Uncle Paul sent me his memories of his father, Andrew Telford, before he died, hand written on notebook paper. Three double sided papers. Uncle Tommy has been calling me on the phone to talk about his dad.
“There were giants in the land…
An amazing life.
I am attempting to write down the things I remember about my father. It will also include stories told me by others as well as information from letters sent weekly to my Uncle Roy in Bronte, Canada.
Naturally there may be some errors in time and fact as well as some exaggeration. I remember returning to Ottawa, Canada and on seeing my home and the street I lived on, it all seemed so small. As a child it all seemed to large.
So with those caveats I proceed.
Birthplace and Life on the Farm.
Andy Telford was born on the north shore of Lake Ontario, in the small town of Bronte, between Toronto and Hamilton, in 1895. Bronte was a small fishing village.
He lived on a farm with his twin brother Huey. His parents were tenant farmers on a forty acres. My father’s parents were both from the north of Ireland, county Balmoral. Thomas Telford and Rose Blank were married in 1881, January 8. If you knew the couple you would know the ceremony to be one of simplicity and sincerity in every detail.
Thomas Telford was born 1849 at Porcles, county of Antrim and died in Burlington, Ontario at the age of 92, March, 1941. His bride, Rose Blank was born February 29, 1856 and died in Burlington, Ontario, age 81, in June, 1937.
Life was hard and rugged for the young couple so it is no wonder they decided to seek a better life in Ontario, Canada. For a while they settled in Branford, Ontario, but moved to a tenant farm on the north shore of Lake Ontario near a small fishing village called Bronte, 16 miles east of Hamilton.
Dad’s prayer life must have been shallow and empty but he prayed, always finishing with the request, “Lord, make me a good man.” He may have been thinking of his own father. His dad took in 16 boys from a local orphanage and gave them money when they reached 15 years and left to make their way in life. Who knows the outcome of the later lives of those young men? Th example of helping others and being generous with one’s money must have made an impact on Andy.
The repetition of the Lord’s Prayer was a another spiritual blessing. Andy’s father told those boys, “When you are outside, watch your temper, when you are at home, watch your tongue, when alone watch your thoughts.” Couple that homey advice with the repetition of the Lord’s Prayer and Ten Commandments each week in school. It must have had a deep influence for good in Andy’s life. There was a clear cut line of what was right or wrong. I think these things prepared Andy for the time when he was told he was a sinner.
It is interesting that parents want something better for their children than they had. This is how, without realizing it, that the nature of their lives made them what they are. Hard work, a disciplined life, care for and learning from animals; a close contact with the natural world, very little idle time, etc, made a “good” person.
I, on the other hand, did not ever have any work or chore. The only thing I remember doing is polishing the brass door knobs in the home for a dollar. I have often thought if I was sent to some mission field or farm for the summer, or some youth program that taught the things my father knew how different my life might have been.
Life On The Farm
The Telfords raised animals and crops. The daily routine of farm life was rigorous and physically demanding. Animals were cared for on Sunday just like any other day. One story Dad told was of his father tying Huey and himself with a rope, one on each side of him. You bent over and worked the garden, keeping up with your father and not getting up till he got up.
All money that was earned was given to mother. If you picked berries for a penny a quart, this was given to Mom. At the end of her life she had saved some $40,000.00. This money went to Huey as Andy was cut off from any inheritance because he left the farm to go to Moody Bible Institute.
I thought that the food supply would be good living on a farm. Dad told me they sold all the good things and kept the poorer quality. For instance, they sold the cream and butter but kept the skim milk. If a pig was slaughtered the meat was sold but the fat was kept.
“What was for breakfast?” I asked Dad.
He told me it was potatoes fried in fat and with slabs of fat and green tomato pickles. Lunch was fat on homemade bread with an old whiskey bottle filled with skim milk.
Dad told me that at one time he ate a dozen duck eggs and became ill. His mother mixed Sloan’s Liniment (used to rub horses down) with water, gave it to him to drink, and he recovered nicely.
Life on the farm was strenuous. Up at sunrise, and work all day.
Both of Dad’s parents were industrious, frugal and God fearing people. In thinking about the godly influence his parents had on him, it would seem rather small, but looking again at my Dad’s home life, there was the importance of virtue in many ways.
My Dad tells of his father imploring him and his siblings not to smoke, drink, or run around because he felt the judgment of God would fall on the home. His mother taught the children the Lord’s Prayer. One can only speculate where Thomas Telford picked up these Biblical ideas. Perhaps from the religious climate of Northern Ireland, perhaps something he read, perhaps someone who spoke to him, perhaps some of this was common knowledge. At any rate the Telford home was one where many lessons taught the truth of being a good person. You learned a ‘well ordered’ life on the farm.
Think for a moment of the influence of the home. A belief in God who would judge. A Bible on the living room table, “too holy to touch.” Learning the Lord’s Prayer.”
The three pages end abruptly.
Yesterday my Uncle Tommy phoned to share his memories, too. Tommy was the baby of the family.
“I remember coming down the big staircase at 309 Schoolhouse Lane, seeing my father in the study across the hall at the bottom of the stairs,” he reminisced. I remember that house, that seemed as big as a mansion to me, a preschooler. I could visualize Poppop, sitting at his desk, with the sun streaming over his shoulders.’
“He was writing, with his notebook beside his open Bible,” Tommy said. “It gave life a kind of stability, seeing him there every morning.”
“But he wasn’t the kind of Dad who went to our games. Someone asked me, ‘What were your Dad’s hobbies?’ Not sports.” I can see Uncle Tommy shaking his head as he chuckled. Sports were his hobbies.
“Dad rented the land behind the house at 309, and planted a garden with asparagas, tomatoes and other vegetables. And roses. He bought a riding mower and loved cutting the lawn. You’re right,” Tommy added, when I mentioned Paul’s thought about wishing he had been asked to do more as a child. “I didn’t do much work around the house. I took out the trash. And occasionally when Dad was away he paid me to water that garden. ‘Give it a good soaking if it hasn’t rained for a while.’
I told Tommy about Poppop’s diet on the farm, as a child.
“They ate slabs of fat on bread!”
Tommy added, “People would ask me, ‘What does your Dad like to eat?’
Being one of those Related To the Famous Andy Telford, I sympathize with Uncle Tommy. Various strangers, when finding out I was Andy Telford’s granddaughter, would gasp, “You’re Andy Telford’s granddaughter!” We were those chosen to reveal the family secrets of the giants in the land….
“After preaching on Sunday nights, sometimes he would ask me to drive him to one of his Bible conferences. He would grab a bottle of grape soda and a package of Tastykakes! He loved sugar!” Tommy laughed.
I muse that being of Irish descent, all the Telfords were good talkers. He continued:
“On the night of my commissioning in missions, the Elders asked if my father could join us and pray over me,” he continued. This was a major life event for Uncle Tommy. Most of his youthful life he had, like his brother Paul, left the Bible his parents gave him on a shelf gathering dust. He shares the story of his complete life reversal in the book he wrote as a middle aged adult, “Missions In the Twenty First Century.”
“Dad had to cancel one of his own preaching engagements to attend,” he shared. “I spoke, and afterwards, Dad never said, ‘Good job’ or any kind of encouragement.”
“Dad wasn’t around when Paul and I were kids. In those days, pastors put ‘The Ministry’ ahead of everything, even their families. That was the way it was done. Nowadays, pastors put their families first… maybe too much.”
Uncle Tommy’s stories remind me of family times in Philadelphia, where his family lived close by until I was in 9th grade. Thanksgiving days gathered around Aunt Marian’s table…. Sunday afternoons with the cousins, after church, and then back to church again.
(Me, and David, back row. Middle row L to R, Tommy, Stephen, Brenda, Wendy, Andy. Kneeling, Susan and Jennifer.)
“I drove Poppop out to the farms in Lancaster where he knew a man who owned a big farm. He bought manure from him for his garden. He had a great garden. Now I grow tomatoes here at my community. (a chuckle) I have so many tomatoes I have to give them away!”
Another memory appears:
“You said you didn’t think your mother wore much make up from the wedding picture you posted? Poppop did not believe in the stuff. One Sunday we were waiting out in the car to go to church and my sister Marian, in high school, appeared and climbed in the back. She was wearing lipstick. Dad turned around with his handkerchief and wiped it off her face.”
“Wow!” I smiled. I remember Poppop squinting at my face, when I was in high school, and asking, “What’s that black stuff on your eyes?”
“Poppop changed his tune on the makeup thing,” he laughed. He would say, “…If the barn needs painting, do it!”
When I read and hear the memories of Paul and Tommy, about their father, I think of Elisha, in II Kings 2, when Elijah was blown up to heaven, crying, “My Father! My Father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” Elisha tore his clothes in grief, but picked up Elijah’s cloak, for his new life.
Paul straightened out; graduating from Drexel University, in engineering… he loved cars, as did his dad. Then he went on to Dallas Theological Seminary. My mother said he memorized the New Testament. He taught a popular Bible class at his church.
Tommy uses his gift of evangelism to mobilize churches for spreading Christ’s Kingdom. He served with United World Mission, visiting churches and speaking at Mission Conferences. He authored two books, “Missions in the 21st Century” and “Today’s All Star Mission Churches,” weaving his love of sports with missions.
He can’t forget his larger than life dad.
(Back row, Jennifer Mitchell, Allan Mitchell, Carl Seitz, Marian Seitz, Paul Telford, Lois Telford, Tommy Telford, Nancy Telford, Tom Telford Jr in her arms. Second row, Wendy Mitchell, Poppop, Andy Telford Jr, Mommom., Front row: Jill Mitchell, seated to Poppop’s right, Stephen Telford, David Seitz, Susan Seitz in Mommom’s lap, Brenda Telford)