Friday, June 02, 2006

Fairhope Winter, 1909-10

June 2

Fairhope has always been a tourist mecca, and in the early days, not only was Fairhope different, the tourists were different too.

Upton Sinclair, controversial Socialist, novelist and essayist, spent a year in Fairhope, as I’ve posted in an earlier blogpost. With him came his secretary Dave Howatt, about whom Sinclair wrote in his autobiography:

To aid and abet us we had a household assistant who was an even less usual person than myself. Dave Howatt was his name, fair-haired and rosy cheeked, nourishing his great frame upon two handfuls of pecans or almonds, two dishes of soaked raw prunes, and a definite number of ripe bananas every day – it may have been a dozen or two, I cannot remember. This blonde Anglo-Saxon monkey romped with my son, and oversaw his up-bringing, and typed my letters, and washed and soaked the family prunes. A youth after my own heart – vegetarian, teetotaler, non-smoker, pacifist, philosophical anarchist, conscientious objector to capitalism, dreamer and practitioner of brotherhood.

Reading the description today, we can easily envision this blonde hunk, and understand the attraction he held for Maude, whom he married when the Sinclairs invited him to join them in Fairhope. In 1909, the only way to get to Fairhope was by boat. Maude Howatt described the journey in her diary:

It was was beautiful sail to Fairhope. Mr. Sinclair and the little boy David met us at the dock. Mr. S. took us to his house overnight. His home is about 50 feet from the bay. When Dave and I went to bed, we pulled the mattress close to open windows. I sat up with my arms resting on the window sill and gazed up into the stars, then out on the bay or up into the trees. It was a glorious night.

The next day we wound up with our own cottage.

December 13, 1909

It rained all day yesterday and all through the night. When we first came here, we went in swimming, now it is too cool to go in. Had all my hair cut off – Dave thinks I look fine with my hair this way. I know I look prettier with my hair longer, but it is so much more convenient this way. On Saturday Mr. Sinclair, David and I went for a 2-mile walk up the beach in search of hickory nuts. Mr. S. climbed the tree and shook the nuts down for us to pick up.

January 2, 1910

Last night we went up to a banquet in the Organic School. Dave didn’t go as he had no desire to eat the food and no inclination to meet the people. Mr. Sinclair gave a speech; in it he gave an interesting account of Helicon Hall Colony. We left before the affair was over. Today all of us went up to Mrs. Johnson’s for a raw-food dinner.

We have moved out of our little cottage and are living down in Mr. S’s house. During a protracted rain the roof leaked in the cottage, thus making everything uncomfortable. I like it here much better. We have such a beautiful view of the bay. I couldn’t begin to mention the sunsets! They are just glorious. Every night we see a different picture. At present the weather is very warm.

February 13

Dave and I went for a walk this afternoon, trying to find the shack of the “nature man.” We didn’t find it. Miss McLean and I went to a reception at the new hotel – “Colonial Hotel.” It is a very pretty hotel. I wore my pink silk dress. Mrs. Sinclair tied a pink silk ribbon around my head, thus it looks better. My short hair looks all right with my boy’s blouse and sailor collars, but I think it looks queer with a fancy dress. So the way Mrs. S. fixed my hair it looked pretty.

February 28

I went horseback riding on Thursday. Miss McLean borrowed a riding habit for me. We two went riding together. I never enjoyed anything as much as I did that ride. As it was my first ride I felt a little nervous at times, when the horse galloped. I rode astride. It was an ideal day for a canter. It thrilled me through and through. If I had the money I would go for a ride every day.

March 13

Last night I attended a “Raw Food Banquet” up at the Organic School. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were down to our house for dinner a month ago. We got talking about the speech Mr. Sinclair was to give on “Raw Food.” I said, “You ought to give a raw-food banquet.” The rest fell right in with the idea. Mrs. Sinclair and I went up and helped. The tables looked very inviting. Miss Bills, Mr. Streeter, Mr. Woods, Dr. Stockholm and Mr. Sinclair spoke. The speeches were all interesting. We did quite a bit of laughing…

Time came when the Howatts decided to leave Fairhope, but Maude always said she hoped to return, at least for a visit. They left for California in the spring of 1910.

In the early 1990’s, I was working at the Marietta Johnson Museum when a nice Midwestern couple came in with a lot of information for the Museum about Upton Sinclair. The man was the grandson of Dave and Maude Howatt. It was from them that I got the diary material and some personal information about the couple who had lived briefly in Fairhope so many years before. I can only be grateful for the opportunity I have had in my life to meet and talk with such people. I suppose they come to other places, but I am gratified that so often they come to Fairhope. It's all chronicled in The Fair Hope of Heaven, which you can buy at my website.

4 comments:

Benedict S. said...

A delightful read. Nice to see Fairhope through someone else's eyes. Funny. I was in Fairhope for almost two years and for the life of me cannot remember that it ever rained. I don't remember the heat either, but I'm sure both were there. I guess my memory machine is geared to a different set of images.

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