Lucy’s brother Llewelyn
Seattle during the war. Connections between people show up everywhere, but WWII and Seattle fit neatly into my family history, just like it weighs into Lucy’s. Lucy talks about brothers coming through Seattle to and from various Navy vessels. One of my treasured possessions is a newspaper clipping about Louie coming through Seattle on his way to the Korean conflict. Seattle must have been the port of call for the northern tier of states.
The second part of Lucy’s letter that really triggers memories for me is the short sentence about a wisdom tooth.
Finally, she gets to some of the biggest news and decisions of her life.
We lived across the lake from Seattle in a town called Kirkland. The men had to cross the lake to get to work. I thought I wanted to work also but of course Ken said no “I don’t want you on one of those old boats. Men & women just jamed in them. So I stayed home. I did get a job in a restaurant and stayed until I saw the cook skimming the worms of the spaghetti pot.
The rabbit hutch’s roof is visible behind my new bike.
Every day fewer people personally remember the privations of the world war. The sad part is how long it took those who lived through the war to tell us younger folks about what it was like to live through the chaos of true war. I heard very little about the war until we received these letters from Lucy, along with the ones from Jim, Grace and Louie. Recently some veterans in Rochester have sponsored a monthly series of recollections by veterans, participants, and civilians who experienced the war in person. Listening to these older folks recount their stories moves me deeply.
I experienced the war second-hand. In Lucy’s letter below she talks about rabbit meat sold in the butcher shop. Rabbit was a familiar food. We were a poor family. Meat was a luxury. My mother and grand mother were farm folk. Raising live stock came to them naturally. There weren’t any city ordinances against it, so they raised dozens of rabbits in a shed behind the house. They built cages three deep along one wall. The cages were made of chicken wire, so the waste would drop through to the floor. Mom and Dad used it as garden fertilizer each fall, I assume.
We didn’t play with these rabbits. We ate the meat. Maybe it tasted like chicken. No big deal for me then. Lucy disagreed.
You couldn’t drive up to the gas pump and fill up the tank. It was rationed. Everyone had a book of stamps. You had stamps or the attendant would refuse to fill your tank. We did not have self service stations at that time.
FDR delivers the declaration of war request to congress.
World War in 1941 was not the same as the relatively little dust up in the Middle East in my lifetime.
In 1990 our president didn’t ask us for any sacrifices. In the forties everyone gave up something, often they gave up a lot. Lucy talks about some of the privations they endured. There was only one of them that I can really relate to.
In 1973, during the Vietnam war, I was called up for a draft physical. We stood around in the Fargo Army physical exam facility all day, just like Ken did in Lucy’s letter. Fortunately for me the outcome was a little different. I plan to write an entire story about that day in the near future. Let’s get back to the forties.
Being newly married, then have the threat of war was not easy to deal with. We would have to leave our little house – by the way – Ken was working on a car at the garage and a customer stepped on the starter and Ken lost the end of his finger. The insurance from that paid for our house – along with overhauling cars in the yard.
Guy & Judy’s first apartment, c. 1971
For most of us the first apartment or house after leaving home is a difficult transition. I’m having a little trouble getting my head around this story. Lucy talks about a terrible apartment, then goes on to describe a situation that none of us would accept as a place to live, even if we did own it.
When Judy and I moved into our first apartment we thought it was perfect for us. We rented the upstairs in a house built in the 1920’s. The rooms were large, with plenty of nice windows, and a full kitchen and bathroom.
Looking at the picture of the old house now, one thing strikes me right away. It’s a four-square, bearing an uncanny resemblance to our house in Rochester where we’ve lived for the last thirty-something years. There’s a lot of similarity to the house I lived in in Jamestown, too.
Enough about me. Let’s get back to Lucy and her home.
After living in Terrible apartments we decided it was a necessity to have a home. Continue reading
The last couple of weeks I’ve written about music. Lucy is one of the people in my life who epitomizes musical talent. When I first met her she sang with the Fargo Sweet Adelines. In the many years she sang with them she was part of multiple quartets and performed around the country. One of her personal triumphs was the trip the Fargo chorus made to England. Many times Lucy told me about the “little girl from Gardner, ND who sang in Royal Albert Hall in London.
Lucy’s love of and talent for music caught on with Judy, too. For years she sang with the Rochester chapter of Sweet Adelines and the church choir. Her highlight was singing Bach’s Mass in B Minor. The Rochester Chamber Chorale performed the piece again this year and we attended the concert. What a thrill it must have been to sing at such a beautiful event. These days Judy plays drum and sings with a local band called Ravensfire. A bodhrán is far easier to transport than a tuba.
Watch for letters about Lucy’s adventures with the Sweet Adelines.
Thirteen was a magical year for me. We left the farm. The day we left I looked out the door and made a vow to myself “Never never have anything to do with a farmer!!” Continue reading
Don’t be misled by the title and first sentence of this letter from Lucy. There’s almost nothing in there about graduation. This is a love story.
After reading this story I better understand why Lucy let me call or come over to see Judy every night after we met. She and Ken were as smitten with each other as Judy and I were.
My favorite part of this letter is the fudge. Does every couple have a story about a dessert going bad that first summer of marriage? For Lucy, it’s fudge. For Judy it was chocolate cake. Our lives are full of stories. This one brings back a smile.
Graduating from High School was nice but what to do next was the question.
One evening the next winter I went to a basketball game with Evy my friend. I saw a man across the hall sitting by my brother. I said “That is the most handsome man I have ever seen. If he isn’t married he’s mine.” He said to Pat “Who’s that pretty girl in the white sweater set?”
Manual labor was a big part of life in the thirties. That’s about the only job a teenager could find back then. The pay may seem a little low, but converting 1930 dollars to 2015 dollars means Lucy was making about $20 per week. That’s not too bad for a first job, taken on while going to school.
By the time Judy and I came of age manual labor had given way to service oriented jobs. I did some sweeping floors initially, but quickly graduated to working in an office putting together mailings and brochures. Judy got a fabulous job working as a telephone operator at the television station with her mother.
During the depression years when I was a “teenager,” jobs were so hard to get. I knew the best thing I could do for my mother was to be away during the summer. She cooked for teachers, rented out part of our house, washed clothes for the Moody Farm during the winter but during the summer having Selmer Engen come to the house for meals was her only income.