Robert Madison Day
Chapter 9 Robert Madison Day
In a mansion overlooking the beautiful Saint Johns River there is a nursery on the third floor. It is filled with toys and books and a hundred other things that a well-to-do doting grandfather could shower on a six year old boy. Of all the things that fill this room the tiny boy likes one thing best of all. It is an old rocking chair in which he sits each afternoon about this time, waiting. He hears steps on the landing in the hall. He flies from the chair like a meteor streaking the sky, eyes bright, arms reaching, and voice screeching;
A middle aged gentleman, dignified in his business suit, nevertheless scoops the child into his arms. There is a moment of mutual delight. Grandpapa then takes the little one over to the chair. The two sit and rock and talk about all kinds of things. Even though there is every kind of toy there a little boy could desire Grandpapa is reason the rocking chair is the boy's favorite thing. Besides being grandfather and grandson, they have a sad something in common. They are two fellows, all alone in the world.
Little Robert's grandmother never knew her grandson, or even her own son, as she died in childbirth. The child's father, Joseph Madison Day, at age sixteen, had proclaimed to his own father, William, that he was going to become a famous musician. This became a source of great friction between father and son. William Madison Day, being a businessman, had demanded that Joseph follow him into the family business. Joseph would have none of it. He was determined to make his mark as a violinist.
Joseph went to college and studied music against his father's wishes who declared him cut off, financially. There he met and married a beautiful and talented organ student, Camellia Judsen. Joseph worked hard at supporting the two of them and paid for their college tuition by giving voice, violin, and piano lessons. Camellia found a position as a church organist, which did not pay very well because she was a student and female.
Camellia was compelled to leave school and give up her organist position when they found that she was expecting. Joseph, having only just received his degree, gave up his personal dream of fame and became a schoolteacher to make ends meet. By the time the baby came along the small family lived in a modest rented home and Joseph was just able to pay the bills, but there was very little else. However, they were quite happy and content to love each other and make glorious music together.
When baby Robert was born Grandfather William fell in love at first sight. He wanted his little grandson to have the best money could buy. Naturally, he was always after Joseph to quit music and his lowly teaching job and become a banker. Robert should do this so that he could support his young child in the manner that William deemed appropriate. Joseph, quite accurately, felt that William was trying to control him and his son.
Little Robert did love his Grandpapa so, who gave him such nice Christmas and birthday presents. He loved to stay at Grandpapa's big house and to go places with him. Robert sensed that Daddy and Grandpapa did not seem to like each other. The little one was always trying to get Daddy and Grandpapa to do things together and it grieved the little fellow that the two always seemed to be mad at each other.
Joseph and Camellia had become quite well known as local musicians. The couple were increasingly sought after as word spread about the exquisite Violin and Organ concerts they presented at local churches. The Rector of the Episcopal Church of Our Savior in Fernandina Beach had asked them to come and give a concert for which they would be handsomely paid.
It was to be an overnight trip by horse and buggy, then by ferry. Joseph asked his father to keep little Robert over the weekend so the tot would not have to endure the rigors of the trip. William eagerly agreed to keep his grandson. When the couple came to leave the lad with William, he did not, however, pass up the opportunity to berate his son and daughter-in-law for the folly of being impoverished musicians.
Sadly, this conversation deteriorated into a heated argument. Joseph and Camellia were pressed to leave in time to reach the ferry before the last departure of the day. They had to leave little Robert, who could not understand why the three people he cared most about were so mad and shouting at each other, in tears. All he understood was that Mama was crying when she said good-bye and Daddy was too mad at Grandpapa to give a good-bye kiss.
Joseph and Camellia did reach the ferry in time and played a brilliant concert the next noon. They lingered after the concert and were pleased and surprised at the warm reception given in their honor. Alas, time had slipped away and they were in such a great hurry to leave for the ferry that Joseph left his violin at the church.
The Rector, who drove them to the landing, assured them that he would see that it was sent to them. Thus relieved, the couple boarded the ferry in happy anticipation of seeing their beloved little son. About half way through the trip the ferry boat was rammed by a barge that had broken loose from it's mooring. Twenty-nine souls were lost in the tragedy that night, among them; Joseph and Camellia Day.
Camellia, who was an orphan, had no family. William took his grandson to raise by choice as much as necessity. As Robert grew up, raised by his business minded grandfather, he suppressed his natural affinity for music and learned instead about the world of finance. Even as a young boy he vowed that if he ever had a son, he would not allow him to be anything but a businessman. Especially, he did not want his son to be a musician.
The winds of fortune took a nasty turn in 1901 when a raging fire destroyed most of downtown Jacksonville. Lost in the fire was William's place of employment and his beautiful home. There was just enough warning so that Robert and William were able to save only a very few items from the house. Among them was a Violin in an alligator case, and a box of papers and pictures. William became ill shortly thereafter. He died at age 61. Robert had just turned seventeen years old.
Left alone and with very few resources, Robert managed to finish High School with out trouble except from an old spinster math teacher who was convinced that, though he was very good at mathematics, he must have wild streak in him just because he was an orphan. Far from being a wild kid, he finished high school and worked his way through college. Robert showed that he did, indeed, have a head for business.
Immediately upon graduating from college he was made a loan officer of the fastest growing bank in Florida, the Baronet St. Johns Bank. The first day she was on the job Mr. Robert Day walked over to the teller's cages where he saw the most beautiful young lady he had ever seen.
Mr. Day wasted no time in asking Miss Martha MacCowley to accompany him to dinner on Sunday. She accepted on the condition that he first accompany her to worship at the Woodhurst Presbyterian Church. After a courtship lasting a full one year and a half the couple was married. Almost five years later they had a son whom they named James Madison Day. Naturally, his mother called him Jimmy, but his father always called him James.