Quartets

The Humbugs

The Humbugs

Singing with the Sweet Adelines was an important part of Lucy’s life. In earlier letters, you’ve read about how much it meant to her. Judy sang with SA choruses, too, in Fargo and Rochester. Both of them joined quartets, vying for honors at competitions around the country. In Lucy’s case, they went to Europe, too.

There’s another societal change noted in this letter that needs explaining. Lucy describes her part in a quartet called the “Sugar Beats.” When they formed the quartet three of the gals were single. In this letter Lucy talks about how two of them fell in love and had to quit the quartet, even though they were fun and prize-winning.

Maybe I’m stretching it a bit, but did husbands keep tighter reign on their wives in the fifties? Did they break up the quartet just so the newly married could stay home to cook and clean?

I ask this because even in the seventies being female was a challenge. In 1976 Judy worked for a dental office. The day the dentist realized she was pregnant, becoming obvious by the swelling belly, Judy was out of a job. That doesn’t happen today. I bet women don’t have to quit the chorus or quartet just because they got married, either!

Lucy writes:

Ken was gone – Judy and I had settled into routine. I decided not to work full time as long as Judy was home and so small.

Ken had decided mother should retire so he built a small appt on the side of our home. It had a bath, kitchen, small bottle gas stove, a small closet and a Hide-A-Bed. After Ken was gone we cut a hole in the wall so Mother didn’t have to go outside to come to my house. She spent very little time in her room after that. She kept candy on her dresser for Judy. She was 72 at that time. I felt it was too bad she had to start raising another at which point she said “She is my Purpose.”

Betty Wroe + I belonged to Sweet Adelines and the chorus had a quartet and Betty said “If they can do it – so can we” so start we did. We had our first quartet with Pauline Argenziano and Shirley Johnason and Shirley got married so we had to start all over.

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A New Life

1957 Sweet Adelines quartet - The Humbugs - Lucy is 2nd from right

1957 Sweet Adelines quartet – The Humbugs – Lucy is 2nd from right

Most of us start a new life at least once, and usually several times in a lifetime. The big choices seem to be voluntary. Who to marry, where to go to college, which new job to take, where to live. Making those decisions affects the arc of a life dramatically. Some of the choices aren’t voluntary, they’re forced on us. The day Lucy got the call from St. Luke’s hospital forced a big change in her life, and in Judy’s life. Lucy’s last letter described that day.

Once Lucy internalized that major event she faced hundreds of decisions that a woman of the mid-1950s usually didn’t have to handle. Those decisions were hard enough, but she was facing them alone; the love of her life was gone. As I read Lucy’s letter I try to imagine what that was like. Even with the friends and family around to help, from here it looks pretty lonely.

The good news is that Lucy was already involved in Sweet Adelines, a women’s barbershop chorus. That group grounded her, gave her so many friends and opportunities for years. When I met Lucy she was deep into Sweet Adelines, and so much of the benefit came from the quartet Betty suggested.

Lucy writes:

Here I was, a mother, a daughter and a $1000.00 life insurance policy I didn’t even know Ken had. No job – only helping Lizell work on a car auction sale – snack bar – not much to go on but still didn’t seem to worry about a lot.

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