Poor Polly Buried: 1892

parrot cage 1917

POOR POLLY BURIED.

Killed by Cold Water or Watermelon.

A Funny Funeral in Noe Valley.

Obsequies of a Dead Bird—Taken to the Grave in a Goat Carriage.

There was a strange scene in Noe Valley, away out Castro street, on Thursday and those who witnessed it will not soon tire talking of it. To most of those who took part in it the occasion was fraught with more of curiosity than of deeper interest, but it was not so with all. In a little front parlor at 1414 1/2 Castro street stands a big empty birdcage. Rising from the top of the cage a staff on which a flag, hoisted half mast high, tells the visitor that the one time occupant is dead. All around the little doorway where she fluttered in and out bits of black and white still further emphasize the fatal fact, and bouquets of flowers fitted into feeding and drinking cups and hanging from the swinging perch where Polly used to swing are tokens to her memory.

It was only a parrot, this recent dweller within those walls of wire, but seldom has a bird left more sincere mourners behind it, and many a man or woman would be proud to think that such an elaborate funeral was in store for him or her. Less than two years ago this poor parrot was hatched out in the wilderness of Panama. John Stranaghan, an honest sailor lad, came into possession of the bird on one of his coast-wise trips and brought it to his uncle’s home in Noe Valley. Just one year ago was presented to Mr. and Mrs. Augustus Tache, and in their pretty little home on Castro street the bird really began to live the life that has now so suddenly ended. The parrot’s name was Loretta, but owing to the difficulty parrots find in pronouncing the letter T she called herself Lora, and those who knew her and loved her learned to accept the abbreviation. Lora was the pet of the entire neighborhood, but she was the apple of Mrs. Tache’s eye.

There were tears in both of Mrs. Tache’s eyes last evening as she related stories illustrating the genius and accomplishments of “poor Lora.” In appearance the bird had been quite like any other green parrot with gold trimmings. Her size was roughly but kindly stated by Mr. Tache, who is a carpenter, “She just fitted into a box 13 by 3 inches,” said he. And there stood the box on a pedestal just in front of the empty “cottage.” It was a dainty box, more like a young lady’s glove box than a coffin, covered with baby blue silk and lined with the same in quilted squares. Yet in it poor Lora had been laid out. By the silken handles on either side the pallbearers had carried it to the grave side, and there in the darkened parlor it now stands with the other evidences of a woman’s strange devotion to the memory of a dead bird.

The lessons that Lora learned in her home on Castro street seem all to have been good ones. She could not only talk and whistle like other parrots, but as a singer she had an enviable record, Her singing of the chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” is said to have made many of the residents of Noe valley weep copiously, and Mrs. Tache herself was very much overcome last evening in endeavoring to give the reporter an idea of Lora’s rendition of “Amid the Raging of Sea.” “She had a sweet and lovely voice,” said this fond mistress of a pretty pet, but Mr. Tache did not seem to agree with her. There was also a slight difference of opinion as to the cause of Lora’s demise. Both agreed that the parrot died of cholera morbus, but Mrs. Tache declared that the disease was due to Mr. Tache feeding the bird on watermelon, while the latter contended that death had been due to too frequent bathing at the hands of Mrs. Tache.

Whatever the cause, poor Lora was taken ill on Monday last. She was “off ‘her feed,” as Mr. Tache puts it, all the afternoon, and when night came she could muster up no words from her voluminous vocabulary save “Poor Lora! Poor, poor Lora.” It should be mentioned here that she never referred to herself as Polly, and never made the stereotyped suggestion regarding the proverbial cracker. Just as Monday was turning into Tuesday Mr. and Mrs, Tache, snugly stowed away in the ad joining bedroom, heard a terrible scream. They knew at once that Lora was on her last legs. Mrs. Tache promptly got out of bed and went to the rescue. She also did what a mother would have done for a dying child. She took the bird to her bosom and sat with it on her own bed. Poor Lora lived but a short hour longer. After the one shrill scream there came but these words, “By by, Lora, by by!” They were the last words indeed. Written by the. afflicted mistress these words are still pinned to the wires of the empty birdcage. The writer and her husband are as subdued in their grief as if a child had been taken away.

The funeral took place at 4 p. m. on Thursday. The neighbors turned out in goodly numbers. The house at 1414 1/2 Castro street was crowded, and there were more flowers than city officials have sometimes been honored with. But the most unique feature of the occasion was the hearse. The son of a neighboring groceryman offered the services of his goat wagon. Certainly nothing could have been better suited to such a service. The goat was a well trained animal and did not run away. Two little girls, Gay Spencer and Maggie Delmore, carried the casket out of the house and placed it in the little wagon. Then taking their places, one on each aide, and the other children walking two by two behind them, they led the way up Castro street to Clipper, where in the garden of Mr. Stranaghan, at 424, a grave had, been dug to receive all that remained of Lora. The older people stood by when the blue casket was exchanged for a coarser one, and when the earth was filled in above the lowered coffin there was more than one genuine sob audible. On the top of the little mound in that Noe valley garden flowers faded in the warm sun of yesterday and the incident will no doubt soon fade from the minds of most of the participants, but the grief of that honest couple at 1414 ½ Castro street is as touching as it is strange, and yet it may not be so strange after all, for their ten years’ union has not been blessed with children and “Poor Lora” could talk and sing and cry, and now “Poor Lora” is dead.

The San Francisco [CA] Chronicle 20 August 1892: p. 4

[Note: It’s rather interesting that the Chronicle’s headline was so jocular. Subsequent syndication of the same story in various papers such as The Clarion [PA] Democrat 29 September 1892: p. 7, treat it more respectfully.

BURIAL OF A PARROT

WHOLESALE MOURNING OVER A MUCH LOVED HOUSEHOLD PET.

Unfortunate Creature Said “By By, Lora, By By,” and Yielded Up the Ghost–The Funeral Was a Large One and the Furnishings Were Gorgeous.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog The Victorian Book of the Dead.

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