THE BEHNEY QUILT
Gordon Fong recently visited HHC from North Carolina, to donate a quilt that had belonged to his grandfather. The hand-cut, handstitched, wool quilt was crafted in 1899 by Gordon’s great-great grandmother, who lived in Derry Church. This is signified on the quilt.
Gordon’s grandfather, Charles “Clyde” Behney, was born in Derry Church, in 1885. A life well lived is documented by Gordon, and he tells of his grandfather’s experiences running track against Jim Thorpe and his work on the top-secret Manhattan District project.
The quilt, a utilitarian artifact, is a notable piece of pre-Hershey history. Below, read more about Gordon’s remembrances of his grandfather and the experiences of Charles Behney’s life.
The varied-color hand stitching on the quilt reads "Made by Grandma Wenger 1899 for Chas Behney."
Manhattan District Certificate dated Aug 6, 1945
A Few of Clyde’s many Trophies for his Roses
A 1st Prize Trophy Dickinson College Interscholastic Relay Races (1903)
Charles “Clyde” Behney
I have written this article about my grandfather after donating his 1899 quilt to the Hersey History Center. The memory of my grandfather has given me great joy and pride!
My grandfather, on my mother’s side, Charles “Clyde” Behney, was born in Derry Church, PA in 1885. He graduated from the Dickinson Collegiate Preparatory College, Carlisle, PA in 1904 and from the Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA in 1908 with a Degree of Mechanical Engineer. He was married to Evelyn Paul Behney for 63 years. Clyde worked for a company that installed flow meters. One of his projects in the 1920’s was for the water system of Syracuse, NY. The meters were at Skeneatles Lake and I saw those same meters in 1965!
In 1935, Clyde earned his Master of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh. He then moved to Delaware and worked for DuPont as a civil engineer and was involved in the top-secret Manhattan District project, which had to do with the development of the atomic bomb.
When Clyde retired from DuPont he became interested in growing roses and had over 300 roses on his property. He was a member of the American Rose Society and a respected, accredited judge.
Clyde died in 1984 at the age of 99. He had a full and productive life.
I have many recollections of my grandfather who I called Pa. As a young boy, my brother and I would spend a week with our grandparents, Ma and Pa, in Delaware (ca. 1948-1955). Pa had made a wood shop in his basement and on one visit we were going to make something in the shop. I was around 8 and excited to use a hammer and saw. But, first Pa and I discussed what I would make. With much discussion and thought, we decided I would make a small end table. Now I could hammer and saw. But, Pa said I needed blueprints for my project. He gave me graph paper and each square was equal to an inch. No hammer and saw. But, by the end of our stay, I had made my table which I still have. I also have the lesson that Pa taught me: be thoughtful, methodical and consistent.
Ma liked roses, so Pa bought a rose bush. Then another and another until he had over 300 roses in his yard. He entered his roses in many rose shows in the eastern United States and generally was the big winner. Of course he was the big winner. He had three refrigerators in his basement with a chart of each bush as to when to cut the rose and how long it could stay in the refrigerator before a rose show. I remember during our summer stays of driving with Pa and Ma to Derry Church (aka Hershey) to buy bags of cocoa shells. Pa said that was the best mulch for his roses. What goes around comes around!
Table I built in Pa’s Workshop
Gordon (age 7) and Pa (age 69)
Clyde Showing Evelyn one of his Prize Winning Roses
Darelynn Fung (age 9), Clyde (age 92) and Mark Fung (age 7) after walking in the parade at Clyde’s 69th Lehigh University reunion (1977)
Ma and Pa stayed with my family in July of 1969. We watched on TV, on July 20th, the first man on the moon.
I have been amazed at what Pa saw in his lifetime: the advent of automobiles, planes, and space travel.
Pa smoked a pipe (Prince Albert tobacco) and would blow smoke rings. When I went to college, I started smoking a pipe. After much practice, I could blow smoke rings.
Although Ma was extremely particular about preparing a meal and setting a table (no condiment jars on the table please). Pa on the other hand, was very basic: A&P grocery store raisin pie and peanut butter.
Pa always followed the stock market. He kept track of the commodities in a 3 ring binder. He enjoyed going to the hotel DuPont and reading the ticker tape as it came in. At Christmas, Ma and Pa (who did not drink) would have very expensive bottles of liquor under their Christmas tree. These were gifts to Pa from people he had given good advice to about stocks. Pa told me, we knew cars were here to stay but the trick was to know which company was here to stay.
In Pa’s later years, he would share stories of his childhood. He was raised by his grandparents (I do not know the particulars of this situation.) and as a young boy had a “business” of raising sheep. It was all his responsibility and he liked it when he sold the wool.
Pa ran track at Dickinson and Lehigh. While at Dickinson, he ran against Jim Thorpe (and lost). Thorpe has been considered the best athlete of the first half of the 21st century. In the 1912 Olympics in Sweden, Thorpe won the pentathlon and decathlon. His world record score in the decathlon lasted until 1948.
We took Pa to his 69th reunion at Lehigh in 1977 at the age of 92. Pa was looking forward to riding in a convertible in the parade. Unfortunately, an alumni from the year before Pa got to ride in the convertible. Of course, Pa said that was OK and he would walk the track with his great grandchildren (Darelynn Fung 9 and Mark Fung 7). Pa had a grand time and received the biggest applause. How appropriate for a fellow who ran against Jim Thorpe to take a final victory lap!
Pa was an accomplished, steadfast individual.