One of the traditions in Temperance on New Year’s Eve was the Tarrwater Family Cotillion for their friends and associates. The Tarrwater Cotillion was not the traditional 18th Century French affair.
Benjamin Tarrwater, with a great amount of assistance from his patient wife Sophia, had created his own version of the cotillion. He wanted people to enjoy themselves and bid the old year good-bye in high spirits.
Many people suspected that his talents as a mixologist dated back to his European travels as a young man with his father. On one such jaunt he met the renowned Charles Dickens who first introduced him to punch making.
Besides being a prolific author, Dickens was a connoisseur of the punch. He entertained his guests with his own creation.
Now Benjamin, a devout teetotaler, maintained that his punch creation was free from the evil spirits which hovered and roamed the taverns or unsavory places where drink was served. He insisted, unlike Dickens, there was no brandy or rum in his creation.
Now, as Doctor Boris Carr can attest, because of her weak stomach Sophia kept an 1896 London decanter for sherry strictly for medicinal purposes. A small glass of sherry acted like an aperitif to help digestion.
Sophia was as devout a woman as one could find in the 1920s. For her every actionable behavior she had her verse from the Bible to justify her course. With the sherry the verse was I Timothy 5:23: “Drink no longer water but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.”
Now, there were those who believed that perhaps, just perhaps, Sophia added a few teaspoons (some believed several heaping tablespoons) of sherry to Benjamin’s punch without his knowledge. His punch was a very popular drink as the old year ticked away and the New Year waited in the shadows.
Many conversations transpired around the punch bowl. This is where Sally Smyth and Bob Young first felt that tingling attraction that young people experienced during social intercourse over a glass of punch on New Year Eve.
Sally and Bob had worked together for two years at Hall’s Five and Dime before he was offered a job at the Jonathan Putnam and Harold Williams’ Communication Company (telegraph office). He was impressed by how kind Sally was to everyone, even the rude customers, and of course those green eyes of hers were like precious emeralds dancing in moonlight.
For some reason Bob felt an urge to feel his left pocket of his vest. Inside the pocket was his grandmother’s the gold wedding ring with silver traces.
It was warm to the touch of his fingers and the warmth spread throughout his whole body. Then he knew that Sally Anne was the one, and as The Christmas Gift related, he asked her to marry him the following Christmas.
Another couple who had come to the same realization years before were Betsy Tarrwater and Henry Blake Hunt. As they enjoyed their glasses of punch, their best friend William Thompson regaled them with Scandinavian folktales, especially those about the dreaded Näcken.
Unknown to them both, William had deep feelings for Betsy, but as the case often is, the best friend allows his friend to get the girl. Henry was down to earth and William wanted to explore the world.
Betsy was the oldest of three sisters including Wendy and Bethany. She was down to earth as well.
She had graduated from the MacDuffie School of Grandy, Massachusetts like her mother. She was ready to help her father in his enterprises since she had a keen sense for business, and Henry was suited for such a life—earnest, hard-working and devoted.
He had no need to travel. He was very content in Temperance.
Unfortunately, as told in Professor Phillips Comes For A Christmas Visit, the United States entered the Great War, and Henry and William answered the call to arms. Patriotism ran in the blood of these Temperance boys.
Returning unharmed except for the mental fatigue which battle can produce, they settled back into Temperance. William planned to go back to Europe in 1919 and Henry planned to marry Betsy on New Year Eve 1918, but the vicissitudes of fate found Henry and showed no compassion as he succumbed to the influenza outbreak in December.
William returned to Europe to pursue his dreams and education. Betsy endured the days of loneliness and each morning would visit the grave and place a red rose in season on Henry’s grave, but William wrote to her monthly about his adventures.
In her heart each monthly letter would add that drop of joy and like a seed, love was germinating which flourished and blossomed on that Christmas Eve night as the snow fell in the town square where they embraced as two hurting individuals grieving for their friend who died so young years before.
Sophia and her daughters, with assistance from Vesta Thompson, Ava Hall, Elsie Smith, Carolyn Owenby, Alicia Piper, Jayne Daniels, Tess Ballew, Ruth Williams and Sally Young prepared a culinary odyssey for the New Year celebration. These church ladies did not find cooking drudgery—they enjoyed each other company and the juicy stories that they shared in the kitchen.
Here are some of the food items:
They had “saintly herbed eggs”. Sophia refused to give the devil any credit in her house for anything as delicious as these eggs, and the eggs came directly from the Daniels Farms.
Orange marmalade and cranberry roasted ducklings, German potato salad, buckwheat yeast rolls, pistachio divinity, persimmon pudding, Dutch apple pies, penuche-frosted butterscotch cakes and other assorted delicacies to satisfy the palate were available. Now, a word about the German potato salad: Sophia guarded the secret ingredients of this creation like she did her prized Elizabethan locket which her maternal grandmother had given her.
Years later after Sophia’s passing, her daughter Wendy was reading her mother’s journals and found the recipe for the German potato salad with a note thanking the chef at Speck’s Restaurant in St Louis. The only difference in the ingredients was that Sophia left out the bacon because of her Bible reading:
“And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be cloven footed, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you. Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.”
Wendy remembered an amusing conversation her mother had with Reverend Nathan Shields after church one Sunday. They were discussing the dietary restrictions, and the Reverend with his seminary degrees in history and theology was telling her mother that they did not apply to Christians.
Her mother asked a simple question: “Was Noah Jewish?”
“No,” the Reverend replied.
“How do you explain Genesis 7:2 ‘Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female,’ she asked with her wry smile.
The Reverend looked at her for a few moments in bewilderment and then bid her a good afternoon and walked away. Many people found arguing with Sophia about the Bible was a useless endeavor since she always won the argument at hand.
After the magic hour of midnight came closer, Benjamin Tarrwater made his way to the center of the ball room. In most circumstances and situations Benjamin was very reserved, but after a few glasses of his punch, he became bodacious.
Raising his glass, he made his famous New Year Eve toast.
“Gracious and patient family and honored friends and guests, as we end this old year with its joys and sorrows, we hope the new year will be one of ineffable joy for you and our village of Temperance.
“When the great Scotsman Robert Burns penned his poem Auld Lang Syne in 1788, he had little idea what this song would mean as we say good-bye and welcome the new. We still must wait for Spring to come to this valley to roam the slopes to find daisies as the poem describes.
“However, we all can raise our glass of kindness and pledge to be the best that we can be in the new year. For the essence of Temperance is in this room as you touch the many lives in this valley and beyond.
“And to our children, may you always embrace the new year with hopeful anticipation that the shadows of the past will have no substance in the sunshine of tomorrow. For us our journey may be nearing its end on this planet traversing the cosmos but may the memories of us always be pleasant ones.
“Here to life in the new year. May you thrive.”
The almost one-hundred-year-old rosewood William IV grandfather clock built by David Duff of Scotland for Benjamin’s father began to strike the hour of midnight. The women were ready and began to sing:
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?
The men joined in on the chorus:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne
As the singing continues in Temperance, we hope you have a tremendous New Year. 2020 for us holds many unforeseen opportunities and unfortunate difficulties.
Embrace 2020 with all the gusto in your being and live life to the fullest—thrive! Always have a glass of kindness to share with those less fortunate than you.
G. D. Williams © 2019
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