Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Little Lord Fauntleroy

I was recently contacted by Alan Schenker from Nevada and we have been conversing about Verrill. Alan has been following the works of Verrill longer than I, and he is more systematic and scholarly in his approach, including reviews of each work. Alan should be writing this blog, but for now, I'll just continue with the transcription, digitizing of AHV's works as before.
David L. Davenport is a long time correspondent, whom I had not heard from in a year or more. He wrote the article below, and is the only person that I can remember actually met AHV.

Little Lord Fauntleroy and the Professor

By David L. Davenport

From Southwoods magazine, found by Alan Schenker, digitized by Doug Frizzle with slight alterations.

I was about five years old, we lived in the Buckler blocks on Belmont Avenue in Springfield, Massachusetts, when I met our next door neighbour, Professor A. (Alpheus) Hyatt Verrill (better known by Hyatt Verrill).

I was introduced to the professor by my father's best friend, Ernest Buckler. I was scared out of my knickers when I first saw the professor. He wore a mustache and a goatee!

But yours truly, Little Lord Fauntleroy, soon discovered that the professor didn't bite, and he had a beautiful pet owl.

In 1936 A. Hyatt was working at the Webster's Dictionary's Research Center, in Springfield, as an illustrator. I remember him showing me a large poster with his daughter Lola as a Matador in Central or South America. She was the first female bull fighter in the history of the region.

I would make a pest of myself at A. Hyatt's apartment. He continuously sent me home after I over stayed my visits. He was writing a new book, The Heart of Old New England. It was the history of the Connecticut River and its towns, from the Canadian border to the open sea, ending at the light house at Old Saybrook Point.

1 used this book as my guide when 1 planned a canoe trip down the Connecticut River, from the Connecticut lakes at the Canadian border, to my home at Calla Shasta in Agawam. I also traveled through the Windsor Locks Canal and down to the mouth of the river where it merges into the ocean. It is a beautiful river. I've always thought we should have taken care of this natural waterway better than we did over the years. Pollution was the main problem. The Connecticut has cleaned up considerably since conservation has been on the public's mind, and industry stopped dumping waste into the river.

A. Hyatt wrote a series of stories in the twenties, for the pulp magazines. They were adventure stories of a group of boys. They were very popular with the young generation at the time. Reading was very popular. They didn't have TV. Radio Stations used some of his stories for broadcasting programs. Young boys—like myself, would lie on the living room floor in front of our radios and listen to the mysteries of the day. WOW!

The Professor would sit down with me—when he took the time, show me his illustrations and tell me many a story of his travels. I would become spell bound. Hyatt taught me about sea shells, the Maya and the Aztecs Indians, marine animals and fish. Hyatt also sparked my interest in insects of all kinds. I began looking at the ground and was fascinated with the insect kingdom. My mother was not too keen about me collecting bugs (especially different sizes of spiders). My mom would find all kinds of dead bugs inside my knickers pant legs when she did the wash. My knickers always had holes in the bottom of the pockets. Anything I put into my pockets would fill up my pant legs. I can still see my Mother hanging the knickers up on her clothes line and beating them with her carpet beater, to get rid of the riff-raff (junk).

One little incident about the professor that I can remember happened one day when my father and his friend Ernest Buckler went for a hike in Forest Park on a mushroom hunt. Off we went with me riding on their shoulders. We spent most of the day and returned home with two huge bags of mushrooms. Neither Dad nor Ernest were sure how to tell which of the mushrooms were poisonous! So we all headed to A. Hyatt's apartment. The Professor dumped the whole pile of mushrooms on the kitchen table and started to examine each mushroom. It was a surprise to all of us when the professor announced, "NONE OF THEM ARE MUSHROOMS!" Needless to say, we left disappointed, groaning about a lost dinner. We thanked him and while we were walking back to our apartment, Ernest stopped dead in his tracks and started laughing. He popped up with this question:

"Say, you don't suppose Hyatt told us all those mushrooms were bad so he could eat them himself?"

My father and his best friend would laugh about that story over and over throughout their later years.

A. Hyatt became very good friends with my father and Ernest. Ernest had been to the professor's home in the Everglades, Florida. His daughter was young at the time. She showed off her pet to Ernest. It was a black panther! The house was built out of thatch, and full of specimens from the jungle.

Ernest, who owned the building, gave the professor a space in the cellar of our block, and the three men all spent many an evening in the professor's wood-working shop, watching him make bowls, lamps, and weird figures. He would illustrate and paint them with ancient Inca and Mayan figures.

I still have a small desk pencil holder, a beautiful owl, which he carved out of a solid piece of wood and painted. Somehow I have been able to keep this precious item through the years

Hyatt painted many paintings of the American Indians, Maya people, and the Aztec nation. My mother had a couple of paintings by Hyatt on our living room wall.

There is a vast collection of works by Alpheus Hyatt Verrill (1871-1954). His name pops up when wonders of the world are brought up, even today, though most of his books are out of print. He wrote over 190 transcripts, stories, articles and books. Many books can still be found in the library. He also wrote many volumes of non-fiction in the natural sciences and anthropology. He produced fiction and science fiction in pulp magazines during the 1920s and 1930s. One, called, "Bridge Of Light," was re-issued in 1950 in hard cover. It was reviewed in the New York Times, and was a delight to read. It is virtually a script for a movie in the genre of "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark." A series of Indiana Jones movies followed from his books.

He also wrote a non fiction book, "My Jungle Trails," and another interesting book, "Strange Customs, Manners and Beliefs." I would engross myself in some of these books and envision myself as the hero, solving all the problems of the world. SUPER FAUNTLEROY, BOY WONDER!

A. Hyatt Verrill has been credited with having invented the autochrome process of natural color photography in 1902.

Hyatt's father was a Professor of Zoology for many years at Yale University. When Hyatt attended Yale, he was taught by his own father.

A. Hyatt Verrill died in Chiefland, Florida on November 14, 1954. He is written up in the free Wikipedia encyclopedia, on the Internet. Used copies of his books are available on as well as eBay. Hyatt's books are still interesting to read.

The professor was a great friend and mentor when I was 5-8 years old. He developed my interest in many things that I would never have had an opportunity to find on my own. Sadly, my family moved and we lost track of the professor.

Today I sometimes wonder how much more the professor could have accomplished if he had written all of his information with a modern day computer. Lord Fauntleroy misses the years spent in his youth with the professor. In a few short years, I obtained a great education from a great man.

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.