George J. Vautier 

1893-1985


1893 was the year of the great world’s fair in Chicago and it was a breathtaking extravaganza.  The fair featured a grand assortment of new buildings, vistas, statues, canals, artificial lagoons, vast exhibitions and ongoing concerts to entertain and fascinate the teaming multitudes.  Also at that time a young unknown man named Florenz Ziegfeld sponsored his very first sideshow featuring the strongman Eugene Sandow.  Little Egypt was dancing her scandalous Hootchy-kootchy to mesmerized audiences, and, I might also comment, to the absolute disgust of those of stricter moral caliber.  John Philip Sousa was drawing big crowds to hear his own musical rendition of After The Ball.  The country was at peace and had been so for a very long time.  Prosperity was in the wind and everybody had jobs.  Most people were happy.  1893 was a good year because my father George was born that year.

In fact he was born on the same day as the fabled actress Mae West.  It was always his secret desire to outlive this scandalous, salty and sexy lady of the silver screen.  Mae West once was rumored to have said that the secret to a long life was a daily enema, but she died several years before my father did, and he never had an enema in his life.

It can also be said that 1893 was not the most propitious time to come into the world.  My dad had the questionable experience of living through and surviving the horror of two world wars and one very long depression, enough exposure to life experiences for anyone.  But there were big compensations.  He got to see telephones, telegraphs, records, radio, TV, cars, and transportation evolve during his lifetime.

He was slow and careful about everything he did, and his methodical approach spilled over into everything.  His carefulness and precision seemed to me at the time to be representative of what growing old does to people.  Once I grew up I saw that this was just his way of doing things.  When George died at the age of 93, I remarked to friends that, although he had a full and productive life, the reason he lived so long was that he accomplished in 93 years what most people could do in 60.    

George was a third generation American.  Many of his ancestors had come to the New World before the Civil War.  His father, George Sr., was born in 1862 in Shigawake, Quebec and from there moved to Washington State where he married the beautiful and dynamic Bridget Ellen Jessup, of Irish decent.  My father’s grandfather Jean was a carpenter from Jersey, Channel Islands, who also married an Irish girl, Bridget Glynn.  So many Bridgets.

As the oldest of five children, George was expected to carry a large share of the work.  He possessed powerful hands, hands that developed an almost godlike strength from long hours milking cows.  He was never to lose that strength, for I remember that when he lay on his deathbed, looking like a skeleton, the concerned but unsuspecting doctor told George to squeeze his hand.  “You don’t really mean that, do you?”  George asked weakly.  The doctor nodded and immediately let out a loud cry of pain and fell to his knees.  This incident brought nurses from every corner of the floor.  My father’s soul lived and found expression in his hands and that was where the last part of his soul resided.

Although he was easy-going and ordinary-appearing in most respects, he became transformed when he played the piano, and performed with a sense of enthusiasm and intensity that was a little short of hypnotic.  One day the local movie house needed a piano player to accompany their silent films because their player had quit.  George volunteered and did well.  He could improvise, embellish and exaggerate his music.  George even developed his own arrangements for the silents, although most of the time he used the standard favorites.  The chase scenes just had to be William Tell Overture (Lone Ranger Song).  Suspense or drama was frequently Hearts and Flowers (1899) or Please Go ‘Way and Let Me Sleep (1902), but his all time favorite was Red Wing (1907) for the light romantic scenes.  He could make it work in a hundred different ways, with runs, rolls, arpeggios, sostenutos and other piano theatrics.  Local townspeople went to the movies just to hear him play, or so they say.

This is what I hold in my fading memory’s eye, and however incomplete these memories may be and however lacking, my father may have been a failure as a parent (viewed from today’s touchy-feely perspective), and however good or bad George was as a father-figure, I have to look beyond it all think of him, not as a great man by any means, but like so many other fathers of his day, a good, well intentioned ordinary religious man, trying his best in his own way to deal with the realities of life, with love, with work, and passing a little bit of it on to his sons and daughters in the hope that they might be able to do something with it.


 

George J. Vauter in college at St. Martins, Olympia wa.

the young handsome college dude. 

 

 

 

George J. Vautier in uniform fort lewis wa 1918

George in uniform at Ft. Lewis in 1918.

 

 

George J. Vautier at 45.

George at 45.

 

  George J. Vautier on the farm 1940

  Working on the farm

 

 

 

George J. Vautier with Jimmy Vautier, Danny Vautier, and little Anthony Michael Vautier

With Jimmy Vautier, Danny Vautier, and little Anthony Michael Vautier

 

George Vautier honorable discharge

 U.S. Army discharge

George Vautier with Anthony Michael Vautier who wants a puff.

Anthony Michael wants a puff.