Wedding in the yard
Unlike football and other sports, I did follow in Louie’s footsteps when it came to watching pretty girls at the dances. The dance Louie describes probably took place at the National Guard Armory in downtown Jamestown. When I was in high school most of the dances were there, too. It was a great place for dances, with a large stairway in the front to linger on, watching people come and go.
The first dance this brings to mind is one at the American Legion club two blocks from the Armory. The front lobby was a great place to stand and talk to friends. One particularly good-looking girl found me there one evening. Unlike Louie, I didn’t start this encounter, but the discussion led to a years-long dating experience. Some of my letters describe those days.
The other dance I think about was the one Judy and I went to in the spring of 1970. Like Louie, this dance experience led to a wedding the next year.
Louie doesn’t mention it directly in this letter, but there’s something he’s quite proud of in this letter. Since this was a short romance, ending in marriage six months later, his friends all assumed that there was a sense of urgency involved. He told me many times that I was born well beyond the statutory limit for a first-born son.
I use to love going to dances when I was in my prime – the big dance to go to was the New Years Eve Policemans Ball.
The new years of 1948-49 was one of these and as usual, my roving eye and me were at their best.
Mara, Jim and Lon. c. 1992
Recently we celebrated one of my medical challenges at dinner with friends. They asked me to propose a toast. After a few minutes I offered the following:
I’m thankful for being alive. It’s not often that I am able to express my gratitude to the people around me. Saying “Thank you” and “I love you” has always been difficult for me. Thank you for being here. I love you.
As difficult as it is to offer love or thankfulness, it’s at least as hard for me to be on the receiving end of those sentiments. Jim didn’t hesitate to express his feelings, nor does my wife Judy. Whenever they start down this path, I dig my toe into the sand, with that “Aw, shucks” feeling. I’d rather not be there.
That feeling hit hard as I discovered this letter in the stack from Jim. I almost didn’t include it for publication, because it’s so “embarrassing.” Grace raised me to do the right thing, but she didn’t give me the talent to accept the kudos when things went right. As I age I realize that expressing thanks and love is a two-way street. Rejecting an expression of love is a rejection of the other. Turning away thanks turns away a fellow human. To be a friend means both giving and receiving emotion, even the best kinds of emotion.
I’ll never be as good as Jim in expressing my thanks or love. He set the bar pretty high and I’m still learning. Earlier this month I put that learning to the test. One of my friends was planning an incredibly generous gift for me. I rehearsed for hours, knowing I had to thank him. When the moment came my statement was a simple “Thank you. I appreciate this.” I watched as if looking into a mirror as he stumbled around trying to accept the gratitude. Now I need to work on how to coach him to accept a thank you, just like Jim coached me.
Thank you for your patience as I learn this skill.
Usually one looks to an older person for inspiration and example … but in this case Guy was always the inspiration for me … I was an older person looking up to a much younger one … as a teenager he exhibited a unique quality … that of a serious goal oriented person. At fifteen he knew what career he wanted to pursue … and he set his mind to it … graduated high school … on to four years of college plus an additional year of study for a Masters Degree … then on to IBM where he has built his career for some nineteen years … what is unique about this?
Merry Christmas from Guy – 1953
One of the reasons you don’t see me on Facebook contributing or reading much (beyond publicizing this blog) is the number of people who whine and complain daily about political topics. There’s the Tea Party people who are offended because of IRS regulations. The anti-gun people get irritated when the pro-gun people insult them. The anti-abortion crazies get excited when the liberal wackos feel offended. Don’t get me started on the Christians.
One target of the whiners is welfare recipients. Give ’em a drug test, they say. Where do they get off thinking they need a smart phone or Internet access? Get a job already. The anti-welfare complainers irritate me. It’s that irritation that keeps me from reading Facebook posts and, especially, from responding to political diatribes on Facebook.
Why would I be so sensitive?
Grace in 1945
Not much happened, she says. Then the letter continues with two of the most important things that happened in her life. Was that juxtaposition intentional on her part, or did Grace decide in mid-sentence to start sharing something big from 1948?
I don’t recall exactly when I learned that Grace dropped out of high school, it may have been when I read this letter back in the nineties. I’m still amazed. Even though she dropped out, based on how she encouraged me to go to college, she clearly knew the importance of education. All four of her boys went on to college, even though she didn’t finish high school.
She says that Mama didn’t make much of a fuss. That may be because neither Fanny nor Ted even started high school, let alone finished. I believe that only one of Grace’s older siblings went for education beyond high school. Maybe she was a success by the standards of the day?
The second “earth shattering event” of the letter is the big wedding. The wedding continues in Grace’s next letter; watch for it soon.
The summer of ’48 went by with no earth shattering events that I can recall. School started and I didn’t. I became a Hi School dropout. Doesn’t seem that Mama even made too much fuss about it. Work wasn’t to available either, but I did work at a 5+10 store for a few months over Christmas and then at Preds’ for a while.
Judy (R) Christmas 1959
Lucy had lost her first daughter, then her husband. Now it was time for little Judy to leave the house for school. Like most mothers she probably had mixed feelings about letting a child head out the door to go to school that first day. There’s pride in knowing that your daughter has learned how to handle leaving the house. There’s fear, knowing that so many dangers lurk just down the street. Lucy knew all too well what could happen if she took her eyes off her Judy, even to let her go to school.
On top of that, Judy gave Lucy a glimpse of independence and strength. Again, those conflicts reared up. My daughter is powerful and intelligent. She doesn’t need her mom. Lucy doesn’t say what she did after watching Judy skip down the street to school. She didn’t have to. We know.
That story repeated itself many times since that late summer morning in 1958. Riding the city bus downtown to the clinic. Heading off to the big dance with that new college boy. Moving to Rochester where the doctors had told her to go home and make arrangements for her ailing first daughter. You can look at any event in life as a disaster in progress; or see it as a potential success unfolding in front of you. Lucy always picked the positive view. That’s a tough example to live up to. I’ll keep trying.
My daughter was truly the light of my life. I loved her so. She was about to start school. I took her the first day to enroll her. The second day I wanted to walk to the corner and see that she arrived safely at which time she said “Mothers do not walk their children to school.” I stood inside the house and watched her leave Mom behind.
White Castle Meal
All of the Thanksgiving visitors have left for home. The relatives that will show up at Christmas are making plans for their visits. What should we do in the meantime? Maybe host a party? Invite everyone we know?
December is in the thick of holiday parties and my birthday is in there, too. Let’s do it!
For about ten years we hosted a major Christmas party for friends and family. We would plan for weeks, deciding what food to serve, how much beer and spirits to buy, and what the specialty would be. We loved hosting parties and making memorable holiday gatherings.
I think we succeeded.
Guy and Louie in the back yard at the Pink House
Louie had several jobs as a teenager. The one that interested me the most was the job working for the railroad. He started with the easy, physical tasks, eventually moving to hostler and watchman, driving steam engines at the end of the line.
I’ve always been fascinated by steam locomotives. As a six-year-old child I would disappear from the house now and then, found later by Mom or Grandma over in the rail yards watching trains being switched. I’ve already written about my time in the engine house and at the docks where they loaded coal, water and sand into the steam engines.
Louie had the misfortune of getting a job at the railroad near the end of the steam era. In the old days a steam engine needed service at least every one hundred miles. The new diesels, brought on-line in big numbers in the early fifties, could run hundreds of miles without refueling. The automobile and better highways ate into passenger traffic, meaning railroads had to shrink. With service, freight, and passenger traffic dropping, Jamestown would never be a hub of railroad activity again. The hundreds of employees shrank to almost nobody by the time I left town.
Louie was proud of having learned to drive a steam locomotive, even if it was just around the Y. If you’ve ever seen inside the cab of one of those machines you’d understand why he was proud.
My first real job in Jamestown was with the North American Creamery managed by “Lefty” Ulrickson.
I was hired as a flunky, helping deliver pop, ice cream and beer to local businesses.