Mrs. William Oscar Garrison and Winston S. Churchill

Posted by Preston G. on September 10, 2011 at 4:42 pm
Sep 102011

I was just watching Antiques Roadshow and it made me think of the only artifact in our house that could possibly get on that show, at least now that my mother has sold her 18th century violin. (We got a lot more than we expected – be sure to find the people who really know what they are doing if you have something like that to sell or repair.)

In October, 1945, WWII had just ended and the electorate of Great Britain had thanked Winston Churchill for his leadership during the war by voting him out of office. Whoever first said “bread and circuses” had the peacetime democratic system pretty well figured out.

My great-grandmother Beall Garrison wrote a note to Mr. Churchill to thank him for his leadership and to commiserate with him over losing the election. Mr. Churchill wrote a note back thanking her for her note which he had “read with great pleasure.” There is no indication that a secretary was involved and the signature looks like examples of Churchill’s that I have seen. We have the note from Churchill and the envelope with a House of Commons postmark in a frame. It decorated my dad’s office for many years.

The address on the envelope was originally to Bakersfield, CA, where Carl and Nina lived for many years, so it appears that Beall sent her note from there, but by the time Churchill’s reply reached Bakersfield, Beall had evidently moved to Fort Worth, as the letter was forwarded to 3511 Westcliff Rd. S. Beall spent the remaining years of her life in Fort Worth and died in 1953. I no doubt saw her when I was a baby, but I have no recollection of her.

Years later, my father William Garrison and I and my brothers had the chance to spend some time with the British historian and journalist Paul Johnson. Johnson told us some tales from his early career.

Johnson had been the editor at the New Statesman, a left wing British opinion magazine. At one point, while covering Parliament he had had some kind of leg injury and was allowed to use the “Lord’s lift,” an elevator in the Parliament buildings that was normally reserved for members of the House of Lords. He said that one day he got on the lift and looked up to realize that Churchill was on the lift with him. Churchill asked him who he was and he said that he was the editor of the New Statesman. Churchill smiled and said, “I was a Liberal once,” which he had been about 60 years before.

So there it is, I am separated from Winston Churchill by 2 degrees of separation in 2 different ways. (Or is that one degree of separation?) Impressed? I also have a picture of myself and Verne Garrison II with Ronald Reagan in the west wing of the White House. Stop that hissing, all you libs. :-)

I would scan the Churchill note if I could, but the scanner I am using has developed some sort of software glitch that I haven’t been able to solve.

Preston G.

Retired biochemist. One of 16 grandchildren of Verne Garrison and Dorothy Logan Garrison.

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