When I was nine years old, Grandma Chappy moved into the sprawling rectory that we called home. My father, Reverend Harmon Branch—a theatrical Episcopalian priest, and my mother—a gifted pianist—along with my younger sister Beverly, my twin brother Lawrence and my older brother Paul, were instantly blessed by the arrival of this elegant and charming mother of our mother. Hailing from a far flung and mysterious land called Bedfordshire, England, our new grandmother, Gladys Chapman, was loving, funny and warm.
She was accompanied by a ceramic French Bulldog, Stanley. A lovely bit of statuary named for her departed husband, the grandfather we never knew.
Grandma Chappy bought me art supplies. We would walk down Chemeketa Street, through the heart of downtown Salem, reach Salem Plaza and drift into J.K. Gills. There, in that marvelous store of office supplies, paperback books, sketch pads and t-squares, she would purchase paint, brushes and pencils for her budding artist grandson. We would wind our way back home, past Meier and Frank, the YMCA, the Chemeketa House—returning to our grand old rectory for an afternoon pot of Red Rose Tea. Two sugar cubes and cream, please.
Dancing Chapman Studio is named after Gladys Chapman. Grandma Chappy. Stanley, now well over over one hundred years old, sits in the corner and watches me paint. Every time I do so, I remember the loving hand of my marvelous grandmother, linking the hand of her nine year old grandson, who liked to draw.