Moneywort Â in Â Life’s Meadow is a historical novel about events leading up to World War II, the homefront during the war, and the continuing life of Dr. Eckert and his family after the war. The novel combines personal experience with extensive research over more than twenty years. Great care has been taken to be totally accurate in every detail. If you’re old, enjoy the memories. If you’re younger, learn of the past.
Moneywort in Lifeâ€™s Meadow
Visitors from Baltimore
Sue Eckert sat reading the May 1938 issue of Ladies Home Journal. From her head arose a Gorgonian mass of wires connected to a dome that produced heat to transform straight hair into curls.
â€œAbout ten more minutes,â€ announced Mrs. Hansen, who had sixty-two years of life experience and a certain expertise in her occupation, which somehow eluded her own style-less, mouse-gray hair that fittingly remained congruous with a plain face and a shapeless body upon which hung a cotton print dress.
â€œIs Jenny all right?â€ asked Sue.
â€œIâ€™m sure she’s just fine. But, Iâ€™ll check.â€
Mrs. Hansen shuffled from the porch, converted into a beauty shop, through an open doorway into the living room. Moving on beyond the dining room to the kitchen, she looked out the window at her husband standing near the two-year-old child crouched beside the concrete goldfish pond.
Upon returning to the shop, Mrs. Hansen assured Sue of Jennyâ€™s well being before again glancing at the wall clock above the sink where she shampooed and rinsed hair. Four minutes remained. Obsessively, she tidied the bottles, combs, brushes, scissors and curlers on the counter that extended below a mirror and beside an oil painting of Southern Indiana beech trees, portrayed on canvas by her husband. A hand printed $10 price tag rested against the frame.
â€œAny good recipes?â€ asked Mrs. Hansen as she began to disengage a strand of Sueâ€™s hair from the apparatus by first removing the clamp that attached to the electrical cord, and then taking off the protective piece of leather and the wool strip.
Trying to ignore the nose irritating, sharply repugnant chemical odor that emanated from the released hair, Sue responded, â€œThere’s one for eggplant Benedict I’d like to try.â€
â€œCecil would never eat eggplant no matter how I fixed it.â€
Sue smiled and offered, â€œMaybe pork chops stuffed with deviled ham.â€
â€œThat sounds good.â€
From an inherently pleasant nature, Sue smiled again and asked, â€œHow about a tortoni? It’s vanilla ice cream covered with macaroon crumbs.â€
Mrs. Hansen shook her head. â€œWe don’t care much for ice cream.â€
For an instant, Sueâ€™s thoughts drifted to the previous summerâ€™s ice cream made by her brother Harold, who lived with his wife Martha and their brood of five on a farm just up the road from the old homestead, now the residence of Sue and her husband. How Jenny relished the sweet treat prepared on Haroldâ€™s porch in the wooden, hand-cranked freezer, using ice cut in the winter and stored beneath sawdust in the spring house. Martha cooked the delicious custard for the ice cream on the black iron stove in their spacious kitchen.
â€œSo, how’s your stomach doin?â€ asked Mrs. Hansen.
â€œI think it will be better once Dave’s folks have come and gone,â€ responded Sue with an implied apprehension at the upcoming visit of her in-laws.
â€œNow, that’s no reason ta get upset.â€
â€œI know I shouldnâ€™t, except they’re such refined people.â€
Quite well, Sue remembered the two-day stay in their palatial residence on the outskirts of Baltimore. Despite Daveâ€™s loving presence, she had never relaxed. Nor had she felt the approval of his mother, who fittingly reigned as matron of the manor.
â€œWhat is it Daveâ€™s father does?â€ inquired Mrs. Hansen, thinking she should remember.
â€œHe’s a pharmacist. He owns several drug stores.â€
â€œWell, donâ€™t fret. Jennyâ€™ll keep um entertained.â€
â€œThey’ve never even seen Jenny.â€
Sue did not add, â€œExcept in photographs,â€ but smiled inwardly thinking of the studio portraits that had turned out darling, despite Jenny becoming upset when told to â€œwatch the birdieâ€ and never seeing a feathery friend.
â€œI just hope she’ll make up all right,â€ Sue continued.
â€œYou never can tell about younguns.â€
â€œOf course, Alice will be here. Jenny loves her aunt Alice,â€ Sue said, her voice tenderly reflecting her own love for Daveâ€™s sister.
â€œThatâ€™ll be after Alice’s graduation?â€ questioned Mrs. Hansen, who could easily picture the beautiful, almost six foot tall, model-appearing woman, whose flowing blonde hair she had tended the previous summers.
â€œYes. It’s next Monday, the 13th,â€ Sue stated factually as her hands tightened around the magazine in an unconscious response to the onset of an inner disturbance.
â€œI don’t reckon youâ€™re takin Jenny.â€
â€œNo. It would be too long for her and I’m staying home to fix dinner. Dave’s fatherâ€™s so busy they aren’t arriving until that morning. Daveâ€™s going to pick them up at Union Station and head straight for campus.â€
â€œHow come they’re not flying? I saw where you can go coast ta coast in 17 hours and fifty minutes on a TWA plane.â€
â€œPerhaps, they’re scared to leave the ground.â€
â€œI reckon I’d be scared too, but I’d like ta ride the train. Selmaâ€“you know, my sister-in-lawâ€“she rode the Chesapeake & Ohio to New York last summer. Said the Pullman was quiet as a mouse. Air conditioned too. And there was a lounge with a buffet and a radio.â€
Sue nodded, smiling as her thoughts encompassed the railroadâ€™s advertising calendar that hung on the wall in her brother Bernie’s filling station. Jenny liked the cute face of Chessie the kitten, sleeping so contentedly beneath a cover. The farm kittens could never be enticed to do likewise.
Mrs. Hansen continued, â€œBut, Cecil’s such a homebody, I’ll probably never get ta take a trip.â€
â€œMaybe, you could go with Selma to the World’s Fair in New York City next summer.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know, I’m pretty much tied down with the shop. Will Alice be goin back with her folks this year?â€
â€œNo, she’s going to stay with us again. She has a teaching job in Crawford starting in the fall.â€
â€œYou sure are good, keepin her each summer.â€
â€œOh no,â€ Sue gently corrected, â€œI look forward to having her.â€ Sometimes it seemed much longer than three and a half years and sometimes like days since they had arrived on campus as freshman and total strangers. What interesting fate had paired them as roommates. How quickly they had become the best of friends, forging a bond that became defined in Stevensonâ€™s words, â€œA friend is somebody who loves us with understanding as well as emotion.â€
â€œIt’s a shame you had ta leave school,â€ Mrs. Hansen said without noticing Sueâ€™s hands again clutch at the magazine.
Silently, Sue nodded.
Mrs. Hansen connected thoughts to ask, â€œHow’s your mother doin?â€
â€œNot very well. She’s still with my sister in Owenstown. The third strokeâ€™s left her speech impaired.â€
â€œYour mother’s a gem, but I don’t see how you did it, having ta quit college and come home ta take care of her, and especially when she couldn’t get around none too good. I heard she really lit into you if somethin wasn’t just right.â€
â€œShe was frustrated.â€
â€œWell, everybody sure did admire your patience, bein pregnant an all.â€
â€œDaveâ€™s the one who was good, letting me live at home.â€
â€œCourse, he knew when he came courtin from school, that she needed you.â€
â€œYes, but she improved so much after the first stroke that we thought it would be all right to get married.â€
As a young girl, Sue had often admired her motherâ€™s white wedding gown safely stored in the cedar chest. Simply going to a Justice of the Peace, in the spring before Daveâ€™s last year in dental school, might have been a sacrifice had she not loved him enough to become his wife under any circumstances.
Mrs. Hansen responded, â€œIt sure worked out well for the town. We’re all glad he decided ta set up his practice here. It was real hard gettin ta the city when a tooth kept achin.â€
â€œAnd he likes it here too. I worried because I thought he might have felt pressured by my home situation.â€
â€œHeard he caught a five pound bass last week.â€
â€œHe was so proud of it.â€
â€œWe’ll rinse you now,â€ Mrs. Hansen said as she freed Sue from the last of the attachments.
Sue moved to a chair with her back to the sink. The cool water streaming over her head offered both relief from the heat of the curling process and a soothing sensation. After a thorough drenching and quick shampoo, Mrs. Hansen turned off the water, squeezed Sue’s fine textured, light-brown hair as she might a sponge, and then ran her fingers through the curls in professional scrutiny.
â€œLooks like it took real good,â€ she declared, using a thick Cannon towel to swirl around Sue’s hair. With the towel turban in place, Sue sat up and then moved to the chair by the mirror above the counter. Five chairs stood in the narrow room, whose front wall had a continuous stretch of windows left from its days as a porch. Rugs covered most of the concrete floor. To one side of the entrance door stood a coat tree. On the other side, a chair next to a wire magazine rack accommodated anyone who might have to wait. Across the left end of the room extended a glass showcase where Mrs. Hansen displayed items for sale. Although mostly hair products, she sold some costume jewelry, perfume, and even a few stuffed toys, along with her husbandâ€™s homemade chocolate creams. The delectable condiment, with centers of vanilla, lemon, raspberry, and maple, were one of Sue’s few indulgences into confections, despite a build as slender as a blade of grass. When Mrs. Hansen completed placing the wet hair in curlers, Sue picked up the magazine again and settled into the low, stuffed vinyl chair with a metal dome attached to the back. Mrs. Hansen lowered the dryer over Sue’s head and set the control to blow out hot air. It was always too hot.
In a few minutes, Jenny burst into the room, scurried over to her mother, and scrambled onto her lap. With a smile, Mrs. Hansen opened a lower cabinet and produced a white Krispy Cracker box, having blue arches and a fat baker. She removed a saltine and extended it to Jenny, who took it with the hand not clutching a small mohair rabbit. Like a woman and her purse, Jenny rarely left home without Flopsy.
â€œWhat do you say?â€ prompted Sue.
â€œThank you,â€ Jenny muttered timidly without looking up.
â€œDon’t spect you’ll ever need a permanent,â€ Mrs. Hansen said, glancing at the child’s short wavy hair, almost as white as whipped cream.
Jenny ignored the assessment. She nibbled like a dainty gerbil while Sue found Munro Leaf’s Watchbird feature in the magazine. She showed Jenny the birds, illustrated by simple circle bodies, oval eyes with a vertical line inside, a triangle for a beak, a triangle for a tail, and stick legs. There was also a circle and stick child labeled, â€œThis is a bashful.â€ Its face tilted down so that only the top of its head, with several line hairs, showed. Sue read aloud, â€œ’Bashfuls are so shy they all have stiff necks. Whenever they see someone for the first time they look down at their shoes. Most people never know whether a Bashful has a face or not. All anybody can see is the top of its foolish head’.â€
Two little birds at the bottom of the page had â€œyesâ€ â€œnoâ€ written on their tummies.
When Sue read, â€œWere you a bashful this month?â€ written between the birds, Jenny shook her head in response. Hugging the child, Sue smiled saying, â€œNo you weren’t a bashful this month and letâ€™s hope you won’t be one next week either.â€
Jenny wiggled, squirmed, and slid down to head back outside.
Sue raised her brow in commenting to Mrs. Hansen, â€œWell, that was timely, if it sank in.â€
â€œYou never can tell about younguns,â€ repeated Mrs. Hansen.
After glancing through the fiction, Sue found a page about annual flowers and considered the petunias, pansies, snapdragons and geraniums that she had recently planted. With the drier still blowing out hot air, she began, on page 112 near the end of the magazine, an article by Dr. Brundesen entitled, â€œFear in Children.â€ As she read, she agreed with the first statements about experiences of childhood leaving indelible effects that are sometimes linked with behavior throughout life.
Knowing that many factors went into nurturing a childâ€™s innate personality, Sue’s thoughts turned to raising Jenny. She felt a strong responsibility to do it right. She wanted Jenny to grow up having the ability to cope with adversity, to appreciate life, and to be able to both give and receive love. Hopefully, providing stability, wise instruction and guidance, along with a proper example, would contribute to her future happiness. Reading on about fearful things, Sue assessed how Jenny, although showing reactions of being scared upon occasion, led a sheltered life. No strangers had ever been cross to her. Laddie, their faithful collie, had never snapped or growled. Dignified appearing, Dr. Keller, with white hair at the temples, arching eyebrows, and spectacles, who charged $2 for a routine office visit and $3 for a house call, had always been pleasant despite a cold stethoscope.
Even storms did not frighten Jenny. Just two weeks previously there had been an unusual one, which Sue could still picture vividly. During the unseasonably hot afternoon, the mercury climbed into the eighties. Around 5:00 p.m., just after Dave came home, it rained and the wind whipped splats against the windows. By the conclusion of supper, it had quieted. As on other evenings, bedtime preparations for Jenny began with a bath shortly after 7:00. This left ample time for reading a story afterwards. At 7:40 an eerie yellow-green light entering the window prompted Sue to lay aside the Lois Lenski book The Little Sailboat. Scooping Jenny into her arms, Sue stood holding her as they looked out at the yellow and light-blue sky that in combination produced yellow-green. The sugar maple trees, arrayed in delicate emerging foliage, appeared dark in contrast to the exceedingly vivid green grass. Puddles, left on the lane from the rain, reflected the yellow sky to shine like city street lights. Sue carried Jenny downstairs to share the wonder with Dave, who curled his arm around her waist. In just five minutes, the sky turned to gold with distinct blue clouds. Lightening streaked and thunder mildly rumbled. A deep pinkish-orange took possession of the sky at 7:50, with darkness encroaching. The lights on the puddles became rose colored. In another five minutes, the water entirely succumbed to a smoke gray sky with deep-blue clouds and thin streaks of dull-pink. The grass as well as the trees now appeared dark, making distinctive silhouettes for the lightening. Uniform gray settled in by 8:05 and yielded to total darkness by 8:15. Jenny, enfolded in her parentâ€™s protective care, sleepily watched the hand of nature create a masterwork. Before the storm moved closer to beat rain against the window glass, illuminate the room by flashes of lightening, and crash loud bursts of thunder, Jenny received goodnight kisses and was tucked securely in bed. She dozed peacefully despite the elements that continued to rage until after 9:00.
Sue presently felt thankful that she had, according to the article, acted wisely in showing Jenny the beauty of a storm. Closing the magazine, she sat for a few minutes considering the upcoming arrival of her in-laws and trying to evaluate why this ignited tiny sparks of fear in her own mind.
The drier shut off. With relief, Sue lifted the dome. Mrs. Hansen stood talking to Mrs. Metzger, who had come into the shop. Sue greeted her with a smile and a few words before following Mrs. Hansen over to the counter below the mirror. After removing the shiny metal curlers, perforated with holes and fastened by a dual wire having a red rubber tip that snapped onto the opposite end of the curler body, Mrs. Hansen again ran her hands through Sue’s hair before using a brush and comb to style the waves fashionably. Upon finishing, she handed Sue a mirror and stepped back admiringly.
â€œHow nice you look,â€ she complimented.
She did not use the word â€œpretty,â€ which would require enlarging upon the general confines of the term. Neither did Sue ever consider herself of such a description. Soft blue eyes and a becoming smile redeemed an angular jaw and high cheek bones. Standing 5’7″, she wore clothes well on her slender frame and always dressed sensibly and neat. Certainly, she could modestly be considered attractive, especially by those who included her unassuming, gracious manner.
After visiting a few more minutes with Mrs. Metzger, Sue removed the small money purse from the larger brown leather one with straps. She gave Mrs. Hansen $3.00 for the $2.50 permanent and insisted she keep the 50 cents for Cecil. She then went to get Jenny from the backyard. Stopping in the kitchen doorway, she paused with a smile to watch. Jenny had a soup-bowl-sized rubber ball that she threw in the air and charged after as it rolled across the lawn. With Sueâ€™s approach, Jenny snatched up her bunny from the grass and grabbed hold of her mother’s hand, guiding her to the goldfish pond.
Mr. Hansen, who had been hoeing a small vegetable garden, came over with a smile. â€œShe loves the fish.â€
â€œTheyâ€™re very pretty,â€ acknowledged Sue, stooping beside Jenny to observe the specks of bright orange go gliding effortlessly in the greenish water. They also admired a white water lily blooming amid several large, flat glossy-green leaves.
â€œThank you for watching Jenny,â€ Sue told Mr. Hansen.
â€œShe’s no trouble at all,â€ he responded, giving the child a pat on the head.
Heading toward the house, Jenny tugged her mother toward the glimmering blue, 14 inch glass gazing globe resting on a stand, like that of a bird bath, amid a bed of pansies.
â€œItâ€™s beautiful,â€ Sue admired, lifting Jenny close enough that she could see her reflection. Thinking beyond Victorian gardens that had the globes as symbols of wealth and success, to the 13th century, she smiled telling Jenny that a long time ago people believed they would attract fairies. Knowing of fairies from stories, Jenny decided that they should have a globe at their house.
Sue smiled. â€œThat would be nice.â€
From the Hansen’s home and beauty shop on elm-lined 3rd Street, Sue drove two blocks east and three south to the business section of town. She passed the angled parking along the street, choosing to leave these spaces for others, and parked next to Hadleyâ€™s furniture moving truck in the paved lot that flanked the alley behind Dave’s dental office, located between the Gazette and the furniture store in the 100 block.
â€œLetâ€™s let Flopsy rest in the car for awhile,â€ Sue encouraged after opening the front passenger door of the black 36 Chevrolet, Daveâ€™s graduation present from his parents.
Reaching into the back seat, Sue removed a brown paper package tied with string. Holding Jenny with one hand, the parcel in the other, and having her purse draped over her shoulder, she led the way up the alley to the street. Here they turned left to walk along the sidewalk flush with a two-story brick building. About midway, they came to where several upright bricks propped open a heavy door, allowing the fresh spring air to enter. Just inside, eight metal mailboxes, depressed into the plastered wall, monopolized the small entrance area. Beyond, rose the stairway. With an independent bounce, in white high-top Buster Brown shoes, Jenny climbed ahead of her mother up the wooden steps. Mrs. Eckert wore fashionable Enna Jetticks with sturdy 2 inch heels and cool punchings.
The combined sound of footsteps rose ahead of them, announcing their presence like the goose-stepping troops of Adolph Hitler recently parading down Berlin’s Unter den Linden on the occasion of the Fuhrer’s 49th birthday. At the top of the stairs, Sue again clasped Jenny’s hand. They passed two dark panel doors leading to living quarters before stopping at the third. Sue let go of Jenny to gently rap on the thin wood. In moments, a slender, disarrayed woman in her early forties opened the door. She wiped at her wayward hair with a thin hand.
â€œFrances ainâ€™t home,â€ she uttered in a dull voice, not needing to make a grammatical error to announce a paucity of education.
â€œThat’s all right. May I leave this?â€ Sue asked extending the package and explaining, â€œI made her a couple maternity tops and skirts for summer.â€
â€œShe’ll be much obliged.â€
â€œI’ll sew some more later this month. Iâ€™m glad she was able to finish the school year.â€
â€œI’m obliged tooâ€”ya tellin her ta stay in school.â€
Sue nodded. She doubted that Mrs. Cooper knew the full extent of the conversation that her daughter had initiated in April. Frances, a junior in high school and unmarried, lived with her abandoned mother and a younger sister. All three did cleaning for money. Frances straightened and light cleaned the dental office each weekday evening and more extensively on Saturdays. When Frances learned of being pregnant, she had sought out Mrs. Eckert.
Most Tuesdays, usually with Jenny, Sue came to town. She always parked the car in the rear lot even on days when she did not plan to see Dave. Knowing this, Frances had taken a seat on the metal fire escape steps to await her arrival. Although their previous contact had been limited, Sue smiled upon seeing Frances, an attractive dab of colorful life attached to the rigid dark structure like vibrant youth set against stoic history.
â€œMrs. Eckert,â€ Frances began, moving close enough to speak privately.
Sue stopped. Jenny tugged.
â€œStand still a minute, Jenny, and then we’ll go to the drugstore.â€
Jenny quieted and Sue turned her attention exclusively to Frances, who glanced down at the rough pavement of the alley. Finding it hard to make a request for help even of someone who cared enough to send them eggs, an occasional piece of meat, and abundant produce in summer, Frances swallowed nervously before blurting out, â€œWould ya ask your husband if I can have my wages ahead fer a month?â€
â€œYou haven’t spoken to him about it?â€
Frances shook her head, activating a bounce of the shoulder-length curls of pecan brown. Sue looked searchingly at the cowering girl whose gray-green eyes came up for only a second before glancing off toward the peering narrow windows of the solid brick apartment building.
With a desire to help, Sue asked, â€œWhat do you need the money for?â€
â€œI’d work it off. I promise. Even extra.â€
â€œWhy do you need money?â€
â€œI jus need it?â€
With piercing eyes, Sue expected an elaboration. Frances shifted. Sue waited.
Intimidated and unable to hedge, Frances revealed, â€œI need an abortion.â€
Abortion, a word like an Islamic woman having a secretive demeanor beneath a dark burqa, loomed uncomfortable in exposure. Avoiding an outward reaction of horror or condemnation, Sue calmly asked, â€œWho told you about an abortion?â€
Frances shifted in nervous silence.
â€œYou know it’s illegal.â€
â€œI wonâ€™t git in trouble. I know a girl who went to a doctor in the city and itâ€™s all secret.â€
â€œEven when performed in a doctorâ€™s office, it can endanger your life, or you could get an infection and never be able to have another baby.â€
Francesâ€™ mouth screwed to the side. Blocking out consequences, she harbored misgivings about having approached Mrs. Eckert despite her reputation around the small town for being kind and helpful.
â€œHave you talked to your mother about it?â€
â€œNo. I can’t. She’ll make me have the baby jus ta punish me.â€
Frowning slightly, Sue questioned, â€œWhat about the father?â€
â€œHe don’t know.â€
â€œWhen are you going to tell him?â€
â€œMaybe, your mother can talk to him.â€
â€œNo. Jus please see if I can have the money,â€ declared Frances in desperation.
â€œFrances, I’m sure your mother would be against this.â€
â€œYeah, sheâ€™ll want me ta suffer cause I was bad.â€
â€œI think you need to talk to her.â€
â€œNo. I have to do somethin. She’ll make me have the baby. I couldn’t go to school and I’d be stuck cleanin the rest of my life jus so we could eat.â€
â€œFrances,â€ Sue began, her voice gentle despite the intensity of the counsel, â€œIt might seem like a way out now, but it’s a very final thing. You can’t bring a baby back to life. It may haunt you years later. There are other options, such as adoption.â€
â€œBut what about now? They’ll kick me outa school.â€
â€œNot if you don’t tell anyone. I’ll make some clothes for you.â€ While Frances lapsed into a moment of sullen contemplation, Sue glanced at Jenny still attached to her hand while kicking pebbles. Sue smiled. In seriousness, she related, â€œI wasn’t ready to have Jenny when I got pregnant. It certainly wasn’t convenient because my husband was still in dental school. But she’s the joy of my life.â€
â€œIt wus different fer you,â€ Frances declared, her voice tinged with the resentment of someone stuck with the short end of a stick. â€œHow would I manage?â€
Accepting the musing as if a request for advice, Sue stated, â€œSometimes you have to take one day at a time. By all means you should stay in school.â€
As Frances stood in silent consideration, not having obtained her objective, and doubting the merit of continuing to ask, Sue let go of Jenny long enough to open her purse and remove $5.
â€œYou need to get regular medical attention,â€ Sue said extending the money.
Frances shook her head, but Sue took the young, work-roughened hand and curled the folded bill in her palm.
â€œI want you to have proper care. If you need anything else. If you need to talk.â€
Frances nodded. In moments, she moved the short distance across the pavement and started up the metal fire escape firmly attached to the building by bolts that leaked a slight streak of rust against the brick. Jenny tugged to follow. Sue, with Frances’ load cached in her own heart, firmly guided Jenny toward the back door of the office. Suddenly, a fright laden thought flashed from Sueâ€™s head into her stomach. She remembered hearing of coat hangers being used to terminate pregnancies. With a shudder, she feared what Frances might do. If only Frances had grasped the words intended to convey the preciousness of Jenny that would apply to any child.
The image of Frances faded. Sue again took hold of Jenny’s hand. As they descended the stairs, Sue understood the invaluable aspect of Jenny while considering the cheerful little five-year-old Florida boy, called Skeegle by his friends and family. He had been reported kidnapped the prior week. The search continued, with thousands of volunteers joining G-men to comb the Redlands farming area, the sea front, and fringes of the Everglades swamp. Sue could only scantily imagine the intensity of the parentâ€™s anguished wait.
Outside on the sidewalk, she and Jenny walked to the corner, where a red and green stop light regulated traffic that was never heavy even during business hours. Each intersection around the large, domed courthouse had a traffic light. When they could cross, Jenny hopped down the steep curb, trotted beside her mother, who still clutched her firmly, and took a big stride up to the opposite sidewalk. Within a couple yards, they passed beside a display window of the dry goods store, which in actuality was more like a general merchandise store or a ten cent store. Needing a jar of silver cream, Sue guided Jenny to the entrance. Once inside, Jenny, who loved hugging stuffed bears, dogs, cats, and rabbits, tugged her mother directly to the toy section. Sue eyed the near-by, newly arrived summer fabrics. Although all sewing would have to wait for a few weeks, she could visualize a sunsuit for Jenny. While keeping Jenny in her sights, she began selecting material to have a supply on hand for when time and inspiration merged. Mr. Hufnagel, the proprietor, having another reason to encourage the purchase, approached. His large frame occupied considerable space in the narrow aisle.
â€œThese prints are lovely,â€ admired Sue.
â€œYes, the colors are beautiful. Germans make the best dyes. I hope we won’t have to settle for less one of these days, but it looks as if Hitler’s gearing up for war.â€
Sue noticed the serious expression on his round face, topped by a shiny bald head with sprigs of hair looking like dried foxtail grass above sizable ears. She nodded and said, â€œI thought something might happen when he marched his army into Austria in March.â€
â€œThat was an amazing political coup, wasnâ€™t it?â€
Sue again nodded, remembering how in a matter of days the Nazis had gained control of everything in Austria, which in addition to the government and army included the radio and newspapers.
Mr. Hufnagel further stated, â€œOf course, itâ€™s a union that was already in the making two years ago when Hitler forced Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg to declare his nation a German state. And in February, I figured something was going to happen when Hitler demanded that Austrian Naziâ€™s be given key positions in the countryâ€™s cabinet.â€
â€œThe demonstrations against the Jews also spoke of what was coming,â€ Sue said. Her mouth twisted. With a voice that conveyed the inward concern and feeling for the oppressed, she added, â€œIâ€™m sure theyâ€™re sill in a panic.â€
â€œBut most Austrians were happy and wanted to join the Reich. Thousands screamed and cheered when Hitler arrived in Vienna three days after the tanks.â€
Bypassing a comment about Napoleon being the last conquer who had ridden triumphantly into the ancient capitol of the Hapsburgs, Sue thought of the April plebiscite when more that 99% of Austrians favored the union of the two countries. She said, â€œHitlerâ€™s speeches undoubtedly swayed the people.â€
â€œYes, of course. They saw the Anschluss as a way to claim their lost Teutonic greatness.â€
â€œIâ€™m afraid they wonâ€™t find any greatness aligning with Hitler.â€
Mr. Hufnagel had a twinkle to his eyes as he responded, â€œWhat? You didnâ€™t hear propaganda minister Josef Goebbels, speaking in Vienna, declare they’re not barbarians?â€
Sue smiled before commenting, â€œI know he claimed that Hitler had averted war by tearing the Versailles Treaty to pieces.â€ She remembered when Jenny was a baby early in 1936, how Hitler, a year after re-establishing obligatory military service, had marched his goose-stepping soldiers into the Rhineland in violation of the Versailles Treaty, and received only a verbal condemnation from Britain.
â€œSo, thatâ€™s why Hitler displayed nine tanks of a new design last month.â€ From the sarcasm of implying war intentions, Mr. Hufnagel factually stated, â€œGerman tanks have been criticized for being either too heavy to be very mobile or too light to be good fighters. They must have made some improvements.”
â€œItâ€™s all frightening. I suppose you read about how when the Italian army paraded with tanks and guns some of the marching soldiers wore gas masks and asbestos suits to display their poison gas and flame throwing equipment.â€
â€œYou must be talking about the show the Italians put on when Hitler visited.â€
Sue nodded. The two day affair had been the greatest military spectacle Italy had ever staged. During a realistic display of fighting, the army used live shells and planes dropped real bombs. Thinking beyond the 190 warships that had entered the Bay of Naples, she said, â€œThe submarine display off Capri must have been amazing.â€ She had a visual impression of the 85 submarines that advanced in nine columns and all vanished under the water in about a minute. Then eight minutes later they emerged, still in perfect formation and firing the deck guns.
â€œMussolini claims it’s the largest and most powerful submarine fleet in the world.â€
â€œI really donâ€™t understand promoting war like that,â€ Sue declared, rejecting motives foreign to her nature, despite an intellect that actually understood. She soon added, â€œAnd to think the Royal Opera also performed one evening with a huge chorus. It seems so hypocritical to blend the beauty of the arts with the ugliness of war demonstrations.â€
â€œBut they had to show their power.â€
â€œAnd power leads to conflict.â€
â€œJust like the Spanish revolution,â€ stated Mr. Hufnagel of the civil war, begun already in 1936 with the rebel Nationalist forces lead by Generalissimo Francisco Franco against the leftist governmentâ€™s Loyalist Republican army. It had become a major military conflict between fascist and leftists, involving intense international interest of both political and philosophical elements. Most rich Spaniardsâ€“landlords, capitalist, judges, doctors, professorsâ€“as well as priests, aristocrats and soldiers, comprised the Nationalist and were aided by Germany and Italy. Russia and the French Communist supported the Loyalist.
Sueâ€™s heart tugged as she recalled hearing a radio report in March of the great and historic city of Barcelona being bombed into devastation, killing innocent civilians, with the wounded moaning for help. Her mouth drew tight in responding, â€œWith conflict thereâ€™s always suffering.â€
Mr. Hufnagel envisioned yet another area of world turmoil as he said, â€œThatâ€™s so evident in the Japanese invasion of China.â€
Immediately, Sue experienced a shift in her emotions. She felt the horror of the previous dayâ€™s news that described Japanese airplanes savagely raining death down upon the populous and once attractive city of Canton, causing fires to rage out of control. After eight days of bombing the destruction and carnage appeared to be the worst ever suffered by a city from aerial bombardment.
Mr. Hufnagel continued, â€œIt didnâ€™t do any good that China appealed to the League of Nations. The Japs just keep blasting.â€
â€œTheyâ€™re killing and injuring many innocent people, even children,â€ declared Sue, with the sadness that pressed heavily against her heart reflected in a voice that faltered.
Mr. Hufnagel quickly reverted to previous words saying, â€œYou mentioned gas masks. In Czechoslovakia every citizen is supposed to have one before the end of June.â€ Being a merchant, he added, â€œStandard models cost $3 and the deluxe ones with studier noses and larger eye pieces are going for $6.68 in Prague. They even have lovely blonde women demonstrating how to use them.â€
â€œIt’s horrible to think about. I feel sorry for the people, for children, living where thereâ€™s war or the threat of war.â€ Sue did not remember the exact words of the chief of the Czechoslovakian general staff, who in February said â€œThis country must be prepared for a brutal, quick attack by motorized forces, assisted by an air force, without any warning,â€ but she knew they were determined to resist German aggression. She concluded, â€œI’m truly thankful to live in America. I don’t ever want Jenny exposed to such conditions.â€
Glancing toward the child, Mr. Hufnagel smiled. In the toy section, Jenny had attached herself to a soft, black Scottie dog.
â€œI guess I’d better take your advice and buy material now,â€ said Sue, whose hand skimmed across the batiste, appreciating the sheer luxuriousness, before selecting from the heavier printed cotton at 10 cents a yard.
â€œThe lawns and voiles are also 10 cents,â€ encouraged Mr. Hufnagel.
With her purchases paid for, Sue faced the task of extracting Jenny from the adorable dog. Mr. Hufnagel already knew she would not give-in and buy the toy, nor would she yank it away and drag a screaming child from the store. He listened as she told Jenny, â€œLetâ€™s leave Scottie here to play with his friends. Flopsyâ€™s waiting for you in the car.â€
With a chuckle, Mr. Hufnagel watched Jenny shove the dog back amid the other stuffed animals and bound toward the door, with Sue in pursuit.
After passing the Herzog real estate office, Jenny tugged to enter Daltonâ€™s hardware store.
â€œNot today,â€ Sue told her, despite knowing how much Jenny enjoyed observing the interesting wares and particularly the collection of stuffed wildlife dispersed throughout on counters and walls, and which included not only mammals such as a fox, mink, raccoon, possum, squirrel, deer head and antlers, but also fish, and wild ducks. Bill Dalton, the proprietor, with a deep, resounding voice and a hearty laugh provided a sharp contrast to the inanimate mounts. Despite the appearance of a rugged outdoors man, he possessed a mild manner toward children.
Several strides beyond the double doors of the hardware store, Sue guided Jenny past the concrete steps, parallel with the sidewalk, that went downstairs to the barbershop where a fat red and white cylinder stood between the single door and a wide window that offered some natural light and a partial view inside. Before reaching more declining steps, opposite the first set, Jenny ran her hand across the top of the pipe-like, protective railing until even with the window. Abruptly, she stopped, squatted, and peered downward. With the congregated men engaged in conversation, no one waved. Sue tugged Jenny upright and they continued.
At the corner, they waited for a green light, crossed the street and waited again before crossing to arrive at Lauderman’s, literally a corner drugstore. The two-story brick and limestone building had a double door, wooden below and glass above, that directly faced the corner, as if a gigantic hatchet had chopped a piece from the building. This provided a triangular overhang, supported from the stone stoop by a single post positioned at the apex. Children rarely could resist feeling the smooth metal column, enlarged at the top and bottom. Boys occasionally swung around and around and men sometimes used it as a prop for their backs. Even Jenny reached out her left hand to let her fingers trickle across the smooth, cool surface.
Joe, the druggist and owner, always looked up when a customer entered. He smiled upon seeing his friend’s wife. â€œYou look pretty!â€ he complimented with a salesman’s eye, ever attune to the enticement of the dollar.
Sue acknowledged with a quick, dismissing â€œThank you,â€ before stating, â€œI have a large order today.â€
â€œYou must be getting ready for Dave’s folks.â€
â€œAnd I bet Jenny has in mind a bowl of ice cream,â€ he said as he came from behind the counter.
Sue instinctively backed up several steps to avoid both his dark eyes, which because he stood only an inch taller gazed at a direct level; and the scent of tonic on his neatly combed dark hair. When he worked at a bench behind the counter, blending dry ingredients in a mortar with a pestle before filling capsules, he wore a white smock. Presently, it hung on a hook by a shelf of bottles, and he stood jauntily in a starched, light-blue shirt, a maroon tie, and a navy-blue pin-striped vest that matched his pants. Being in his mid-thirties with a wife, did not, in Sue’s opinion, deter him from flaunting a certain inappropriately insidious masculine charisma.
They moved toward the side of the store where a soda fountain and lunch counter, fronted by stools, faced a space with two small round tables having wooden tops and wire legs. The chairs, with round wooden seats, had thin metal legs. The looping wire backs resembled the whisk used to beat dust from rugs.
Sue smiled and greeted pleasant, plump Mrs. Finke behind the soda fountain before ordering the ice cream. Joe brought a chair extension, placed it securely, and lifted Jenny into position at a table. Like a little lady, Jenny contentedly ate ice cream while her mother proceeded to shop by requesting Ipana toothpaste and Pepsodent tooth powder, Cashmere Bouquet and Woodbury soap.
â€œI’m not sure of their preferences,â€ Sue justified, hoping Joe would not discern an element of insecurity.
â€œIt looks like youâ€™re bending over backwards to please them.â€
Sue shrugged without disclosing how the simple desire to please was complicated by wanting acceptance. â€œI think Dave uses Lavoris in the office, but I’d better have Listerine.â€
â€œWell, if you don’t use it for halitosis you can massage it into your scalp for dandruff. Thatâ€™s better than Glover’s mange medicine.â€
From the Listerine advertising phrase of â€œOften a bridesmaid but never a bride,â€ he said, â€œPretty as Alice is, sheâ€™ll probably hitch up soon now that sheâ€™s graduated.â€
Sue did not bother to mention that graduating and finding the right person to marry constituted separate aspects of life. She needed the standard Kleenex tissues and Scott toilet paper. Barbasol shaving cream and Gillette Blue Blades evoked a question from Joe.
â€œIsn’t Dave using the electric Schick shaver I sold him?â€
â€œYes. He likes it. He doesn’t have any problems because he’s fair, but his father may use a safety razor.â€
â€œHow about some Aqua Velva? It’s good stuff.â€
Envisioning the New York Yankee’s slugging first baseman, who endorses the product, Sue smiled and said, â€œAccording to Lou Gehrig, anyway.â€ She quickly added, â€œWhich may not set too well with an Oriole fan.â€
â€œThat’s right. Daveâ€™s from Baltimore,â€ Joe acknowledged and soon added, â€œI’m not sure I want to believe it was really Casey the Orioles brought in to bat before the Jersey City game last week.â€
â€œCasey?â€ inquired Sue.
â€œYou’ve heard of the mighty Casey who struck out?â€
â€œYes. ‘There is no joy in Mudville’.â€
â€œRight. Well, this seventy-year-old former trolley conductor said he was the real Casey so they brought him in to stage a re-enactment. Except, he wore a business suit and didn’t play out the script. After striking twice, he hit the ball into the infield.â€
Sue smiled. Leaving baseball, she was about to continue with her purchases when a boy stepped next to her. Although Sue smiled at him, her eyes also glimpsed at his intended purchase. The cover said Action Comics and showed a man, in a blue suit, wearing red shoes and with a floating red cape, hefting a green car high overhead, dashing it into a rock while three men fled.
â€œGo ahead,â€ Sue offered.
After completing the 10 cent sale, Joe commented, â€œJust out and selling like hot cakes. If I can ever find a few extra minutes I might have to read the Superman adventure myself. I think heâ€™s around to stay.â€
Again Sue smiled before continuing with her purchases. She hated to pay 39 cents for Arrid deodorant when soap should suffice, but stress might make the precaution necessary. Like her mother, she had smooth hands from rubbing in a dab of lard. Alice liked Jergen’s Lotion. Lastly, Sue decided upon the 30-cent-size box containing a long glass bottle of Alka-seltzer tablets. Although never having requested it herself, she knew that Joe sold it by the glass at the fountain. She did not know whether the elder Eckerts used patent medicine.
â€œBet you could use some Miles Nervine. Just 89 cents,â€ suggested Joe.
Shaking her head, Sue gently disputed, â€œI’m not nervous.â€
â€œHelps with worrying too.â€
In a mild voice, Sue stated, â€œI think of worry more like concern.â€
She paid for everything. Joe knew Dave would pick it up later. She arrived at the table, just as Jenny picked up the empty glass bowl to lick clinging traces of ice cream. Setting it aside, Sue used a napkin to wipe Jenny’s mouth and hands before lifting her to the floor.
â€œLetâ€™s go to the library.â€
On the sidewalk they turned left. They passed the dry cleaners; the Four Star Barâ€”quiet during the morning; Muellerâ€™s bakery with delectable cakes and pies in the window; and the small corner bus station across from the two-story, brick hotel to the north. No one was sitting on the plain white-painted bench flush with the stationâ€™s gray wooden exterior. Anyone waiting on the bus might be seated on the cushioned bench inside where a person could buy tobacco, candy, soft drinks and magazines. Three times a day a bus from the city going south pulled to the curb for a few minutes. Also, three times a day a bus going north to the city stopped, but across the street. Two cars passed on the state road, called Main Street, before the stoplight turned green. Sue and Jenny crossed going west.
Arriving on the opposite sidewalk, Sue paused and asked the small extension of her hand, â€œAre you getting tired, Jenny?â€
Sue smiled. They continued, walking, now beside the green grass and tree lined lawn of the courthouse. Jenny watched two squirrels chase each other while Sue glanced across the street at the Rivoliâ€™s marqueeâ€”despite knowing that she and Dave would forgo their usual Friday night date in preparation for the arrival of his parents.
At the corner, they waited for the light to change. After crossing the street, they walked past the shoe repair shop of Mr. Kulke and the law office of Richard Weingarten. Jennyâ€™s eyes searched the fire station on the opposite side of the street in hopes of seeing, as she sometimes did, their Dalmatian dog. Instead, a man went into the adjoining city hall. Sue guided Jenny past the massive Methodist Church in gray limestone. Without having to wait, they crossed to the red brick Carnegie library with a central dome. Fleetingly, Sue admired the small white-blooming dogwood tree on the lawn, before reaching the concrete steps leading to the door. Inside, she exchanged smiles with her librarian friend, Miss Jennings, behind the large, highly polished wooden circulation desk. With her wire rimmed glasses, slightly disarrayed hair, and angular features, she bore a stereotype librarian image as having been noted by Alice. Because of Jennyâ€™s tug, Sue could only briefly greet Miss Jennings. They exchanged a few more words during check out.
Clutching her book selection with the esteem of a 15th century citizen having a Gutenberg Bible, Jenny pranced beside her mother as they returned to the corner across from the courthouse. Instead of continuing east, they turned south where produce and fruit rested in bins beneath the faded-green canvas awning of Mr. Parsley’s grocery store. A lavender-pink West’s Yum Yum bread advertisement, on a metal sheet attached firmly to the door frame, protected the screen. The ding of a bell, more than the closing thud of the door or their footsteps on the wooden floor, alerted the proprietor, a slender man, whose short straight hair and neat, brown mustache, contrasted the curly image of parsley, his legal name. He came from behind the glass-enclosed butcher counter at the rear. Swiping his hands across a slightly soiled, white apron, he greeted Mrs. Eckert, who released Jenny after placing her book in the cloth bag with her own selection. Mr. Parsley did not offer Jenny a sliver of bologna as he did the children of most good customers because he well remembered when Sue, in behalf of the child, had declined the offering and received a rebuke of, â€œYouâ€™re much too protective,â€ from another mother. Although Sue had accepted the remark with a good-natured nod, she did not deviate from her conviction.
Fifteen-year-old Bobby Parsley, smiled at Jenny. He helped his father after school and in the summer by stocking shelves, waiting on customers and making short-run bicycle deliveries. On Saturday evenings, he helped his father rake the sawdust from the floor behind the meat counter and replace it with new. He watched Jenny head directly for the cookies. Her small hand gently patted the square, slanting, hinged, tin lids of the sunken containers connected in a row and labeled according to content, which included: sugar cookies, glistening with tiny crystals; windmills, containing slivered almonds; brown ginger snaps; round chocolate cookies with marshmallow inside; butter cookies, having scalloped edges and a hole in the center; sugar wafers, in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry flavors; simple vanilla wafers; and sandwich cookies that afforded the pleasure of licking the inside before eating the short bread outside. While Sue gave her list to Mr. Parsley to prepare for a later pick up, Bobby let Jenny explore the cookie possibilities. Like playing a game, she would point to a bin and he would open the lid for her to peek in as he called out the name. Jenny knew that when her mother was ready to leave, Bobby would let her have the cookie of her choice. Being early for certain kinds of produce from her own garden, Sue’s eyes caught sight of some new tomatoes at 18 cents for three pounds, and requested having them added to her order.
Munching away on her crunchy sugar wafer, Jenny contentedly submitted to again being taken by the hand as they left the store and approached the sign that extended over the sidewalk from Mrs. Earl’s one-story, square-fronted restaurant and cafeteria. Shortly, a glance into the large window brought waving hands from two elderly gents at a table.
Next they passed before the two-story stone bank building. Itâ€™s light-gray surface matched the hair coloration of Mr. Yates, the 62-year-old bank president. For many years, Sue knew him casually. Since marriage, social contacts brought further association and an acquaintance with his wife, Bess. From hair color, to age, to eye glasses, to a dignified demeanor and impeccable attire, they complimented each other like the two massive columns fronting the bank building that extended to the corner.
Knowing Jenny might bolt, Sue tightened her hold on the small hand to wait until they could cross the street, pass the furniture store, and enter the front door of the dental office into the waiting room, which Sue had helped to decorate with cheerful light-blue walls, rather than white. The chairs had darker blue cushions. Two maple end tables held warm glowing lamps, used instead of the overhead fixture. She had hung white curtains beside the Venetian blind at the front window and placed several potted house plants on the sill. Dave’s contribution consisted of hanging framed Audubon bird prints on the walls. A wide, open doorway led back to the actual dental room on the left. Here, against the wall, just before the door, stood a desk with the appointment book. Across from the desk, a door opened to the bathroom. At the end of the hall, behind a closed door with a â€œprivateâ€ sign, was Daveâ€™s large work, storage, and office room. Dave had the dental chair positioned so that when standing he could take a mere three steps and see who had entered the waiting room. Despite it being Monday, he registered no surprise when his wife and daughter arrived. Having only one car, he had ridden into town with Adam Schroeder, the grain elevator owner, who had a large farm not far from his own. Obtaining a ride worked better than attempting to accomplish errands together with Sue. Initially, they had tried various arrangements, until finding that Tuesday usually worked best. Although Dave, like most doctors, had Wednesday off, he generally came to the office where he worked on dental plates and accounts, tended to emergencies and saw patients who had canceled earlier appointments. He held regular Saturday morning hours to accommodate those having inflexible jobs during the week. With a six-day work commitment, meetings of the Dental Association, which occasionally required traveling to the city, and membership in both the local Lion’s and Conservation Clubs, Dave kept busy. He tried to mold both work and pleasure, particularly fishing, into a structure that staunchly guarded five evenings at home with Sue and Jenny.
In the waiting room, he kept a small box with toys to amuse the children. Jenny rummaged. Sue picked up a Life magazine from the table. Upon finding that the issue contained 50 pages about youth, 18-24, her thoughts returned to Frances. They faded quickly as her attention focused on the six accounts of Baltimore youth. Rich girl, Betty Fulton, 21, whose picture graced the cover, reminded Sue of Alice, except that Alice had blonde hair and preferred tennis to golf. Betty likes to read good literature and modeled before attending the Maryland Institute to study art. She has a charming room in the familyâ€™s twelve room house. Sue paused, realizing that at almost 22 she herself was still considered a youth despite not thinking of herself as such. White collar boy, Kenneth Jones, 18, passes the plate at church, washes his own striped socks, plays the $110 set of drums he paid $3 a month for with money earned selling gelatin to housewives, and hitch-hikes from the family house in the suburbs to his office job in the city. Factory boy, Joe Myers, 19, inspects fabric at his job, raises pigeons, likes to dance and play pool. A good Catholic, he has a picture of Jesus on his dresser. Farm boy, Tommy Rhodes, 18, has a pretty girl friend and intends to stay on his fatherâ€™s 206 acre farm and increase the yield. Girl with a job, Margery Frevold, 24, works in an insurance office, has Norwegian parents, likes the wooded country of Northern Michigan, is new to the city and often lonely. She lives in a neat $4 a week room, earns under $25 a week, has twelve dresses and eight pairs of shoes. Betty has thirteen dresses and fourteen pairs of shoes. Sue couldnâ€™t imagine owning that many shoes. Boy without a job, Eddie Moore, 17, quit school when his mother became sick, gets up at 6:00 each day to look for employment, shares an austere room with his brother, plays sandlot baseball, wants $300 for glasses and an operation on his infantile paralysis impaired left leg. Touched by the young manâ€™s plight, Sue wished that she could help, but could only rationalize that some wealthy reader would surely donate the amount to Eddie. Reading and skimming through other articles, she chuckled that the favorite pastime of youth is reading the funnies and their favorite place to hangout is the corner drugstore. Of the young men polled, most would fight if a war came, but were not enthused about doing so. They were said to be a â€œrather sorry and depressed lotâ€ with morals no worse than their elders, â€œmore quiet, more honest, more earnest,â€ than youth of the twenties. Things youth want most are an education, jobs and fun. An overhead view showed 700 students at the University of California taking a test in the Boyâ€™s Gymnasium. A young woman, in a casual dress and saddle shoes, was pictured studying outdoors at Wellesley. Sue read: â€œwhether at smart Vassar, scholarly Bryn Mawr, or womanly Wellesley, they all lead a healthy, wind-blown life preparing, usually, for a healthy, comforting marriage.â€ She smiled, thankful for her own comforting marriage. Still smiling, she glanced at Jenny busy with a set of nesting blocks. Back in the magazine, several pages told of 260,000 young men, mostly between 17-23, in 1,500 Civilian Conservation Corp camps. Of the $30 a month they earn, 75% must be sent home to dependent relatives. Other accounts featured youth that go hosteling all over the country, and some in Hollywood aspiring to be stars. Two of the pictures about swing music had dancers doing the Little Apple and Lindy Hop. One showed a certificate of membership in Bob Crosbyâ€™s Bob Cat Club. Sue read: â€œConnie Boswell has made with Bob Crosbyâ€™s band the greatest swing hit since Maxine Sullivanâ€™s â€œLoch Lomondâ€. Her â€œAh So Pureâ€ from the opera Martha has sold 60,000 records. A cripple, Connie gets about in a rhinestone-studded white leather wheelchair.â€ Compassion quickly tightened Sueâ€™s stomach. She gazed at the attractive singer in a flowing gown seated high in the wheelchair that had the appearance of a throne. The bottom half looked like a box with small wheels underneath. Noticing a thin bar at the back of the seat, Sue knew that someone had to push Connie in order for her to move. Most likely, she also had a conventional wheelchair, which she used at other times to get around by herself. It did not seem fair that the accomplished singer could not walk. Jenny liked to sing. Sue glance over just as the child trotted a rubber horse up the wall.
â€œJenny, prance the pony around the chair legs, please.â€
Understanding, Jenny crouched to the floor, and Sue continued reading. Although feeling years removed from being a youth, she still understood that for others there existed the â€œmingled joy and agony of adolescence, the troubled mysteries of sex, the sudden adjustment to an enlarged world of college or work.â€ She read that youth â€œdance and sing. They drink and play, they study and mate.â€ Although they â€œmay seem carefree on the outside,â€ they are â€œby and large a sober lotâ€ having been â€œborn into a dark and muddled age.â€ There is â€œclamor and confusion around them.â€ In their own homes, they hear â€œof wars and worries, the strains and struggles what will soon be theirs to face.â€ Not considering her own future â€œclouded,â€ Sue again thought of Frances. More than likely, there would be hard times ahead for the pregnant teen. Laying aside the magazine, Sue pondered her inability to offer more than minimal help. Jenny climbed onto her motherâ€™s lap.
Sue smiled. â€œYouâ€™re finally tuckered out. Letâ€™s read your library book.â€
Dave, having finished with Mr. Giles accompanied him to the waiting room. â€œIâ€™d like for you to meet my wife, Sue, and daughter, Jenny,â€ Dave introduced, with devotion reflected in his eyes. Being 6’2″ and of an athletic build, he effortlessly picked up the eager child.
â€œItâ€™s Walter the Lazy Mouse,â€ Jenny said lifting her book by Marjorie Flack before his face.
â€œNice,â€ Dave said, lowering the book, and telling his wife, â€œMr. Giles is from over by Elliottsville.â€
Sue extended her hand and they exchanged greetings. Having a deadened mouth, Mr. Giles spoke only a few words before departing.
Scarcely had the door closed before Dave exclaimed, â€œGee, you look pretty, honey.â€
Sue accepted the complementary words, knowing better than to refute what he confirmed with sincere eyes lest she should, by denial, initiate another discussion, which despite his assurances exposed her character flaw of inferiority and left the unpleasant appearance of having sought to have her ego bolstered. She returned his kiss, smiled, and rested in the satisfaction of knowing that, in actuality, he presented the striking image.
Indelibly etched upon her mind, with the same exquisiteness as a frosted forest scene on cranberry-colored glassware, remained the first time she saw him. He stood leaning against a tree talking to Alice in front of the dormitory. Through the window, she had glanced casually and then again with absorption. Her eyes felt indulged in a treat like a child sucking on a piece of stick candy. Flecks of sun alighted upon his slightly wavy, short blonde hair, while faint shadows played across an oval face without distorting the fine features. Occasionally, he flashed a smile at Alice. It further enhanced his appearance, making it difficult for Sue to keep from staring. Even harder to control than gaping eyes was her wildly fluttering heart. Like a mother silencing a child’s mouth, Sue wanted to clamp a hand over such a wayward expression. Despite the unwelcome and unsettling feelings for Aliceâ€™s boyfriend, she made repeated trips to the window to see if they were still talking. As her eyes continued to suck in glances, she finally managed to channel the impression toward visual admiration, like gazing upon a stalk of blue delphinium beside a sprig of pink foxglove. Tall, blonde and beautiful Alice and the handsome young man made a stunning couple.
Sue could still vividly recall how her heart lurched when Alice returned to the room and spoke of having been talking to her brother. Although this changed the circumstances, Sue could not expose her emotion. Like a child alone with a prized find, gazing into a sugar Easter egg with an idyllic scene of colorful flowers, white clouds, green grass, and a cottontail rabbit, she treasured the moment. Later, reason prevailed. If he were Alice’s boyfriend, her position of restraint would be established and could be accepted. Since the freedom to consider possibilities existed, a lack of confidence generated a sudden fright. Surely, he had a girl friend. If not, how dare she, a mere freshman, from the farm, attach aspirations to a handsome, well bred, senior. She wanted to hide from her desires so as to protect vulnerable feelings against failure and hurt. She stuffed cotton into the opening of the sugar egg.
In coming to the university, she had set studying as her priority, never considering masculine interests. Her sensible nature, had difficulty rationalizing how her heart could have betrayed this value with such an impulsive reaction. In high school, when she had accepted a few dates, looks did not even rate as a prime consideration. With this new factor, she searched for reason amid jumbled emotions. Late at night, she came to the resolved conclusion that Daveâ€™s handsome appearance made it possible to set aside her racing heart as a dream reaction separated from reality. A friend at home had a crush on Robert Montgomery. Earlier women had swooned over Rudolph Valentino.
This stabilizing position worked quite well several days later when she and Alice walked along a shady campus path next to a small stream. Dave sighted them, trotted up, received an introduction, and strolled along beside his sister. Other students approached and passed. Sue felt secure that in such a casual setting her fluttering heart could escape detection. Being naturally quiet, in contrast to Alice’s vivaciousness, she remained in the background, responding to occasional words simply and without affectation. Crossing a bridge over a stream, Alice picked up an errant twig and dropped it into the gently flowing water. Dave challenged with one of his own. Sue laughed as they urged on their racing vessels. When they continued walking, Sue noticed a Flicker dining on ants beside an oak tree. For such an identification, she earned one of Dave’s perfect smiles. Alice elaborated on her classes and impressions of campus life. With so much to tell, they arranged to meet on Friday afternoon for a Coke a Cola, â€œThe pause that refreshes,â€ in the Union Building.
Sue remembered counting down the minutes until once again in Daveâ€™s presence. Seated in a booth next to Alice and across from Dave, she sipped the tingly soda pop. With alert eyes and ready smiles, she engaged the moment. It offered a combination of contentment, like a summer evening on the farm with fireflies blinking in the warm air and crickets singing in the grass; and excitement, like viewing the sulky races at the state fair. Her enthralled heart never slowed its rapid pace. Because of having her feelings safely positioned beyond personal expectation, she could be herself. She had to live with the infatuation, like a craving for watermelon in December. At the time of parting, she already anticipated seeing him the following day.
Early on Saturday, two teams of five men, clad only in shorts, stepped into the arena of conflict. With a rope stretched between each side, they took up positions in the watered dirt. A signal sounded and the tugging began. Except for being clean mud, it soon rivaled a hog wallow. Mud being mud, the fair-skinned young men, as they struggled with lurching, bracing motions, changed in appearance to dripping chocolate syrup. Alice cheered wildly with the vastly louder and more numerous freshman crowd. Sue simply smiled, unable to cheer against Dave. After an arduous battle sliding around in the mire, the freshman team gained a sufficient advantage to move the rope inches to victory.
Upon defeat, Dave emerged an almost unrecognizable sight. With Sue following, Alice sought out her brother. Having her camera poised, she snapped his picture. She chided him about losing and razzed him about his stylish brown hair and prominent eye lashes. Dave retaliated by imparting a quick hug. Horrified, Alice uttered a repulsed shriek. For a few seconds, her face flushed with anger. Soon, a grin appeared, making it then safe for Sue to laugh. Dave suddenly looked at Sue. He did not touch her.
With his face covered by mud, to the near obscuring of his identity, he asked in a serious, sincere voice, â€œWould you care to go to the dance with me tonight?â€
Such a request startled Sue worse than had she been embraced. With her heart rushing like the new streamlined Zephyr train dashing from Denver to Halsted Street in Chicago, 1,015.4 miles in a record 13 hours, 5 minutes and 44 seconds, an average 78.1 mph, during May of 34, Sue could manage only a confirming nod.
â€œI’ll pick you up at seven.â€
â€œTake two showers and clean under your fingernails,â€ instructed Alice.
They soon parted. A grating inner concern quickly replaced Sueâ€™s momentary elation. After fretting awhile in silence, she allowed thoughts to flow outward in sharing with Alice. It struck Alice as humorous that Sue should feel frightened and inferior. Rather that take offense to Aliceâ€™s reaction, Sue let it boost her confidence. Although Alice had a flair for foot-lighting her own actions, she considered it right for Sue to be totally herself. Further, she portrayed her brother as quite ordinary, with simple tastes, liking both people and animals, especially birds.
â€œHe doesnâ€™t swear or smoke,â€ Alice made a point to include, before revealing with a touch of pride that he ran track in high school and now sings in the glee club. Alice evaluated him as actually less egotistical and more considerate than most young men.
â€œHeâ€™s a pretty good guy.â€ This she related even after the laborious task of soaking and scrubbing the mud from her dress, a favorite one.
Sueâ€™s mental moment came to an abrupt conclusion, hearing Jenny tell her daddy, â€œI had ice cream and saw goldfish.â€
â€œDid you catch some of the fishies for our lunch?â€
â€œThen, I suppose Iâ€™ll have to take you to Mrs. Earlâ€™s.â€
Sue smiled. Although she had not told Jenny, it had been planned ahead. Depending on time and schedules, Sue did not always stop at Daveâ€™s office or go to lunch with him when in town.
After Dave left for the office in the morning, Sue tied a bandana around her newly fashioned hair, and mentally planned an agenda as she washed the breakfast dishes.
â€œStand still while I pour,â€ she told Jenny, rummaging in a gadget drawer. Gripping the wooden handle of the aluminum teakettle, Sue poured boiling water over the clean, stacked dishes and finished by dousing the dish rag.
When all had been dried, she extended the towel to Jenny, saying, “Would you hang this in the pantry please?”
Jenny scampered off. She knew exactly how to drape the striped linen cloth over the wooden dowel on the back of the door. She returned as her mother placed the black iron skillet in a cabinet below the counter. Jenny tugged on her apron.
â€œAll right, but we have a busy day today.â€
In the front room, Jenny climbed onto the bench fronting the large, upright piano with a scroll-designed lattice across the front. Sue sat down beside Jenny and opened the hinged cover to expose the black and white ivory keys. From a consistency of practice criteria, Sue ranked with the performing artists. Jenny never let her forget a day. It had become ingrained into the morning like getting dressed; feeding Laddie on the back porch; and eating breakfast after a blessing on the food.
Sue randomly opened a book of music on the rack and began to play. With graceful hands, having long, slender fingers that could easily reach an octave, she adeptly depressed keys to evoke the lively and stirring strains of â€œHappy Days Are Here Again.â€ Jenny squirmed in delight, patted her hands together and occasionally pressed a key with a small finger. The tempo varied as Sue played â€œWhen You and I Were Young, Maggie,â€ â€œMissouri Waltz,â€ and â€œItâ€™s Only a Paper Moon.â€
She then covered the piano keys. â€œThat’s all. We have lots of work. In a few days your grandma and grandpa Eckert will be here.â€
Soon, standing on a sturdy carved oak chair, pulled over to the window from the large dining room table, Sue took down the rod and slipped off the lacy, white curtains, which she placed in an oval, wicker laundry basket.
â€œHold on tight to the railing,â€ she instructed Jenny, as they descended the steep, open, wooden steps to the basement. From under the stairs, Jenny latched onto the drawstring of a cloth bag of plain wooden blocks, dragging it onto a braided rug covering an area of the concrete floor. Sue had made this place for Jenny to play, safely away from the laundry facilities. Sometimes, she let Jenny stand on an overturned wooden box to observe the washing process. Despite having taught Jenny not to touch the round metal, electric Maytag washing machine, Sue always watched her carefully, knowing of a child who had been electrocuted because of a wet floor, a short in the wiring, and the metal conductor.
Sue rolled the washer over to the two heavy square, metal tubs permanently attached to the concrete block wall below the water faucets. She connected a hose to the hot water to feed into the circular washer with the agitator. As the water flowed in, she reached for the dark-blue and orange, bull’s-eye design, Oxydol box. A swish of the hand helped turn the soap to suds prior to evenly adding the curtains. She poured a small amount of bleach from the dark-glass Clorox bottle into the water. After opening the cellar door, she retreated back into the basement. â€œLetâ€™s go outside,â€ she called to Jenny.
Carrying a cumbersome, folded wooden frame, Sue followed Jenny up the concrete steps. Outside in the sunshine, Sue set up the contraption. Six legs supported the boards forming a rectangular shape and having tiny exposed brass nails evenly lining the entire outer surface with more pricking potential than a porcupine.
Jenny played with her small rubber farm animals in the sandbox, while Sue went inside the house for the throw rugs. She had earlier brought the ones from the bedrooms downstairs. Outside, as she began to give the first one a vigorous shake, she thought of the large area rugs in the dining and living rooms. Being awkward than heavy to carry, Dave had helped her roll them up. In succession, each had been draped over their shoulders and carried a distance from the house where they were hefted across a clothes line tightly stretched between tree branches. Dave had taken the first turn at clasping the wooden handle of the curved wire whip, and smacking the broad surface causing a slight puff of dust to burst forth like spores from a dry puffball fungi. As he continued to beat the rug, Jenny and Laddie came bounding over. Wheeling about, Dave lifted the scalloped wire behind his head, scrunched up his face and teased Jenny with the demeanor of an alien. Sue shook the last throw rug and smiled visualizing Jenny’s delighted squeals. After replacing the rugs, she brought outside the two throw pillows from the sofa. The black velvet one had a brown stag painted amid the vivid colors of a forest scene. It received the first gentle pats. It did not emit any visible dust. Neither did the one colorfully embroidered with the scripture verse: â€œThis is the day which the Lord hath made: we will rejoice and be glad in it,â€ which was Daveâ€™s favorite pillow, admittedly, less for the verse than because she had made it when in high school. Sue liked the one with the deer. It reminded her of Dave and his strength in watching over their home. Satisfied, she took the pillows back to the sofa..
â€œYou look like youâ€™ve been to the beach,â€ Sue told Jenny as she brushed particles from the childâ€™s cotton dress before they returned to the basement.
Sue filled both tubs with cold water. With the sawed off, smoothly sanded broomstick handle, she fished the curtains from the still hot suds and fed them through the wringer, making sure they did not twist around. They slithered like flattened albino snakes from the rollers into the rinse where Sue swished them around with her hand before releasing the wringer to swing between the tubs so the curtains could receive a second rinse in the other tub. Wanting to make sure that they were totally free of residue, she let out the water on the right side and refilled it with fresh. After the third rinse, when the curtains came out of the wringer on one side and the water flowed down the chute into the tub on the other, she placed them in the wicker basket. Before taking them outside, she put three bottom sheets into the sudsy water. The top sheets had already been placed on the beds to now serve a week on the bottom. Sue added the other items from the previously sorted pile on the floor. As the second load began to wash, she looked at Jenny’s block structure.
â€œWhat a fine house youâ€™ve built.â€
â€œNot a house, a castle.â€
Sue smiled at the correction, pleased that Jenny, from being read to daily and hearing adult speech, spoke quite plainly, often in simple sentences. â€œWho lives in your castle?â€ asked Sue, interested in Jennyâ€™s enlarging imagination.
â€œGoldlocks,â€ Jenny responded.
â€œOh, and the three bears.â€
â€œNooo,â€ Jenny said, thinking her mother should know better, â€œThey live in the woods.â€
Outside, Jenny briefly watched her mother attach the wet, lacy curtains to the frame at the corners and then begin to stretch the material onto the pins. Jenny had felt the sharp points that sometimes made inept fingers bleed and understood that she would have to wait until older to perform the task. Later, Jenny remained outside to dig with her small, square, flat, red, tin shovel, when Sue went inside the house. Sue could watch her from the dining room window, which she washed clean of hand and nose smudges using vinegar water. Rubbing the panes dry with a chamois made the glass squeak.
Before bringing Jenny inside, she used a sudsy cloth to wipe the two permanent clothes lines, which stretched between metal poles imbedded in concrete at the side of the yard; hung out the clean wash and placed a load of print dresses in the washing machine. Unlike most farm wives who had to use a wash boardâ€“some with ripples of glass and some with metal over which to rub the soiled clothâ€“she did not have grimy overalls to scrub. She kept the board leaning against the wall to use when needed on an occasional stain.
In the kitchen, she prepared thick, creamy potato soup to which she added previously cooked, diced chicken liver. Making sure Jenny had a nourishing lunch and a nap, was an integral part of every day.
Dave, who usually ate lunch at the counter in the drugstore, listened as several men spoke of a picture they had seen in the newspaper of Lieut-Gen. Seishiro Hagaki, named Japanese War Minister and given command over the army with orders to bring the war with China to a quick victory.
â€œHe might do it too. Heâ€™s an especially able field strategist and I thought his look was that of confidence.â€
â€œYeah, well, Iâ€™d sure like to smack him one in the kisser for all the suffering Chinese.â€
Several men chucked. One agreed.
Following a brief silence, Mr. Dalton said, â€œThe father of that kidnapped boy looked weary.â€
â€œI thought sad. Heâ€™s given up hope.â€
â€œIt probably didnâ€™t help that the body of Peter Levine washed ashore on a Long Island Sound Beach about the time his boy went missing.â€
â€œI donâ€™t remember Peter.â€
â€œThat’s probably because he was kidnapped back in February. He was the 12-year-old son of a New York attorney.â€
â€œThe Levines may have money, but the Cash boyâ€™s fatherâ€™s not wealthy, just prosperous.â€
â€œHeâ€™s already paid the $10,000 ransom.â€
â€œIt should be against the law. Other countries make paying ransoms illegal. Itâ€™s no wonder kidnappers here have a hay day. Imagine, 21 major abductions by professionals since 1932 and seven were children with only three returned safely so far.â€
Dave who had merely been listening concluded with everyoneâ€™s desire, â€œLetâ€™s hope little James is the fourth to be found alive and well.â€
Back at the office, Dave smiled when a mother urged her nine-year-old to the dental chair by saying, â€œIt will soon be over with and youâ€™ll have the whole summer to enjoy yourself.â€
After lunch, Sue continued with household tasks while Jenny napped. When Jenny awoke, they sat on the front porch glider to drink cups of milk.
â€œLetâ€™s get some peas and lettuce,â€ Sue said to Jenny when finished.
With a basket, they trekked off to the sizable vegetable garden that grew in the sunny middle of a large partially fenced area north-east of the garage. Further north, beyond the garden was a small orchard with three slightly staggered rows of fruit trees. Corn grew to the east. The spreading branches of several large apple trees always dropped some fruit into the cornfield. To the west of the orchard and garden there was a large, tree-shaded, fenced chicken yard. While most of the neighboring farmers allowed their chickens to run free, Sue preferred to keep herâ€™s contained, except for when turned out among the vegetables or fruit trees to eat insects. It simplified having to hunt eggs from woodpiles, barn lofts, or behind a grinding wheel. Although the rather large two-story hen house, with a slanting roof and ten small glass windows in two tiers, remained, the poultry population had been reduced to four laying hens. Neither she nor Dave could kill chickens to eat. Besides terminating the life of a farm friend, she did not like the process of dipping the dead chicken in boiling water, removing feathers, and extracting entrails. Fortunately, her brother Harold and his wife Martha cheaply provided poultry scrubbed so clean that not a pin feather remained.
Noticing a chickweed by the young beet sprigs, Sue plucked it from the soil. A further look around and a hesitation to leave the garden attested to how she favored growing vegetables and flowers even above the conscientiousness of housekeeping. In her thoughts, rested an image of the evenings following supper when Dave would help thin the carrots, cultivate the beans, snip the flowers off the potatoes vines, or pull weeds from around the young cabbage plants. She often cooked tender fresh lamb’s quarter weeds with spinach and Dave sometimes would nibble on a sprig of sheepâ€™s sorrel. Jenny knew not to pull garden plants unless shown. At will, she could pluck white clover blossoms from the grass to stick through the fence to attract chickens. Sueâ€™s smiling glance at the chickens shifted to her precious little one as they left the garden. Leaving the produce in the kitchen, she removed a load of colored clothes from the line. In the basement, she placed the basket near a small table with a white enamel top and wooden legs. Having secured a small pan of water, she began to flick droplets on items of clothing, roll them up, and add them to the basket with already prepared items for ironing the next day. She smiled when Jenny came to watch. Momentarily, Jenny shrieked and then laughed as a few flicked drops of water streaked her face. Sue grinned, wiped the moisture and enfolded her in a hug.
Returning to the kitchen, Sue began supper preparation. Jenny ate a few raw peas from a pod. Because of Daveâ€™s work, they usually had their main meal in the evening, unlike most farm families who ate their heartiest meal at noon. Being the first to greet her daddy when he arrived from the office, Jenny followed him upstairs as he went to change clothes. They washed hands together before heading to the table.
â€œIt’s delicious,â€ Dave sincerely complemented, just as he had the previous day when initially eating the first bite of tender pork roast, with a sauce of dried apricots that Sue had soaked, simmered with sugar, and pureed.
Without a response, Sue smiled. Her eyes reflected both the happiness found in pleasing Dave and a satisfaction from having extended the extra thrust of forced energy that had been required to present the leftovers as another complete meal.
Whereas Jenny, by the innocence of childhood, expected as routine her mother’s dutiful care, Dave appreciated Sue’s efforts. â€œThank you for the wonderful dinner,â€ he said when finished eating. As Sue began to clear the table, Dave detected the effects of all the hard work, evident despite the guise of a fresh dress, washed face, and combed hair. â€œYou look tired. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect for my folks.â€
â€œI know. I’ve just done the basic spring house cleaning.â€
Dave almost smiled. Like the artificially raised salmon released in the ocean that fight their way over the same route to the same spawning ground used by their parents, spring house cleaning seemed an almost inherited ritual that occurred annually when the fruit trees bloomed and the coal furnace turned cold. He had already helped, not only with the rugs, but also by washing the outside of the upstairs windows that required leaning a ladder against the house. He had used a step ladder when helping with the huge task of wallpaper cleaning. First came the ceiling and then working down the walls. Even Jenny had received a small amount of pliable, pink, freshly fragrant cleaner, which Sue had kneaded after removal from a can. Imitating her parents, Jenny had rubbed the wall, but lost interest before her allotted dough turned dark gray from collecting coal soot.
Sue did not exclude the already scrubbed and waxed linoleum floor or the washed, yellow painted walls when she said, â€œAll that’s left is the kitchen and I’m not going to take the dishes from the cabinets to wash or change the shelf paper until Alice comes. She can watch Jenny.â€
Sue continued her labors of preparation in the morning. Dave tended several patients and worked on a dental plate before going to the barbershop, where a few men went daily for a 20 cent shave and others dropped in just to chat about such things as sports, happenings around town, or events in the world. Passing through the door, his nose encountered the manly aroma of hair tonic blended with tobacco smoke, as distinctive as the scent of cakes and pies at the bakery or fishing bait in the hardware store. He first gave a nod to the seated men and then greeted Alva, the barber, who in the warm months wore short-sleeve white shirts, always with a tie. He was a mild-spoken man of 46, of a medium build, having dark hair, short on the sides and nicely parted on top. Once Dave had laughed to himself when wondering who cut Alva’s hair and thinking it might be his wife using a kit purchased from a Sears catalog. Martha always cut the hair of her husband and sons. Dave’s arrival placed him as a bookmark between two pages. Septuagenarian Orin Carter, semi-retired from farming, engaged Dave’s friend, Mr. Hadley, the staid, middle-aged proprietor of the furniture store, in a discussion of the effects of the government crop control law, specifically called the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the first of which had been passed in 1936.
â€œBack far as I kin remember I wus taught ta work fer what I git. Itâ€™s only right ya git rewarded fer effort, not fer doin nothin.â€
â€œItâ€™s a matter of controlling supply and demand for an increased income,â€ countered Marian Hadley, his square jaw that jutted out like a stone cliff adding an authoritative bent to the words.
â€œJus aint right. Folks bein hungry in our great land an starvin in the world, an someoneâ€™s thinkin bout money in thur pocket.â€
â€œI donâ€™t think itâ€™s greed to look out for oneâ€™s own affairs.â€
â€œIf ya love the land, sein seeds grow an all, ya feel the landâ€™s a trust, an ya should use it ta give not jus take. Bad enough bein told not to grow somethin, but itâ€™s flat out wrong ta destroy a crop.â€
â€œI agree. A better option would be to find a market.â€
â€œYouâ€™re darn tootin.â€
Dave did not express an opinion, but he thought of food as being essential to the welfare of individuals. Undernourished people are less apt to work, achieve, and prosper. It seemed only charitable that if a surplus existed it should grace empty tables. Dave knew Orin, at his farm house, had plenty to eat as did Marian Hadley, whose well-rounded, attractive gray-haired wife Beatrice was a good cook.
Having exhausted the subject the men turned to baseball with the mention of how umpire Bill McGowan had ordered Cleveland pitcher Johnny Allen to cut off part of his shirt sleeve because its dangling distracted batters. Dave smiled and Orin surmised, â€œBet ya Allenâ€™s gonna git hit in the pocketbook fer refusin.â€
Dave knew Sue would have complied, yet it would have been hard for her to disfigure anything. When Dave took a seat on the leather upholstered, carved oak barber chair, previously used by Alva’s father, Alva first draped a white cloth around Dave and then, knowing that Dave never spoke of his office work or clientele, asked about his family.
â€œSue planned to work part of the day in the yard and part in the basement. My folks are coming and she thinks everything has to be just so. I told her I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if my mother visits the cellar.â€
With a smile, Alva said, â€œYou no doubt know your mother, but I can never predict what women will do.â€
When finished clipping Dave’s hair, Alva used a soft brush to remove the clippings. Once he had slipped the cloth off, Dave stood up and fished coins from his pocket. Making sure the others did not notice he gave Alva two quarters for the 35 cent cut. Dave appreciated the hard working barber who kept his aged parents and a daughter who had moved home with her three children.
Dave returned home to a daughter with a toad in a jar.
Daveâ€™s morning patients included several children, who became more relaxed when given a chance to talk about frogs, toads and turtles. A women patient, without mentioning the names of Bernstein and Bourdet, said, â€œI thought duels were a thing of the past.â€
â€œWho was dueling?â€
â€œTwo play writers in France, who used to be good friends, but when one thought the other was snubbing his play Judith they began to insult each other in the newspaper until it lead to a duel.â€
â€œAnd what happened?â€
â€œThey fought with epees until the one named Bernstein jabbed the other in the arm to the bone. They didnâ€™t resolve anything.â€
â€œIt doesnâ€™t surprise me.â€ Dave smiled.
â€œIâ€™d better relax. I know Iâ€™m soon to be jabbed with a needle in the gum.â€
Dave laughed before seriously assuring, â€œI promise not to jab. Iâ€™ll try to be gentle.â€
Later, a male patient mentioned that Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had proposed a withdrawal of foreign troops from Spain, and queried, â€œGuess who balked?â€
â€œNo. Germany, France, and Italy agreed. Russia refused.â€
â€œI should have known that the Communist have the most to gain.â€
At home, Jenny informed her father, â€œToady went to live in the garden.â€
â€œDid you get tired finding slugs for him to eat?â€
â€œI didnâ€™t find slugs for him,â€ responded Jenny, looking concerned.
Sue smiled at Dave. â€œNow, assure her that she wasnâ€™t negligent.â€
During supper, Dave revealed from the news, â€œThey found the body of the little Florida boy.â€
â€œOh no!â€ Sue exclaimed as the finality registered.
â€œJ Edgar Hoover himself lead a party of G-men into the mango swamp where this suspect directed them. The dead child had been tossed into a palmetto clump.â€
â€œThat poor mother!â€
By Saturday evening, the house, yard, and garden rivaled the Vanderbiltâ€™s Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. After Sue had finished washing the super dishes, Dave appreciatively eased her onto the porch glider to rest. She smiled watching him chase a squealing, delighted Jenny around and between trees on the front lawn.
â€œWeâ€™re going to the barn. Jenny wants to see the new calf,â€ Dave called as he hoisted Jenny onto his shoulders.
Dave returned to find Sue, clutching the newspaper and bleary-eyed. He had earlier read an account of the kidnapped boyâ€™s funeral. The mother had sobbed uncontrollably. Taking a seat on the glider, he kissed Sueâ€™s cheek.
â€œOh, Dave. Itâ€™s so sad. Weâ€™re so fortunate. Youâ€™re so good.â€
Dave understood her reaction to how the wife of the confessed killer had refused to see her husband. He was a twenty-one-year-old, form a family of ministers, who did not have a criminal record and did not intend to kill the child, who suffocated from being gagged. The young manâ€™s greed had devastating effects on a number of lives. Dave knew that Sue, like the wife, could not stomach such evil. Yet, he also knew how uncomfortable she would be if, as was likely, Pastor Larkin would preach a sermon on condemnation and sin the next day.
Divertingly, he mentioned that pea cutting was underway in the county, with the cannery having opened its receiving stations. As an afterthought, he considered how the reverendâ€™s eyes looked like brown, dried peas behind the wire-rimmed spectacles that rested on a nose, sizable in portion to his small stature. Undoubtedly, his hands, accustomed to shaking those of parishioners, would do well extracting peas from the pod, if ever he had need to labor. Dave reached over to hold the hand of his sweetheart.
Sue used Monday for details of readiness. She replaced both the top and bottom sheets on all the beds, provided clean towels in the small upstairs bath with the claw-foot tub as well as in the less convenient, but larger and more modern downstairs bath with a built in tub. She brought in cut flowers and dead-headed ones in the flower beds. She swept the porches and the flagstone walk, the pride of Dave who had laid it to extend from the front porch around the side of the house to where it met the one he had laid from the driveway to the side porch outside of the kitchen. After providing a bowl of water, she attached Laddie to his rarely used chain by the doghouse. Jenny received a bath after her nap. Dressed in a clean, carefully starched and pressed light-blue dress with short puffy sleeves and a rounded collar, she made repeated trips to gaze out the windows. She had to remain inside because Sue did not want her to look scruffy before the guests saw the picture-pretty child.
â€œWhen’s Auntie coming?â€ Jenny frequently asked as she left her window vigil to follow her mother, who rather nervously tasted again the food, dusted once more the top of the dining room sideboard, and changed the position of a flower in the centerpiece.
Dave’s foot settled steadily on the accelerator to drive at the 50 MPH speed limit on the state road. He slowed upon entering Mahlersburg. With a smile, he glanced toward his mother, gazing out the window.
â€œWell, here’s â€˜my town,â€™â€ he declared, in a parody of Our Town, a Thornton Wilder play recently opened in New York. â€œ’It’s typical, timeless, and familiar,’â€ he added, still smiling.
His mother understood the inference, and commented, â€œI think it’s ridiculous to have a play without sets.â€
â€œYou’re supposed to use your imagination, Mother,â€ Alice and Dave in chorus informed her.
They laughed, while she remarked about the courthouse, a limestone building situated amid a tree graced lawn on a slight elevation, â€œWhat an attractive setting.â€
Mr. Eckert, peering out the window in the opposite direction, observed, â€œI see you have a Sanitone Cleaners.â€
â€œYes. We have paved sidewalks too,â€ Dave added.
â€œWhy, they even have a dentist,â€ Alice inserted.
Dave grinned and seriously told his parents, â€œWeâ€™ll come back, maybe tomorrow, and Iâ€™ll show you my office.â€
â€œI saw you have a hotel. You could bring us into town tonight to stay there.â€
â€œNo. Iâ€™m sleeping on the sofa. Itâ€™s comfortable and Sue has a roll-a-way bed from the attic in the guest room with Alice.â€
Once through town, the street again became a highway, which Dave followed for a few miles until he turned and drove with particular caution over the hilly country road that dipped and twisted, rose and curved like a rabbit chase. Possessing an adopted pride for the area, he called attention to several large sycamore trees, with peeling light-brown bark on white trunks. He pointed out the small stream edging through the gully of a steep wooded slope and the contented Holstein cows grazing in a gently rolling pasture. Not wanting his motherâ€™s impression tainted by squalor, he felt a certain relief that he would not have to pass the Jonesâ€™ place where Sue sometimes took their leftover food. After almost four miles, he again turned. Although the terrain did not change, the road now ran in a straighter course and had a surface consisting of mostly worn away gravel, stained brown by a recent application of oil to retard the dust. While thankful that his mother would not be irritated by powdery white particles, he could only hope that she would tolerate stretches of surface referred to as a corduroy road. He dove even more slowly, calling attention to the pastoral beauty. After turning onto Hawthorn Road, he drove less than a mile before almost coming to a stop. When he turned, his parents recognized the property from snapshots.
The dirt lane passed a short distance between a fenced pasture to the west and a cornfield to the east where tiny sprigs of green showed through the brown soil. Dave explained that planting had been late this spring because of a dry April that had hardened the ground, and a very wet May, which made plowing impossible. With an optimistic voice, he mentioned a summer of growing ahead. It reflected the attitude of Harold, a Purdue graduate, who farmed the land, in addition to his own, and felt positive about a harvest. To Harold, not only economics, but also pride pervaded his labors. Dave’s father, who had lent money toward the purchase of the farm from Sueâ€™s parents when they retired to live with their other daughter, considered it strictly a matter of profit. Dave, who knew very little about farming, tried to sound informed.
â€œWe grow Pioneer Hi-bred corn. It increases the yield.â€
Being avidly interested in conservation, Dave could easily explain the growth of so-called weeds along the fences.
â€œThey provide a habitat for birds and other wildlife.â€ Dave smiled thinking of how Harold continued according to his meticulous German heritage to keep all his fence rows neatly trimmed. He sometimes needled Dave about the ragged appearance created by Queen Anne’s lace, mullein, and trumpet vines. Harold had even won a â€œNeater Farmâ€ award for having the cleanest barn, animals, equipment, home-site, and fences. Aside from the fence weeds, Dave felt confident his place would have received the first prize.
The cornfield rolled like a beach up to where several tall pine trees stood as sentinels on the front lawn shaded primarily by the mature sugar maple trees. The cornfield continued along the side yard of the house, past the root cellar, the garden and orchard to finally end where the meadow began.
â€œI never was particularly fond of cows,â€ Mrs. Eckert stated.
Several grazed in the pasture that converged with the fenced, bare ground along the side of the large bank barn, having a peaked gambrel roof, a concrete block base with four south windows, a rectangular back extension with an open lower half, and a silo.
The barn, impressively dominant, stood on a slight rise, that slanted downward on either side of the large square door that faced the lane. Here the lane enlarged and ended, leaving a grassy area between the barn and a small garage a short distance beyond the two-story frame residence, a simplified Queen Anne.
â€œWhat an attractive house,â€ Mrs. Eckert declared as Dave steered the car onto the shady driveway, parallel to the lane. He stopped, before reaching the garage, and turned off the motor.
â€œWeâ€™ve done some extensive refurbishing both inside and out, as Alice knows,â€ Dave proudly declared.
Alice, far less interested in structures than those who dwell therein, quickly opened the back car door, slid out, and started up the flagstone walk.
With the first sighting of the car, Jennyâ€™s voice rang out, â€œTheyâ€™re here! Theyâ€™re here!â€
Thus alerted, Sue proceeded directly behind Jenny out through the screen door of the kitchen. Sue and Alice, meeting just beyond the side porch steps, thrust open their arms. Mrs. Eckert, in a deep-blue silk dress, approached slowly in emphasis of a sophisticated bearing. Her husband and son, both of whom wore white shirts and carried their suit jackets, followed. They all paused, like cars encountering a traffic obstruction, before Alice and Sue. Jenny soon became a squirming wedge, forcing herself between the embracing forms. Alice smiled and lifted the child into her arms. Sue gave her mother-in-law a loose, but affectionate hug.
â€œHow are you?â€ Sue asked sincerely, despite the instantaneous distraction of the large jeweled broach.
It reminded Sue of the one with a camera lensâ€”as the â€œbrilliantâ€ centerâ€”worn by the pretty heroine on an assignment to track spies in the newspaperâ€™s daily cartoon serial Myra North, Special Nurse. Sue then shook Mr. Eckertâ€™s hand as they exchanged a few words. Alice, with the intent of presenting her niece, lowered Jenny to the ground. Immediately, Jenny ducked cautiously behind her mother. Sue turned and gently guided Jenny, by a shoulder, into the view of her grandparents. Jenny tucked her chin down, glued her eyes to her polished, white high-top shoes, and folded her arms in a deadlock. She refused to look up even when spoken to in a coaxing voice by her grandmother.
â€œWhy’s she acting like that?â€ frowned Dave.
Bewildered and embarrassed, Sue shook her head. â€œI don’t know.â€
â€œShe’s never been bashful before,â€ Alice commented.
â€œBashful,â€ registered with Sue. â€œJenny, are you being a Bashful?â€
Jenny moved her head in a slight affirmative nod.
â€œBut Jenny, the Watchbird doesn’t want you to be a Bashful, remember?â€
â€œI want to be a Bashful.â€
â€œAll right, except could you wait until after lunch?â€
Alice laughed and squatted, her black gown curling on the ground.
â€œJenny, I know some really friendly Bashfuls. How would it be if you and I were both friendly Bashfuls?â€
Sue sighed as Jenny nodded her head, whereupon Alice formally introduced the child to her parents. After responding to a few questions, Jenny wanted the singular attention of her aunt. Alice carried her as they all proceeded around the side of the house.
Mrs. Eckert dallied slightly, admiring the flowers. â€œWhat beautiful yellow day lilies. And the coral bells add such a nice touch. It’s just lovely!â€ Shifting areas of notice, she eyed her son disdainfully. â€œI hardly think you’d need a bird feeder in the country. Theyâ€™re so messy.â€
â€œJenny likes watching birds,â€ Dave defended, bracing for a comment about the woodpile, which though perfectly stacked, so that a chipmunk could run through it but not a cat, had a position close to the house. He was prepared to say, â€œWe love the Carolina wrens that live inside.â€ Although their Genus name Troglodytidae meant cave dweller, he didn’t know for sure whether the wrens nested there or used the woodpile as a safe place to dart into, especially in the barren winter months. Because they were full of activity with expressive tails and a clear, loud song heard almost all year long, they provided a delightful addition to the yard.
Without a further comment, Mrs. Eckert proceeded to the front porch, where her interest shifted to the light-green wicker furniture.
â€œHow unique. It gives quite a different impression from the genteel quality of white.â€
Alice, hoping Sue had not gleaned the hint of derision in her motherâ€™s words, spoke in quick support. â€œIt looks great!â€
Dave gave his wife an approving look as he elaborated, â€œWe bought the set used and Sue really performed a transformation with paint and by recovering the cushions with a floral print.â€
Although grateful for the approbation of her husband, Sue still desired the affirmation of his mother. Entering the house, Mrs. Eckertâ€™s eyes surveyed the decorating and expressed approval, being impressed by the strand of elegance woven into the pattern of comfort. She removed her hat and white gloves, handing them to Dave. Although Sue encouraged her mother-in-law to relax in the front room with the others, she nevertheless followed Sue through the dining room into the kitchen. While asking questions, Sue poured lemonade from a green glass pitcher into glasses already placed on a tray. Mrs. Eckert carried the tray to the porch. Sue lingered, spreading bread with Alaskan salmon purchased in a tall can for ten cents and which she had previously prepared by adding Miracle Whip, chopped pickle and celery.
Alice placed Jenny on her father’s lap, to sip from his glass, while she went to the kitchen.
â€œYou look great!â€ exclaimed Sue.
â€œThanks. We’d better take pictures soon, because I’m ready to take off this gown. Do you need any help?â€
â€œNo, I fixed the salmon spread earlier, but didnâ€™t want soggy bread.â€
â€œI know you’ve worked hard.â€
â€œI want it to be nice for you and the folks. Iâ€™m sorry I wasnâ€™t there to see you graduate.â€
â€œIt was the usual long trek to the field house, followed by a lot of sitting and name recitation.â€
â€œHow many graduates were there?â€
â€œNine-hundred and eighty-eight, but there were only a few of our freshman dorm friends.â€
â€œVirginia Nelson? She had such a beautiful voice.â€
â€œBetter than mine?â€ teased Alice.
â€œNo, just more operatic.â€
â€œShe got married. So did Lou Ann and Juanita.â€
â€œWhat about Josephine who wore a brace from having had polio?â€
â€œJosephine Harris. She was in some of my English classes. She graduated with a degree in journalism.â€
â€œAnd walked all that distance?â€
â€œShe used a cane and kept getting slower.â€
â€œI’m so glad she graduated. What about the colored girl, Cora, from Chicago?â€
â€œCora Daniels. Yes, she graduated and I think she’s going to attend medical school.â€
â€œAre there anymore disadvantaged youâ€™d like to remember?â€
Sue smiled. â€œI just like to see people succeed.â€
â€œIt’s the American dream, especially overcoming adversity,â€ Alice said, muffling in jest words that rang with truth.
â€œAnd you didn’t even have to wait tables or scoop ice cream sodas,â€ Sue gently needled.
â€œHey, I did enough of that when I was in high school. My father was a slave driver. I even had to mop the drugstore floor.â€
â€œThe training paid off. You graduated.â€
â€œI did what was required. You won’t find my name on the dean’s list or in the student edition of Who’s Who. You were the studious one.â€
â€œIâ€™ve always enjoyed learning. Even in grade school, I planned on going to college. It may sound strange, but someday when my children are raised, I’d like to go back to the university.â€
â€œChildren?â€ asked Alice with raised brows of sudden interest.
â€œNo. As much as I wish, I’m not expecting.â€
â€œWell, I definitely think you should go back.â€
Sue smiled at Alice with admiring eyes. â€œI’m so proud of you.â€
Alice opened her arms. They hugged to release some of the complicated emotions of caring for each other. Sue felt genuinely happy for Alice, although harboring a sunken disappointment in her own failed aspirations. Alice was sincerely sorry that Sue had not graduated, but felt joy in her own success. When they released the tightness of embracing, they still stood holding arms in a special bond.
â€œYou know, I’d trade my diploma any day for Jenny.â€
Sue released her friend and said, â€œI hope she makes up with your mother.â€
Alice laughed. â€œShe really was acting bashful. That’s funny. She’s so darling!â€
â€œMaybe we can take a picture of her in your mortar board.â€
â€œWell, come on then. Dad wants to take pictures too.â€
Soon, the shutters of the 35mm cameras clicked. Dave had a Kodak and his father used an Argus with Agfa film. Returning from the lawn, the Eckertâ€™s settled into wicker chairs. Dave also sat in a chair so that Jenny could sit between Sue and Alice on the metal glider also painted green and with a cushion. They all partook of the refreshments from trays on the rectangular wicker table. Words soon expanded beyond their own lives to broader horizons that included the U.S. Armyâ€™s first autogiros class holding a demonstration of wingless plane flying at Wright Field; a youth committee against war hanging placards on the White House fence to advise FDR that he could fight the war that he was preparing for; Farmington, Long Island, in a blackout during a fake war, being saved by 187 planes; Czechoslovakia sending troops to the border with Germany; and a Negro having been hung for rape in Covington, Kentucky.
â€œChina’s putting up a gutsy guerrilla warfare, but the Japanese keep on bombing.â€
Sueâ€™s mouth tightened. She shuddered as her heart enfolded the small Chinese child, seen in a newspaper picture, crying, from what had to be a terrified little heart, as he crouched alone amid the rubble.
Progressing to sports, Dave and his father discussed the recently run 500 mile race in Indianapolis. They spoke of four cylinder engines; the first year for superchargers; doped gasoline; a whopping $20,000 prize for Floyd Roberts who finished in four hours and 15 minutes, five miles ahead of Wilber Shaw, the previous year’s winner; a crowd of 150,000, who saw a record 117.2 MPH and a tragedy when a tire flying off of a car that turned over three times killed a spectator. Horse racing also received attention as they commented on Seabiscuitâ€™s sore knee that prevented the most glamorous race in history against War Admiral, who won the Triple Crown the previous year.
Of the Kentucky Derby winner, Dave said, â€œLawrinâ€™s trainer considers him ugly because heâ€™s brown with white feet.â€
â€œSo what? I wouldnâ€™t sneeze at $47,000.â€
â€œHe only won because the favorite, Fighting Fox slowed, sulking at the 3/4 mile post because the jockey used the whip.â€
â€œThatâ€™s what happens with some children,â€ stated Mr. Eckert.
â€œYou donâ€™t need to be concerned about Jenny. My wife spares the rod.â€
â€œAnd spoils the child,â€ Mrs. Eckert concluded, sending Sueâ€™s eyes to the floor.
â€œWith love,â€ declared Dave, rather than confront his mother by an accusative, â€œHow would you know?â€
â€œThatâ€™s good,â€ replied Mr. Eckert before returning to the prior subject. â€œI hear Man oâ€™ Warâ€™s still a handsome horse at 21, even though he weighs 375 pounds more than the 1,000 he had in 1920 at his peak.â€
Once Sueâ€™s thoughts calmed, she substituted attentive listening. She loved horses, especially Haroldâ€™s. Occasionally, she would lift Jenny into the saddle, mount behind her, and go for a ride at a walking pace. Sue smiled thinking of how Jenny enjoyed more than riding. She liked being held up to stroke Belleâ€™s smooth neck. With an intent mouth and delighted eyes, she would extend her small, flatly held hand for the horseâ€™s soft muzzle to scoop up an offering of red clover. When Belle nickered, she would giggle.
Needing to begin dinner preparation, Sue soon left for the kitchen. Despite words of not needing help, Mrs. Eckert again followed.
Remaining on the porch, Dave listened to his father tell of specialty doctors being called in to determine whatâ€™s wrong with Dizzy Deanâ€™s helpless pitching arm.
â€œI’m sure Chicago wants to protect the $250,000 they paid for him,â€ stated Dave, before abruptly shifting subjects to say, â€œIâ€™m beginning to accumulate some financial reserve. Soon now, I’d like to start repaying you for my education.â€
â€œI have no intention of allowing such a thing! A father owes his children an education. I’m delighted that Alice has graduated.â€
â€œSo am I,â€ exclaimed Alice, adding, â€œThanks, Daddy.â€
She rose from her chair, moved close and kissed his cheek.
Dave did not mention a cartoon he had seen of graduates receiving their diplomas and WPA pick-shovels because Jenny, perched on his lap, copied her auntâ€™s gesture with the addition of a hug. Words also remained unspoken because the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal agency created in 1935 by presidential order and funded by congress to provide jobs for those unemployed by the depression, could be controversial. Dave had heard it criticized for wasting dollars on unneeded projects, that certain locals were favored by politics, and that FDR was building a nationwide political machine with millions of men. Because of the slow progress made on many projects, it was labeled â€œWe piddle around,â€ or â€œWe poke along.â€ Personally, Dave liked the opportunity it offered for employment and hoped it would not instil a lazy work ethic. He supported the emphasis on family that offered employment to only one member so that the other could be in the home.
Dave returned Jennyâ€™s affection, before telling Alice, â€œYou should be grateful! The prevailing thought is that educationâ€™s desirable for men and frivolous for women. Sue’s parents made sure their sons went to college, but they didnâ€™t show the same pride in the scholarship Sue earned to attend the university.â€
Dave’s father shook his head, â€œThat’s unfortunate. I’m pleased that I had the funds. Drugstores were not exempt from the throes of the depression. 1933 was my low point. I lost more than $25,000.â€
â€œThat must have been when you closed the Washington Street store and we hardly ever saw you at home,â€ Alice surmised.
â€œIâ€™m sorry if you felt neglected. I had a lot on my mind. It was hard. I hated cutting employee salaries, but I never laid any of them off.â€
â€œDid you read about the druggist in New Jersey who was so upset with the rowdy children that he decided to offer a free soda to anyone who brought in a report card with an A in deportment?â€ Dave asked with a smile.
â€œNo, but it sounds good.â€
â€œNot really. He ran out of soda, ice cream, and straws, because report cards got passed along to those who didnâ€™t have an A.â€
â€œI’ll know never to try that.â€
Alice piped up, â€œI wish I had a chocolate soda right now.â€
â€œI want a cho-olat soda,â€ Jenny told her daddy.
Looking toward his father, Dave said, â€œWe could all go into town. Iâ€™ll show you my office. And Iâ€™ll introduce you to my friend Joe, the druggist. You can talk shop.â€
â€œI was thinking more of a soda myself. I’ll treat. How much are they charging for a soda here in the great Midwest?â€
â€œI’ll get Mom and Sue,â€ said Alice, starting for the kitchen with Jenny
Mr. Eckert stopped to use the bathroom. When he came out, he asked Dave, â€œWhy is there Pepto-Bismol in the medicine cabinet?”
â€œWhy were you looking in the medicine cabinet?â€
With a smile, Daveâ€™s father retorted, â€œWhat do you expect of a pharmacist? Just answer the question.â€
â€œSue’s stomach bothers her quite a bit.â€
â€œDoes it help?â€
â€œSome, although when it gets bad enough, she goes to the doctor.â€
Noticing his son’s slight frown, Mr. Eckert surmised, â€œYouâ€™re concerned.â€
â€œYes, of course. Fortunately, it only flairs up from time to time.â€
â€œIt may require surgery.â€
â€œShe seems to be doing better.â€
â€œShe’s a perfectionist, isn’t she? I can tell by how immaculate the house is. And Jennyâ€™s so well cared for.â€
Dave smiled. â€œHow about the flower garden?â€
â€œBeautiful! I should have known that was hers too.â€
â€œWell, I’ve had to spend a lot of time at the office. Some of the people around here hardly knew what a dentist was until I set up my practice. Besides taking care of all the caries, I’ve been making a dental plate most every month.â€
â€œI’m pleased you’re doing so well, son.â€
â€œHow do you feel about accounts? I especially want all children to get good dental care. It’s so important for them to be seen early, and then also when the six year molars come in. Do you know that 6% of the six year molars, which are permanent teeth, are lost by the time the child is eight because of improper care, and they provide the largest grinding surface and are the corner posts of the mouth?â€
Mr. Eckert diffused the excess and addressed the essence, â€œYou’re saying, you can’t refuse care to those who can’t pay?â€
â€œI have to be paid, but poorer people can only make payments, and the farmers have seasonal incomes.â€
â€œI’ll look over your accounts and we can discuss it at the office. Now that you’re getting established, I also want to talk to you about insurance.â€
â€œSounds good. The women can browse at Hufnagel’s Dry Good’s Store. Mom might find that rather quaint.â€
Sue frowned at the plans. â€œIf you have soda’s now, you won’t be able to eat dinner.â€
â€œWe can set back the dinner time,â€ Dave suggested.
â€œI have a lamb roast in the oven.â€
â€œTurn it down.â€
â€œI canâ€™t. It requires the right temperature.â€
â€œIt will be all right, honey.â€ Glancing from Sue to his parents, Dave explained, â€œSue’s a marvelous cook, and she’s used to eating on time.â€ Curling his arm around her waist, he added, â€œYou could have set Aliceâ€™s new Hamilton, railroad accuracy, watch by her parent’s dinner hour. But, Sueâ€™s good about waiting when I have emergencies. Of course, Jenny always gets fed on time.â€
Alice, herself on the flighty side, supported her friend. â€œI think children need stability.â€
Mr. Eckert nodded, â€œIt’s good to be particular and conscientious. It’s the kind of employee I like. But, sometimes a person needs to ease up.â€ He eyed Sue. â€œI didn’t like seeing the stomach medicine.â€
Becoming a child whose hand has been caught in the cookie jar, Sue’s eyes quickly shifted downward.
â€œLet’s go,â€ urged Alice.
â€œIâ€™ll stay. I donâ€™t want to leave with the oven on.â€
â€œHoney, electric ovens rarely burn down houses,â€ Dave encouraged, before telling his parents, “We have a new circuit breaker too. No fuses and no chance of starting a fire with a penny placed in the space of a blown fuse.â€
â€œDo all your neighbors have electricity?â€ asked Mr. Eckert.
â€œNo, but we had it installed as soon as it became available several years ago.â€
â€œI can’t imagine living in a house so primitive as to not have electricity,â€ declared Mrs. Eckert.
Unnoticed by her mother, Alice raised her eyebrows and shook her head, making previously serious Sue smile.
They all left. After an hour in town, they returned to a house seeped in a delightful aroma. The others changed into casual clothes, while Sue readied the meal.
â€œSuperb,â€ declared Mr. Eckert after a quick sample of everything on his plate.
With a relieved gratitude, Sue said, â€œThank you.â€
Further compliments followed. Mrs. Eckert thought the delicious gravy contained Kitchen Bouquet. Mr. Eckert found the water cress, a delightful addition to the salad.
â€œIt grows in a woodland stream, right before the water trickles down through the meadow. Jenny helped me gather it.â€
Dave described the woods.
â€œThese mashed potatoes are so much better than those at the sorority house,â€ declared Alice.
Mrs. Eckert considered it quite unusual that Jenny would eat asparagus.
â€œShe eats all vegetables. Well, maybe not Brussels sprouts,â€ said Dave.
Mrs. Eckert began to tell of club brunches she had recently attended. Sue smiled at Jenny, finishing a buttered cloverleaf roll, which she had helped to make by placing small balls of dough into the muffin tins. After the last bite of strawberry pie, everyone rose from the table. Sue removed Jennyâ€™s bib, wiped her hands, and freed her from the highchair.
Dave kissed Sueâ€™s cheek and said, â€œEverything was scrumptious. Thank you, darling.â€
Sue gratefully acknowledged his approval with a smile, before quickly looking toward Alice.
â€œJenny would love your attention.â€
â€œWeâ€™ll take a walk.â€
Thankful that Dave had convinced his mother to visit with him, Sue relaxed alone with the dishes.
Eventually, everyone assembled in the living room. Daveâ€™s father distributed presents.
â€œItâ€™s a wire-haired fox terrier,â€ Alice told Jenny of the stuffed dog.
â€œWire-haired fox terriers won at the Westminster Kennel Club show the last four years,â€ Mrs. Eckert reported.
Her husband corrected, â€œActually, a wire-hair won best in show last year, and ten times since the award began in 1912, but a Sealyham won in 36 and a Standard Poodle before that. An English setter came out on top this year.â€
â€œAll right, but I know a wire-haired was among the six finalists.â€
â€œAnd the other four dogs?â€ Dave inquired with interest.
Mr. Eckert, who prided himself in being knowledgeable about dogs, named, â€œA Pekinese, poodle, collie, and dachshund.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s a dac-hund?â€ asked Jenny.
â€œDachshund,â€ Alice enunciated, and described the short, long dogs, bred to hunt badgers.
â€œWhatâ€™s a badger?â€
Dave smiled, knowing his sister would be in for a length of addressing what and whyâ€™s.
Sue received a set of Evening in Paris. She thanked Daveâ€™s parents and then admired the cobalt-blue perfume bottle. While Dave took the bottle and removed the cap, she looked at the illustrated images of the Eiffel tower, an outdoor cafe, an artist, and other Parisian scenes on the round, midnight-blue box of superfine face powder. Taking Sueâ€™s wrist in one hand, Dave used the other to dab on a bit of fragrance. She smiled as he drew in a sniff and kissed her wrist. He promised a trip to Paris in compensation for the lack of a honeymoon.
â€œAfter Europe returns to some semblance of sanity,â€ counseled Daveâ€™s father.
â€œThe French are probably concerned about the tourist trade this year. Even the cheap franc may not offset the fear of war,â€ stated Mrs. Eckert.
â€œItâ€™s strange that the Germans withdrew troops from the Czech frontier because Iâ€™m sure Hitler still wants the Sudetenland,â€ Dave said in reference to the northern, western and southwestern regions of Czechoslovakia inhabited by ethnic Germans.
â€œUndoubtedly, he does, and Iâ€™m sure he was encouraged by that huge demonstrations for an Anschluss with the Reich by the Sudetens, following the funeral of the two men killed by Czech police.â€
â€œFrom my understanding, thereâ€™s been controversy between the Czechs and the German minority all the way back to the 20’s.â€
â€œAnd itâ€™s only gotten worse. Some of the unrest is undoubtedly the result of the depression. The Sudeten area was hit hard because itâ€™s industrialized. Less money means fewer exports and more unemployed.â€
â€œI know hungry, jobless people are more vulnerable to radical governments,â€ stated Mrs. Eckert.
â€œLike in Germany with Hitler and his Nazi Fascists.â€
â€œThe Czechs appear to be bolstered by assurances of support from Paris and London. At least, theyâ€™re ignoring German protests and keeping their troops on the German frontier.â€
â€œWhile all of Europe anxiously waits to see what will happen.â€
At the onset of Jennyâ€™s dog becoming both frisky and yappy, Sue rose, and encouraged Jenny to say goodnight. Dave and Alice received kisses, the elder Eckerts silent glances.
Jenny carried her stuffed canine upstairs. In the bathroom, it sat watching. In the bedroom, it listened to a story and a prayer before getting snuggled beneath a sheet. Although sleeping, Jenny later remained present as the three women sat looking through a box of pictures. Beaming with a pride that laid a certain claim to her niece, Alice described many of the action shots she had taken.
In the morning, Dave went to the office, while lively Jenny entertained his parents by an animated re-enactment of the photos. She rode her red velocipede, a $3.98 birthday present from Alice, up the flagstone walk; raced with Laddie around the yard; briefly threw sand; and with assistance demonstrated the water pump. During a tour her mother conducted of the garden, she scampered between the rows of young cabbage plants, thriving pea vines, bushy spinach, and young tomato plants flanked by marigold and nasturtium flowers to repel insects. She resisted a nap, but lost. When her daddy returned, she climbed onto a chair and lunged into his arms as her grandmother gasped.
Sue again received compliments on dinner.
â€œI just browned the spareribs and baked them with a cup of brown sugar and two tablespoonfuls of mustard,â€ Sue told her father-in-law.
Alice offered to stay with Jenny so the couples could go to the cinema.
â€œDid you see The Hurricane?â€ Alice asked of the Samuel Goldwyn film staring Mary Astor, and which took two years to make with a huge $400,000 budget for special effects.
â€œYes,â€ responded her father. â€œThe storm certainly was magnificent.â€
â€œWe also saw The Big Broadcast of 38, which was quite disappointing,â€ stated Mrs. Eckert.
Dave nodded, â€œWe had looked forward to seeing Bob Hope in his first feature film, but the humor was just silly and there wasnâ€™t any real plot.â€
Sue brought the newspaper to Mrs. Eckert. It listed Test Pilot with Clark Gable, and Myrna Loy, who had been voted the number one star of 1938.
â€œ’It’s the saga of men who risk their lives, women who pray for their return,â€™â€ read Mrs. Eckert. â€œ’800 airplanes, cast of thousands.’â€
While on the subject, Mr. Eckert asked his son, â€œWhat do you think of Eddie Rickenbacker buying Eastern Airlines for 3.5 million?â€
Before Dave could answer, Alice questioned, â€œWhat about the Marquess of Bute selling half the city of Cardiff in Wales, in the biggest real estate deal in British history? The sale included, shops, saloons, farmland, and 20,000 homes, but he kept two castles.â€
Dave smiled. â€œHow could I ever have missed out on such a sale? How much would I have had to fork over?â€
â€œTwenty million pounds.â€
â€œThatâ€™s how much this place is worth to us.â€
â€œHas everyone seen The Adventures of Robin Hood?â€ asked Mr. Eckert.
â€œI thought the color sets were gorgeous and the stirring music added immensely,â€ responded Dave.
â€œErrol Flynn was dashing!â€ exclaimed Alice with a twinkle in her eye that made Sue smile.
â€œAnd Olivia de Haviland did an excellent portrayal of Maid Marian.â€
â€œWell, Betty Davis was exceptional as a spoiled, strong-willed Southern belle, and Jezebel was a good movie, but I wish Warner Bros. had filmed it in color so I could have actually seen the red dress that she wore to embarrass her fiancee,â€ stated Mrs. Eckert.
Dave and Sue were the only ones who had seen Bringing Up Baby, with Kathryn Hepburn as the rich heiress and Cary Grant a zoologist in the romantic, slapstick comedy.
â€œItâ€™s absolutely hilarious,â€ Dave said.
â€œBaby is her pet leopard,â€ added Sue.
Yielding to Jennyâ€™s tugging hand, Alice left the movie discussion to take her for a walk Upon their return, Jenny gave her repulsed grandmother an empty snail shell and her smiling grandfatherâ€“the only one to say thank youâ€“a pine cone. Alice gave Jenny a bath.
â€œGive everyone a kiss,â€ she instructed the clean, ready-for-bed child, who clutched Bear-Bear, a rather large teddy, having a white upper torso and a flat face with sizable pink ears that matched the lower body of knickers from which protruded fat white stumps with pink pads.
Jenny obeyed, but her expression lacked any semblance to Bear-Bearâ€™s stitched black smile above a red tongue. She had to be enticed upstairs with Pocketful of Rhymes. Her eyes soon lost the struggle to remain open. Returning to a deserted downstairs, Alice helped herself to another serving of peach Bavarian cream.
With Sue and Jenny going along to the train station, the household in the morning resembled a black-tailed prairie dog colony. During the seventy-mile drive into the city, Jenny sat on Alice’s lap. They had along several books and a Life magazine that Dave had brought home from the office because it had pictures of 23 dogs, from among 4,213, that competed at the Morris and Essex Show in Madison, New Jersey, the largest outdoor dog show and topped only by Cruftâ€™s of London.
Jenny liked repeatedly repeating after Alice, â€œDalmatian, Pomeranian, Borzoi, Kuvasz, Afghan, . . .â€
Instead of stilling her child, Sue, who sat in the middle of the back seat, tried to eliminate her mother-in-laws disdainful glance by engaging her in conversation. They spoke of Marian Andersonâ€™s concert at the Academy of Music, in her hometown of Philadelphia, during which she began with the works of Schubert and ended singing spirituals.
Sue sensed a slight derision as Mrs. Eckert noted, â€œItâ€™s no wonder she can afford a house on the Riviera, earning a thousand dollars for each concert and sheâ€™s done 70 this year.â€
â€œIâ€™m sure she needs time to relax. She actually lives with her mother in a home on shady Marian Street around the block from junk shops and fish stores.â€
â€œItâ€™s good that she stays with her kind.â€
Sue bristled enough to risk the disapproval of her mother-in-law by responding, â€œShe an unassuming woman with an amazing voice. I admire her.â€
â€œKomondor, Samoyede,â€ chirped Jenny imitating Alice.
Sue swallowed and mentioned the disappearance of Austriaâ€™s last free Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg from his honorable confinement.
â€œIt may have been by proxy, but I have to believe he married that countess,â€ Mrs. Eckert said of beautiful Vera Frugger von Babenhausen of the medieval banking house of Frugger. She glanced around Sue to inform Alice of recent engagements and marriages of socially prominent young women
Alluding to the sky writer who wrote â€œPepsiâ€ above commencement ceremonies in St. Thomas Stadium in Houston, Texas, Alice retorted, â€œIâ€™m surprised you didnâ€™t hire a sky writer to fly over my graduation writing, â€˜Alice Eckert eligible female graduate.â€™â€
Although Sue lifted a hand to cover a grin, Alice, with glinting eyes, noticed and solidified their shared humor by also grinning.
In the front seat, Dave and his father talked about the greatest spy purge in American history, being centered against Nazi agents in New York; and the collision in the fog of the Arcadia, a ship having aboard 115 individuals headed for Bermuda, with the Mandalay, an excursion steamer transporting 350 picnickers returning to New York from New Jersey.
â€œIt could have been a real tragedy if the Arcadia had not served as a plug to keep the Mandalay afloat until all the passengers had been evacuated.â€
â€œAnd the actions of the captain of twelve years, who had to be forcefully removed by four sailors because he wanted to go down with his ship.â€
â€œHe did a fine job directing the removal without any panic or disorder.â€
â€œI feel sorry for him. He often talked to his ship.â€
â€œI know how that goes. I would sometimes rather talk to my car than to your mother.â€
â€œBe careful that she doesnâ€™t hear you and lock you in the garage.â€
â€œIâ€™d summon Chester and weâ€™d have a dandy game of gin rummy.â€
Dave smiled and inquired about the well-being of their long-time chauffeur. Jenny slept the last twenty miles. In the large, bristling Union Station, Sue kept her hand clamped tightly around Jenny’s. While they waited with the baggage, a young sailor in his “whitesâ€ offered Jenny a piece of Double Mint gum.
â€œThank you, but she would swallow it,â€ advised Sue.
Others smiled as Jenny marched in a prancing arc, at the end of her mother’s arm. She held up two fingers for her age when talking to a porter, who admired her pretty dress with a pattern of tiny flowers in rows. Craning her head all the way back, she gazed upward at the large round stained-glass, rose window.
Dave carried her up the stairs to the tracks, and held her hand as they walked beside a stationary train to the place of boarding. Here, above the noise, parting words accompanied hugs. Soon, the elder Eckerts waved from a window inside the coach. Jenny clamored to be picked up when a rumbling train arrived on another track. In a while, the car beside which they stood began to move, making the window with her grandparents slip away.
Dave continued to carry Jenny as they left the platform and started down the stairs. In the busy passage of travelers, a rather short, stout, young woman, in a dark-blue linen suit, was struggling to go up. A heavy-appearing, greatly elevated, black shoe compensated partially for a bent knee that did not straighten. Sue tightened at the sight.
She reached for Jenny, saying, â€œHelp her, Dave.â€
Dave responded. They had settled into the car before he revealed that the woman, from New York City, had been stricken with infantile paralysis in 1916, at the age of three. Although she had not mentioned being one of the 8,928 cases to occur there that year, she was a survivor when 2,407 had died as part of a total of 7,130 fatalities from 27,363 cases in 27 states.
â€œSuch a dreadful disease,â€ declared Sue, reacting to the unknown stalker that each year created panic by ravishing young lives.
Although Dave had heard that in 1916 armed police patrolled railroad stations and roads to intercept New York City residents trying to flee with their children, he withheld the information to say, â€œFortunately, it’s not as prevalent as measles or many other childhood diseases. It affects only about one child in 70 under five and half of them recover without any paralysis.â€
â€œWhich is not important if it’s your child that suffers.â€
â€œSo, did you send your dime to the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis last January?â€ asked Alice, who again held Jenny on her lap in the back seat.
â€œA little more,â€ Sue said of her very generous $2 donation.
â€œI read where contributions poured in at a rate of 50,000 a day and averaged 20 cents each,â€ stated Dave.
â€œIt’s no wonder,â€ commented Alice. â€œPresident Rooseveltâ€™s very popular. On the evening of his birthday, I heard him air an appeal to the nation for a united effort. He said that’s how smallpox and diphtheria have been almost eliminated and so now the major medical fight is against cancer and infantile paralysis.â€
â€œWhen Eleanor was only eight her mother died of diphtheria,â€ noted Sue
â€œInteresting,â€ responded Dave before pursuing the original subject. â€œI read that 15,000 communities held Birthday Parties.â€
Alice excitedly responded, â€œYes, and would you believe 5,000 people in New York City paid $5 a ticket to dance at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel where there were 14 orchestras?â€
â€œThatâ€™s really something!â€ reacted Sue, who loved to dance with Dave.
He looked her way with a smile, saying, â€œIn Arizona the Navajo’s held a squaw dance.â€
She grinned. â€œAnd you didnâ€™t take me?â€
â€œI tried to locate a hausfrau polka.â€
Alice seriously said, â€œPlaces all over the country had barbecues, hot dog roasts, and church socials. One town even had a rodeo.â€
â€œHow much money are we talking about?â€ asked Sue.
â€œI don’t know, except this was the fifth year for the celebrations.â€
Dave nodded knowingly. Of Carl Byor, he said, â€œThey have a man, whoâ€™s an expert in the field of promotion and public affairs. He and his team came up with the idea of the birthday balls. They secured radio spots and movie star endorsements. He also had Wally Post fly him around the country to organize the events.”
Dave did not know the exact monetary figures: that the first year had grossed $1,016,443 all of which went to the Warm Springs Foundation, then dropped to $787,167 with more than half remaining in the community, and down to $526,007 in 1936, but rose again to $1,034,539 the next year and in the current year totaled $1,010,375 none of which went to Warm Springs, now self-supporting, but to the non-profit National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis organized on January 3rd with its prime purpose to assist research. Dave spoke further of what he knew, saying, â€œI understand that Basil Oâ€™Connor, who was FDRâ€™s law partner, also has the ability to successfully raise funds.”
â€œThatâ€™s no doubt true, but the fact that President Roosevelt is personally a victim of the disease brings in the money,â€ stated Alice.
â€œItâ€™s amazing that he had polio before he ever became president,â€ Sue said simply, without adding thoughts about conquering adversity.
â€œI remember reading that when he returned from the hospital his mother wanted him to quit politics. That was back in 1921. He was forty years old. But, his wife and friends urged him on and he nominated Al Smith for Vice President at the 1924 Democratic Convention,â€ added Dave.
â€œWasn’t he the governor of New York?â€ asked Sue.
â€œNot at that time. He was elected in 1928 and overwhelmingly again in 1930.â€
â€œAnd President in 32,â€ Alice finished the sequence.
Thinking of Margaret Kruis, who holds a position with the Bituminous Coal Commission in Washington, D.C., Dave said, â€œThe President could have died in 1933 when he was in Miami. I recently saw a picture of the young woman who was shot in the head with a bullet intended for the President.â€
â€œAnd she lived?â€
â€œShe did! She even works, although she still has headaches.â€
â€œThatâ€™s wonderful,â€ exclaimed Sue.
â€œTo have headaches?â€
Dave shot a scowl at his sister for her snip and declared, â€œThat she works, something you know little about. Of course, pain isnâ€™t your thing either.â€
â€œIs there something wrong with being healthy?â€
Sensing raised hackles like on aroused dogs, Sue calmly said, â€œWe really are glad youâ€™re healthy and hope you always will be.â€ Even as she spoke, Sue questioned how effective she had been in minimizing her own problems to Alice. Wanting to avoid any shift to the subject, she quickly returned to politics by saying, â€œI missed voting age by a year in 36, but my folks voted for Alf Landon.â€
â€œOf course,â€ Alice said with a grin. â€œAll your family are typical rural Indiana Republicans.â€
â€œIs there something wrong with that?â€ Sue asked, smiling as she purposely repeated the earlier words.
Answering with frank seriousness, Alice stated, â€œSometimes they’re too ultraconservative to accept change.â€
â€œBut they’re good-hearted, friendly people,â€ Dave inserted. â€œBesides that, they can predict winter weather by the width of the brown band on the woolly bear caterpillars in the fall, and they know how to make special dough balls with anise to catch catfish on a trot line.â€
Sue and Alice exchanged grins before the mention of water made Alice state in seriousness, â€œDid you hear on the radio that the Yellow River’s flooding in China?â€
Dave nodded. â€œI read where a dyke broke killing 150,000 people, and that the water’s 20 feet high and pouring over vast areas of land. Flood horrors threaten to surpass that of the war, although the Japanese bombing continues.â€
Sue thought sadly of the poor people and then looked forward with thankfulness to her own safe, comfortable dwelling, where today she hoped to slip in a nap when Jenny rested. Jenny, who had been quiet and content, soon expressed the need to potty. Sue distracted her briefly with a recitation of poems from A Child’s Garden of Verses, allowing Dave time to locate a Texaco station. Near the curb, away from the pump with a red fire chief hat, and the tall post having a circle with a red T inside a green star, stood a metal sign on rectangular wire legs. It announced a registered restroom, inspected by The White Patrol.
Dave got out of the car to tell the attendant how much he wished to purchase of the Fire Chief gas, advertised as suited to the climate, which meant a quick start of fewer than ten turns of the engine.
Alice offered, â€œIâ€™ll take Jenny to the toilet.â€
Sue nodded and said, â€œBe sure her hands are washed with soap.â€
â€œI had in mind using axle grease,â€ quipped Alice.
Sue smiled before utilizing the moment alone to remove from her purse a roll of Tums with words â€œeat like candyâ€ and â€œstomach distressâ€ on the label. She quickly placed a round tablet in her mouth before again concealing the package in her purse.
Once they completed the stop and rolled homeward, Dave bellowed forth, â€œWait till the sun shines Nellie. . .â€ Alice and Sue quickly joined in.
â€œIâ€™ll Be With You in Apple Blossom Timeâ€ followed. They continued to sing favorite tunes, sometimes laughing at the harmony, until the Chevy turned down the farm lane.