Part VIII: Social Rites during World War II, 1942-1945

Featured image
Persifor Frazer IV – Mary Vaughan Williams wedding reception at Overleigh, Bala Cynwyd. Saturday afternoon, 15 August 1942. Cecily Geyelin, Loggie Bullitt, Peggy Thayer, Cyrus LaRue Munson, Billy Adamson, Marion "Baby" Pepper, L. Talbot "Tally" Adamson.

For this next installment of Ellen Glendinning Frazer’s photographic chronicle, I selected images from more than ten volumes containing several thousand photographs from 1942 to 1945 and arranged them within two separate topical headings: Social Rites: War and Weddings and At Ease: Chestnut Hill, Watch Hill, Mackay Point Plantation, Long Island, and Palm Beach.

Ellen Glendinning Frazer in uniform.

The first section relates how the war directly affected the Glendinning- Frazer family and their Social Register friends, combining Ellen’s photographs with a detailed archival record of wartime documents, newspaper accounts, and ephemera. It portrays the era’s s predilection for brief romances, big weddings, and overnight honeymoons before husbands and sons shipped out to Normandy beaches and Italian trenches.

Western Union telegrams and handwritten letters from the heart convey how WW II affected every American family who shared the same passions and intense patriotism no matter how separated by social class. And no matter the circumstance or sacrifice, Chestnut Hill weddings were done by the book from the church to the champagne.

The second part records the activities Ellen Frazer and her set exercised as distractions from ration cards and blackouts that placed them out of harm’s way whether a traditional Chestnut Hill hunt breakfast at The Squirrels or a weekend at Mackay Point, George Widener’s low country plantation in South Carolina. During this period Palm Beach became the predominate getaway.

While many Palm Beach mansions closed during the war, the Glendinning-Frazers spent time at Casa dei Leoni, their Worth Avenue lakefront house, and at Villa Tranquilla, Felix and Ann du Pont’s oceanfront estate. With the Everglades Club often hosting “at homes” for army officers, Club du Pont, as Ellen called it, became a refuge for many of the Wilmington-Philadelphia-New York social network.

Social Rites: World War II and Weddings, 1942-1945

A certified member of the Red Cross Motor Corps, Ellen Glendinning Frazer was photographed at the wheel of a mobile canteen.
A map of WW II as the Axis continued in its takeover of Europe, 1941-1942.

Ellen Glendinning Frazer’s wartime credentials.
A gasoline ration card.
L to R.: Kay Denckla.; Mary Glendinning Cooke, Ellen’s sister married to Jay Cooke.
Lt. Col. Jay Cooke, Ellen’s brother-in-law and former candidate for governor of Pennsylvania and GOP chairman for Philadelphia.
Mrs. Charles J. Biddle “stresses the need for conserving tires.”
Mrs. James Forrestal engaged in “training Navy women to the job of visiting widows and mothers of men killed in action …”
Bea and Rod Wanamaker settled in wartime Washington.
L to R.: With her two sons enlisted in the service, Ethel Shields Darlington Garrett, Mrs. George Garrett, helps establish the Philadelphia package center. After the war, George Garrett became the US Ambassador to Ireland.; Having fled her treasured Villa Trianon, Ellen’s friend Lady Mendl endures at her St. Regis suite, “I haven’t been able to ask anyone for dinner in two years.”
L to R.: During this time violinist Albert Spalding performed with the Philharmonic Orchestra at Lewisohn Stadium.;Airman Persifor Frazer IV, 2nd row to the right, is pictured in 1942 with fellow airmen at a training school in Santa Anna, California.
Patsy Lewis and Charles Ingersoll tell the world they are engaged.
Chestnut Hill, July 4 1942. Persifor IV “Perky” Frazer and Mary Vaughan “Mollie” Williams announce their engagement. “My soldier gets leave …” Mollie is the daughter of David Williams, a prominent Philadelphia banker.
Lt. Hugh G. Bayne, Ellen’s son-in-law announced his recent promotion in the US Army.
At 19, Robert Glendinning “Rippie” Frazer enlists in the American Field Service (AFS) having been turned away from the service because of his underweight and appendix operation.
Having become an AFS ambulance driver, Rippie sends a telegram at Christmas 1943.
January 1944. When Persifor IV graduates from the US Air Force flight school, Ellen’s former husband Persi sends her a telegram.
26 March 1944. Oliver Rea, the son of Philadelphian and Palm Beacher Henry Rea, sends a letter home from the war.
March 1944. And then, the tragic news that Rippie was shot, making endless the heartache and heartbreak in the days, weeks, and months of telegrams and letters that followed for Ellen, her family, and friends. Ellen’s scrapbook is filled with many personal letters of encouragement written to her from Rippie’s fellow servicemen.
Rippie’s unforgettable smile.

21 March 1944. The first of many letters from the American Field Service about Rippie’s condition.
3 April 1944. With Rippie’s condition still grave, Ellen placed a photo of Rippie from years past when he was enrolled at the Arizona Desert School having no less than the time of his life.
4 May 1944.
Rippie’s leg improved and they were able to save it. He was awarded a Purple Heart and was sent to an English hospital to recover before returning home to Casa dei Leoni in Palm Beach.
“My hero comes home…” Ellen wrote when Rippie made it back to Palm Beach to recover.

Wartime Palm Beach

Palm Beach residents mobilized to provide support for the troops much like every other town in the nation. While flower shows may have been supplanted by the need to tend victory gardens and midnight dinner dances replaced with providing home-cooked meals for servicemen, Palm Beach because of its resources became a focus for providing “civilian defense and war relief.”

Oceanfront beach clubs became observation points for German U-boats invading the waters off the Florida shore. The Breakers and the Biltmore hotels were converted into military uses. The Breakers rolled up its carpets and stowed away its paintings to become the Ream General Hospital for hundreds of recovering soldiers, specializing in plastic surgery and neuropsychiatric care. The Biltmore became a US Naval Special Hospital and a Coast Guard Women’s reserve training facility for SPARS. The Everglades Club and the Four Arts hosted “at homes” for officers.

The towns leading socialites hosted the Volunteers for Victory Canteen at the corner of Worth Avenue and South County Road. The south end of the public beach was reserved for use of the troops.

L to R.: North County Road. Palm Beach. “Bathing suits in rolls, the SPARS go to the beach, singing.” Constantin Alajalov, artist. A NYC and Southampton resident, Alajalov’s work can be found among the collections at MoMA and the Brooklyn Museum. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County.; “Palm Beach – 8:00 a.m. The SPARS do setting-ups,” Constantin Alajalov, artist. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
The Breakers, Palm Beach. Aerial, c. 1940-1945. The hotel became an army hospital during the war.
The Breakers, Palm Beach. Servicemen in formation at the entrance fountain, c. 1943-1945.

On December 7 the Historical Society of Palm Beach County will present an exhibit “Paradise in Peril: World War II in Palm Beach County.”

L to R.: 24 October 1944. Ellen’s good friend Gertrude Ellen du Puy Sanford Legendre is the “first American woman” captured by the Nazis.; And news again the following day. While the story refers to Gertrude as a liaison officer, she was with the OSS.
15 April 1945.
7-8 May 1945.
Christmas, 1945. Gertrude Legendre’s 1945 Christmas card was a sketch of her as a captured POW and the present Christmas showing her celebrating with the essentials.

Wartime Weddings, 1942-1945

Ellen’s friend Isabel Paul married Henry Coxe Stokes.
“Patsy Lewis and Charlie Ingersoll were married in El Paso.”

“A Newport debutante is married …”
Bettina Frazer and Hugh Gayle Bayne
21 March 1942

21 March 1942, Saturday afternoon at 4:00 pm. Bettina Frazer and Hugh Gayle Bayne were married at St. Paul’s Church with a reception following at Ellen’s house on Green Tree Road in Chestnut Hill.
The wedding guests were a mix of the New York and Philadelphia Social Register families with Miss Porter’s debs and Yale’s Skull and Bones.
L to R.: Ellen Glendinning Frazer, the mother of the bride, with her daughter Elizabeth “Bettina” Carpenter Frazer on her wedding day. ;The bride enters the church on her father’s arm, Persifor Frazer III of Newport.
At the reception, Persi and Ellen are photographed together.
Ellen and Gertrude Legendre at the reception.
L. to R.: Lois Jordan, Mary Elizabeth Williams, Mollie Williams (the soon-to-be Mrs. Persifor Frazer IV), the groom and bride, Cynthia Paine, Nina Cooke, Patsy Lewis, and Joy Glendinning.
Polly Howe, George Widener, and Priscilla Howe.
In the receiving line, l. to r., Olga Griscom, Francis Griscom, and Clement Griscom speaking with Col. Hugh Aiken Bayne, father of the groom. A former lawyer with the Strong and Cadwalader firm in New York, Col. Bayne (1870-1954) served on various Reparations Committees after the war.
Ellen Frazer, center, introduces Col. Bayne to cousin May Starr.
Hugh G. Bayne, Kent Willing, Prof. Clive Day, and Dr. Robert Ward. Professor Day (1871-1951) was a noted economics professor at Yale.
Col. Hugh Bayne with his back at table with Old Philadelphia, Mrs. Jordan, Aunt Lillian Forbes Morgan, Mrs. Harris, Mrs. Chester Farr, and Mrs. Viola Howard Carstairs. Mrs. Carstairs and her husband Daniel Carstairs had commissioned Addison Mizner to design their Palm Beach house at 280 North Ocean Boulevard.
The Junior Set stayed downstairs. Francis Gowen, Minnie Cadwalader, Bobbie Bolling, and Eddie Clay.
Billy Sloan, Charlie Ingersoll, Anne Whitney, Mr. & Mrs. Hugh G. Bayne, Freddie Lewis, and Peter Gilchrist. Craig Whitney was Mr. Bayne’s best man.
Truxton Hare Jr., Willy Williams, and Johnny West.
Professor Dey, Anne Ward, Mrs. Kent Willing, and Truxton Hare Jr.
The pile of champagne bottles following the reception.

Virginia Glendinning and John Edward Zimmermann
16 May 1942

L to R.: Ginny Glendinning, the mother of the bride.; Sidney Bohlen.
Mr. and Mrs. John Edward Zimmermann.
Eddie Thayer, Helen Thompson, Sid Thayer, and Nancy Ritchie.
The wedding party.

Nina Cooke and Alan Lukens Emlen
30 December 1944

Nina Cooke was Ellen’s niece who readers might remember we first saw in Palm Beach during the early 1920s riding in a Palm Beach wheelchair over to El Mirasol where the Stotesburys had invited the children over to see their zoo. Above, right: Nina Cooke on her wedding day.
Kay Thompson Wood and Jane Marvel Scott.
Lisa Elkins and Peter A. B. Widener.
L. to r.: Gertrude Widener, Bill Elkins, and Ella Widener, in front right.
Annie Fuller and Phil Dickenson.
Jean Piersall and Marie Louise Wanamaker.
“The morning after the night before New Year’s Eve…” The champagne aftermath of the Cooke-Emlen wedding.

Persifor Frazer IV and Mary Vaughan “Mollie Williams
15 August 1942

The Frazer-Williams invitation.
Mollie Williams on her wedding day.

Maida Williams Clement, the matron of honor, with her sister Mollie Williams, entering the church.
The four bridesmaids left to right facing the camera are, Elizabeth McCall, Emily Perry, Cecily Geyelin, and Marion “Baby” Pepper.
Rippie in his usher’s cutaway.
Left: Mrs. David Williams Jr. with David Williams III. Right: Mrs. Harrison (Maida) Williams Clement with Maida Dale Clement.
Mollie and Perkie Frazer on their wedding day.
There was no end to the receiving line.
Billy Adamson, William Adamson, and L. Talbot “Tally” Adamson.
Mr. and Mrs. Persifor Frazer at their wedding reception.
Mrs. Robert Glendinning, center, sharing the happiest day of their lives with her grandson Perkie and his wife Mollie. Six weeks later, Mrs. Glendinning passed away at the age of 72, leaving an architectural and horticultural legacy in Philadelphia and Palm Beach. Ellen “emptied some drawers” and came across some of her mother’s photographs that she put together as a tribute in her scrapbook.

L to R.: “Debutante.” Miss Elizabeth Rodman Carpenter, c. 1888.; Elizabeth Rodman Carpenter Glendinning. Married to Robert Glendinning in 1894, they were married 40 years when he passed away in 1936.
L to R.: Mrs. Robert Glendinning with her two
daughters, Ellen and Mary, c. 1905.; A founder of the Philadelphia Garden Club and the first honorary president of the Garden Club of Palm Beach, Mrs. Glendinning was an avid bird enthusiast.

To be continued: Social Rites; 1942-1945
At Ease: Chestnut Hill, Long Island, Watch Hill, Mackay Point Plantation, and Palm Beach

Recent Posts