Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

May 2014

What could be simpler than a prideful little recap of the 30 years I’ve been punching keys to make an “extra point”? It has, indeed, been 30 years — 360 issues — which I submit is a long time at most tasks. But for no good reason, I had been putting off crafting the few lines I am committed to for the queue for publication.

Luckily, my niece Carol Tenney sent me am essay about my grandmother written by my Aunt Miriam Tenney-Fox for my father. As it was written more than 60 years ago and included a reference to a happening at least 60 years before that, I include this excerpt as my historical extra point.

Here’s what Aunt Miriam wrote, exactly as she typed it.

The year we “had” Hiawatha in school... of course, we had had it read to us, and practically memorized it... “by the shores of Gitchee-Gumee, by the shining Big Sea-Water... (I will spare you... I won’t go further... but I could!), Mama, of course, was most interested.

She told us how she and Lizzie, the friend of her bosom, who lived on nearby Pinckney Street, had planned to go over to Cambridge and call on Mr. Longfellow. Here, at beautiful Craigle House, on Brattle Street, he welcomed children in his study, every Saturday afternoon. Somehow, the girls, Mama and Lizzie, always seemed to plan to go next week.

One sunny Saturday afternoon they were trudging across the Common, with their arms full of books from the Library, their weekly diversion. (The Boston Public Library, at that time, was on the corner of Boylston and Tremont Streets, before the beautiful Romanesque building designed by McKim, Mead and White was built in Copley Square. It was Stanford White, of this firm, who sadly, became entangled with Evelyn Nesbit Thaw, the “Girl in the Red Velvet Swing”, and was shot by her husband, Harry Thaw.)

To get back... We have left the girls crossing the Common, and agreeing that next Saturday afternoon they would definitely go over to Cambridge and call on Mr. Longfellow.

Suddenly the bells began to toll... all the church bells in the city of Boston, all of them from Trinity’s and the Cathedral’s to the tinkling bells of the smallest chapels’. Fire bells rang mournfully and frighteningly, and the boats in the harbor joined in with their shrill fire whistles.

It was deafening and alarming. The girls gathered up their skirts and ran home breathless and terrified.

The news had reached “the Place”.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had died.

As Mama told the story, we children were indeed impressed. We were all very quiet... Then Mama added “That’s what happens when you procrastinate!”