Savagery, mayhem, and protective devices

The office isn’t neat by any means, but it is mostly cleared out of papers, files, and books. The issue now is random detritus, and my guess is that the answer to that will be closed eyes and a large trash basket.

Now I’m on to the the mostly family stuff in what we still call “Weezie’s Room,” across the hall. I’m really enjoying discovering, or rediscovering, a lot of this ancient stuff, though I think it will be a long slog properly sorting and conserving it.

Some time ago, my cousin Kate sent me a few family photos and clippings that her mother, my aunt Bev, had collected. This one shows my great-grandfather, Edward Lewis, as a member of the Waterbury City Championship roller polo team of 1909 or 1910. He’s second from the right in the back row.

Waterbury, CT. Edward Lewis, second from right, top, was Mark's maternal great-grandfather.

He played goalie, which is probably why he’s wearing the padded jersey. Roller polo (played on roller skates, naturally) was a hugely popular winter game in the era before basketball began to make an impact. We’d probably call it roller hockey today. It was played on  a hardwood floor, using wooden sticks and a hard rubber ball, and it was known for what one writer called “savagery and mayhem.” Broken bones were common, as were slashing cuts from wild sticks.

I remember my dear grandmother, who was born in 1902, telling me two stories about all this. One was that she once saw his teammates deliver her father home on a door after he’d been knocked out cold in some ruck. The other was that as a small girl she one day found his athletic cup (box to you Brits), which in those days was made of wood. She thought it was a mask of some kind, and began to parade around the house with it clamped over her face. Much shock and dismay among profoundly embarrassed Edwardian elders, who snatched it away, leaving her with the sense that she had been doing something very improper indeed. It was years before she grasped the situation. (And this triggers an oddly loving memory: she was moved to tell me this story one steamy summer day when I was in my mid-teens, after I—sweaty, filthy, and exhausted from catching a baseball game the family had turned out to watch—climbed the little hill they’d been sitting on, greeted everybody, and then turned away to the nearby tree line to unbutton and fish out my own, by then plastic, cup.)

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