Leonard Guy Anderson ( 1878-1944) was a charmer. He was never known as Leonard–always “Guy”, and by his children and grandchildren as “Daddy Guy.” Although he died when I was barely five years old, I remember him vividly. He was one of those people who sparkles with life.
Get a taste of his sense of humor from these two letters.
Interestingly, my slightly older cousin Herb Anderson and I have the same visual memory of Daddy Guy Anderson. We remember him sitting in the living room of the big house on Main Street in Killbuck Ohio in a rocking chair, with a brass ashtray stand by his side. He sat and read.
By the time that Herb and I have clear memories of Daddy Guy, his health was going down hill from a heart condition, which accounts for our memories of him sitting in a rocking chair, but earlier in his life he was a perpetual motion machine, never quiet for long.
Despite his small wiry frame, he was feisty. Herb remembers that when Grandma and he had the restaurant pictured at the top of the page, Guy kept a blackjack under the counter. That’s because they sold beer. Lots of beer. And fights would break out on Saturday night. Guy Anderson would wade into the fray and break it up with his blackjack and sometimes the help of my two uncles, Bill and Herbert Anderson.
Guy was a breeder of fighting gamecocks (still a popular sport in some parts of the MidWest), one of which is seen in this picture with my cousin Herb as a young man, probably taken in the late 1930’s. That’s the side yard of the Anderson’s home–the house that my grandmother’s father Dr. William C. Stout built, and the one Vera and Guy Anderson turned into a restaurant.
My personal memory of Daddy Guy has to do with books. The books he was reading as he sat on that rocker were pulp-fiction Westerns. Lots of Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. While I imagine he picked up western story magazines at the drugstore, his insatiable thirst for words led him to borrow books from an interesting lending library. (Killbuck did not have a library of its own until very recent years.) I loved to walk with him across the street and around the corner onto Front Street. There a small store with bay windows in front had one window piled with paperback books. Readers could borrow them just like at a regular library. Unfortunately for me, there was nothing there for a five-year-old, but the experience just solidified my idea that to be grown up was to read, and to read as many books as possible.
Daddy Guy also listened to the radio a lot. We were all interested in what was going on in the war in the 1940’s,but he also listened to a lot of ultra-conservative rants. (No, talk radio wasn’t invented recently–just the call-in part.) He turned the radio up loud because he was very hard of hearing. In my memory, Daddy Guy always had the hearing aid that is visible in the picture at the top of this article. My, how technology has changed. Back then, he felt fortunate to have a device that was small enough to fit in his shirt pocket (larger than today’s cell phones) and connected by a long wire to buttons hooked into his ears.
Guy Anderson tried on a lot of occupations–and discarded them just as fast. He was a farmer when he married his first wife, Lillis M. Bird (1877-1903). They lived on the Anderson family farm after they married in 1898. They had two children, Rhema (Fair) (b.1902-1906) and Telmar (1903-1982). But Lillis died in childbirth in July 1903 when Telmar was born, and Guy was left with two children.
Guy rekindled an old friendship with Vera Stout. When her parents asked if she intended to marry him Vera scoffed, “Do you think I would marry a man with two children?”They were married a few months later, in October, 1904. I told you he had charm.
Vera had a mind of her own, and she did not want to care for
two young children as a new bride. Rhema and Telmar were sent to Guy’s brother Ben (Benjamin Franklin Anderson) to raise. [CORRECTION: Rhema went to Guy’s uncle Frank Anderson.]
After giving birth to three children (William J. 1905, Harriette 1906 and Herbert 1908) and living in the country with her mother-in-law, Vera had had enough of the farm and insisted they move back in to town. Although Vera had declined to raise Rhema and Telmar, they were always on good terms, and Rhema and my mother were extremely close all their lives.
If you think about that timeline, you have to admit that Guy Anderson had a busy life. In the ten years between 1898 and 1908 he married twice and fathered five children. Besides that, between 1909 and 1944 he had at least five occupations.
In town (Killbuck Ohio), Guy tried his hand at running a hardware store until 1910 when Dr. William Stout, his father-in-law died. He sold the store and helped his mother in law by managing the Stout family farms. In the 1920’s Guy opened a garage.
My mother, Harriette Anderson Kaser, in her recorded memoir, explained why her father was not a big success as business. He was too generous. If someone came in and gave him a sob story in his hardware store about how they couldn’t afford to buy their child a sled at Christmas, he’s just give it to them on credit.
By the early 1930s as we have seen, he and Vera had started a boarding house,which morphed into a restaurant. That apron isn’t just for pulling beer, although I imagine he did a lot of that. Guy also helped with the cooking. I don’t know for sure what all he cooked, but every time I make a pie crust, I remember my mother telling me about his instructions to only roll the rolling pin in one direction–never back and forth. He also made light biscuits, she said, and was adamant that the secret was in handling the biscuit or pie dough as lightly as possible.
But then, I suspect Daddy Guy approached all of life with a light touch.
Note: I would like very much to be able to identify the other men in the picture of Guy Anderson’s businesses. If you think you know someone who might know, please forward this article to them. Thanks.