BALLSTON SPA — “Mornings with Morley” is a new book honoring the namesake of the Maurice “Christopher” Morley Literacy Award administered by the Ballston Spa Central School District that author Ann Hauprich hopes will inspire readers for generations to come.
At the time of his passing at age 89 in 2011, Morley – who had struggled with dyslexia as a Malta Avenue School student in the 1920s and 1930s – was also the Village History Consultant, a school crossing guard, a Noah’s Attic volunteer and the oldest active member of VFW Post 358.
Earlier distinctions had included achieving the rank of Eagle Scout, earning medals and battle stars for his service as a U.S. Marine during World War II, being recognized as a Rotary Club of Ballston Spa Citizen of the Year and serving as Grand Marshal throughout the community’s 2007 Bicentennial celebrations.
Hauprich’s inspiration for the book comes across strong and poignant in her introduction.
“On the day Chris asked me to make him a promise, he was wearing a t-shirt boldy inscribed with the message I’M NOT OLD; I’M A RECYCLED TEENAGER. ‘Promise me,’ he said, ‘that when I’m gone, you’ll write something so people will know I was still a school crossing guard in my 90th year.’
“‘But Chris,’ I protested. ‘You’re not 90. You just turned 89.’ With an impish grin on his face, he replied: ‘Yes, I’ve just celebrated Birthday Number 89. I’m now entering my 90th year.’
“Laughter filled the room as I agreed to the terms of the promise – never imagining that Chris would pass away just three months later. While mourning the loss of Chris Morley’s presence in my life these past several years, it occurred to me that the promise I made to him in 2011 was woefully inadequate. Nothing short of a book celebrating his extraordinary life and legacy would do.”
The front cover of the richly illustrated 102-page book (View the front cover here) showcases a masterpiece titled “Morning on Bath Street” by artist Phil Spaziani and a portrait of Morley and Hauprich that was taken by Antonio Bucca a decade ago while the trio was co-authoring a local history book.
The back cover, (view the back cover here) meanwhile, features a collage that includes a snapshot of Morley with children’s book illustrator Jody Wheeler at Brookside Museum in 2009 and a link to a video of the octogenarian demonstrating wooden toys that was created around the same time by LegaciesUnlimited.com Webmaster Mary Hauprich Reilly.
Inside pages celebrate highlights of Morley’s life, beginning with a chapter about how a bullied young “Maurice” became “Christopher” and photo essays about his good deeds as a Boy Scout that included participation in 1938 ceremonies commemorating Revolutionary War Scout Alexander Bryan (a maternal ancestor) and the first Air Mail delivery in Ballston Spa (where his father was then Postmaster).
Subsequent pages capture some of his adventures as a telegram delivery boy as well as his antics as a 1957 Sesquicentennial Blue Mills Bandit and affiliation with the Adirondack Liars’ Club.
Bonus features include a chapter dedicated to Village Clerk Teri Pachter O’Connor, whose ancestors founded the once thriving Steiner’s Department Store.
Among the many “History Lessons” that pepper the book’s pages are some that Morley had heard directly from Civil War veterans, including what transpired when the funeral train carrying the remains of President Ulysses S. Grant passed through Ballston Spa and why the names of six brothers from the same family are engraved on the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument known as Civil Sam.
Another details how Ballston Spa’s Ira Felix Thomas achieved baseball fame as The Hero of 1910.
Published by Legacies Unlimited, “Mornings with Morley” is available for $19.95 at Brookside Museum and O’Brien Pharmacy in Ballston Spa.
Plans are also being made for hard and electronic copies of the book to be made available to purchase online.