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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Gray Matter: updates

Monday, November 20, 2006

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Today, I want to share some reactions I've gotten to a couple of recent Gray Matter columns. 

Shortly after writing of the musical Smiths,  I had a phone call from California.  Loren Means, Marcus native, had just read it and wanted us to know that he had ridden with Stanley and Marie when they took the "Smith Kiddies" (Audrey and Jim) to Chicago to perform at the 1933 World's Fair.  He said his mother always called Stanley's mother, Aunt Kate, but he wasn't sure if they were related or if "aunt" was just an affectionate title. Anyway, Marie and the "kiddies" were to stay  to perform, so Stanley needed someone to drive home with him.

Loren visited relatives there and enjoyed the wonders of  the Century of Progress for several days before they returned.  He really enjoyed telling of their arrival back in Marcus.  Smith, who was a salesman for a major candy company,  had a delivery to make at a local tavern as soon as they arrived.  When he and Loren walked in, the tavern owner asked  what they'd been doing all day. When Stan replied  that they'd driven home from Chicago and had made it in nine hours, the  gentleman refused to believe him.  Then Loren, laughing heartily, told me Stan's reply, "Well it's true. Just look at the driver I had!"

 As we continued chatting about his Treinen cousins and other  Marcus connections, I was reminded of a story he had told us years ago.  Loren's late wife, Arlene Michaelson,  grew up in the house where I live, adjacent to the Holy Name playground. We bought it from her parents when they retired and moved to California. 

 Loren once asked how many windows we'd had broken over the years, and could scarcely believe us when we said none.  Then we explained that shortly  after we moved in they had turned the diamond around, so the area next to our hedge,  had become home plate, instead of centerfield. That, of course, was why, as he told it, the baseball season in Means' day was never officially opened until someone hit a home run  through one of Mrs. Michaelson's windows. This always  brought her out with a screaming tongue-lashing!   Boys will be boys, is all I can say.  I'm sure his attitude changed when she became his mother-in-law !

 The other story was inspired by my World Series piece. Fred Wilkens , retired postmaster, called to tell me that his father, Chris, had driven his parents, Fred and Martha, and their friend, Luise Mayer, to St. Louis for the Series that very year.  He told me that his grandmother, Martha, Mrs. Mayer and a third girl, who had settled in St. Louis, had come to the United States together from Germany as teen-agers.  So this was a long-awaited reunion for them.  For the men it was a chance to attend the World Series. 

What a series it must have been.  Babe Ruth was playing for New York, so his father and grandfather saw the best-of-the best at those games, one of which I listened to those many years ago.  Fred loved that coincidence and so did I.

He went on to tell about the car they drove.  Grandfather had bought a new Dodge in 1923, and it was a classy automobile for which he paid $3,000 when most were buying  Model T's for $600.  Proud as he was, he never learned to drive the splendid machine, always assigning that duty to his sons. Fred then said that Uncle Fritz had traded that 1923 Dodge for a later model in the 30's.  Knowing his intense interest in antiques, I'm sure Fred was reflecting on what a treasure that would be today if it had been kept and restored.