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Epistles from Pap  


A book, Epistles from Pap: Letters from the man known as ‘The Will Rogers of Indiana’, was compiled by Pap’s son, Frank Durham, with the help of Doug Hay, and published in 1997.This is a collection of letters written by Andrew E. Durham (“Pap”) between 1899 and 1950. There are also narratives of his life. Pap died in 1954.

Copies can be purchased for $17.50 including shipping from J. Frank Durham, P.O. Box 254, Greencastle, IN 46135.

Passages from the book include the following:

   Some background on Pap

“‘Pap’ - Andrew Everett Durham - was born May 3, 1882, the youngest son of James V. Durham and Sarah A. (Black) Durham, of Russellville, Indiana. His paternal grandfather, Jacob, had emigrated from Kentucky to become one of the early settlers of Russell Township - a farmer, store-keeper, state legislator, and mover and shaker in his own right, as described in one of Pap’s papers.

Pap’s father was also active in local affairs, and supplemented his farm income by starting a private bank in Russellville along with Pap’s older brother, Ernest. The Russellville Bank stayed in family hands for about 70 years. Pap was fond of recounting how, as a youth, he got his start in business there - as janitor, for $2 a week. He eventually worked his way up to chairman of the board. The bank survived the Depression in fine order and declined to join the FDIC, which Pap publicly denounced as a sham designed to subsidize poorly-run banks at the expense of well-run ones, with the public footing the bill.

While maintaining their Russellville interests, Pap’s parents moved to nearby Greencastle in his youth. After graduating from high school, he was sent to Western Military Academy, Alton, Illinois, to ‘straighten out’ after his strict Kentucky-bred mother discovered that he had been hanging around the local pool parlor. He graduated from the academy in 1899 with high honors, and continued his education graduating from Indiana university in 1903 and from Indiana School of Law in 1906.

On Thanksgiving Day, 1910, he married Aura May Sawyer, of Muscatine, Iowa. The wedding took place at the retirement home of the bride’s parents, in Milford, Pennsylvania. (Note: William McGaughey, Jr. now owns that home.) The union eventually produced five daughters and one son.

Pap began his political career with election to the Indiana House of Representatives in 1913, following in the footsteps of his grandfather. His politics emphasized conservativism, low taxes and self-reliance. He was reelected to the House in 1915, and then elected to the State Senate in 1917 and 1923. It is noteworthy that all of his victories came as a Democrat, although most of his constituents were registered Republicans.

Pap was not only good at wooing Republican voters. He was also generally effective in gaining bipartisan support for his legislative undertakings. But he was not loathe to take resolute action, if required. When it appeared that a Republican gerrymandering bill would succeed, Pap, as Minority Leader, had his Democratic delegation go into ‘hiding’ across the state line, preventing action on the reapportionment bill by removing a quorum. It also froze all other legislative activities. The Republicans finally agreed to withdraw the objectionable bill and the ‘runaway’ Democrats returned.

His growing family necessitated a larger income and after a gubernatorial run failed to materialize, Pap retired from the Senate, in 1929. He devoted more time to his law practice and became a lobbyist for the Indiana Railroad Lobby Association. In such capacity, he continued to monitor his former peers, and had the reputation of having attended every Legislative Session from 1913 to 1951.

Throughout his life, Russellville was a continuing source of gratification to Pap, and also provided a wealth of material for anecdotes of small-town life, which were incorporated into his public-speaking and his voluminous correspondence.

The family farm just outside the village was also a valued source of income , as well as sustenance, and Pap took a personal hand in its operation, spending more and more time there as he grew older.

Andrew E. Durham passed away at home in Greencastle, July 23, 1954.”

    His early years and political career

From Chapter 1: Early Years 1899-1911:

“As a boy of 17, Pap was considered somewhat wayward by his strict Kentucky-bred mother, after being caught hanging round the local pool parlor. He was also out of favor with his father for daring to criticize the latter’s rather conservative attire. So to help him ‘straighten out’ and prepare to become a useful citizen, he was sent to Western Military Academy, Upper Alton, Illinois, in 1899. He graduated from that institution with high grades, but the endeavor to reform him was nevertheless only partly successful. Enrolling at ‘Old Asbury’ (DePauw University, Greencastle), he promptly got in trouble with the Methodist administration for organizing a dance at ‘The Delts’, his fraternity house. About to be suspended, he beat the administration to the punch by transferring to Indiana University, where he went on to undergraduate and law degrees.

Pap subsequently met and fell in love with Aura May Sawyer (better known as ‘Munny’ to the family). The couple eventually married and Grandfather Sawyer gave them a generous start in life by financing a house in Greencastle, but not before being satisfied with Pap’s credit-worthiness.”

Chapter 2: The Will Rogers of Hoosier Politics 1913-1930

“Pap was developing a successful law practice, but this was not enough to satisfy his extrovert nature. He decided to go into politics. And it became a long-term commitment. Between 1913 and 1951, Pap attended every session of the Indiana Legislature, either as a member or a lobbyist. He was elected to the House in 1913 and 1915, following with two six-year terms in the Senate. In 1927, he was Minority Floor Speaker for the Senate. He was never defeated in any of his faces for the Legislature, which spoke well for a Democrat running in a predominantly Republican district. Pap’s bipartisan equanimity as well as his developing sense of humor was reflected in a letter of recommendation on behalf of a young Republican who had the good sense to vote Democratic.

Public speaking goes with politicking; and Pap developed a flair for this too. He was much in demand as a speaker before service clubs and other organizations, and his lighthearted, homespun populist style was even compared to that of the great Will Rogers. Anecdotes of life in small-town Russellville figured large in his material. The letter titled, ‘Hazards of trying a comeback’ is an example - this lengthy epistle was by way of an apology for not being able to appear in person before a group, but a version of it was undoubtedly spun from a podium or two on other occasions.

Pap’s sense of humor, generously tinged with irony, found other outlets as well, including a gibe at a company that was making a big deal over a small bill. But he could also be serious, such as when he wrote advice to the jailed son of an old friend.

As the years went by, Pap found politics and public speaking more time-consuming and less rewarding, particularly when faced with the obligations - financially and otherwise - of raising a growing family. He did not choose to seek reelection upon the expiration of his second Senatorial term, in 1929.

The Democratic “Strike” of 1925

“One of the most colorful escapades in the political history of the Hoosier State took place in 1925. Pap, who represented Putnam and Montgomery Counties in the Indiana State Senate, was an enthusiastic and imaginative participant.

The spark was the proposed ‘Penrod Bill’ (named for the Senator who introduced it) which, not unlike legislation offered from time to time even today, contained a hidden provision.

The bill (S.B. 300) proposed the transfer of a central Indiana county (Lawrence) from the Third U.S. Congressional District to the second. The invention was to make sure there would be sufficient Republicans in that district - Senator Penrod’s - to insure his election to Congress. Naturally, his good fortune would have to come at the expense of the Democrats.

The Indiana State Senate in 1925 was almost totally controlled by the Republicans, but there was one small hitch. Unless a quorum was present, no votes could be taken and no legislation could be passed - not just the offending Penrod bill, but any business at all. And there were just enough Democrats to threaten such a ‘political blockade.’
As expected, the Republicans presented the Penrod bill on February 25th.

The Democrats were prepared. Hastily, all fifteen of them who were present (two others were ill and absent) ‘bolted their legal confines and took refuge in the neighboring state of Ohio. Most of the ‘bolters’ made the trip in a bus rented ahead of time. They wound up in Dayton, where they took up residence in a hotel owned, curiously, by Hoosier Lieutenant Governor, Van Orman, a Republican. In a ‘spirit of bipartisanship’, the latter telegraphed the runaways to ‘be my guest’.

Another Democrat, Senator Harrison, left the next day secluded in an Overland Moving Van. Pap’s transit was courtesy of his railroad pass. The train deposited him in Cincinnati, and he went on to Dayton from there.

The Minority Leader, Senator Joseph M. Cravens of Madison, Indiana, halted the escape bus briefly on its way to Ohio to order a barrel of apples to be forwarded to the Indiana Senate, accompanied by a note - ‘Compliments of the Minority Members’. The erudite Senator Cravens (known informally as ‘Uncle Joe’) was the bachelor scion of perhaps the most distinguished and aristocratic family in Indiana at that time.

The Indianapolis Star and other newspapers had a field day covering the Democratic ‘bolt’, which brought official undertakings to a complete halt. Photos of all the ‘strikers’ were printed side by side almost as if there were fugitives in a rogues’ gallery.

A poignant victim of the escapade was the official ‘Doorkeeper’ of the Senate, one Jerome K. Brown, who was ordered by the Senate leadership to go to Ohio and serve warrants for the arrest and return of the vagrants. Poor Doorkeeper Brown protested against going it alone, but to no avail. He arrived in Dayton at 11:45 p.m. on the 25th and served his warrants on the ‘bolters’ in their rooms at the Gibbons Hotel. The warrants were ignored, but Brown was invited to join a poker game in progress.

The Ohio governor and attorney-general pronounced that Indiana arrest warrants were without official standing in Ohio (which coincidentally was under a Democratic administration at the time.) The governor furthermore invited the Hoosier ‘strikers’ to stay on in Ohio ‘without being molested’ as long as they wished.

Senator Cravens accepted the invitation ‘ with great pleasure - until the Penrod Bill is withdrawn.’

Senator Penrod countered firmly that nothing of that sort would take place.

Thereafter the shenanigans increased as the plot thickened.

The Republican Majority in the Indiana senate set about trying to find a hale and hearty Democrat on Hoosier soil who could be legally compelled to resume his seat. Pap’s oldest daughter (Joan) was accosted on her way home from school in Greencastle by a friendly pair of men she had never seen before. She thought it a bit strange, but all Hoosiers were unrestrictedly friendlier in those days. They got around to inquiring of Pap’s whereabouts. When the fifteen-year-old reported the conversation later at home, her mother explained that Pap was ‘just hiding out somewhere with his Democratic friends.’

Senator Cravens’ adroit public comments expressed regret for the legislative drought, but noted, ‘the Democratic Minority in the Senate has from the beginning done its best to aid in the passage of every constructive and economic measure brought before that body ... in the hope of benefiting the overburdened taxpayers of the state. Our only regret is that there have not been more measures of economic and constructive character to vote for..’ He took the opportunity to expound on party grievances.

The Republicans threatened to call out the state militia and place the matter before the Marion County Grand Jury, which they said might fine the runaways $1,000 and imprison them. Such threats and the clumsy attempts to serve warrants or ‘kidnap’ a Democrat backfired, however, and became targets of public hilarity.

The papers made light of the fact that the Marion County Horse Thief Detective Association was sworn in ‘to watch for senators who might attempt to sneak back home to Indiana without being detected.’

Faced with becoming a legislative laughing stock, the Republican Majority capitulated to the Democratic Minority, making a prophet out of Pap, who had predicted in a letter that a ‘truce’ would be arranged in a day or two.


The runaways were also given promises of immunity from arrest and the quashing of any indictments against them. Thus, having thoroughly enjoyed their rest and recreation, they cheerfully returned to their seats on the afternoon of February 27th.

The saga of the ‘Democrats who 'bolted’ in order to make their political point perfectly clear (and effective) became an oft-told tale in Hoosier political circles.

And Pap received his just political reward.

Shortly afterwards, he was chosen as successor to ‘Uncle Joe’ Cravens as Minority Leader in the Indiana State Senate.”

(Historical note: Indiana was the center of Ku Klux Klan activity in the United States in the 1920s, and D.C. Stephenson was its leader. The Klan was then strongly associated with the Republican party in that state.)

   Pap’s Family Life

Chapter 3: Family years, bull breeding and good credit - 1930-1940

“While continuing to attend legislative sessions, Pap did so in another capacity. He put his considerable oratorical and literary skills to work lobbying his former peers and Congressional representatives on behalf of some lucrative new clients - the railroads. The improved income situation also allowed him to devote more time to his growing family, and to write about the comedy and crises of domestic life: A relative’s eccentric shipping practices, a daughter’s distress at being blackballed by a sorority. As the decade progressed, the older children were flying the nest, going on to higher education and finding mates of their own.

Aside from domestic duties, his law practice and lobbyist activities, Pap became more involved running the family farm and in other agrarian pursuits, including the purchase of Hereford bulls. The livestock provided grist for his pen on more than one occasion, including a memorable account on some thoroughbred price-fixing. Pap even started thinking like a bull (or as he imagined one of his prize studs would feel after the animal was struck by a train).

He also found time to champion small and solvent independent banks like the family-owned Russellville institution against onerous government ‘reform’ regulations during the Depression; to promote h is old alma mater, Western Military Academy; and suggest a hospital tighten up its security after he fell victim to thievery.

Pap wrote some family history - a poignant account of a chair that was an heirloom, and a satirical account of his grandfather’s attempt to create a new county with Russellville as its seat of government. That effort may have failed, but Russellville still wound up with good credit at the Waldorf-Astoria during daughter Joan’s wedding.

From Pap’s letter written to his mother-in-law in 1930:

“... Joan has triumphed overwhelmingly and unequivocally.

A college sorority in my way of looking at it is a very small matter. In college circles, it is a thing of momentous magnitude. It is ridiculous - utterly ridiculous - that sororities should have the hold they have ... and should wield the power they do ... and the heartbreaks they cause or bring about ... This letter is to be read by you and by no one else. And then it is to be destroyed, and its contents divulged to no one. Because I am actually ashamed that my daughter could be so influenced so permanently by so small a thing as anybody’s college sorority.

It happened at the time Joan entered college. As is customary, at high school graduating time, the sororities look over the girl graduates with a view to bidding them admission to the several sororities. Joan was invited to a great many - among them Kappa Alpha Theta. Kappa Alpha Theta was founded at DePauw probably 50 years ago. It was among the first of all sororities. I had a cousin, now long since dead, who was one of the founders. In fact, I think she was probably the most active of all the founders. All of my people, except Sister Margaret D. Bridges and one cousin, were naturally Thetas. Mrs. Bridges did not go to DePauw, but went to a girls school, Oxford, where they did not have sororities, so that let her out ...

Joan asked me which was the best of all ... I told her that Theta was the best, and I felt sure she would get a proposition from them ... and that if I were she, I would belong to Theta or nothing. And of course I meant it, and for that matter mean it now. Well, that sort of talk fortified her to refuse others, and therefore I was to blame indirectly for what happened afterwards, because I am inclined to think if I had said nothing that she would have joined another ... and I did not know what heartbreaks were in store for her. The Thetas invited her to their ‘rushee’ party, and things looked well.

Then something happened. I do not know what it was, but she was dropped and never bidden into Theta ... and so she became a barb - that is, a non-sorority girl. She was ignored so far as parties were concerned. She did not get into the social life of the college scarcely at all. The fraternity to which I had belonged invited her to two or three things, and then sort of dropped her because she had no sorority to reciprocate with ...

In spite of the social handicap she began in a small way to make herself felt in college circles. It became noised about by the faculty what a fine scholar and girl generally she was. It came to me from a thousand sources - or almost a thousand. Some of the other and lesser sororities came to her and asked if she would consider a proposition. By that time, she had her back up, and she declined universally. But many is the night during these two years when she was studying in the dining room that she would say that this one and that sorority or fraternity were having a big dance, or something along social lines.

Blue, of course, she was blue. And discouraged and humiliated. But she is a thoroughbred. She never disclosed it away from home. Just went about her daily college business. Kept her scholarship and head up, however she might be hurt inside. ...

Last Tuesday the lightning hit. The Theta called the house ... and they asked her to come to the Theta House for supper. And after supper, they asked her to join. And she did. And that night came home with the colors on. She is a happy, happy girl. Things have changed overnight. The leading college man, or at least one of them, called the Thetas and openly congratulated them on getting her. Hundreds have congratulated her, and all this makes her very happy.

I have told you all this to sort of try to explain what she had undergone. It makes me hot under the collar to write about it, and to even think about it. To think that a thing of that character could so get hold of a college and of college students to make them or break them at the whim of this or that fraternity or sorority is an outrage. But it is a fact nevertheless.

And so I am glad for her eventual triumph. But at the same time, I am humiliated to think that such things exist in a free country. And the more so because membership in any organization of that character is not based on ability or scholarship but is based, on a large measure, on the whim of the individuals who happen to belong in the organization at the time the individual is proposed.

I must stop, or you will not get this all read.


As ever,

(Personal note: My mother, Joan Durham, became president of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, the alpha chapter of the first sorority in the United States. It may have been there that she first met my father, William McGaughey, who was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity at DePauw. He once spoke with my mother about admitting his sister, Mary Jane, to Kappa Alpha Theta. There is also a slight chance that they first met at the Indiana state capitol since they were both pages in the legislature there - I don’t know if it was at the same time. Romance did not begin, however, until the late 1930s when they were both journalists in New York City. My father spotted a familiar-looking person walking on Broadway - it was Joan Durham. They dated and married on November 18, 1939, and then promptly moved to Detroit. I was born on February 21, 1941. My mother spoke on behalf of her DePauw class on the fiftieth anniversary of its graduation in 1982. Vernon Jordan, a well-known Civil Rights leader and confidante of Bill Clinton, spoke at the same event for the twenty-fifth anniversary of his class’s graduation from DePauw.)

From Pap’s letter written to his sister on November 17, 1930:

“Dear Sister Margaret:

Joan and Sarah Jane went to the Theta big party last Saturday night, and I’ll tell you they both looked mighty pretty, at least they did to me. ‘Not because they are my daughters,’ as Charlie McWethy says, and all that sort of thing. But I’ll say this, they looked mighty pretty to me. Sarah Jane had her hair waived and screwed on some ear rings that hung on small chains about six inches long, and I’ll be dad burned if she didn’t look like the advertisements you see for perfumes and things of that sort in the Ladies Home Journal. She was so higher colored by reason of the excitement she didn’t need any artificial color.

Her necklace I think was Joan’s, maybe that one that Grandma Sawyer gave Joan - looks something like an old fashioned hammock in shape, made of brilliants or imitation diamonds set in black, and she walked out looking like Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish’s favorite daughter.

And Joan looked just as well, all trigged up for the occasion. Her greeting to the boys when they came was that of a young woman perfectly confident in herself. No stammering or anything of that sort. Sarah Jane was no so free in her conversation, but she’ll get over that. She is a great deal like Ma, only she has more nerve in speaking out ... Both of them had their hands and nails smoothed up and shined up and tapered down like unto Cleopatra herself.

That night they got home shortly after midnight. The boys just brought them to the front door and about a minute after the door close I hear the shoes flying here and there. I heard both of them say their feet and legs ached so bad they were numb. They talked it all over and I went to sleep.


  The later years

Chapter 4: The War Years - 1942-1945

“Pap was way too old for active involvement in World War Two. He had to be content watching his children play their parts (Frank and Margaret both joined the Armed Service, although the latter had to be consoled after being initially turned down for a commission.) Pap’s sideline role did not deter him from making wry observations about the professed patriotism on the part of the legislature (‘political hooey’) and the effects of war on the home front (shortages, black market activity, travel restrictions, and inflation).

He also kept in touch through the mail with his scattered children and his wife. Despite the difficulties of wartime transportation, ‘Munny’ insisted upon making her annual summer excursion to Milford, Pennsylvania, to attend to property inherited from her parents. This caused Pap a bit of anxiety, as he feared for her comfort but did not wish to take undue advantage of his railroad pass perquisites. He also felt lonely at home alone, as his youngest daughter, Aura May, left for college. In some of his strongest letters, he expressed concern, usually with humor but sometimes quite poignantly, that family members should not interfere with each other’s pending marital plans.

Otherwise, Pap tended to the farm, his lobbyist duties, and wrote a newspaper ad celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Russellville Bank.”

(Note: Daughter Margaret served in the WACs. Son Frank joined the U.S. Navy and became a member of the bomb-demolition crew on Guadalcanal, a dangerous assignment which did not prevent him from running a business on the side. Joan’s husband (my father), William McGaughey, became public-relations director of the Automotive Council for War Production in Detroit. During this time he wrote a spy-thriller novel about Nazi agents trying to sabotage tank production. The book, published in 1943, was titled “Roll out the Tanks”.)

Chapter 5: Last things 1946-1954

“Pap was pleased when his son returned from the war to settle in Greencastle and join the law practice. In fact, as time went on, he turned over most of the cases to Frank, quite his lobbying position for the railroads, ceased attending legislative sessions and devoted more and more of h is attention to the farm and his investments.

Pap being Pap, however, he could not resist using this newfound luxury of time to write scores of letters about numerous subjects to various parties. It was probably his most productive literary period. With tongue nestled securely in cheek, he wrote:

- manufacturers, suggesting new inventions (such as a carving knife made from razor blades);

- corporations, complaining about directors who had less confidence (or at least less stock) in their companies than Pap did;

- family and old friends, offering investment advice (don’t speculate);

- Congressmen, opposing pork-barrel spending and advocating a balanced budget.

On at least one occasion, he even left a note attached to a package of dry-iced beef being shipped to a daughter in New England, beseeching the cooperation of railroad cargo handlers in facilitating the endeavor.

Pap took some trips with Munny or his grown children, to check up on his property in Kansas to to visit with old friends, and went on one extended journey through Latin America.

And always he wrote.

These were Pap’s ‘Golden Years’ and he felt entitled to let his mind wander back a bit, reflecting on his youth and past glories. He was not shy about relating these memories, even to total strangers, sometimes in an allegorical manner to make a point, and sometimes just for fun.”

Personal note: I remember Pap mainly from our visits at Thanksgiving. My family would drive down to Greencastle from Detroit, passing through such places as the Irish hills and Coldwater in Michigan, and the Pokagon state park in northern Indiana. Pap had fight left in him until the end. On one of our last visits, I remember Pap telling my mother that he had recently had the sheriff impound equipment belonging to the power company when that company began erecting a power line across his farm without permission. As a lawyer, he knew he had rights. (Years later, of course, my friend Paul Wellstone - a U.S. Senator from Minnesota - came to prominence as a political activist who sided with farmers in disputes with power companies. The two men, though different, shared some of the same attitudes.) Perhaps my last recollection of Pap was of a soft-spoken, gray-haired man in overalls and with a shovel in his hand, engaged in manual labor at Twin Lakes in Pennsylvania. My mother received the news of his death in Milford, Pennsylvania. She idolized him.

About son, Frank Durham, who compiled the letters in this book

“J. Frank Durham ... was born in Greencastle, Indiana, October 3, 1915. He went to work early, as a news boy carrying the Indianapolis News and local paper, and then began his education at the legendary Dan Beard’s Boy Scout Camp, in Pike County, Pennsylvania. He was subsequently a member of the Phillips Exeter Academy class of 1934, obtained an AB degree from hometown DePauw University in 1937 and LLB from Indiana University in 1941.

Frank’s budding law practice was interrupted by World War Two. He enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve, graduating from bomb disposal school and serving on Guadalcanal, where he received a field promotion to the rank of ensign. After being released from active duty, Frank chaired a committee that secured the only captured German V-1 rocket ever put on public display in the United States. A unique war memorial, this “buzz bomb” rests atop a solid limestone V-shaped base at the southwest corner of the Putnam County Courthouse in Greencastle.

In 1944, Frank married Frances M. Haberkorn of Detroit, Michigan. They had four children, Andrew H. (“Drew”), George B., Stephanie and Madeleine. During a 1975 tour of the Pacific, Frances suffered a fatal aneurysm.

Although he never developed his father’s intense interest in politics, there are similarities. Frank was elected Prosecuting Attorney of the 64th Judicial District for two terms, and then Greencastle City Judge for two more terms. He still practices probate law; was a trust officer of the Russellville Bank for 25 years, and a former bank vice president.

For recreation, Frank runs a bulldozer and backhoe on the family farm near Russellville, continuing to participate actively in its management, like his ‘Pap’ before him. The farm also has the hanger and airstrip for Frank’s Cessna, which he enjoys flying when not engaged in his law practice or farming. He first soloed in 1935. In 1971, he was a guest of the Canadian Government, helping celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Northwest Territory by flying with a small group down the Mackenzie river.

He has flown a small plane to Alaska and back seven times, and was a guest writer in a published book by Loren McDonald, ‘A Very Private Pilot.’ On another occasion, Frank and a friend took his young sons on a float down Alaska’s Porcupine river, using kayaks they built themselves from kits in an Eskimo village.”

Frank Durham died of cancer in May, 2011.

A German buzz bomb of a type used against Britain during World War II. Through Frank Durham's efforts, this flying weapon (one of two in the U.S.) was placed in front of the Putnam County Court House in Greencastle, Indiana, as a memorial to service men and women who lost their lives.

Other Photographs: Andrew E. Durham (“Pap”, mother’s father) and five Durham sisters plus one brother (1975)

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