Sunday, March 22, 2015

if God left

If God ever silenced his voice in our consciousness, withdrew his hand from our lives, removed his very presence from this world - everyman would feel the absolute void - experience immediate immedicable darkness from around and from within. Like the air we need to breath to live, we would each cease to be and this world end.

Friday, March 20, 2015

V-Mail from Murdoch

Click on letter to see in separate window.

Somewhere in North Africa
James M. Finlayson SK 1/c
3 November 1943
Flotilla Nine LCT (5)

Tonight before going to bed, I've been riffling through and reading Murdoch's V-Mail to Cheraw, SC..  His letters aren't as detailed as his younger brother Pat's mail.  The above is one of his fewer longer letters.  Most of his letters read the same; letting his parents know that he's safe, asking for items that he can't get hold of (usually articles of clothing), asking about his siblings stateside, and trying to get siblings to write.

Even though Murdoch and Pat are in the same Flotilla, they don't see each other as much as they'd like. He'll either inform his mother that he's been with Pat or that he hasn't seen Pat and would like information about him if they've heard from him.  So you could be on the other side of the world, closer to a loved one than other family members far away at home, yet still depend on those at home to let you know that your little brother is okay. All of these wartime letters reflect Murdoch's love and concern for his little brother, and Pat's love for his older brother.  Pat could get annoyed with Murdoch's peculiarities, but they showed great concern for one another, always looking for the time they could hang together.

For years I had heard that Murdoch coded his letters, so the censors could not pick up on his secret messages so his mother back home in Cheraw could know what was going on.  I think I am picking up on it, but not able to decipher the odd lines.  He would write about "Papa building a fence", or "How's the garden?" or "Have Papa build a second story to the house".  Some lines were just strange and a little out of place, and all I can figure Murdoch was writing code.  Only Murdoch and his parents knew what he was writing about. I'm guessing that throughout the letters, anything that has to do with carpentry and gardening are coded messages.

Rest assured, when Murd was talking about money, he was writing about money.  Both Murdoch and Pat were sending money home, making sure their parents were being taken care of.  There were lots of letters being written back and forth, every one touching base and doing their best to watch over each other.

So long ago now, and touching to see the love written clearly between the lines.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

LCDR Patillo A. Finlayson, USNR

Click to see larger version.
I received a such a large influx of letters, documents, photos after Uncle Pat's death four years ago, that I am still finding gems every time I rummage through the boxes.  I have yet to read all the wartime letters home from aboard the LST-312,  many of which I will eventually share here at The Long Journey Home blog.  Pat achieved Lieutenant Commander during the Korean War, and served as Information Officer at Orlando Air Force Base until he left the Navy to sign on as Base Historian for Warner Robins AFB until his retirement in the 1980's.  I have many-many great photographs (mostly 8 x 10's) that I have yet scan the first one. Eventually, I'd like to share the majority of these photographs with Warner Robins Museum of Aviation.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

letter from a tour

H. Westbrook and His Orchestra
The letter is written in pencil on very aged yellowed paper.  I am straining to read it as I transpose it to this post. For those of you just dropping by, H.Westbrook Finlayson had polio as a child and remained on crutches for the rest of his life.  In his early days, he started up an orchestra to help pay for college which led to some success.  Being on crutches had it's limitations, but the fellow that later became our Dad rarely allowed life's inconveniences to hold him back.

Monday Evening

Dearest Mother-
I got your letter today written last Friday.  It sure was welcome.  Pat wrote too. - As I had written Evelyn the details etc. and told her to pass the letter around.  I guess Pat will get all the news from her.  However, I'll include a few notes in here for him.

I'm out of ink so you'll have to excuse this pencil.  You'll also find you $5.99 here - and Thanks!  By the way, Wofford was to have given I.S. Funderhurke the money for that tire.  Did he?
Mother, the hotel here is nice.  A big resort hotel with all conveniences - and my room is right among those of the heads of the various departments.  I'm perfectly safe here.  The night watchman (a swell old fellow) looks after me every night, fixes my windows, opens my doors and everything.  You can rest assured nothing could happen to me.

Bill Cantry has only played with me a couple of days.  He's been in bed every day for the past four days with a strep throat. I'm going to send him home when he gets able to travel.  He's better now but for awhile he was pretty bad off.  We have a Boston C(?)ns man playing piano for us now and he's only 18 and jives. Tell Pat I've added two very fine men to the band.  One trumpet man and a bass.  Tell him we're playing a Hal Kemp style with tenor playing under staccato, cup-muted trumpet.  It sounds swell and the crowds have increased tremendously over the other bands.

Have I been writing you enough?  I've been awfully busy but I've tried to keep you informed.  We went to Canada again last night.  It was fun but I believe that will be our last trip.

Our southern drawl is going over pretty big!  I play all the tunes that they request and that makes them like us.  I tell them that will get their request if we haven't got it and they are flattered into coming back.  The old people are the ones that are more on our side and will fill up the table with people from 40 to 75.  Three old people (one old man and two old women) never miss a night and they rave about my band and voice every time.  I talk to them.  It embarrasses me. - I met a very nice couple from Maryland, their mother and father, their daughter, son and son in-law.  He came up in a 16 cylinder Cadillac- and they were real nice to me.  He invited me to call on him when we drive through Baltimore - and to dinner.  He asked me to come to the races there, too.  It seems he owns a race track. Gosh!

One lady and gent tipped me $15.00 for playing the "Beer Barrel Polka".  (Don't tell the fellows, however, 'cause I use that money to run the band on.  They might think differently.)

There is so much to tell that I'll save some of it till we can talk it over.

Tell Evelyn when you write that I saw Ora Sherrill Poulnot in Charleston and I mean to tell her but I forgot.  She asked me to dinner, too.  That was while we were in Folly.

Thanks for telling Elizabeth Stricklyn about it all.  Let me know what she wrote.  And tell Pat to keep me posted on the baseball.  I never see a paper.  Tell Evelyn to mail me a State sometime if she has the money.

I shan't go in boats.  I did, however go to Burlington, Vt on the "Streamline Ferry". to see Ing's sister but that's perfectly safe.  Lake Champlain is beautiful.  It freezes over in the winter and is it big!  It gets 35 degrees below up here, they say.  I can understand that.  It's cold here now.  We ay catch some of the real cold before we leave.  - cause we'll get away about Sept. 3 or 4th and we sure are North!

Be sure and let me hear from Rutha.  Florence nor J.L. have written.  Did Wofford and Edith move?  What are British sailors doing out at the Lake?  That "chicken egg" business sounds like Canada.

I used my French - and believe it or not - I read the entire front page of a Canadian friend's newspaper last night and ordered my  food in French.  One English-French waitress said I did real well at French.  How 'bout that?  Wouldn't Mme Sweeney be proud of me?  Oui?

Mother, the work here isn't easy and I have to stay in a hurry - but enjoy it all and I'm managing real well.  Laundry is high and I could certainly use someone to keep my clothes hung up and straight - but otherwise everything is swell.  The food is fine, I have a nice room and all the people here are wonderful.  My chief and only worry at this writing is for Bill Cantry.  I'll be glad when he can start home where he can be cared for properly.

Guess that's all the news so tell Pop and the rest "hello".

-Love Westbrook

P.S. Maybe you'd better send my mail to Henry Westbrook.  I don't want to take the chance of missing any of it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Service Station at Cabin Creek

"A short story appeared in Cosmopolitan Magazine about a newspaper reporter and a madcap heiress spending the night near Cheraw in a motel room at Cabin Creek.  They separated the room with a blanket.  Much later the movie "It Happened One Night" (with Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable) was made.  It was taken from that magazine story."
~Thomasine McCown Haynes

Source: All in One Southern Family Volume II: Life in Cheraw

Monday, March 16, 2015

simple and true

My twelve year old daughter borrowed my notebook last week. I didn't see what she had drawn in it until the next time I had need of my notebook.  Kelsey, as far back as I can remember her drawings, her characters have always had a spark of life in their little smiling faces. As simple as they are, they have always given good representation of who she's drawn.  All of her little smiling faces jump right off the page.

This picture, minus the mermaid, is an excellent family portrait.  Unfortunately for me, I think she nailed it.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Time for Murdoch's close-up

Click to see larger image.
J.M. Finlayson's close-up
I just scanned two images of my uncle James Murdoch Finlayson during the war years.  In this large group photo, Murdoch is on the 3rd row from the top, 4th from the left.  He's the fellow with the big smile on his face. I cropped and enlarged his image so you can see this good looking fellow a little closer. On the back of this panoramic crew shot is "Finlayson SK 2/c US Navy"...that's short for Store Keeper Second Class.  It wasn't long before Murdoch stepped up to Chief Store Keeper - Acting Appointment CSK (AA)  to Chief Warrant Officer (CWO), and served in the very same flotilla (Flotilla 18) that his brother Patillo Ainsworth Finlayson served.  Uncle Pat told me on several occasions how Murdoch was treated like royalty about the LST-312 anytime he came aboard to visit his kid brother.  Pat said that Murdoch the bookkeeper for the entire flotilla and made the payroll for every man on every I'm sure he was treated well.

J.M. Finlayson
Last night I found another image of Murdoch that I had never seen before, donning his Dixie-Cup hat.  He almost looks like he could be a movie star in this picture.  Even in his old age, he photographed well.  I wonder why our kinfolk didn't head to Hollywood with mugs like that?  They were all sharp and talented.  Perhaps is was that graceful Southern drawl of theirs (think Shelby Foote).  My dad was the only one in the family that seemed to have dropped his drawl along the way.

Anyway, these are images of Uncle Murdoch during his time in the Navy.  I thought my siblings would enjoy seeing these images, perhaps for the first time.
Note: James Murdoch Finlayson CWO, Service No. 724-08-14, Flotilla 18, LCT(5).  An earlier ship muster day has Murdoch in serving in Flotilla 9.  Records show that Murdoch enlisted in the United States Navy October 22, 1942

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Cheraw Chronicle ~ Jan 11, 1971

 In 1934, Henry Westbrook Finlayson wrote the Cheraw High School Alma Mater, 'With Loyal Hearts'.  Then he was a bright, handsome, popular Cheraw High senior, now he is a prominent attorney in Gadsden, Ala.

Recently Ann Jones of the Spokesman staff of the high school wrote to Westbrook to find out about him today. "It was just fabulous, and we ran a story in our paper; but we simply did not have space for all that we wanted to say.  :lots of older people called us so we asked Eddie Sweatt if he would like the rest of the story.  He sad he certainly did, and here it is."

When Westbrook was in high school he could always be found where exciting things were going on.  Sports editor for The Chronicle, a marvelous singer at impromptu affairs, he was a good guy with a merry heart and woulds of personality.

In spite of the fact that he had polio as an infant and had always had to wear braces and use crutches, no one ever considered him "handicapped" even Westbrook himself.  He seemed "challenge."  Westbrook's family lived in that big brick house next door to the Old Southland Inn on Market Street in Cheraw.

He was one of three boys and three girls, the children of Burruss and Jennie Wait Foster Finlayson.  Mr. Finlayson was a well-known merchant and his wife, a music teacher for over 60 years.

The year 1934 was in depression days, and most people had to walk where they were going.  Westbrook was no exception.

Whether the crowd was going to Caston Field for a ball game or was meeting at the Methodist Church (where his family were "pillars,") for a hayride, Westbrook would set out for  the meeting, as one old clasmate expressed it, "with that heavenly voice of his."

He always knew the latest popular songs as well as the old sentimental ones, and everybody loved him.  When Westbrook was asked to tell about entering the University of South Carolina in these days of dark depression, he said, "It was a big step for a little fellow."

"State Representative Campbell laney was kind enough to give me my first lift to Columbia and, if memory serves, I carried with me about $1.25 for spending money.  There was waiting for me NYA job at the University Co-op Store.  I was to work under Coach Whitey Rawls as a bookkeeper and was supervised by Prof. Frank Meeks of the university accounting department."

"My high school introduction to the "big band" business seemed to make up too strong a temptation to resist in the days when musicians were both in demand and greatly admired.  My sophomore year I put together an eleven piece band made up of student musicians and a few outsiders, mainly fellows working in the state government. We practiced at old Flinn Hall on Campus.

From every standpoint this was a shaky start; but it was a start.  In time, the personnel of the band was changed, the arrangements were bettered and the group soon showed real signs of progress and some measure of popularity on the campus.

About this time I gave up my job at the Co-op and went into the music business head first as a means of paying for my education.

This seemed a very fine thing to do because there were others in the band at that time who were also dependent upon outside income to help with their education.

As I recall now, many prominent South Carolinians and graduates of the University of South Carolina shared the success of what was later to become on of the State's fine dance orchestras.    Several doctors, an airline pilot, a county school superintendent, a postmaster, to name but a few, made up that first unit. What they lacked in music and experience, they made up for in noise." 

In time, and with personal changes, the band seemed to achieve an enviable status for its musicianship.  They played such places as the Ocean Forrest Hotel at Myrtle Beach; The King and Prince Club at St. Simons Island; and numerous other resorts elsewhere in the area in the Summer. They were booked will in the Fall, Winters, Springs with college and what they called "society jobs."

In 1941, just before Pearl Harbor and the beginning of World War II, the band played an engagement at Ausable Chasm, N.Y., located on Lake Champlain just south of the Canadian border.  After returning to Columbia in the Fall of 1941, the band's personnel seemed to fly apart as many of our men were called into service.

Fortunately, however, because the band was playing so many armed service installations, they worked out an arrangement to use some army personnel stationed at Ft. Jackson. 

With them they had, not only fine musicians, but some of the finest arrangements in the country.  This was to result in making contact with some fine personnel who came to make up the band as soon as the war was over. "I left school in 1939 because I could not keep up the pace with the band and still attend classes properly," said Westbrook.

"In 1941, however, I went back to the University and took some post graduate and special subjects in writing and psychology in order to qualify me for entrance into law school.  The latter part of 1942 saw me standing on the sidelines while the other male members of my family were either in the armed forces or on war jobs.  Having a great love for my country, as I still do, I looked into the possibility of obtaining a commission with the special Services section of the army that bandleader Glenn Miller had entered.

This branch required no physical examination , and one representative of the Army told me that I was being given consideration for a commission in the branch about time that Congress did away with the department over a hassel involving President Roosevelt's appointment of Mayor Leguardia of New York as Governor General of Italy, once it had been taken over.  This meant that I could see no form of service at all, so I went about looking for something to do.  I served as an assistant to the accountant of a large firm in Columbia for about a year. 

In time I took position with the U.S. Army Air Corps as an assistant property auditor.  This turned out to be a very interesting job involving a sizable contribution to the war effort, but, true to my promise to myself, I left it just as soon as Japan surrendered and went to work setting up the machinery for the new band.  I knew the band I had on paper could be sensational.  All of the contacts I had made with the service musicians set me on fire to get started.

Somewhere along the line in the earliest days of my music career, while appearing in Columbia at The Township Auditorium, the late Jimmy Dorsey advised me to drop the name "Finlayson" from my band name and to call it simply "Henry Westrbook and His Orchestra".

The new band assembled in due time and again under that name and, after enrolling myself in law school, I was in business!  The success of the new Big Band is fairly well known in old timers in the Columbia area.  What may not be as well known is that I had overlooked a little rule involved in my law studies.

At that time the university law school would not permit a law student to engage in any kind of work or activity other than the study of law.  I suppose this is still the case.  Since it was an impossibility for me to attend law school if I did not have the income from the orchestra, I blinked at the rule and survived two full years of work before Dean Prince, the dean of the law school, found out that Henry Westbrook and 'Westbrook Finlayson' were one and the same.

When he did find out, it was with real understanding that we discussed the matter in his private office.  I was told, none the less, that I had to give up one of the other - law school or the band.

My contention was that giving up the band meant giving up both.  Giving up law school was certainly not what I wanted to do.

The glamor of the bandleader had long since been dimmed to the long hours, long trips, and personal troubles.  As long as I remained in Columbia I would be tempted to play the jobs that came my way in order to help myself and the men in the band.

I knew, of course that this was a decision that I alone, had to make.  The best thing to do seemed to be to remove the temptation of playing by changing schools - going where they had never heard of the band.

The Dean and several other faculty members offered to write fine letters of recommendation to any school to which I would apply for entrance.  I guess I  hated most of all leaving the high office to which I had recently been elected.  I was, understand, the only junion to be elected to the Honor council of the law School at that time."

After looking over several schools, Westbrook decided to go to the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University in Macon.  This was a small ivy league type school with an excellent program in corporation law and a building he could get around in quite well.

It would be the first time that he had ever been able to go in school without working, and through the generosity of several members of my family and my good credit, he was able to go without any kind of outside activity.  For the first time he could appreciate what it was to go to school as a student rather than a working man.

It proved quite a relief to be away from the constant attention and notoriety of being a band leader.  Even a "territory name" band got a lot of attention in those days.

New friends took him for what he was as a person; and somewhere along the line he began to see that God must have intended him to be something more than a musician.  Indeed, it was out of many struggles and many disappointments that he came upon the realization that God must have been taking a special interest in him and that he was not returning His love with due obedience.

In a sort of gradual awakening he became more sensitive to the spiritual and less attentive  to the the worldly.  He found himself trying to go to church every time the doors would open.  While he was learning law, he was even assisting Dean F. Hodge O'Neal with the writing of his book on bankruptcy.  From graduation, he went directly to a position as Associate Counsel of General Newspapers, Inc with offices in Gadsden.

In time he met and married a beautiful girl named Esther Davidson of Gadsden.  Her ancestors can be traced back to Rockingham, N.C. within only  twenty-two miles  of his own birth place.

"Esther and I have six children," said Westbrook, "ranging in ages from eight to eighteen.  The oldest boy is in his first year of college and also plans to be a lawyer.  His name is the same as mine, but they call him 'Brooky'."  The next oldest is a girl, Jennie, who is, we think and accomplished folk singer-guitarist.  All six of the children are bright and beautiful, at least in the eyes of their loving father.

"All I am happy to say, like their mother, are deeply spiritual.  The older ones, like their parents, follow the Wesleyan Armenian Evangelical beliefs in old Methodism although Esther was first a Baptist.  Most of them sing, some are artistic, and all are exceeding healthy."

Westbrook's profession has been largely in the fields of corporations, estates, wills, trusts and management.  It is a successful practice, claiming a good list of distinguished people and clients.  Within the past three years, he has been able to build a new Williamsburg-styled law office in downtown Gadsden, with ample space for continuing growth.  He has a staff of three girls and associate  - a research man - and two certified public accountants for special work. Another lawyer will join the firm next Summer and, in time, his son should come into the firm as well.

When he was asked where his brothers and sisters are, Westbrook replied that Wofford is a commercial artist in Columba; Murdock is a retired accountant, also in Columbia; and Ainsworth is a government historian in Macon Georgia.  Rutha Dyal, the oldest sister, is a music teacher and voice coach in Blackville; Florence is a retired teacher in Columbia; and Jennie Llew Guyton, wife of the late Dr. C.L. Guyton, who practiced in Cheraw for some years, also lives in Columbia.

Westbrook is a very busy man.  His hobbies include woodworking, fishing, table tennis, music composition, singing, writing and enjoying spectator sports.  He is the author of both words and music to some popular songs of the few years back, "All This," "Waltz in the Sky," "You're the Only One," "Just Out of Reach," and "Roll Down the Field." the last fight song for Cheraw High.

Westbrook's address is 2624 Scenic Highway, Gadsden, Alabama 35901.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Rev. John Thomas Finlayson

[Document No 7.]
Memoir of Rev. J. T. Finlayson
John Thomas Finlayson was born on the 20th day of October, A.D., 1855, and was received into the M.E. Church, South, at Princeton, N.C. on profession of faith in the year 1873.  He was admitted on trial into the traveling connection of the north Carolina Annual Conference at its session held in Wilson in December, 1879, and served the following charges:

1880, Junior preacher on Smithfield Circuit
1881, Hanner’s Creek Mission
1882-’83, Youngsville Circuit
1884, Junior preacher on Tar River Circuit
1885-’88, Lumberton Circuit
1889-’91, Shelby Station
1892-’93, Roper City Station, where, during the latter part of his second, which is the present year, his health became so much impaired that he was compelled to desist from labor and suffer the unpleasant experience of several weeks confinement to his bed.  While the hand of affliction was thus being heavily pressed upon him, he was called upon to undergo a sorrow of quite a different character in the loss of his beloved wife, daughter of Rev. J. Sanford, D.D., with whom he had happily lived for several years.  And although it seemed impossible from any human standpoint for him to endure the exposure and fatigue of a trip extending from Roper City to Lumberton, yet, excited by an ardent irrepressible love for his departed loved one, he accompanied her remains to the latter place for internment; ignorant of (and perhaps little caring if such should prove)the fact that he too would soon follow to the land where love reigns and sickness is unknown.  Such, however, was the case, for about nine days after her burial his redeemed spirit entered upon its eternal ministry of praise in the City of God.  He died at the residence of his father-in-law on the 17th day of October, 1893.

Brother Finlayson was the descendant of Methodist ancestors, and was an humble sweet-spirited Christian gentleman.  He possessed by nature an intellectual power above the average.  This, with close application to study, soon brought him into prominence among his brethren in the Conference.  During the present year, on his charge, Roper City Station, his ministry was crowned with a gracious revival resulting in the conversion of about thirty souls.  For some hours previous to his death he was in a state of unconsciousness, but just before entering into that condition he was heard distinctly to exclaim, “Ho! Every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.”

During a comparatively short life he was a great sufferer.  For several years at least he writhed within the embrace of that dreadful disease, dyspepsia.  But, believing as we do that “he looked not at the things which are seen but at the things which are unseen,” his afflictions have worked out for him a “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

In the quiet cemetery in the town of Lumberton, N.C., his mortal remains were laid to rest beside those of his wife and their only babe.  Sleep on, young father, mother, babe!  He who is “the resurrection and the life” will awaken they dust at his coming.
~F.B. McCall

Journal of the North Carolina Annual Conference,Volumes 52-57 By Methodist Episcopal Church, South. North Carolina Conference

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Finlaysons of Mt. Olive

Murdoch Uriah Finlayson was the son of Daniel and Charity Finlayson, Daniel being the first of my family's line to come to America. There is an interesting link that locates Murdoch Finlayson in the 1850's in Wayne County - specifically in the small, growing township of Mount Olive, NC.  Lower Wayne County's major industry was turpentine.  Murdoch was not only a merchant, but listed among the five turpentine distillers in the area.

Lower Mt. Olive was known for it's brandies, ciders and liquors. 
"Spirits were a part of the life of most citizens, including ministers. A.J. Finlayson, a prominent Methodist preacher in Goldsboro, was previously the owner of a tavern." Rev. A.J. Finlayson was also a son of Daniel and Charity Finlayson, an older brother of Murdoch Uriah Finlayson.

Murdoch Uriah and his brother Angus Joseph fought on the side of the Confederacy.  After the war, Murdoch is found advertising Boots and Shoes in the 1871 Wilmington, NC business directory. By 1880. he had already settled in Cheraw, SC.  By 1881, AJ is dead and buried in Wayne County, but AJ's son Deems Finlayson is located in Cheraw, living close to his Uncle Murdoch.  At one point, 'Cousin Deems'  (Henry Dennis Finlayson) was a neighbor of my grandfather Burruss Finlayson (Mudoch's youngest son).