FROM THE DOWNHILL SLOPE

LIFE THEN   My mother’s father.

My mother’s father was Judge John M. Broomall III or as his grandchildren called him “Nonfather”.  We called his wife, my mother’s mother “Nona. ”  She objected to variations of grandfather or grandmother as sounding too old.  Here are their pictures:

The first reminded me Nonfather was according to my mother an addicted cigar smoker.  I get a headache when around cigar smoke.  Freud might see some connection.  I have no idea.  The middle two are formal portraits and the final is Nona’s weeding portrait.

I have many memories of Nona, none of Nonfather, but I have been told the following about him.  He called me Billy Nye  because I was bald until I was four or five.  I spent a good bit of time trying to find something on the internet about Billy Nye and found his fame had been pretty much usurped by the Science Guy—Bill Nye. I did find the following story:

“Mark Twain related a story told by a fellow humorist, Billy Nye, about his brother, who was “the baldest human being I ever saw. His whole skull was brilliantly shining. It was like a dome with the sun flashing upon it. … One day he fell overboard from a ferry-boat and when he came up a woman’s voice broke high over the tumult of frightened and anxious exclamations and said,”‘You shameless thing! And ladies present! Go down and come up the other way”

This was in a biography of Mark Twain by Charles Neider. Reassured me the story about the nickname might be true.  Although I had not heard it or remembered it on my own, the story  of his nickname for me made me feel  I had some special standing in my grandfather’s eyes.

Other stories about Nonfather:  As a young man, he rode one of those early bicycles with the huge front wheel from Philadelphia to Atlantic City.

He was addicted to coke-a-cola and according to my mother drank 20 or more a day.  Wonder if this started during the time when cocaine was an ingredient.

My mother said he had a mistress that he kept in an apartment over a store on State Street.  Don’t remember which store, but it was at least six or eight blocks from the house on State Street.

He apparently owned many different  properties.   My mother mentioned “Moylan”, which I believe was the house Non-father and Nona lived in until his death.  It could, however been “Stogie,” another house my mother mentioned whenever we drove past it. That was a large white farm-house.  I suspect it was Non-father’s home as a child.  Hoping my brother John reads this and both correct and adds to what I know or think I know.

Besides the State Street property, the one other home I was familiar with was the summer property in Herbertsville, New Jersey.  This property fronted the Manasquan River and had two houses—a large farmhouse, that I remember mainly for its screened porch on the second floor which was where visiting children slept.  The second house belonged to my John M. Broomall, IV.  It was known as the barn.  The main house eventually burned down sometime after Nona’s death. Here are pictures of the main house on the Herbertsville property.  The fourth one is of the Barn.


He apparently owned other  property.  My mother mentioned “Moylan”, which I believe was the house Non-father and Nona lived in until his death.  It could, however been “Stogie,” another house my mother mentioned when we drove past it. That was a large white farm-house.  I suspect it was Non-father’s home as a child.  Hoping my brother John reads this and both corrects and adds to what I know or think I know.

More later.

Agree or disagree, comments are always welcomed.

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