Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, November 11, 2019


Openers:  We drove up the hill from the entrance gates and saw before us vaguely, through the night and the rain and the activities of the windshield wiper, a low, extensive building and three wind-blown elms.  This was the Ivory Tower, a name which I should never have given a house of mine, for it implies that those who live in it have run away to shelter from the realities of a life too hard for them to face.

I had never met the Mrs. Granville who owned this place, but i happened to see her one day in the summer, a hot, blazing morning in early July, I think.  Near the medical school where my husband Jeffrey is head of a department, I had seen the station wagon with the curious inscription in block letters on its door, "Ivory Tower, Jefferson, Connecticut."  It was a title easily remembered.  The car was jammed with people, plus a barking red setter, and was driven by a woman in her early thirties.  I thought her, even in that glimpse as we passed each other, one of the most interesting and beautiful women I had ever seen.

-- Theodora Du Bois, The Case of the Perfumed Mouse (1944)

Du Bois (1890-1986) was a playwright and novelist who published at least 38 books in a number of genres:  mystery, science fiction, fantasy, historical romance, and juvenile, as well as at least one nonfiction book.  She used her married name for most of her work and her maiden name Theodora McCormick for historical romances.  Many of her mysteries are tinged with science fiction or the fantastic and often involved medical themes.  About half her books (including this one) feature the detective duo of Anne and forensic chemist Jeffrey McNeill.  Her writing career took a major downturn when her publisher, Doubleday, stopped publishing her books after Seeing Red (1954), which savaged the House Un-American Activities Committee and McCarthyism.  Her husband of 47 years, Delafield Du Bois, was an engineer who later worked on the Manhattan Project.  The couple were active in World War II helping displaced scientists and academics from Cambridge and Oxford, and their families.

Dubois is not well-known today.  Her most recognizable book is probably the science fictional Solution T-35 (1951), in which the American resistance comes up with a weapon to fight the communists after the USSR wins World War II.  The Case of the Perfumed Mouse has the McNeills investigate a murder at a party at Ivory Tower -- a murder by rats.  A houseful of misfits, a dead perfumed mouse, a thirteen-year-old girl with "mental vagarities," and the sound church bells all figure into the mystery.

Theodora Du Bois is a forgotten writer who should be rediscovered.

Veteran's Day:  The holiday began as Armistice Day, first celebrated on November 11, 1919, the one year anniversary of the end of World War I.  In 1926, Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance and it became a national holiday in 1938.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day in 1954.  Except for four years when the holiday was observed on the second Monday in November, Veterans Day has always been held on November 11, to celebrate the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" -- the day that World War I ended in 1918.

Unlike Memorial Day, which honors our war dead, Veterans Day honors all veterans -- living and dead -- who served honorably in any of the branches of the US military. 


  • 18.2 million living veterans served during at least one war as of 2018.
  • 9 percent of veterans are women.
  • 7 million veterans served during the Vietnam War.
  • 3 million veterans have served in support of the War on Terrorism.
  • Of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II, about 496. 777 were still alive in 2018.
  • Connecticut was home to the highest percentage of World War II veterans as of 2018 at 7.1 percent.
  • 2 million veterans served during the Korean War.
  • As of 2017, the top three states with the highest percentage of veterans were Alaska, Maine and Montana, respectively.
Despite having a low draft number during the Vietnam War, I did not pass the physical and thus did not serve.  (My right eyeball was damaged when I was three and my right hand was still wonky after I lost a battle with a moving cement mixer a couple of years before.  None of this "bone spur" nonsense for me.)  

I have had good friends and relatives who have served.  I have had friends who died.  My namesake, Jerry Speed, lost his life at Guadalcanal.  I have always had the greatest respect for those who served, and much, much less respect for politicians who got us into wars for specious reasons.  I believe in a strong military and a strong defense.  I do not believe in wasteful spending that short-changes our troops of needed equipment and does not honor the needs our men and women in uniform, and their families.  I get angry when our veterans do not get the full medical support they have earned.  I am grateful for the men and women who have served because I am grateful for America; we cannot have one without the other.

Sing Along:  
A Look at World War I:   Percy Crosby, who would go on to create the Skippy comic strip, enlisted in the Army during World War I.  He was awarded both the Purple Heart and the Victory Medal.  The sketched below, featuring a naive rookie named Private Dubb. were drawn in No Man's Land, lying on the ground and waiting to move as the war exploded around him.  That he was able to find humor in such a situation speaks well of the American soldier.

  • Between Shots (1917-1919)

  • That Rookie from the 13th Squad:

A Look at World War II:  Nobody personified the American soldier better than Bill Mauldin's Willie and Joe:
Today's Poem:
The City's Oldest Known Survivor of the Great War

marches in uniform down the traffic stripe
at the center of the street, counts time
to the unseen web that has rearranged
the air around him, his left hand
stiff as a leather strap along his side
the other saluting right through the decades
as if they weren't there, as if everyone under ninety
were pervasive fog the morning would dispel. 
in its own good time, as if the high school band
all flapping thighs and cuffs behind him
were as ghostly as the tumbleweed on every road
dead-ended in the present, all the ancient infantry
shoulder right, through ea skein of bone, presenting arms
across the drift, nothing but empty graves now
to round off another century, 
the sweet honey of the old cadence, the streets
going by at attention, the banners glistening with dew,
the wives and children blowing kisses.

-- James Doyle

1 comment:

  1. My Dad was there (all over Europe) from 41-45. What a life disruption. My brother-in-law was in Vietnam and never recovered. Three purple hearts and a silver star. But most of all a killer alcohol habit. Died at 29.