Twice a year our town recognizes “Family Night” when no homework is given by the schools, there are no town meetings or sports. The brainchild of the Verona Municipal Alliance Committee, its purpose is “to provide Verona families a cleared schedule to enjoy quality time with each other.” A pretty good purpose if you ask me as everyone I know is on the go with this, that and the other thing!
Last Thursday (March 23) was Family Night and so I let our son decide what he wanted to have for dinner (pizza). He announced that since it was Family Night he wanted to do something together as a family. He didn’t want to watch a movie together or play a game. He wanted to head down to the basement and open my grandmother’s old trunk.
Background information: We reside in what once was my maternal grandparents’ house. Built in 1923, my grandparents purchased it in 1924 and it has been in the family ever since. My grandmother grew up in Verona (before it WAS Verona) as did her mother before her. This makes my son the fifth generation to live in Verona.
Our basement is not finished and not waterproof. There is plenty of must and mold that resides down there and this trunk, which has lived there since long before I can remember, is not immune to time and elements. Once we unlocked and opened it, the musty odor was immediately evident, but more so was the love and care of the items that my grandmother had placed in there over the years. Most items were wrapped in paper with notes carefully written on the wrapping identifying what was to be found inside. (Side note: Does anyone have any idea how to: (a) clean and care for musty/mold smelling handmade ladies handkerchiefs and gloves and (b) what to do with them once they are fresh? Seems pointless to keep them hidden away as they are labeled “From Jessie’s Hope Chest.”)
We spent about an hour going through some of the items inside but did not unwrap everything or get to all the items inside. There were items as recent as 1985 (when my grandfather died) as well as items that went back a hundred years prior (and maybe more).
One of the items that captivated me was this photo, taken in 1907. I can identify practically everyone in the photo thanks to my grandmother’s careful writing on the back. These residents of Verona in 1907 are as follows:
Back Row (from left to right): Harold Smith who is held by his father William A. Smith (my great-grandfather, who was on the Board of Education in the early 20th century), Fillmore “Everett” Condit, Jessie Condit (although I think this may be incorrect as there are too many Jessies in this photo, this may actually be Grace Cole Condit, wife of Everett), Fillmore Condit, and Henry “Rae” Simonson.
Middle Row: Jane Condit, Ida Hoyt Smith (my great grandmother), Ida Condit and Jessie Condit Simonson.
Front Row: Donald Condit, William Smith, “?” (this is my grandmother’s notation and I am guessing this may be Clarence Neary Condit, who according to some online research I did was adopted by the family), and Jessie Smith (my grandmother who would become Jessie Smith Kilbury)
If you are wondering what the connection between the Smiths and the Condits are (or even if you weren’t), Ida Hoyt Smith was Mrs. Ida Condit’s niece and went to live with the Condit family after her parents died. I believe that Fillmore Condit, acting as a surrogate father, gave her away at her wedding and provided the newlyweds with a house just up the block from his own residence. (Pretty nice wedding gift! This would be where my grandmother and her two brothers were born.)
But what relevance does this have to Verona today? Well this photo puts a “face” to one of Verona’s beloved outdoor spaces. That tall young man in the back is the Everett for whom Everett Field is named. Just four years from when this photo was taken, Everett would die suddenly and his father would donate the land across from his residence (10 Elmwood Road) to the town for a park.
When you look at this photo, you are looking at the faces behind Everett Field. You are looking at a man who helped shape the school system in Verona. We see the faces of children who knew Frederick N. Brown as a principal and not the name of a school on Grove Street. Their history helped shape the town as we know it today.
Our Family Night gave us some interesting insight into our family history AND Verona history. There wasn’t enough time to explore all the trunk treasures, so we hope to extend our “family time” over the next couple of weekends to do some more treasure hunting. Who knows what we might learn and find!
Beth Shorten is a life-long resident of Verona. For more than four years, she has been chronicling life here on her personal site, Bfth’s Boring Blog.