My father, Caleb Wakefield Lawrence, was born in Wilton, Maine in 1868. He was
the seventh child of eight children born to the Reverend John Lawrence and his
wife, Nancy Wakefield Lawrence. Tragically, my grandmother Nancy died shortly
after the birth of her eighth child, leaving my minister grandfather totally
unprepared and incapable of caring for his large family. He kept John, the
oldest son; the rest of the children were given to relatives to bring up. Caleb
was given to Dr. Horace Wakefield and his second wife, Mary. She was a very
cruel woman and treated the boy very badly.
In spite of a miserable childhood, Caleb developed into a brilliant and
successful young man. After trying several ventures into the business world, at
the age of 27 he decided to follow in his sister’s footsteps and he became a
teaching missionary, going to Smyrna, Turkey to International College.
My mother, Helen Lewis, was born in 1877. She was the fourth child of eleven
children born to William Lewis and his wife Leila Williamson Lewis of Sokia,
Turkey, where grandfather owned a factory that produced a substance used in
processing tobacco. At the age of 17, Mother went to Smyrna to become a
governess to a British family. At the age of 19, Mother became a teacher at the
American Mission School there.
Clara Lawrence was also teaching at this school, and in 1896, she influenced
her brother Caleb to come and teach at the Boys Mission School. The teachers
from both schools had afternoon tea together and this is how Mother and Father
met. They became engaged a year later, in 1897. However, they could not get
married until father became a full professor. He was taking correspondence
courses at Queens University in Kingston, Canada at the time. Meanwhile, Mother
went to England to train to become a nurse. Finally, in 1904 Father got his
degree and sent for Mother and they went to Egypt where Granny was living at
the time, and were married there.
Mother, training as a nurse in England
Eighteen years later, on February 18, 1922, I was born. It was such a special
occasion that school was cancelled for the day at the college to celebrate the
birth of a daughter born to Professor and Mrs. Lawrence after they had had 6
My earliest memories are of my life in Turkey, of the home I grew up in, and of
the college campus, which was my playground in those early years. The village, Kizil
Culla, was a few miles south of Smyrna. Its name was better known by us as
Paradise. It was a picturesque spot – a lush green valley lined by hills filled
with wildflowers and on the east by snow capped mountains.
Father, a college professor at International College in Turkey
Our home was built in 1912, the same year they started building the new
International College at Paradise. The original college was in Smyrna. We had 4
bedrooms and a bathroom and a box room (a storage room) on the second floor. On
the first floor we had a large living room, a central hall and staircase, a
dining room, a kitchen, a lavette and servant’s rooms in back of the kitchen.
The college had its own generator to provide electricity to the college
buildings and to the faculty homes. Each home had its own well and windmill to
pump water to the upper levels for running water.
Our home had a porch across the front and side and there were about six steps
leading down into the garden. There was a high metal fence around the entire
garden with a front gate leading on to the main road to the college. Mother had
a beautiful flower garden in the front and a vegetable garden in the back. We
also had many fruit trees. We were allowed to eat any fruit that we could pick.
We became very apt at shinnying up these trees to get figs, apricots or
We had a Habusa, a large round holding tank, which was filled with water from
the well. It had an outlet, which was opened each afternoon so that the
irrigation system, a series of ditches and canals, could send water to the
My brothers made a hut in the back yard. They made forms for the bricks and
filled them with mud; when dried, the bricks were built into a nice little
room. It stood up very well for many years.
My brother Jack was just one year older than I was so we played together a lot.
Actually there were only two other girls among the faculty children so that I
grew up as a tomboy – playing with the boys and competing against them.
We had such ideal weather that we went barefoot most of the time. A typical day
for us would be to do a few lessons in the morning and then pack a little lunch
and go off somewhere to play or to explore.
I remember how daring some of these experiences were; climbing on the
aqueducts, or playing on the tower above the college clocks. I am very much
afraid of heights after these early experiences. We also climbed a lot of
trees. I remember jumping from a high branch onto a flat section of a large
tree, and in doing so, I sprained my ankle. We were quite a way from home at
the time, but Jack and Eddy Maynard made a chair with their wrists and then
they carried me home.
The college property was surrounded by a high wall with a gate at the front
entrance. There was a gatekeeper who had to give his permission to enter. Each
year the college students participated in athletic contests with other schools.
These were similar to the Olympic games. This grew a large crowd to watch the
events. The faculty children also had a scaled down version of these sports and
it was fun to compete with the boys and girls my age in races and field events.
I received a few trophies at the awards ceremony.
Father was a great storyteller. Every night it was story time for Jack and me.
I had many nightmares about his jungle animals that would chase after me in my
dreams. Father was the astronomer at the college and he was in charge of the
telescope. Many evenings he invited me to join him at the observatory to
observe the planets and the moon through the telescope. Father kept a tin box
full of raisins in his desk drawer and it was a special event for me to be
offered some of these sweet treats. Father was also the college librarian and
the teacher of many subjects. He was always a great help to me when I was doing
homework or doing book reports.
We had three earthquakes while I was in Turkey, which I remember very well. The
first one happened in mid-morning when I was playing in the garden. I was
sitting on the ground when the earth began to shake. I looked up and could see
the roof of the house bending back and forth, from side to side some time
before it stopped.
The second earthquake took place during our noontime meal. We were all sitting
at the dining room table and as the house started to shake, Mother yelled to us
to all get under the table. We stayed there until it seemed safe and then ran
outdoors. It was the safest place to be during an earthquake to avoid falling
The last one that occurred while I was in Turkey happened during the night. The
plaster fell from the ceiling onto me in bed; but it was Mother who woke me up
and told me to hurry up and get dressed. A glass window broke over Jack while
he was in bed, but luckily he didn’t get cut. We were told by our parents to
grab a blanket and a pillow and follow them. They led us to the college campus
and to the meetinghouse where all the faculty members gathered. We stayed there
the night until it was safe to return home.
I can remember seeing our home after that earthquake. It looked like a
dollhouse with the inside rooms open to see in. The walls had fallen out on the
roadside of the house. There was a lot of devastation in the surrounding
Another type of disaster we experienced was a rapidly forming flood. We could
see the water bubbling up from the ground. The small streams that were fed by
the melting snow from the surrounding hills and mountains soon were
overflowing; it became clear that we would need a boat to get Father from the
classroom. Jack and Ralph found a rowboat and before long they rescued Father.
The water came up to the front door about six feet above the garden, but it did
not come into the house.
Our British cousins, the Stevensons, lived in Bouja, a village southeast of
Paradise. There were three children: Kathleen, my age and Donald and Phyllis,
younger. Aunt Jesse was very sweet and easy going, but Uncle Leslie was strict
and always said “Children should be seen and not heard!” I was always afraid to
even open my mouth to speak in front of him.
They had a beautiful garden with many bushes and trees to hide in or to climb.
We made a tree house there with the help of the gardener. We had a wooden
ladder to climb up to it, a wooden floor, bushes for the sides and grass and
leaves for the rug. One day during a birthday party the tree started to catch
on fire. We had smoked cigarettes out of the sight of the grownups and someone
did not douse the butt properly and that started the fire. The servants quickly
got buckets of water and put the fire out, but we were all severely punished.
We could not leave our property for a whole week.
Our grandmother, Leila Lewis lived in Smyrna at the time with her sister Grace
and her son William. We would go there by train and could walk to Granny’s
house, which was near the train station. This home was always filled with
guests and relatives who would stop by on their way to other destinations. I
remember the lovely garden in the back of the house surrounded by a high cement
wall. A lot of entertaining took place in this garden.
In the cold weather there was always a tundour, which is small charcoal stove
under a table covered with a heavy quilted spread. People would sit around the
table playing cards, having tea or visiting while their legs and feet were kept
warm by the heat from the stove. Everyone in Turkey had a tundour during the cold
weather. Granny’s youngest sister, Aunt Althea, lived in Bournabat, a
fashionable village northeast of Smyrna where many wealthy British families
lived. We used to go there on special occasions to visit relatives.
When I was six or seven, two of my brothers, Edward and Alfred who were in
America going to school, came to Turkey to visit us. I can remember how they
used to throw me up in the air and almost forget to catch me. Alfred was
especially affectionate, calling me his “best girl.” The following year when he
was at Brown University he sent me his fraternity pin. I used to write to him
quite often. Eddie and Alfred taught me how to swim that summer. They just
threw me into the deep water, way over my head and I had to swim or drown.
There was a wealthy lady from New York, a Mrs. Kennedy, who used to
periodically send money to Mother to help support her large family. She also
used to save the New York Sunday funny papers and when she had a large bundle
she would mail them to us. It was such a happy occasion when they arrived. We
devoured every comic strip on every page.
We had movies quite regularly on Saturday nights. They were shown in the
auditorium, which was also the chapel on Sunday. The college library was on the
lower level. They were silent films with captions underneath. Our favorites
were Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin movies.
Sunday was truly a day of rest for us. We could not play games, cards or even
sew. We always went to Sunday school and church in the morning; after a special
meal we would go for a walk, still in our Sunday best clothes. We often picked
wild flowers in the nearby hills.
When it became close to the time that we would be leaving Turkey, Mother looked
for someone who could give us more formal schooling. One of the faculty
members’ wife was a former schoolteacher in the United States and she agreed to
give us two hours of classes a day. There were five of us children who went to
her home from 9 to 11. She kept us up in our studies for the grade level we
belonged in according to our ages. I also took piano lessons and dancing
lessons in Turkey. My piano teacher couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak
French, which was her native language, but we both could speak a little Greek
so that is how we communicated. I loved to dance and even performed in a
recital at the Alhambra Theater in Smyrna on one occasion. It was a great
We knew that we would be leaving Turkey in 1932. I was 10 and Jack was 11.
Henry was still with us but all of the older boys, Arthur, Edward, Alfred and
Ralph were in the United States. Ralph was living at the missionary home in
Auburndale, Massachusetts, and going to Newton High School. He was always
getting into trouble and my parents were anxious to come to America for his
sake. Father had another year before his retirement but he wanted to come and
help Mother get settled in America.
I remember that trip very well. We took a small ship from Smyrna to Bare at the
heel of Italy. Then we boarded a train for Genoa, staying there overnight. The
next day we boarded a large Cunard Oceanliner for America. I can remember how
special I felt because I could have delicious apples anytime on the ship. We
celebrated the Fourth of July at sea with fireworks, singing and dancing.
The ship arrived at New York Harbor on July 5, 1932. Louise, Edward, Alfred and
Ralph met us there. Jack and I rode home in the rumble seat of Eddie’s Ford
Coupe while Mother and Louise came home on the train with Alfred and Henry.
Father stayed in New York to tend to business. My home at that time was an
apartment Alfred had rented for us from his roommate at Brown. It was on Arnold
Street, just a short distance from the apartment Arthur and Lib had on John
Street, near Brown University. Nancy was 2 and Gail was a newborn. Jack and I
played with the kids in the neighborhood and I was scolded because I played
with a black boy named Kenneth.
Soon Father had to return to Turkey to teach his last year. Mother found a
house for us in Norton, Massachusetts. It was a large old farmhouse with 15
rooms, 18 acres of land, 2 barns and a garage. This was during the depth of the
Depression and the family who was selling the property had lost money in the
stock market. They were happy to get $3000.00 cash for the home and they left a
lot of curtains, silverware and furniture. This is all the money that Father
and Mother had saved and yet they still had to buy two used cars – one for
Alfred and Ralph to get to Providence because Alfred was a senior at Brown and
Ralph was going to Providence Country Day School. Mother had to learn to drive
a car so that she could buy groceries and take us kids places. Father had to
return to Turkey to finish one more year before he could retire.
We were settled by September in time for Jack and me to go to school at Norton
Grammar School. It was a difficult beginning for me because I soon discovered
that I talked and looked quite different from the American children. I had a
British accent and my clothes were old fashioned or home made. There were not
enough desks for all the children so I had to share one with another girl. I
remember a boy in back of me whispering “I’m going to tease you at recess.”
When they found out that I came from Turkey they would make gobble noises every
time Turkey was mentioned. Somehow I rose above the teasing and embarrassment
and did very well in my studies. I fit right into the fifth grade without ever
going to a real school before, which was a credit to Mrs. McFarland, my tutor
I remember how very cold it was that year, 1932. We never had snow in Turkey,
and while it was fun to play in the snow, it was hard to warm up afterwards.
There was no heat in the bedrooms at our farmhouse; we would fill a hot water
bottle and put it in the bed before getting into it.
I made new friends in Norton. Audrey Wiley lived in a large home at the center
of town. We were a lot alike and soon became inseparable. My brother Jack had a
lot of boy friends and we used to all go out together – not paired, but just as
friends. We would go bowling, or to the movies, or to a baseball game or to the
beach in the summer.
When I was in the 8th grade I got a job after school working at the
Cressy’s, who lived in the center of town and who taught at Wheaton College. I
did light housework and looked after two children. Mr. Cressy would drive me
home afterwards, or I would call Mother to come and get me. I earned 25 cents
an hour, which added up to buy a pair of shoes or some clothes I needed. Soon I
became more in demand, working at other college professors homes.
Jack got a job after school working in a chicken farm nearby. On Saturdays my
job at home was to clean the house. Mother was busy with garden, washing,
cooking, etc. We only had a carpet sweeper, a broom and a dustpan but I always
did a nice job. I also took turns with Jack washing or wiping the supper
Jack had the job of milking the cows twice a day while I helped with the
canning and pickling and making jams and jellies. We had a big vegetable garden
and a large strawberry patch. We had a vegetable stand in front of the house
where we sold vegetables, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, jams and
jellies. Mother also sold some milk to the neighbors.
Father returned from Turkey in 1933, bringing Mother’s sister Louisa to live
with us. Aunt Louisa was a sweet, kind lady. She was never married and she was
a great help to Mother and a lovable addition to our family. Father and Henry
were always busy going out into the woods to cut down trees, split wood and
stack it in the shed for the winter. We had a hand push cart with two big
wheels to put the wood in. The two dogs always went with them.
Christmas at Norton was always a joyous time. Because I didn’t have much money
to buy presents for the family, I usually started knitting early in the fall.
Argyle socks for my brothers and mittens or gloves for the children and scarves
for the women. We would find a nice tree on our property and cut it down for a
Christmas tree. Mother would cook a huge turkey and all the family would come
together. Those were very happy days.
The public schools in Norton consisted of the elementary school on the first
floor and the high school on the second floor of a large old wooden building.
There was a common playground in the back of the school with a separating fence
in the middle to keep the boys and girls apart. There was a boy in the high
school who used to send me notes from the second floor via paper airplane,
telling me he wanted to go out with me. One day he came to see me at my home.
He rode a motorcycle and wore a leather jacket. He asked me to go to the senior
prom with him. My parents objected very strongly but decided to let me go if my
brother Jack could come with me to chaperone. It was embarrassing for me but I
wanted to go to the dance, so Jack came, too.
When I was in high school, all of the girls “dressed up”. That is to say we
wore a skirt, a sweater, a blouse and pair of shoes with heels. One day in
class I slipped off one of my shoes. It was on the floor, under my desk. One of
the “smart alec” boys in back of me took the shoe and threw it out the window.
This started a commotion and the teacher made me stay after school, thinking it
was my fault. The teacher was very angry and he hit me with a stick. I had
never been struck before and when I got home I was in tears. Explaining what
happened to my parents, Father was furious. He called the teacher and made an
appointment to see him that evening. He took me with him and he made the
teacher apologize to me and he warned him never to lay a finger on his daughter
Genealogy of Caleb W. Lawrence & Family