My earliest memories of Mr. Turner go back to 1950. I had just moved with my family from E. 42nd St. in Brooklyn to E. 51st St. Our new house was a “row” house: one story brick; with a small front porch outside and connected on both sides with other “row” houses. It came with a garage out back, but in order for Dad to bring our car into the garage, he had to drive down a steep, common driveway that was accessible only between two of the houses.
Moving to E. 51st St. was a welcome change for the whole family. We were not happy in the E. 42nd St. house (a long story, perhaps told at another time).
I was in the 7th grade and transferred from P. S. 135 to P. S. 203, which was a very good thing for me. My walk was so much shorter and more pleasant than walking to P. S. 135.
Mr. Turner’s house was on the way to school. He and his wife lived in a “wooden” house. All our neighbors differentiated the houses on the block by calling them “row” houses or “wooden” houses. “Wooden” houses, of course, were constructed of wooden frames as opposed to the brick-constructed “row” houses. All the homes were not large and it was a very friendly block: all the neighbors knew each other and were friendly and many became very good, close friends.
I believe the Turners were original owners; one of two of the original houses built many years before builders came along and built the brick houses.
Mr. and Mrs. Turner were definitely from a time that preceded my grandparents. Mr. Turner was always in the garden, wearing his hat, tending to his plants, vegetables and flowers. The Turners had a “double lot” which gave them the extra space where Mr. Turner happily puttered most of the day, weather permitting.
The Turners were quite elderly; at least he was, to me. Mrs. Turner was starting to fail in health, and Mr. Turner was very solicitous where his wife was concerned. It was evident that he cared for her deeply. Even I, as a young girl, was impressed by the care and love he showered upon her. When he spoke of her, it was with an obviously loving tone in his voice.
As a child, I was invited into their home on more than one occasion, where I would be treated to a cookie that Mrs. Turner baked. She was a great baker: Mr. Turner was very appreciative of his wife’s baking, and spoke of her in warm, loving terms whenever we spoke.
Years went by; I married, had my daughter, and moved back onto E. 51st St., halfway down the street from my parents’ house.
Mr. Turner was still going strong: tending to his garden and taking care of his house. It was with tears in his eyes that he told me of his sweet wife’s passing.
I also found that Mr. Turner had become the block’s “handyman” while I was living elsewhere. He welcomed the extra income, and besides, as he put it, “It keeps me busy.”
We purchased the house we lived in from Dan’s parents (they lived in another state at the time), and it was after that that Mr. Turner approached us about the brick facade of the house. He said it needed “pointing.” What was that? The mortar between the bricks needed to be filled in due to age, and the elements. We agreed to have Mr. Turner do the work. His rate was quite reasonable.
It was almost a ridiculous site to see this wiry, white-haired old man (he was in his 80s), in his farmer’s overalls, carrying his long ladder down the street, with pail in the other hand, ready for a day’s work. And a day’s work it was – several days, actually. He worked slowly, but steadily and with careful attention to his task.
It was a few years later, that I heard he had also passed, and joined his beloved wife in their afterlife together. My memories of Mr. Turner – farmer, patriot (flag flew from his flagpole every day), good neighbor, talented “handyman,” friendly gentleman, and devoted husband – are still vivid.