop forced me forward on the sled and in I ripped my knickers all down the front. I remember trying to hold the pieces together with pins and paper clips for the rest of the day.
Then, because I had to return to Coraopolis Heights after school with my brother Graydon and driver Pete Petrie, I could never stay and join in the games after school. At home we only had little Deemer's
Creek to swim in and I really wanted to join my classmates for their swim in Little Sewickley Creek. One day I stayed behind to swim and it was great. But, there I was and it was growing late in the day. I was about seven miles from home and no way to get there but to walk.
Needless to say, I did not do that again.
H. F. TENER, 1983