Each summer, Barbara spent a few weeks at her grandmother’s house in Newburgh, NY. Her grandmother, Alice Rudd Otis (aka “Daisy”), grew up in Newburgh living with grandfather (Judge Fullerton) and her mother, Augusta Rudd (aka “Gussie”). Her mother’s brother, Willie Fullerton, was a famous composer in England but died at the age of 34 of tuberculosis.

Alice married William Augustus Otis and they eventually moved to Colorado Springs, CO. They lived in a beautiful house, “Pine Valley”, which is now part of the US Naval Academy. After getting divorced, Alice returned to Newburgh to raise her three sons: William, Charlie and Philip. Although William (aka “Fully”) and Philip went to college, Charlie continued to live with his mother even as an adult. Barbara spent lots of time with Uncle Charlie during her summer visits.

What was your Grandmother like?

  • Grandmother lived this ridiculous life of luxury but it was just the way she lived. She got up in the morning and the maid came and got her dressed. Then she stretched out on the chaise lounge in her room. As we would go down in the morning, we would go in and say hello to her. I don’t know what she was doing all day – because there was no tv - maybe she was reading the paper lying there on the chaise lounge with her feet up! At then at 1:00 every day, we would eat the big meal. About 12:45, we went in and got ready at the table and took our assigned seat. Uncle Charlie was always at lunch with Grandmother. And the funny thing was that his dogs, who sat there the whole meal and they were so smelly. He had two little schnauzers, white with brown, named Jacques and Lillabet. Ella had to go around to serve Uncle Charlie because they sat on the side she served on. She had to work her way around Jacques and Lillabet.

  • Grandmother had an elevator so she must have been in a wheelchair. She never walked the stairs. She had a little seat on the staircase and she sat on it. She was very formal and very nice. I had no problem with her because she wasn’t one who would say don’t do that or anything like that so she was a little bit removed. But I thought she was great.

Grandmother Otis

Tell Me About Uncle Charlie

  • Uncle Charlie really involved himself with us. He had a cruiser and we would go out on the cruiser every day. It was called The Little Man. And we would go out on it and then we would swim off of it. It was a motorboat. We would ride around the Hudson and then we’d stop and have lunch. And then 3:00 was calling time but I think I went with them a lot when they went calling. They would take us along. Which must have been weird. We would sit there. What did they talk about? They haven’t done anything for 2 weeks or 2 months or 2 years and they sit there and talk. But, of course, it was calling time so there were probably other people there. I think that sometimes we would be allowed to go back to the maid’s area with their kids. They always had kids there.

  • Uncle Charlie had a funny life. Uncle Charlie was what he was, so much. You know, he had all these women friends who were not in any way romantic - but all these women friends around. You know that – that we went and called on them every day – and I would go. And maybe it was that Uncle Charlie every day went and picked up something for dinner. Their big meal was 1:00 so his morning was probably spent going around doing errands and on the way home from those errands, he always stopped at these women’s and they would come out to the car. Isn’t that funny? It was just such a routine thing. But he had quite a life.

Grandmother and Uncle Charlie

How did you spend your life there?

  • Grandmother belonged to the country club just for me and Sandy. I would go over and sit there all by myself – but it was a pool. But nobody talked to me or anything. Or I’d go over and hit at the backboard but I didn’t have anybody to play with. Sandy wasn’t usually around because he was at St. Paul’s or had friends – but I didn’t have any friends. Sometimes my cousins, Pat or Phil, would be there which was good but that wasn’t very often.

  • There was Big Ella, Little Ella and Valerie. But Little Ella came for the summer and took care of me. Henry was Big Ella’s husband and he chauffeured. I had these hours that I was allowed to go out and play with Ella and all them. I think the morning I was allowed to be just with them. So that was my time of day. And then lunch, we all sat down for the formal meal but, once a week, I was allowed to eat out with them: Little Ella, Big Ella and Valerie. And others would stop by - like Ella’s husband, Ford, who had been the chauffeur. And they had their own bedrooms back there - like 3 bedrooms.

  • My life was really Valerie (Little Ella's daughter). I mean she was my only friend. That was difficult because she was black and, that was the big thing, that she couldn’t go to the country club. It was an issue and I don’t remember how we got around it or if we went, not knowing. I don’t remember. But I knew it so something must have happened. Maybe it was just settled with Ella and Grandmother

Big Ella and Little Ella playing croquet

Valerie Pinson was the first black woman serving in the White House

  • That doesn’t surprise me at all because you could tell she was going, even at that age. She just was very poised. You know. She just had it. She really did. And they were very – I don’t know what the word is. Not accomplished but….you know, like Ella – she could go anywhere and be very accepted.

Valerie in the Newspaper