Our brother Forrest certainly had a good idea when he put together this Centennial Memorial to our Father Alanson P Holly. Now some years later I would like to add to what I wrote originally.
My remembering begins with the St Louis days since I was two and a half when we moved there. As a little girl I recall being proud of Faffy and loving him but also being afraid of him. I am sure he did not want to be, but it certainly did affect my relationship with him. I had to work out of this fear and it took many years. I am sure that Forrest asking me to write about him in this group of papers forced me to at last start to deal with my thoughts about him. So I owe Forrest a debt of gratitude for that. My former attitude has been replaced with and increasing awareness of, and appreciation for, Daddy's outstanding qualities and the great good he was responsible for in the lives of his children. His family was extremely important to him and he gave us his all. He was a continual teacher in every way showing us the need to do the best we could in every area of our lives. I was just 21 when he left us and so did not know him as an adult. This I regret.
He told us several things about his childhood. One time when he was a little boy he accidentally spilled some sugar on the floor. I am really not sure how old he was. His father made him get down on his hands and knees and lick it up. He felt very humiliated. The pictures of his parents show them to be sad and severe looking. He was a Protestant boy and said the Irish Catholic boys from the Catholic school would way lay the Protestant boys as they walked to and from school and beat them up.
Mother told me when she knew him as a college man and when they were a young married couple he was the life of the party and he also was often asked to sing having a great baritone voice. Some pictures from those day show him having fun. Mother said they were poor for so long and it was so difficult to earn a living those first years, then when things got better in St Louis he was so busy running the business that this lighter side of him was not often apparent. He was very intense and of an artistic nature and so emotional that he covered it up by not being outwardly affectionate to any of us. Later one could see it however when he was with little children like Holly and Alice, his grandchildren. He was so dear to them. Also, some of his letters reveal this side of him. One he wrote me when I was in high school and he and Mother were on a trip back east. It is address to “The Cabin Fireplace” and is a part of this compilation. It is priceless to me.
One vivid memory of the time in St Louis happened when I was younger than ten,, but I am not sure how old. Mother had left some change on the counter of the pantry and I just took it and hid it upstairs in my things. I have no clear idea of why I did that as I never went shopping myself. That night when we were all having dinner in the dinning room, white table cloth and all because that is what we did when he was home with us, I was as usual seated to his left as he was at the head of the table. He told about Mother missing the money and began with Elizabeth, the oldest, and asked each of us in turn if he or she had taken the money. I remember the dread I felt and after all the others answered “No”, so did I. I cannot believe that I did not show that I was guilty on my face, but the subject was dropped. Soon as I could get to Mother after dinner, alone, I told her what I had done, cried and begged her not to tell him. I of course returned the money and felt it a great comfort that Mother did not tell him and that was the end of it. But it really was not the end because I learned a powerful lesson that stealing and lying just do not work for me. Now that I am a parent I have no doubt that Mother did tell Daddy but both probably felt I needed no further punishment, thus showing what good and understanding parents they were.
Daddy was a born organizer, a leader of men, a manager. Whenever he was talking to me about anything serious or instructing me he would tell me to look him straight in the eye. It seemed to me his look went right through me and it was always difficult for me. The people who worked for him liked him immensely and he was good to them. I always admired how neat and clean he was in his personal and living habits. I liked what good clothes he wore, tailor made, and how clean and neat his fingernails always looked. He did not buy cheap things but instead bought quality in clothes, furniture, and cars as long as he could. He taught us to appreciate quality and to take care of what we had and make it last. He taught us to be honest and fair in our dealings with others, to respect others' property and to be industrious, to think for ourselves and just be a follower of the crowd.
Mother and Daddy had in St Louis, interesting, educated and intelligent friends. When we came to Ramona, Daddy had friends from all walks of life. He was just as interested in and comfortable with a college professor as and Indian from a Reservation, or a business man. He took time to know and appreciate each individual. He did unusual things often. One time he invited a Ramona farmer who lived alone to come to Thanksgiving Dinner with us. He valued the uniqueness of individuals. He sought out boys somehow who needed help and encouragement and did what he could for them often giving them jobs at the Ranch. We had some real strange boys there at times. One in particular I did not appreciate having around as a girl in High School, but now realize how kind Daddy was being in trying to help one who so needed guidance and understanding. Since returning to Ramona at a High School Reunion one time, a former classmate told me that when he was in high school with me, he so greatly needed a job and some money and Daddy had hired him and encouraged him and he never forgot it. This man now is one of the big achievers from our class.
Daddy was so good to my Mother's Mother who was a widow for many years. He took her on trips with them, she visited us a lot, he bought her a fur coat, sent her on a trip to California with my Mother form St Louis and much more.
Daddy loved and respected my Mother. She told me they were the happiest with each other when Helen was a baby, although very poor. The business took so much of his time in St Louis and when we moved to California as Forrest explains in what he wrote, Daddy's money problems began again. He had retired in 1931 with what he though were enough investments to take care of us all, but the depression lasted so long that it ruined his stocks. When he passed on there was $60 in the bank and no life insurance. It was a fearful cloud over his head and I do not remember him as a happy man in California. He was, however, the best when we were on trips, it seemed to lift the burden a little and he was able to relax and be more pleasant. He took us on wonderful trips, the National Parks were his cup of tea and were a natural for him with his love of nature and beauty. He taught us to appreciate so much in life. The Parks are still some of my most favorite places. He did so much for us even though he was worried about money and I do not know how he did it, but what a wonderful thing it was for us kids to see so much of the Southwest.
E greatly admired Teddy Roosevelt and was very similar to him in many ways. He preferred classical music but also loved Irish and Scottish music and Hawaiian music. He took all eight of us to the weekly summer performances of light opera in Forest Park in St Louis. I still remember the words to much of the music and some of the stories of the plays. I just loved that too! He introduced the magical world of classic literature to me; one of the greatest joys in life.
He wanted us to THINK and remember! I failed him in this more than once. One time when I was in high school and was driving him somewhere as he often wanted me to do, I exclaimed about a group of black cattle in a field and wondered aloud what kind they were. He was disgusted with me and said “They are Black Angus and I have told you that before!”. I used to try and keep out of trouble by not talking too much and therefore saying the wrong thing when with him. I observed what anyone else in the family did that got them into trouble and tried not to do it. This did not always work, of course, and yet only once did I really get into deep trouble with him when I was in 8th grade, in Ramona. Now that I know how deeply rewarding and incredibly difficult it is at times to be a parent, I realize what an unusually fine parent he was and have great respect and admiration for him.
He wanted us to be refined and polite, to have dignity and high aims and ideals. He gave us an outstanding example to follow. I recall Forrest telling me when he was grown up that he decided to tell Daddy an off-color joke for the first time. Daddy did not laugh and said “Where did you hear that dirty story?” with marked disapproval.
He did not have an easy life as a child or as an adult. But he excelled as a man, remaining true to his highest sense of right. I wish he could have known all of his grandchildren and great grandchildren; he would have delighted in you all.
Alice Holly Matlack