Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Story Tellers, Part 1

Welcome to the first weekly edition of Story Tellers hosted by A Southern Belle with Northern Roots. (This post will typically be done on Wednesdays, but I am a little early this week) This weekly feature has been the perfect motivation for me to document a story that I've wanted to share for quite some time. Before I begin, I should give you a brief background...the story behind the story so to speak.

A few years ago the postman dropped off a package at my front door. It was from my aunt Mary, my fathers sister. When I opened the large envelope there wasn't a note or any explanation, just this...

My aunt Mary, who is the youngest of my father's siblings, has always been the family's record keeper. I assumed that she had made an audio history of the Bunker family. So, I went into the living room and popped the tape into the stereo we had which thankfully still had a cassette deck component.

The first few seconds of the tape is just white noise. I could tell that someone was recording, but there was no voice. But then, the voice began. It was my grandfather, my fathers dad, Andrew Louis Bunker Sr. My mom heard it from the kitchen and came in, we were both a little stunned. My grandfather had passed away in the late 1980's when I was only 4 or 5 years old. I have no actual memories of him. The only memories I have of him are from what I've seen in photo's. So, you can understand why I would be a little shocked at the sound of his voice. Although I have no recollection of it, I knew, unmistakably that the voice was his.

I sat in the living room for the better part of an hour listening to the tape. I cried but I was not sad. I was thankful for this amazing gift of family history as told by my grandfather that I never got the joy of knowing while he was living. The tape is more than a family history. It is one of the most beautiful love stories I have ever heard and it's more powerful and moving than the best fictional romance novel I have ever read.

For years I have wanted to sit down and transcribe the tape onto paper. I have started many times, but time has always gotten the better of me and I have packed the tape in a box more than once. Then, last week I learned about the new weekly feature called Story Tellers and it sparked my desire to transcribe it again.

So, I invite you to read this story as told by my grandfather and transcribed by myself. When reading, keep in mind that his voice has a "texture' to it that I can not even begin to translate onto paper. It is aged but genuine. He also has a classic New England accent, so words such as 'Bar Harbor' sound more like Ba Ha-Ba. I have tried to be as authentic to the tape as possible, representing small pauses in speech with a coma and longer pauses with (...). Paragraph separations represent when the tape recorder was turned off/on. The first section contain many names and I have attempted to spell them the best I can, but as you will see some of the names are very unusual and I have spelled them phonetically. Oh, I should also mention that he recorded this, to the best of my knowledge, in the early 1980's for his son Paul, my uncle,who needed it for a school project.

This is a picture of my grandfather, my uncle Paul, and my aunt Mary. I imagine that this picture was taken near the time of the recordings.
Thank you for joining me and I hope you enjoy. Here we go...

Paul, this is the old Champ with the history of the Bunker Family, as best as I can recall it. I started wr…couple of days ago, but I couldn’t seem to put on paper what I had in my head, what’s left of it, so I thought I’d try putting it on tape. It may not be in the correct order that you want it but, huh, you can pick out what info is useful, is as to you and I hope that most of it is. So, I’m going to ramble on and leave you with the task of picking out what information is useful to you.

Okay, lets go. We’ll start with my father, name was Frances Robert Bunker, he was born July 23 1896 in Franklin, Maine… small town on the shore of Frenchman’s Bay located in the region of Bar Harbor. He died November 3, 1972 in Concord, New Hampshire as a result of a stroke. My mother Evelyn Cologne Bunker was of French decent, she was born March, 21 1891 in Concord, New Hampshire and she died June 5, 1960 in Manchester, New Hampshire. She died of cancer of the stomach. My Grandparents on my father’s side was Walter Bunker, a stone cutter by trade. My grandmother was Clara Phillips Bunker, her father Phillips, I forget, I don’t recall his first name, was a native of England, an Englishman and he came here and fought in the Civil War. His decedents in England came from Scottish people and English. My grandparents on my mother’s side was Louis, L-O-U-I-S, Cologne and my grandmother’s name was Marie Cologne. They were natives of Canada, being born in the town of Three Rivers Quebec, a town on the St. Lawrence river between Quebec and Montr√©al, I say on the St. Lawrence, it wasn’t to far from there. My father was the eldest of five children, following him was born his sister Hildred, who now I say is about 85. Then came brother Lawrence who must be in his late 70’s, then came his sister Ester who also in her 70’s, and last came his brother, Alba the youngest, who died in June of 1977. Some where between there, between my fathers birth and possibly Lawrence, was born to his parents, huh, two sons, Raymond and Andrew, be my fathers brothers but they never survived beyond their second birthday, one having passed away from pneumonia in infant hood and Andrew, I believe my father told me, died from dypheria shortly after he was born. He doesn’t remember either one of them so they must have died while he was still maybe 4 or 5 years old. I am named after his brother Andrew.

On my mothers side, she has… she was one of five children. She had a sister named Rose, who was a half sister, half brother Dolfus but as whom I recall calling Joe, Joseph, Uncle Joe, as we called him for what reason I don’t know, I think it was simpler to say than Dolfus. She had a brother named Marshal and Fredrick all of these people are now deceased. Now, as far as my fathers back ground is concerned, I can only say that he was born and raised in Franklin, Maine and was educated in Franklin, Maine. He went to the eighth grade, completed grammar school. He went to high school for exactly two days and he told me on the third day that he went fishing with the teacher’s brother who was about his own age. They hooked up a horse and buggy and took off into the woods for 2 days, came back with a tremendous load of fish. That was the extent of his education.


On the back of the photo above is written, "Grampa Bunker", which I assume is, by the age of the man and the age of the photo, my great-grandfather, Francis Robert Bunker taken sometime before he passed away in 1972.

Please join me next week for the next installment. The tape contains some very humorous moments as well as some heart warming ones. I found the small bit about the extent of my great grandfathers education funny. It also reminds me how far we have come with technology and modern day conveniences such as transportation in the last 100 years. Can you imagine skipping school to take a horse and buggy to go fishing?  Please hop over to see A Southern Belle with Northern Roots and check out the other stories that have been shared.


  1. OH I really had tears in my eyes for when you heard that tape! What a blessing that is. I am looking forward to more to come...can you imagine 2 days of school? Thanks so much for participating! So excited to see where we go with this.

  2. What a wonderful momento to have of your grandpa. Thank you for sharing. La

  3. This is so precious and I'm so happy for you that your Grandfather Bunker actually thought about his decendents recorded this. I so wish that we could get Nana to do this but it's so hard to get her to even tell us...AND her story has changed over the years so we don't know what the real truth is...lol Wish you could get the voice recorded on your pc so you have another way to preserve it ;) So glad that you are recording it on paper as well.

  4. Wow, I thought that tape was lost! I am sitting here blubbering at the thought of it and reading your transcription. I hear his voice as he speaks on the tape and he comes instantly to mind. I wish you could remember him as he was a very funny and humurous man. He had a very dry wit and slow cadence that left you hanging on his words, waiting for the punch line...and as he was teasing you he would get a huge grin that would light up his face. Of course, I can see his big white toothed grin from ear to ear....that is when he would wear his teeth because he loved to keep them in his pocket instead of in he mouth! I'll tell you the story about the DMV line in Cocord again someday!

    Love you and keep it up!

  5. Oh, aren't you so lucky to have that tape. That's a wonderful gift from your grandfather.

  6. How wonderful that you are transcribing his words for future generations. I love the way he just kind of sounds like he's remembering while he's talking into the recorder. I got a laugh out of calling Dolphus Uncle Joe, because it was too hard to say Dolphus! And skipping school to go fishing and then never going back - the extent of his education. That was great! I felt like I was listening to the tape along with you. laurie

  7. I agree that it's great that you are transcribing some actual family oral history! Good for you and it's great fun for us.

    thanks for participating in such a meaningful way!

  8. What a treasure!

    Awhile ago my mom gave us all a CD with her father telling a story. It's great to have :)

  9. What a wonderful piece of family treasure! You're so fortunate to have something like that. Looking forward to the next one!

  10. I can't wait to read the second post!


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