Memories of Alec Green by Robin Brundage
I spent a good amount of time with Alec (Alexander Hamilton Green) in my early years. My memory is that his wife was Viola (maybe?) and they had three sons – in order of birth (I think) – they are Joe, Duty and Harry. They lived 4 blocks away in a duplex house owned by our grandmother “Gran” (Mary Elizabeth Lee Fleming Rust).
From about age 2 until I went to Venezuela, we also lived about 4 blocks away on North King St. We were frequently at Gran’s – especially for Sunday dinners. Alec was very kid-friendly and always ready to let you taste something or chase you with a wooden spoon and much laughter.
We went to Venezuela in the summer of 1949 when my father (Robert V. Brundage, Sr.) took a job with a Bethlehem Steel’s subsidiary (Iron Mine Company of Venezuela in El Pao, Estado Bolivar, Venezuela). I was age 5. Mother taught me 2nd grade using the Calvert system but was worried that she might not have done a good job. This resulted in my being sent to live with Gran while I went to 3rd grade (Mrs. Simpson’s class) at Leesburg Elementary – 2 blocks further north on Wirt St. The following year, Bethlehem opened a school in El Pao – 1st through 6th grade. Then – after 6th grade – I had to return to the States where I attended Landon School for Boys in Bethesda, MD, and spent most weekends at Gran’s in Leesburg (1 hour west).
My recollections of Alec’s history follow.
I don’t know if he was born at Green Mont but he was certainly a young child there. My understanding is that all the children – black & white – played together and attended school right on the farm taught by a circuit-riding teacher who came for 3 days a week.
As a young man, Alec moved to Washington, DC, where he worked for the utility company and developed into a very good baseball player. Apparently there was a well developed Negro “sand lot” league that he played in and that drew sizeable crowds of all races. I don’t think he played in the formal minor league because that would have been before Jackie Robinson’s time.
Shortly after Gran and Grandfather (William F. Rust, Sr) decided to buy Yeocomico (just west of Leesburg), Gran’s job was to assemble service staff. Apparently through phone calling, she found where Alec was working one day and went to the site. The foreman allowed her to call Alec up out of a manhole – he said much to his embarrassment. He agreed to come work at Yeocomico. I believe Mother (“Betsy” Elizabeth Rust Brundage) was 14 or 15 years old when they moved from Pittsburgh to Leesburg.
I think Gran moved to 15 Wirt St, NW, Leesburg circa 1945 or ’46 and Alec went as her sole full time staff – butler, cook, chauffeur (though Gran frequently drove herself). Alec had a day off each week and frequently used the car for his own needs. There were several loyal and very nice part-time staff that helped at larger dinners, doing laundry and for cleaning. Edith frequently served at parties and for about 4 years – after Gran first had heart trouble – slept almost every night on the 3rd floor monitoring Gran’s sleep by intercom in spite of having a sizeable family of her own.
Alec was a good cook. With great fondness, I fondly remember his gravy laden “meat cakes”, a cauliflower loaf covered in a cream sauce, Sunday roast beef and wonderful pies. He also joined Gran in her love of roses and maintained quite a Rose garden that stretched from the back porch to the garage. He also maintained the gardens and hedges that rimmed the property in the front and both sides. Alec frequently chauffeured Gran around in her 1955 Buick Special sedan and finally in a 1959 blue Ford Ranch Wagon. Gran would object if Alec drove over 40 mph so on the occasions when he alone took me to and from Landon, Alec was free to travel at the speed limit – much to his pleasure.
Each summer from about 1952 to 1956, Alec would drive Gran and I to Fortunes Rock, ME, (just south of Biddeford Pool) where she shared an ocean-side cottage with Uncle Bill Rust (her eldest child). As taken it was a two day trip. The first night was spent at the Governor Clinton Hotel in Kingston, NY. As the circles of life turn, Jane and I now live about 4 miles away from that hotel (now senior citizen apartments).
A high point of summer in Maine were the baseball games with Alec. His command of the game was so good that he could play just as well or poorly as was needed to keep the game close. I remember him getting a huge kick out of cousin Henry Rust (about age 7 at the time) and with a slight stutter, calling out “Hey B-B-Bill let’s play b-b-ball !”.
In Gran’s last years, I remember Gran calling down the back stairs to Alec and planning the meals for the day. On several occasions, Gran would choose a menu, Alec would respond “Yes Ma’am ” and then serve up an entirely different menu. Gran would ask “This isn’t what we talked about” and Alec would simply answers “No Ma’am” and walk away leaving Gran silent and with a bemused expression.
Alec Green was always a gentleman, loved his family and was forever loyal to Gran.
A few other memories…
Bill Rust 11/26/14: Gran and Alec: Gran died on Christmas, 1967. Robin was with her. The last time I saw Alec was at Jenny’s wedding reception at Rockland in 1968. At that time he was quite ill with emphysema. Much more could be said about Alec in Maine from 1953-1958, when he fished on the beach every evening with a casting rod. He never caught anything there but enjoyed it, often smoking a cigar. He also walked into Bidderford Pool in the evenings to buy magazines and other things. His room was the double bunk room downstairs. He had been a very good baseball player, in semipro ball around Leesburg in the 1920s-30s. In Maine he would talk about Willy Mays, Lary Doby, the Dodgers and Giants. He took one look at me trying to throw a ball at age 8 (1953), and spent time teaching me to throw properly, holding the ball with index and middle finger, and thumb.
Mike Harris 2/17/17: According to Aunt Harriet, Alec left Green Mont around WWI to seek his fortune in DC. She found him digging a ditch when he hailed her. She told him to get out of the ditch. and go back home .To the best of my knowledge he never left again until he migrated to Aunt Molly . At some point he joined the Elks Lodge; he proudly wore a big Elks tooth on his watch chain .
Marloe Woollett: I can’t add anything new about Alec, but I, too, remember him as warm and friendly, jovial, and patient. Once I even had the happy experience of his driving Aunt Molly, Bertie and me to Maine, as all along the trip, she would pull out that little tin of some sort of foil wrapped lozenges she always seemed to have.
Henry Rust: I was one of the little kids. I only knew Alec during the later Wirt St. years and maybe a little bit of memory of his trips to Maine, driving Mary. But I was very small. I remember mostly the smile and wit, and the warmth of his heart.
I remember my grandmother’s Wirt Street house being stiffly furnished with lace doilies on the arms of the chairs, and a perpetually full candy dish on the Living Room coffee table. All of the meals were served formally in the Dining Room by either Alec or Viola (who for years I was convinced was Mrs. Alec) in their uniforms. I guess Viola cleaned, laundered, made up the rooms and dusted. Alec did everything else. When my grandmother went in the car, Alec donned his chauffeur’s uniform (black pants, jacket and cap), brought the car around (I remember a 1957 Ford station wagon, medium blue. Did Margaret Brundage drive that for a while?) and take her wherever she needed to go, assist her in any way she may require while out (or just wait), and then bring her back, park the car, wash it if necessary, then put on his gardening clothes or kitchen/serving attire (white jacket and dark pants) depending on what was up next.
I never saw Alec in a less than jovial mood, with the broadest smile (Whenever I saw Louis Armstrong smiling as he did, I always thought of Alec), although I’m sure there were many times that he felt less than cheerful and must have been more than exhausted by his regimen.
I used to like to hang out with Alec at Wirt. St; watching him busy in the kitchen while I carefully counted and observed the bottles of soda pop in the cabinet next to the pantry door. Always a smile and happy conversation. An incredibly patient man, and the platters of scrambled eggs and sausage or bacon that he would serve at the table have always been my scrambled egg benchmark by which all others are judged.
I can’t imagine the long hours he must have put in practically every day, and how little he must have received for this dedicated service. I am not sure, but I believe he worked for Mary until the day she died (Christmas day 1967). I don’t remember seeing Alec after that. I know his health was very poor, although he never showed it.
My grandmother owned the house that Alec and his family lived in. I am not sure I ever met Alec’s wife. I did meet his son, years later, probably about the time of Alec’s wife death, maybe 10 years later (1977). I hope there was some sort of bequest for Alec and his family. They at least had the use of the house, such as it was, for the life of Alec and his wife. I think that might have been why my father was dealing with Alec’s son at that time. It was probably to clear out the house. He was respectful towards my father during those meetings, but there was clearly a lot of bitterness. I can’t imagine.
More about Alec in the next article.