One would think that even an untutored neophyte memoirist ...the one who wore her heart on her sleeve as a kid ... would think twice before repeating that pattern as a shy, sensible and a fully saccharin-ed Octogenarian. Evidently, I am "flawed".
As that kid bent on submitting feature stories for the high school's newspaper, The Needle, "hitting" the gym at noon for practice basketball shots and the books after supper determined to represent Buck Town on the Principal's Honor Roll, actual dating was always on the back burner. Truth be known, anybody living in Buck Town who dared to date was considered "weird" as we kids tended to travel in packs of five or more to and from school and to after-school activities.
Nevertheless, there were young blades about town to be admired, and I was not about to shirk my maidenly duties when it came to "hero-worship!" It only seems fitting to name a few: Charles Smith, Junior Kluever, Orris Rogers, Garland Smith, Alfred Janss, LeRoy Nielsen, Russell Cooper, Ed Lane, Jr. Sad to say, only Charles of Newcastle, Wyoming, will read this, the others are deceased. I was experiencing an Agape kind of Love and didn't even know it...
Showing little mercy for the daisies growing in Mom's flower garden, I plucked those petals off, one by one but, as preordained, the results were always the same, in that time-honored ritual reserved for the most very young at heart.
Always risking chance of discovery, certain names appeared yearly, scribbled on the inside covers (made of light brown grocery sacks from the local Safeway Store) of my school books; I have since discovered this was a practice not mine alone and some names more often than others.
It was at a themed Reunion of long ago, that I shared with the AHS marching band's Drum Major and Senior Class President Dale N. Anderson and his wife, Ev, of my borrowing the family bicycle, traveling across town to Maple Street and, yes, racing up and down that street in hopes of accidently running into my so-unclued and unsuspecting classmate, sitting on the front porch with his Mom, perhaps striking up a conversation of sorts.
Now, one does not get to be a future Drum Major of Nebraska's All-Male Marching Band by sitting on the front porch, watching all the girls ride by. After a week of that really physical and unrewarding activity, I surrendered the bicycle to its rightful family member and, with that same pent-up energy practiced typing on Tootie Maher's ancient Underwood. Dale's comment after hearing my tale of misbegotten woe? "I didn't know that!" (That's the whole idea, right?)
Perhaps that is the perfect segue to complete this so-called "series" about a kind of love that is not appreciated all that much in today's hurried world...
Back in 1943, fresh from a May graduation, I was approached by Carl N. Kennedy, Branch Manager of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, to join their secretarial staff of some ten girls at that time. This was the place to work in Atlantic. He had heard of me from Jesse Iftner, Field Representative, and a neighbor to my aunt and uncle, both business men unknown to me.
Hired, I knew I was definitely "out of my league" from Day One: out-numbered by the secretaries with years of experience, who wore fashions I only knew about from looking through the glass window of Vogue's store front, and, furthermore, they wore heels, every day!
Having much to learn, not wanting to blow this choice job opportunity or disappoint my Mom and Dad who took parental pride in my "success," I soaked up as much knowledge as is possible for an 18-year-old to do about the business of owning and maintaining a lot of farms in Cass and surrounding counties.
Things were going along seemingly well until that day, that moment I heard a loud and somewhat screeching voice..."Hell's Bells!"
That would be in my direction.
Stunned, I waited for the next words out of the very Intimidating Office Manager's mouth. Which were to inform me that she was not pleased that I had (Miss Black, my Typing Instructor, would not have been pleased either, but she would not have shouted...heck, I wasn't even pleased!) inadvertently inserted the carbon paper incorrectly, but I already knew that for I had brought it to her attention and was ready to retype the report that was headed for No. 1 Madison Avenue in New York City a.s.a.p! Which I did, perfectly...but with misty eyes.
It is here that I will introduce you to Jesse Iftner, F.R., and possessor of one of the widest and brightest smiles ever. Fellow Blogger, Jack Von Bulow, and well-known Temple City dentist, would positively drool over this set of "natural choppers" with a slight hint of gold on the edges of a large front tooth.
Unknown to me then and not until years later, did I know that Mr. Iftner was truly taken aback by these two words (if there were words that followed, I missed that part of the conversation) and persuaded Mr. Kennedy to assign me as his secretary, changing my Met.Life World around 180 degrees all the while championing my work to said I.O.M. (It was rumored she also took to task other office workers and another F.R., but you won't find them blogging about that, I'm thinking...)
Little by little, buoyed by this man's confidence in me and the purchase of a cute soft brown suit purchased from Vogue's on the installment plan paired with two-inch heel sample shoes, size 4.5, purchased from Economy Shoe Store, my ability to insert carbon paper improved right along with walking in high heels on a daily basis. S&S shoes get me around town these days, I have no immediate need for carbon paper or White-out with my faithful Gateway at these fingertips...and it is peacefully quiet at my house.
Eventually, smiles returned to the I.O.M's somewhat sternish face, and I advanced to become Mr. Kennedy's secretary until the day I tendered my resignation prior to moving to Southern California in 1948. I love Karma!
I suppose it harkens back to Russell Cooper, the preacher man's son and a classmate until the family moved to pastor a Methodist Church in Alaska. This "wearing one's heart on one's sleeve" syndrome, I mean. I doubt that condition could be deemed a "calling" in the biblical sort of way, but it did seem right that I become a church secretary to two Quaker pastors by the names of Teddie J. Cummins and William (Bill) Meehan.
It all began in 1965 when Pastor Ted was looking for a partime secretary, salary to be covered by a member of the church as the "cupboard" was next to bare. The hours would fit in nicely with my duties as President of the Rio Hondo PTA, Denny and Mary were in school and Dana would not "arrive" until 1968 so it was a "natural". It was like a homecoming in a spiritual sense of the word...
What I did not know was the importance of my so-called "calling" until researching my father's genealogical roots and discovering that a long-ago grandfather by the name of John Borton was instrumental along with William Penn in introducing the Quaker religion to the United States in the mid-1600's.
In June, 1973, Pastor Bill assumed pastoral duties when Ted was assigned the Garden Grove church and my edification continued as it does to this day through e-mails, occasional get-togethers when he and his wife, Mary Lou, are in the area.
Together, these two "brothers" have opened up a world to which I was little accustomed growing up in my hometown of Atlantic. It wasn't that Quakers weren't "allowed," it was probably the case of their being either too few in number or too silent in rejoicing. My faith continues to grow even as they are absent...
It was rapidly approaching Christmas Day, 1949; and it was a struggle to carry all the sealed and stamped Christmas Cards that would soon be on their way to points east if I could only make it to the corner mail box near where Del and I lived in Pasadena.
My enclosed annual Christmas Letter made the 150 envelopes even bulkier and why I did not think it would be a good idea to put them all in a Ralphs paper bag, still overwhelms my thought processes. Was it meant to be that I look perplexed, over-burdened, distressed and slightly "blonde" to the young Catholic Priest (about 30-35, brown hair, 5' 10" tall, dark brown eyes, dimple in left cheek) who was walking, in the opposite direction, to that same corner mailbox near St. Andrews Church?
Because I was embarrassed with thoughts of how really dumb I must look to this Man-With-A-Collar, I quickly lowered my face and slowed to a creep toward the mail box, hoping he would reach it first, deposit his mail and leave, please...leave!
Like this Man of God couldn't recognize a needy woman-by-the-mailbox when he saw one...
Of course, as you already know, we reached it at the same time, he asked if he could help me, I mumbled "Yes, please, and thank you," he smiled and carefully deposited the cards, I turned around and headed for our small furnished apartment that is no longer there because of the Freeway and never have I felt so BLESSED! Officially blessed, I mean....
Which is why The Thornbirds is my very favorite book of all time...
'Til the next time