Sepia Saturday: My Father Reminisces

My college-age father, George Nelson Bentley, Jr., and his father, George Nelson Bentley

I discovered "Uncle Clyde: A Comedy" while going through my father's innumerable papers and old manuscripts after his death.

Nelson (no one called him George) was a prolific journalist in his youth, keeping diaries all through his teens; additional notes on his day-to-day life, particularly sports scores, appeared in The Daily Blah, the one-page newspaper he produced by hand for several years. Although diary entries for 1933 don't mention a late-April blizzard (some did occur in earlier months), they do show that he began regularly, if somewhat reluctantly, going to the Old Dutch Mill in May during his fourteenth year. (Prior to that, he had often worked at the Elm General Store, which his father, George, had operated with his brother Clyde.)

A younger George Bentley Sr. and his diminutive brother Clyde

"Uncle Clyde: A Comedy" was to be part of a longer work. The manuscript is marked Chapter 1, and is followed by a fragment of a second chapter. It probably dates from no later than the early Fifties, before Nelson stopped writing prose altogether (he'd produced many stories, essays, critical pieces, and prose poems while in college, and a full-length novel by 1945, in addition to many poems).

The story was written, in Nelson's accustomed pencil, in a spiral notebook evidently dating from the Forties; however, the handwriting and the signature on the cover appear to be more recent: his angular and cramped hand, familiar to his students, is barely decipherable at times.

Clyde's "Old Dutch Mill"

Uncle Clyde: A Comedy - by Nelson Bentley

It was during a somewhat violent blizzard in late April, 1933, that my weird period as an employee of Uncle Clyde actually began. My sister Margaret and I, at 4:30 in the afternoon, were having a blissful game of tiddlywinks in the Breakfast Nook; between casual snaps we gazed out across fields 18 inches deep in snow, over which fell swirling multitudes of large, soft flakes the width of agates. Lying 25 feet outside the window was Chingo, our cylindrical chow, the top of her woolly back and her paradoxically gentle countenance sticking sphinxily from a snowbank.

I was 14 and Margaret 12; the days were still ringed by make-believe quite undisturbed by facts such as my shoes being worn to the point where each resembled a hungry crocodile. The drifting pace of the days was calm and nearly pure with timelessness. As I snapped an adhesive-patched and wildly warped red tiddlywink into the air, watched it clink on the rim of the glass jar and fall back to the cotton mat, and then, while Margaret as Lady Bluntboots of Houndsditch uttered a derogatory "Ha!", gazed placidly into the blizzard, I was only one minute away from the indirect inauguration of my career and the transition from a land of pretend to that of stark reality.



  1. Quite a picture you painted there. Great photos too.

  2. I too could have kept on reading---think of that " sticking sphinxily from a snow bank///"
    What dapper guys they were in the hats. Will await further adventure reading this from the past...

  3. Priceless- snowflakes the width of agates...a cylindrical chow....sphinxily....shoes like hungry crocodiles. More!

  4. I like the sentence, "The drifting pace of the days was calm and nearly pure with timelessness." It mirrors the image of the white snow outside the window so well.

    Love the photos of George, Sr. and his brother. I'm looking forward to the next installment. (What kind of employer will Clyde be?!)

  5. If I have one hope, it is that some day, long after I am gone, my son will go through all my papers and writings and do just what you are doing for your father. Wonderful.