The Liberty Gazette
August 30, 2016Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: Those miles of runway I’ve thanked for a special trip with Mom to her hometown (August 16, 2016 Gazette) are the strips of pavement that made possible a journey of many stories. Launching from Baytown, flying above countryside and towns to the cornfields of the Midwest, I found treasure buried deep in stories that sparkled to life as we stood in the very places of Mom’s memories.
One of the most significant pieces from the built world of that time was the house where she grew up, at 12th and Charleston, Mattoon, Illinois, nearly a century old when Mom’s family acquired it. One of her vivid memories is of a portrait of the builder and original owner, Mr. Hasbrouck.
His likeness which hung at the top of the stairs was of such large dimensions that his descendants had no room for it in their homes. My grandmother assured them it would be no problem for Mr. Hasbrouck to remain with the house he built circa 1836. Mom didn’t know his first name, but telling us how she’d say “Hello, Mr. Hasbrouck” as she passed by his portrait brought a gleeful smile and a twinkle in her eye that was enough for me to imagine a cute little imp dashing through her very active life full of spunk and charm.
Yearning to know more about the house that sheltered my mom – the doors through which she passed to get to the next adventure, the walls that absorbed or echoed her chatter, the floors on which she skipped or tip-toed, to dinner, to bed, and up for breakfast, and the roof that helped her feel secure – made me sad it was gone, having been razed around 1954 for a bank which now occupies the property where she played, its presence I resent. It would have meant so much to be in the spaces where she played hide-and-seek, and shared secrets with her sisters, and practiced her singing for church the next Sunday.
Searching the internet for photos of the house led me to discover that Mr. and Mrs. Abram Hasbrouck had eight children, among them, Helen. Helen became Mrs. Isaac Craig, had four daughters, and in her late years moved back to the old house then owned by her eldest daughter, Louise Craig Neal, who took care of her until Helen Hasbrouck Craig passed away. Mr. and Mrs. Neal had four daughters, including Elizabeth, who became Mrs. John Cartmill and raised her two sons, John Craig Cartmill and Robert Hasbrouck Cartmill, in Tulsa. John Cartmill passed four years ago at the age of 91. Reading his obituary, my heart nearly melted at the serendipity:
Flying was his first love. He was one of the first to graduate from the Army Air Corps Combat Flying School in Lubbock TX in 1942 and served in World War II as a Glider Pilot. Continuing his love for aviation as a member of the Tulsa Skyhawks for many years, he had a particular love for soaring and spent many delightful hours under the cumulus clouds of Oklahoma.
His brother, Robert, passed just one year prior:
…a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy Annapolis MD and earned a PhD. in meteorology from the University of Oklahoma. He served as an officer in the U.S. Navy and was a veteran of the Korean War. His broad work experience included engineering, hydrology, meteorology, teaching, and farming. After retiring from NASA’s Earth Resources Laboratory he wrote a book, The Next Hundred Years Then and Now, comparing predictions made at the beginning of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
On the cover of Robert’s book is a tiny photo of the house his great-grandfather built at 1121 Charleston Avenue, Mattoon, Illinois.
That mile of runway: Priceless.