Alanson Perry Holly was born in Woodland, Michigan, of William and Eva Cooper Holly. He was one of five children. William holly was a merchant in partnership with a Mr Holmes in Woodland. Evidently the store did not prosper there, so the Holmes and the Hollys moved to Tulahoma, Tennessee, where again they engaged in an unsuccessful retail store.
As a child, I saw the old homestead in Woodland. It was a two-story, small, frame house. I visited Tulahoma, again when a boy, but I do not recall the Holly home there. My father often spoke of his boyhood in Tennessee, and especially of finding mini balls (bullets) used by Civil War soldiers in the battles of that neighborhood.
The Holly family moved to Lockport, New York, when my father was perhaps in his early teens. I saw the homestead there, a frame house of modest size and style. The old school house where my father attended school was still standing and being used when I saw it about 1930.
My father's parents were pious Christian fold, whose lives revolved around family, church, and work. My grand-father, William Holly, worked for the Holly Manufacturing Company of Lockport or Tonawanda, New York as an erecting engineer of Holly-built steam-engine pumping plants for city water supplies.
Birdsell Holly, an Uncle of William Holly, was an inventor, having devised a means of delivering water to city dwellers by putting the water in underground pipes under pressure. Birdsell also invented the idea of heating by steam and his company built district steam-heating systems in many cities, including Bristol, Connecticut, where my wife, Jean Treadway Holly, was born and reared. More then 2,000 cities of the United States, Canada and even in Europe, had Holly city water systems installed in the last part of the 19th Century and the early part of the 20th Century.
My father was reared in a Puritanic environment, in an age when hellfire and damnation was an accepted creed. He took that false creed in and lived a childhood and early manhood fearful of burning in hell if he ever sinned. He said it was a terrible creed and he was freed of it only when he found Christian Science when he was about 35 years old. That enlightened religion liberated him from such old false theology and he said that after that liberation, only the sky was the limit.
My father attended Mt Herman, a sort of junior college of those days, in Massachusetts. The great evangelist, Dwight L Moody, had founded this school for boys along with a school for girls nearby and called Northfield. My mother, Mabel Barbour Holly, was related by marriage to D L Moody on her father's side. Mabel and her younger brother, Will, were sent to these two schools simultaneously from their home town, Bristol, Indiana.
My father became acquainted with Will Barbour, hence his acquaintance with Mabel Barbour, whom he married in 1905.
The young bride and groom started housekeeping in White Plains, New York where my father was a YMCA secretary. My mother returned to Bristol, Indiana to give birth to her first child, Elizabeth. My maternal grandfather, Julius Barbour, was a medical doctor. He attended the birth of my oldest sister, the late Elizabeth Holly Walpole. My mother had a tough time in delivery, the latter result was that my father quit his job in White Plains and returned to Indiana, where he and his little family moved into a house in Lafayette. There the family lived until all six children arrived; the last, Alice, being born in 1921.
Circumstances in Lafayette were difficult. My father had a hard time making a living for so large a family. He once told me that he walked miles to save a nickel street car fare. The house had no inside bathroom. My mother had been a favorite and only daughter of a doting father, so she was not really prepared for such struggles. But she stuck with it and endured the privations until better times came along later on.
My father once visited his cousin, Stella Holly Stocking, in Detroit. He noticed something in their home which he loved. When asked what it was, Stella said it was Christian Science. She introduced that way of life to my father, who took to it like a duck to water. On the train back to Lafayette, he read Christian Science literature. So impressed was he with it, that upon his arrival at home, he announced to my mother that we were all going to be Christian Scientists. She said we were going to do no such thing. She had had answers to prayer since she was five years old, and she dearly loved her medical doctor father and felt Christian Science would repudiate him.
But once my father was away, my next oldest sister, Helen, was taken with a dreaded disease, one that disfigured her, a beautiful child. In desperation, my mother called for help to a Christian Science practitioner. Clair D Robinson healed the child in one visit, to my mother;s amazement and joy. From then on she accepted Christian Science.
Concurrent with my father's discovery Christian Science, two other families of the Hollys found the same religion. My grandparents, William and Eva Holly, had moved to a remote area in Texas, forty miles from a town. My grandfather was kicked by a mule in the groin. No medical help was available. A neighbor, a Christian Scientist, was called in and grandfather was healed. At the same time in the South, my father's youngest and beloved sister, Marjorie Holly Shearston, and her husband Sears, also found Christian Science. All three families did not reveal this to one another for some years, since they all believed that they would be criticized for leaving the Methodist Church.
My recollections of my family in Lafayette are virtually nil. I do recall my running away from home on a tricycle, and I do vaguely recall the birth of my youngest sister, Alice, but that is all.
We moved to Indianapolis in 1921, where my father took a job as secretary for an association of dairy product manufacturers. He had a job at twenty-five dollars a week with a Lafayette ice cream manufacturing concern and had begun thereby to better meet his family obligations.
In Indianapolis, we lived in a two-story house on Bancroft Avenue. I recall being wakened in the middle of the night to gaze out our upstairs bathroom windows at a house burning down a half block away. I especially remember getting pieces of ice off the back of an ice truck that delivered block ice to us an other families.
In 1923, we moved to Webster Grove, Missouri, a suburb of St Louis, into a rented house at 433 Foote Avenue. My father had been selected by Will and Fred Jones of Indiana to manage an ice cream manufacturing plant in St Louis called City Dairies, a branch of the Furnas Ice Cream Company. The company was an old run down plant, even using draft horses and wagons to deliver the ice cream to retail customers. A stable was nearby which kept a good many huge horses and wagons for the delivery purposes. My father not only turned the old company around financially, but showed a $60,000 profit in the very first year. Later he built a new factory at 4218 Laclede Avenue, a brick, two-story building, which was the main plant. My father resigned as president in 1930, after the company had been bought by the Borden Company in 1929.
I recall a great deal about the family, and my father in particular, during the eight years we lived in St Louis. My father was an early riser and usually left for his office by 6:00 am. Saturdays and vacation times I often accompanied him to the factory where he would first read his mail, then we would go out to breakfast at the Plantation Room in the Chase Hotel.
How clearly I yet see the black women dressed as mammies waiting on table and counter. I liked to go into the factory carpenter shop and build boats to float in the bathtub. The employees of the company were always especially nice to me, the son of the boss, of course. I liked to go into the refrigerated store room where all the ice cream was frozen, albeit you could not stay there but a few minutes since it was like zero temperature. I remember how my father would go to the cashier, Joe Machacek, and cash a check for several hundred dollars and put big denomination bills in his leather case. My father was beloved of his employees, whom he always dealt with fairly. A fine executive, he was a discerner of character and would hire or not hire someone based on their evidence of character or lack of it. He never touched alcoholic beverages and smoked only an occasional cigar. He was serious, decisive, compassionate, stern, witty, scholarly.
He read a great deal, usually the classics, and prided himself in being able to recognize pictures of the writers of his and previous eras1(sic). He enjoyed good food, but was not a big eater. He liked to go to the theater, and often took us children along. We had season tickets for the Municipal Opera, which performed light opera. An athlete when a youth, he was never the less as an adult not athletically inclined so far as sports participation was concerned. He liked baseball and often took me to see the St Louis Cardinals play ball. He loved the Mississippi River, its history, its nature and character, and felt a romance in it.
He was a romantic albeit somewhat restrained in fulfillment of that by a large family and resultant responsibilities. He was never affectionate to my mother in public or in the presence of us children. I think he as a passionate man, but his code was Victorian. He was utterly moral, honest, kept his word always, and faced up to his responsibilities with assurance and vitality. He demanded strict obedience and set an example of good conduct and high moral attainment, and insisted on us children doing and being likewise.
He took me on long fishing trips twice. Once in the fall we went to northern Minnesota to fish several days in gray cloudy weather on a series of lakes. He loved to fish. Again we drove down to New Orleans and then on to Corpus Christi, Texas, fishing there and in Galveston Bay. My father had a 120 inch wheel base Packard, seven passenger touring car with jump seats in the middle. The place was the beach at Galveston at low tide. He walked along the shore as I drove ahead and then waited for him. What a thrill!
My father was generous. He bought my mother about a 1928 Chevrolet Cabriolet which she drove, but timidly. He gave her a two-carat diamond ring, fur coat, etc. Our house, while rented, was comfortable but not pretentious. He had me do daily chores as did the others in the family, even though we had colored help, maid and wash women. I had to empty the coal furnace ashes each day, a real chore. I also had to rise before the family did on cold winter mornings and get the coal furnace started, a furnace which had to be banked at night and which was often stone cold and dead by morning. Work to my father was a way of life, a blessing, and he taught us children to work, to like to work, and to do the job thoroughly even when the result did not show visibly. You still had to do a good job, or you had consequences from him. The consequences were a stern lecture, or a stiff forefinger sternly tapping your shoulder for emphasis. I do not remember his ever spanking me, but I do recall his once spanking my younger sister, Alice, when she was quite small.
My father loved to travel, loved to take his family along. No one ever loved his family more then did he. He adored us all, but never let that affection override his discipline of us. We took a wonderful trip by auto to New England, another to Arizona as far as the Grand Canyon. He took us on shorter trips like Christmas to New Orleans, to Indiana, and visits to my maternal grandmother, Emma Reinhart Barbour, in Bristol, Indiana. He took separate trips with my mother, and separate trips with individual children.
In 1931 we moved to California. My father had resigned from his job as president of the Borden Company, and feeling he had plenty of money, moved the family West. He had received a large block of Borden stock when they had bought out his company, so he had quite a portfolio. However, he did not know that the worst depression in history was upon the country, nor did he realize that his stock values would shrink nearly to nothing in the years ahead, and he without a job, dependent on dividends from stocks tumbling down. By this time, two of the children were out of the nest, my oldest sister, Elizabeth, who had married Walter Walpole and moved to Chicago, and my brother, Bud, as he was known then, later as Lance, who had married and then divorced a girl in St Louis. We first lived in La Jolla and then moved to 1025 Devonshire Drive, Sunset Cliffs, which is on the ocean side of Pt Loma, San Diego. We were just a block from the ocean, in a lovely Spanish-style house, U-shaped, with a patio with fountain and plantings inside the U. I was in the eighth grade, Alice in the fifth, Helen a junior at Pt Loma High School, and Mary in San Diego State College. My mother loved the house. It was the first really beautiful and comfortable house she had lived in in her married life. We children had to work and regularly to keep up the place, inside and out, the girls doing house work and I doing garden work.
My father's car, a 1929 Packard limousine, maroon, seven passenger, with onyx trim inside, and even animal fur for the floor covering in the back, which had jump seats. It was a $6500 car new, but it being used and having 6,000 miles on it, he got it quite inexpensively and traded in his touring car. What a boat that car was! Perfectly elegant. He also acquired for $600 a 1931 Chevy Roadster, with soft top and a rumble seat.
My memory of the two years we lived in Sunset Cliffs is one of the beginning of melancholy in my father. He was without a job, in his fifties, in a depression worldwide where millions were out of work and the while watching his fortune shrink as the stock market slid. He still had four children at home to educate and clothe and feed. Jobs were just not available for executives like him. There was a melancholy in the air for obvious reasons, and my father was succumbed to that miasma. My mother was not well and that worried him also. While an avowed Christian Scientist all these years, he really never understood it as a science. He had read a great deal but still was like a swimmer who wants to swim but could not let go of the side of the pool. He insisted on us children attending Sunday School, but if we did not, we had to work. So it was work or Sunday School and occasionally, I chose to work; work meaning garden work or washing or polishing a car or the like. He still felt that some organic troubles could not be healed in Christian Science. He still leaned some towards material help, natural foods and such.
When my brother, Bud, or Lance as we shall call him from now on, came back home to San Diego after an unsuccessful marriage, my father sent him out to find some kind of a job or work. He found a ranch in Ramona, twenty acres, north of town on the road to Escondido. My father bought it for $2500 and immediately set up my brother in the turkey business, which was thriving in Ramona at that time. We children all moved to the ranch, and with the help of a neighbor (part Indian), Andy Duran, we built our own cabin situated among pepper trees. My father named the ranch Rancho de los Pimientos, ranch of the peppers. My mother continued to stay mostly on the house in San Diego, which she loved, and my father lived at both places. This was in 1933, in the summer. My father loved the ranch and especially the rural life and the chores we children did and had to do as a way of life. We worked from sun-up to dark with the turkeys, with the orchard irrigating, with the cows and even peacocks. My father bought some peacocks and built a cage for them around a pepper tree right along side the highway. He raised pea fowl and sold hatching pea fowl eggs for a dollar each. During breeding season, the peacocks would shriek and scream each time a car or especially a truck went by, day or night. Many strangers knew our ranch because of the peacocks.
We were not very wise as city folks moving to the country, in that we appeared with a huge maroon Packard limousine, and dressed better then most folks did in those depression days in the country. So when Alice and I started school in the fall, we had a tough time of it. We were persecuted one way and another, called Jews, and generally had quite a time in school. My father continued in that unfortunate state of still watching his resources shrink and with us at home and resultant financial responsibility for the family on his shoulders. The turkey business was not good economically. One year he and my brother lost money due to over production of turkey-hatching eggs, so that the crop of eggs failed to pay off. That was a serious blow to my father, who rather turned my brother loose hen to work it out on his own, which he did.
My father, by this time, was being called “The Boss,” or “Captain.” The girls called him “Daddy” mostly, but my brother and I used one of the other two appellatives. Still in an era of masculine domination, he really was The Boss, and he really did captain the family ship. He still insisted on high moral conduct, called a spade a spade when we did not do our best and in general, he kept his high standards and insisted on us keeping ours.
In appearance at this time, my father had thinning gray hair, weighed about 165, was five feet seven or eight in height. He was distinguished, a beautiful dresser, but often wore sporty clothes such as riding breeches with putees. He maintained a more or less quiet composure, but was friendly and outgoing and had a host of friends who enjoyed and loved him. He sought out those who needed attention or help or recognition. He paid little heed to pomp or wealth or position in others as a prerequisite for him to bow down to. Rather, did he seek out the unfortunate and give them a hand. He called on elderly people and took flowers to old ladies. He helped some in distress and was always considerate of those less fortunate. He was a saintly man, the victim of an economic worldwide depression brought on by international wars culminating in World War I. His fortune had shrunk to near nothing and we had to be careful of expenditures. My sister, Alice, was given $10 a week for food purchases for those of us at home, which was three or four at that time.
My father was of an artistic temperament. He was an artist and could draw with pen and ink or pencil very well. One of his brothers, my Uncle Forrest, was a professional artist. My father had a baritone voice, trained, and sang professionally in the White Plains and Lafayette days. He did not sing to speak of when we lived in St Louis. His emotions must have gone from low to high in a pendulum swing during good to poor circumstances. I never heard him complain, however, except when I was not doing my best. He has had a great impact on my life for the demand made of me to do my best, to never give up, to work and work until the job was done, and done well. Had he not had such an insistent demand on me from childhood, I might not have survived when my own going got rough. I am thankful to him for his standards of excellence. He insisted we children maintain superiority. He himself did not ask of us what he did not already demand of himself. To him, mediocrity was almost a sin. When he had to discipline is children, it was really difficult for him. He told me once that it would make him sick to his stomach when he had to confront one of us with having some kind of misconduct. But he did what he had to do regarding discipline and never failed to call on us when a call was in order. But through it all, he tenderly loved and appreciated us everyone.
Mary and he had a good comradery. By this time, she was a working girl in San Diego, living in a hotel, and coming to the ranch weekends. Alice was my father's joy for her honesty, industry, and obedience. My brother, Lance, was less differential to our dad then was I, so sparks sometimes flew a little between the two of them. I was less independent and wished more to please my father and perhaps tried harder to do so than did my brother. However, my father and brother were always on man to man terms, but flew somewhat in separate mental orbits so far as their natures were concerned.
I had a high school sweetheart named Blanche Cannon, two years my junior. She was blonde and pretty and I really liked her. We went steady. My main concern with her was that she smoked and I thought smoking a “no-no,” especially for girls, urging her to give it up. She did. A year later, one day my father said, “I thought Blanche had given up smoking.” I replied, “She has.” My father then proceeded to inform me that she had not only had not given up smoking but she had smoked all the time and behind my back. I was so disenchanted and disillusioned that I burst into tears for the deception. It was a real blow and I learned a great lesson, that insisting on another doing your bidding may involve them in deceit and putting it underground. I vividly remember the confrontation with Blanche; and our relationship, though continuing, was never the same. Later, when I was home from college due to eye troubles, he offered to help me marry her if I wanted to. I did not want to and this and this I show only to indicate his selflessness in the interest of his children, willing to help me marry a girl if I wished, but one that he disapproved of. Self immolation characterized this great man's nature.
I was hurt in football in my junior year and had to drop out of high school accordingly. I lost the sight of one eye and instead of going to school, I worked at various farm jobs, putting up hay, milking cows, and the like. I still graduated from high school, but in the next class after my own. My father helped me write my Valedictorian address in June, 1937. He was a staunch Republican and brought us children up in that political philosophy. The Roosevelt years were of anguish to my father, for Roosevelt practiced and stood for violations of principles which my father deemed immoral, self serving, and a deferring of solving problems into tomorrow. My father was a man who faced up to problems as and when they occurred and did not approve of pushing problems ahead in order to have a happier today. Check out our national debt and attitude now in the light and see if my father called it correctly or not more then forty years ago.
Now I must speak of my own difficulty in order to show again the nature and character of my father. He urged me to go to college. His dream was that I should go to Harvard, but my sight problem would not allow this. So, interested in the dairy industry, I went to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. There I studied for one semester, but my sight fled and I had to return home, having lost my sight. This was a terrible blow to my father and he took it very hard. Add this problem to all of his others, especially financial, and here was a real low blow for him. He agonized over my misfortune. I was taken to a hospital and specialists. One doctor said that surgery might give one chance in a thousand of healing. However, my father offered me the expensive surgery if I deemed it worth it. I deemed it not worth it and besides I deigned to go to surgery even if it had and even chance of success.
I underwent a dreadful pained condition for weeks and we were living in the little town of Ramona, where we were like in gold fish bowl. So my father took me to San Diego and rented an apartment, which we called Egypt, it being like taking a little child out of an errant atmosphere into a better one. Christian Science practitioners, one by one, failed to meet my eye case until Mrs Rollins of La Jolla was called upon. Mental progress ensued and after several weeks, we returned to the ranch in Ramona.
I was twenty years old and had to start my life all over again on uncertain ground wit unexplored and unknown experiences pending. I suffered, yes, but not as much as did my father for me. Feeling his anguish and realizing his need of comfort, I was rather forced involuntarily but providentially to undergo disciplines the like of which I had not known. For example, I would stand at the dinner table, unexpectedly, and pretend I was giving a testimony of healing of profanity and include a word or two of mild swearing in the testimony, or, testify as to the healing of stuttering and stutter through the whole thing, and wind up with a stuttering statement that the healing was permanent. That broke the tension, encouraged me to live a normal life and work it out, and lessened the dreadful burden that my father and family carried around. It was time for growth, for spiritual growth and human dominion, and we worked through those dreary days and came out the other end with some victory. However, I do think that my father never really recovered his poise concerning my problem, and I think he agonized to his dying day over it. I know he would have joyfully taken on my problem if he could have. He could not and wished he might.
As I began to get back on my feet, I joined the Christian Science Society in Ramona, and became a working church member. So did he at my request, as I recall. He gave testimonies Wednesday nights and they were good ones. He became president of the Rotary Club in Ramona and presided with dignity and poise. His interests continued to be his family. His dream was that we children should all find our mates and then live near each other and be friends all our lives. He once wrote a letter to Marjorie Shearston, his sister in Miami, and said that the joy of his life that morning was to hear his children singing at their work on the ranch. Singing at their work. That was his kind of thing, and he loved that reality in us, his children.
Glendora Rollins of La Jolla, my Christian Science practitioner's daughter, invited me to write to her classmate, one Jean Treadway of Bristol, Connecticut I did so. Jean was without sight since age twelve, so at least we had that common denominator. Jean's first letter to me in answer to mine came, and my father read it to me. At least he knew a little of Jean, albeit he did not know then, nor did I, that she would become my wife and the mother of four of his grandchildren. My next letter to Jean recounted the passing of my father, and recalls that letter indeed.
It happened thusly. Alice and I returned from San Diego in the late morning. As we pulled into the yard, Mother ran out of the house and said that Daddy was dying. I entered the porch and found my father slumped in a chair, in a state of expiration. He was not conscious and the experience of passing on was evident. Out loud I prayed. He quietly ceased to breathe in a few moments. His life struggle on this planet was over, and he had gone on to, I earnestly hope, a brighter and happier life. He loved his family and was loyal and true to them with his every breath. Even with his last breath, was he considering family, for he had just bought four cords of fire wood and noted to my mother that she would be warm this coming winter. He had a premonition of his demise. In fact, he had had a spell across the highway on the Duran's one day, and told Mrs Duran that one day he would succumb to these spells. I suppose it was what would be called a heart attack, but I do not know this for sure.
Thus ended the life on this earth of this noble man, husband, father, example, and friend.
This account has been written to and for his grandchildren, since most of them never knew him. The heritage that you, his grandchildren, have from this saintly man is with you every moment of your life, both here and hereafter. He lived and loved and wept and won, the while standing for idealism and excellence of character and performance. Those qualities you have inherited.
God grant that you, too, exercise them as did he, that your children may feel towards you as his children feel towards him. God grant that one day we all may know him again.
“For their work continueth...broad and deep...Come, the Life Story of Elais Ingraham” by Forrest M Holly, page 218, published 1975 by Fleming H Revell Co