Dad, whose formal name was Thomas Knight Chamberlain, but Tom to his friends, was a fishery biologist for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. His primary job was to stock farm ponds with fish that were viable for any particular local area. One element of his job was that he got transferred a lot from one part of the country to another. Frequently this also involved his family picking up and moving along with him.
From a Christmas card photo taken in the summer of 1940, when I would have been just barely 3. Left to right: Grandma (Edna Little Taggart), who had bad arthritis and always had those crutches in the earlier part of my life; Grandpa (Charles Ross Taggart), after whom I was named, my sister Elinor, with Dad peeking over her head, and me (very uncertain about this whole thing) at her feet; and my brother Hale. My mother took the shot.
|When I showed up, his family already consisted of his wife Evelyn (nee Taggart), a son Hale, and a daughter Elinor. Hale and Elinor were then already teenagers—if just barely for my sister, at 11. She was born in Muskatine, Iowa. Hale, 13, born in New Hampshire, was already six feet tall, and would add another couple of inches before he was done. They had all just fled the Montana winter a few months before I was born. My prenatal name, in those days before parents knew the sex of the child before they emerge into the world, was Peregrine (traveller—the reference is to Peregrine White, the first child born in the New World among the Mayflower Pilgrims; there's a rumor that Peregrine White was somewhere in our family ancestry but it's never been verified)*. For anyone interested, while Mother had been born in Washington, D.C., and Dad in Brooklyn, N.Y. (Prospect Park), they got together because both had families in Vermont; mother was raised there, in Topsham and Newbury, and one branch of the Chamberlain family tree actually took root there when the country was being settled.|
But wait! There's more! Dad's father, Captain James Hale Chamberlain, for whom my brother was named, was a clipper ship captain. We had a wonderful old dictionary from the 17th century, which had nothing to do with him (other than that he probably had owned it) except that we kept a photo of his ship, the New World, in it. Capt. Chamberlain was in his 50s when he married his third wife, a Danish woman half his age named Dora Møller; he was 60 when my father was born, and had he not died at 80 would have been about 100 years old when I was born. Grandmother Chamberlain, Dora, died too early for me to remember her, though Elinor does have a picture of her looking down at me in a bassinet.
And I'm named after my maternal grandfather, Charles Ross Taggart, who was an entertainer in the early 1900s, variously called The Man From Vermont or The Old Country Fiddler. Not vaudeville, but one of the national traveling circuits — I believe his was the Redpath circuit. His show was more than just playing the fiddle, though. He was a story teller, a ventriloquist, a comedian. And he made a number of records for Victor, or Victrola, before RCA became part of the company's name. I've recently been advised that he also made at least one short film. Unfortunately, it was for Lee DeForest's Phonofilm Company, and while there are a large number of their films extant, they are almost impossible to actually view. Most are in private collections; a number are at the Library of Congress. But the problem is that they are not readily convertable to any of today's standard media. *sigh*
Since I wrote that, I learned of a documentary from Inkwell Images on Dr. Lee deForest's Phonofilms, called First Sound of Movies, and was delighted to discover that it includes an all-too-short (about three minutes I think) segment of my grandfather's act, titled "The Old Country Fiddler at the Singing School." I've seen a copy of this, and it's wonderful to watch, evoking, if not quite bringing back, 60-year-old memories of him at his fiddle. I could mention that he's in good company, with clips of Eddie Cantor, George Bernard Shaw, Calvin Coolidge, Eubie Blake, and many other eminent performers from the 1920s.
So, anyway, we came by our peripatetic ways naturally.
And sure enough, we moved from Brevard when I was five, and overall to date, I figure I've since lived in, oh, maybe 25 to 30 places in eight different states, depending on whether one should count some of the briefer stay-overs, for a summer, say.