Lunching with Gaston

Treasured memories of a father and son, and more from readers.

Exploring Bucks County’s history takes many twists and turns. The hope of my column is to start the conversation. Reader feedback reveals so much more. . . .

‘Many kidding moments with the artist’

Baron Pesci contacted me after reading my column about Gaston Longchamp, an accomplished artist from Paris who lived in seclusion in Upper Bucks for more than 40 years (published Feb. 22). Gaston became skilled at impressionistic art as understudy to Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Mattise, Chagall, Signac and other famed Parisian artists in the early 20th century.
Pesci, a former special education teacher in the Neshaminy School District and resident of Langhorne, formed an enduring friendship with the artist.

“My father and I hunted on Gaston’s property for pheasants and deer during the late 1960s to the late ’70s. We had many lunches with him at his farm house in Kintnersville that included tours of the house with lengthy explanations of the art works. My dad was a World War II sailor who was on the USS Nevada battleship. Gaston enjoyed many conversations with my dad about the invasions, battles and travels he had over his four years on the ship.

“I as a special education teacher would learn Gaston’s perspective on life’s issues and many kidding moments when he would call me out by saying, ‘What does the educator have to say about this . . . ’

“I knew I was in the room with someone special when he said my education wasn’t as good as my dad’s. ‘Let me teach you,’ he said. ‘Your dad went through four invasions in the war, traveled the world four times, read the 100 best books ever written and can work with his hands. And you call yourself a teacher.’ He had a point.”

Pesci and his father enjoyed lunching with Gaston at his home and touring the farmhouse which contained more than 400 of the artist’s paintings never displayed until his death in 1986 at age 92. “I remember him describing his different periods of art, the beautiful pictures of ladies and the boxing paintings that hung in the rooms of the old farmhouse. He would ask which one interested us, and we would talk about why he painted the scene. Thanks for jarring so many good memories with him and my dad.

“Oh, one more memory. My dad brought him a calves head that he butchered for Gaston to make a French dish that we had after a pheasant hunt. Delicious!!!!”

‘The state demolished the Tyler horse stables’

I heard from Lynda Kling who clarified a few things about Tyler State Park as she once knew it. She was responding to my recent column about historic structures in the park including the former Tyler family stables for 25 horses on the former private estate. (published March 1).

The creative arts center in Tyler State Park was once part of a stable for 25 horses for the Tyler family that once owned the park.

“The state actually demolished the Tyler horse stables that were near what is now the art center,” noted Lynda. “It was leased by veterinarian Cameron Wilson until the state demolished it. Traditionally, all the farm houses, barns, and fenced fields were leased. My friend’s parents paid something like $75 a month to lease their farm.”

The Tyler family’s horses saddled up for the Huntington Valley Hunt in pursuing foxes. “Many of us rode our horses all over the Tyler estate before the state started gradually destroying it. There was a big , beautiful old stone farmhouse on Newtown/ Richboro Road with a barn. It was right next to what was the old CR High School, which then became Newtown Middle School, after CR North was built. It was in great shape. The state demolished it not too long after it took over. I think the barn was left for storage. I believe that was my senior year of high school in1966. The art classes would sometimes go over there to draw.”

I share Lynda’s concern. Too often historic structures fall to disrepair under public ownership. However community efforts have rescued many vestiges of the county’s illustrious past like Three Arches in Falls, the Bolton Mansion in Bristol Township and the Tyler Mansion, now administrative headquarters of Bucks County Community College in Newtown Township. For that and other examples, we’re blessed.

‘A large bear in the shallows’

Among the many emails I’ve received about my memoirs of rafting the Lehigh Gorge with former state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (published March 8), I heard from Jeffrey Lindtner:

State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (right) on rafting adventure through Lehigh Gorge.

“What a pleasure to read your tribute to Stu. I’ve spent time on the Lehigh and also in Harrisburg. He defined the essence of what a legislator should be. Now I have to figure out where Jump Rock is on the Lehigh. I always started my trips through the Gorge from Rockport to Jim Thorpe. One time I put in the day after Thanksgiving. Chilly indeed, and shortly thereafter I encountered a large bear in the shallows.”