Uncle Marvin

My grandmother Stark’s brother, great uncle Marvin Frederick, a graduate of Dartmouth College, served in both World Wars and was a very successful corporate executive. He was Treasure of the General Electric Company. He was also a deacon at the prestigious Riverside Church in New York City. The famous preacher Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick was also associated with the Riverside Church. A Fosdick quotation during my Bloomington church’s service this past Sunday, got me remembering experiences involving Uncle Marvin.


LT Frederick WW I                                    Major Frederick WW II

The Frederick’s had a lavash apartment in New York City which spanned the entire floor of a high-rise building overlooking the Hudson River.

My family lived in Connecticut during my growing up years and annually our family would drive into Manhattan for dinner at Uncle Marvin’s and Aunt Marion’s. It was no casual family gathering. The Frederick’s were very formal, had a live-in maid, Martha, and always dressed to the nines. Never during those visits did I ever see Uncle Marvin without a coat and tie.

My family during those years included a sister, Cherilyn, four years younger than me, and a brother, Richard, nine years younger. A second sister, Lisa, was born in 1954 so missed the Frederick dinners. This would have been during the years I was 10 to 13 years old. For weeks prior to the visit my parents would drill us on proper manners and table etiquette: Don’t sit until the hosts are seated, place the napkin on your lap, don’t eat until everyone is served, don’t chew with your mouth open, don’t slouch, etc., etc., etc.

Looking out on the Hudson River, my uncle had binoculars by the window to watch the ships on the river. That was about the only part of the visit we kids looked forward to. One year, after the maid rang her little bell calling us to dinner, Richard was missing. Where was he? A search was conducted throughout the entire apartment until the four-year-old was found hiding under one of the beds.

Seems Richard was using the field glasses to watch the ships when the binocular’s stap became loose from one side. Richard thought he had broken something and fearing a firing squad, or worse, had hidden himself. Richard was assured the strap could be reattached and after drying his eyes, joined us at the table.

Later, eight-year-old Cherilyn committed the unpardonable sin of slumping with elbows on the table and practically sprawling across the tabletop. My mother’s horrified shriek from the other end of the table was more alarming and embarrassing than Cheri’s faux pa.

I was perfectly behaved during all those visits of course, but just couldn’t excuse my uncouth family.

A final PS to the Marvin Frederick story.

Uncle Marvin’s executive position at General Electric probably had a lot to do with other family members having a career with GE. My dad spent his entire working years at GE, retiring as Marketing Manager of the Portable Appliance Division. Dad’s cousin, Bob Frederick, son of one of Marvin’s brothers, Vard Frederick, was Executive Vice President of GE, then became President of RCA, but then GE bought RCA so ended up back with GE. Bob’s brother, Bill Frederick, another son of Vard, was Vice President of GE’s Lighting Institute at Nela Park. So the GE logo was a familiar symbol in the Stark/Frederick clan.



5 thoughts on “Uncle Marvin

  1. I still have to work on my table manners, which have become lax with age. In difference is the culprit.

  2. Very funny memories. I too experienced the “joys” of going to Marvin and Marian’s. Whether it was to their summer home “Tranquility” or Christmas Eve in Manhattan to attend church service at Riverside. I did the unforgivable act of picking a wild flower just as Marian was telling mom how rare it was. And always hearing g “Don’t ever do THAT at Marvin and Marian’s!”

  3. Those dress, table manners, and manners in general are echoes of childhood memories in my Penn grandparents’ home in Kokomo, IN … pretty absent today!

  4. Jim, I”m very proud of you for not chewing with your mouth open and , of course, not dropping your spoon in the soup and thus making a mess. You definitely wouldn’t want to follow the rest of those uncouth siblings of yours. It sounds like those occasions were visits to hell. However, good training for later years. Jb

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