Aunt Mary and the Damned King is being guest hosted by my cousin John VanStone and is about a subject for which we all carry a soft spot in our hearts … Family.
Among our multitude of close relatives while growing up was my mother’s Aunt Mary Egan Gibbons which made her my Great Aunt. An elderly widow with one son, Jimmy, she had come to America from Leeds, England in the late 1800s or early 1900s and probably lived in Philadelphia before coming to live in Atlantic City.
I first remember her as living with us at my maternal Grandmother’s house at 36 North California Ave. At one point during those Depression years, the families of all my grandmother’s children, the Wristbridges, the Mc Nesby’s and we Vanstones all lived in that house with my Grandmother, my Great-Grandmother and widowed Aunt Mary.In the Summer months, a bunch of our Philadelphia relatives visited, and possibly bedded down in that house for a few days.
One of those families was that of Aunt Mary’s brother, Uncle Bill Egan, a jolly, revered,
charismatic man who came to call me “Professor.” After my grandmother died, Aunt Mary moved to a house back an alley on Texas Avenue almost opposite our Texas Avenue house that was also back an alley. She lived there with her 90 plus year old mother and my 4-years older cousin Jack Wristbridge. Later she moved to an apartment on Atlantic and Mississippi Avenues. While living there she was a frequent visitor to our family and to the McNesby’s.
My younger sister Babs became her designated “gofer” girl visiting and/or shopping for her several days a week. For reasons beyond my recall, we and the Mc Nesby’s began referring to her as “poor old” Aunt Mary probably in recognition of her often lonely life in later years. Despite being in America for more than 40 years, she remained a loyal British subject ever ready to pronounce “God Save the King.” Poor old Aunt Mary ‘s respectable use of English was sorely tried at times by my sometimes raucous Uncle George Mc Nesby, a dedicated Irishman , who could set her off and loved to bait her with some ribald or derogatory remark about said King of England for the fun of seeing her reaction.
One of Uncle George’s other little favorites was what he’d do when he and my Aunt Pat visited. Poor old Aunt Mary’s room was two flights up at the top of the building. It was about as big as a matchbox and darker than a haunted house. Naturally no one was interested in going to visit, other than the family, unless you had a reason. Upon opening the door, there before you sat P.O.A.M. in a big high backed chair that seemed to swallow her. Clutched in her gnarly fingers hung a pair of rosary beads that looked permanently attached to her extremities.
Uncle George didn’t waste any time. Immediately he’d question her. Ok Mary, where is he? She knew the routine and would, on cue, burst into laughter. C’mon, I know you’re hiding a man in here, where is he? Her bed was about a foot from her chair, that’s how small the room was. Uncle George would exaggeratedly get down on his hands and knees and holler into the shadows of the bed; Ok, we know you’re under there, c’mon out. By this time P.O.A.M. was squealing with laughter and would assure the visit would be a resounding success.
Poor, old Aunt Mary passed away in early 1953, but at least lived long enough to witness the changing of the Guard and see Queen Elizabeth II ascend the throne. I’d bet she’s been carrying on with “God Save the Queen” since she left us all behind. But it sure would have been interesting to see what Uncle George had up his sleeve with a female in charge now.