Quintessential Rowayton Mom of the 1950s
June’s formal name was Helen Harwood Magill. “June” was a nick name for “Junior”. She was born at Brooklyn Hospital on September 28th, 1919. Funny thing but we have always celebrated her birthday on the 27th. It was a little bit weird discovering this a few months ago.
Left to right
1. Leland with Helen Tousley at Coney Island with Pratt Institute friends in 1915 (furthest to right); Leland and Helen married in 1918.
2. June at about six-months; picture developed in April 1920.
3. June in either Dec 1930 or Jan 1931 at the age 11 with sisters Kate (age 6) and Mary Lois (about 6 months).
4. Milton Garden kids around 1931: June Magill’s face is partially hidden in back; to the right of June are Jean and Tommy (Betty) St. Claire who lived in the house on lot 5/6; Nancy Adamson (Foster), who lived next to June in the house on lot 17/18, is between June and Jean slightly in front.
5. June, Lois, and Kate sitting on the front step of the Magill house on lot 19/20 in about 1931 or 32.
6. June at about 15 or 16 around the time the Magills left Milton Gardens.
June’s father, Leland Magill, was from Massachusetts and had received an architectural degree from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. This is where Leland met June’s mother, Helen Tousley from Saranac Lake NY (next to Leland on far right). With baby June, they moved to Rye NY around 1919-1920 where Leland had gone into business designing and building nice houses, mostly in the Milton Gardens section of Rye. This is where June and sister Kate, and later sister Lois, lived until around 1935 and where they met Nancy Adamson (Foster), eventually our neighbor in Rowayton CT.
Milton Gardens is also where the Magills met the Leavitt family that had moved to this country in 1927 from Istambul/Constantinople Turkey and had rented one of Leland’s homes (on Lot 7). The Leavitts brought four kids into the neighborhood – eldest Peter (eldest), Ruth, John, and youngest Ann.
1. Peter, Ruth, Anne, and John (clockwise); picture probably taken in fall of 1927 or spring of 1928 when Peter was 14 or 15.
2. June (back right) almost flirting with John with Kate standing in front of John; June always spoke about having a crush on John. This large tree is in the hollow area between houses on lot 19/20 (Magills) and lot 7 (Leavitts).
3. Leavitt family after leaving Milton Gardens in the 1930s: Peter, dad Aurthur, mother Elsie, John, Ruth and Anne.
Peter was a big kid, seven years older than June, so June played with Ruth, John and Ann. Then, the Great Depression slowly broke up this neighborhood during the early-mid 1930s.
In 1927 Peter’s father, Arthur (my Grampa) took a job at the National City Bank (NYC) where he lost his savings when the bank folded after the stock market crash in October 1929. He had left the bank to take a teaching position at King’s School in Stamford two months before the crash. Arthur, who was a scholar and a linguist, eventually took a position with the National Archives in Washington DC which lasted for 16 years. He retired in 1953 after working at the CIA during the final three years of his career.
Grandfather Leland also lost everything and his thriving career. He was able to get a position as an architect with the Veterans Administration in Washington DC with the help of local congresswoman O’Day, and worked at the Veterans Administration until he retired 25 years later.
In Washington, the two families sought each other out and eventually both families bought homes on Old Dominion Drive in rural DC suburb, Mclean VA.
After working for F. Schmachers in New York City for 6 years selling textile fabrics in the midwest, on April 6th 1940 Peter, out of the blue, proposed to June and they became engaged. They were married in Mclean on August 26th 1940 with Henry Maury as best man. My mother and dad took their honeymoon at Niagra Falls and then moved into the boathouse on Casmar’s Pond in Rowayton for a year.
1. (left) June Magill Leavitt watching her garden grow on the edge of Casmar’s Pond; (right) Peter Leavitt meeting former best man Henry Maury and wife Hester.
2. The boat house and Casmar’s Pond where Peter and June lived from September 1940 to August 1941.
Later after living off of Washington Square in Greenwich Village for two years, I was born in 1943. June and Peter moved back to Rowayton to Harstom Place in 1945 in Rowayton.
For the next 30 years Rowayton is where June called home. We moved to the end of Bryan Road with baby Phoebe and later my brothers Peter, David and Andy were born there. Then in 1962 we moved to Bluff Avenue. Both of June’s sisters also moved to Rowayton to raise families – Kate Cornbrooks with Uncle Charlie and daughters Susie and Nancy of Bell Island and Lois Gatten with Uncle Rex and Meg, Tupper, and Neil on Wilson Avenue near the Ladrigans.
1. Three Magill sisters in the mid-1940s who got their start in life at Milton Gardens: Kate, June and Mary Lois (left to right).
2. Three sisters with husbands and children at Christmas, 1952, at Leland and Helen’s house in Mclean VA: (back row left to right) Lois’ Rex Gatten, June’s Peter Leavitt, and Kate’s Charlie Cornbrooks;kids (left to right) Lois’ Meg, June’s Phoebe, Peter, and John Christopher (me with nickname Cricky; the eldest grandchild of Leland and Helen), and Kate’s Suzie.
3. June (age about 34 or 35) in the early mid-1950s at Anne Leavitt’s wedding reception to Roger Wilson in June and Peter’s backyard in Rowayton CT.
4. June and Peter Leavitt on their terrace at Hickory Bluff Rowayton in the spring of 1962 or 63.
5. The ‘Teabags’ of Rowayton in the mid 1960s: (left to right) Rolly Maury who is sister in-law of Henry Maury, Peter and June’s best man in their 1940 wedding; June Magill Leavitt, Pat Gage, Jane Dwiggins, Hatsie McKissock.
6. 1996 get-together of the Leavitt siblings at John Leavitt’s house in Cape Cod and spouses: (back row, left to right) Peter and John Leavitt, and Roger Wilson; (front row, left to right) Anne Leavitt Wilson, June Magill Leavitt, John’s third wife Judy, and Ruth Leavitt Blandin.
Other good friends from the 1930s and early 40s ended up living and raising families in Rowayton as well – Nancy (Adamson) Foster from Rye with husband David and daughters Meg (sister Phoebe’s best friend), Gray, and Nina, and son Ian; Henry and Hester Maury with Brooke, Martha, and Kirby; and Jack and Rolly Maury with Johnny, Dickie, Rosalie, and Betsy. Other families living in Rowayton became close friends – Jerry and Joanne Beatty with daughters Judy, Janis, Jennifer and Jane; Jane and Bill Dwiggins with Ranny Grinnell; Anne and Budge Henry with Connie, Chris, and Mary; and the Baumagartens (Margo and Laurie; I vaguely remember my family and the Baumgartens going to a movie together in the mid 50s); and Chamberlins, Rooneys, Schnabels, McKissocks, Gages, Wilsons, Lichtensteins, Jenkins, Hoyts, Jacksons, Pemberthys, Trubowitzes, and Stella and Boyce Eakin.
June was a co-founder of the Rowayton Garden Club (we always had a fine Rose Garden). She was also a member of the prestigious clique of women called The Teabags (so aptly named by Stefan Schnabel). In 1980, June and Peter moved permanently to Woodstock CT at the opposite corner of the state to take residence at ‘the farm’ in a 5000 sq. ft. house on 164 acres first built in the late 1700s and surrounded by hay fields, forests, and estuarial ponds. In their last year June and Peter lived with their eldest, me, and my wife Becki in North Woodstock.
My mother was a loving mom to her five children. I can remember her singing me to sleep with lullabies. She also painted a mural of my favorite childhood story, Mike Mulligan, on the wall next to my bed when I was three or four.
June was a talented artist throughout her life. She painted her final portrait in 1998 of our daughter, Mariah, which I think may be her finest. While in Rowayton June studied under Jimmy Ernst and spread her portraits and paintings around town. June was especially good at capturing the intricacies and beauty of flowers.
June’s many fine Rowayton friends have given her children pleasant indelible memories (witness the Teabags). Over the last 15 years in Woodstock, we have been fortunate to reconnect with former Rowaytonites with visits from Marion and Stefan Schnabel and son Peter, Jack and Rolly Maury and sons Johnny and Dickie, Hester and Henry Maury and daughters Brooke and Martha, Nancy Foster and daughter Nina, Jerry Beatty with daughters Judy and Janis, and Tom and Betty Jackson in addition to all of the Leavitt clan, and Kate Cornbrooks with daughters, Susie and Nancy. And we will never forget Hatsie and Alan McKissock, Marge and Andy Rooney, Ben and Grace Lichtenstein, and Stella and Boyce Eakin.
John Christopher Leavitt
Eldest son of June and Peter