Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Window Prop

A few days ago I had a telephone message from a neighbor who said that he had made a "discovery." I was off the island, and when I called him back he explained that he had found a very old piece of wood while he was looking for a window prop. David lives in a century old house and, like folks of a bygone era, still uses wooden sticks to prop open his windows.

The interesting thing about this stick, David said, is that it has the initials "E.W.H." carved in it. As David pointed out, Howard is the only historic island name that begins with "H." Surely one of my ancestors had left his mark on this window prop. But I couldn't think of anyone in my family with those initials. There was Enoch Ellis Howard, and James Wheeler Howard...but no E.W. Howard.

David called back the next day. He had carried the stick around with him, showing it to various islanders. On closer examination everyone agreed that the first letter was "L," not "E." Small chips had created the impression of the letter "E."

The mystery appears to be solved. Lawton Wesley Howard was my father's name! He must have carved his initials into the window prop about ninety years ago, when he was a young boy. Actually, he often personalized things that he made (ship's wheels, rocking chairs, even additions to our house). It was a family trait. While I was restoring my grandparents' house I discovered one interior tongue-and-groove board with my grandfather's initials scrawled on the back side.

How the window prop came to reside at my neighbor's house we'll never know. But it is now back home, propping up one of my antique windows.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is about "Ocracats" and was written by Pat Garber. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous6:03 PM

    Glad the stick is back home, was it mountain David that found the stick?
    I love it when things are marked. I sit behind a desk everyday in my office that was ordered in March of 1935 for Glascock Stove & Mfg. Company and is clearly marked with a sticker on the inside middle drawer. I've got the chair that goes with it, but don't use it, need modern comfort for sitting all day.
    For years like you, I have marked everything, when it was purchased & by who, when I build something even small, I always date it, maybe 90-100 years from now someone will care that it's marked.
    Have a GREAT Summer, see you next Fall.

  2. Anonymous9:56 PM

    My grandfather, who died in 1955, was a tool and die maker in Philadelphia in the early 1900's and he etched his initials with acid in his tools. They are still in service today and I'm sure will be for years to come...and not one was made in China! So, hang on to that stick to hand down to future generations.

  3. Anonymous9:02 AM

    hi philip, i was going to suggest the stick was actually carved by my grandpop lawrence howard but nancy just e-mailed back and said his name was actually kenneth lawrence howard, so i guess you get to keep the prop! use it well.

  4. Anonymous10:10 AM

    You're lucky. My actual initials are LMC, but everytime I put them somewhere, my friends think it is "Larry, Moe and Curly."

  5. What a great story! And what a treasure!

  6. Anonymous1:39 PM

    Hang on to that stick

    a wooden window prop does the trick when Spring has sprung in more that one way

    Having the window open all day to allow the warm ocean breezes while you drink french wine and eat cheeses casting your fate to the wind

    This Poem has been brought to you by POEM the Professional Organization of English Majors saluting April is Poetry Month

  7. Anonymous9:37 AM

    Philip, I thought as I was reading your interesting account that the window prop stick might be your Dad's. I remember seeing him around when my late husband and I would wander along Howard Street and stop by the shop.

    How wonderful to have such an unexpected, sentimental treasure to come back to you after so many years!

    Proof again that it is the simple things in life which are the most value.

    Thanks for sharing the pics, too.