BREAKING THE LANGUAGE BARRIER
A common language can bring people together. This is especially true when that language is different from the spoken language of the community. Two young persons from Denmark, Peter and Mathilde, first met in small New England town in the USA. Their common Danish language brought them together.
Peter Nissen Lund was born in Haderslev, Schlesvig, Denmark. Peter's father, a poor peasant farmer, desired a better life for his nine children. He made sure that each of his sons had a marketable skill. Those who stayed in Denmark earned their living as cabinet-maker, butcher, tailor, and grocer. Four children chose to come to the United States to seek their fortunes. Three Lunds went to the West coast. In 1900, when he was 29 years old, Peter came to Watertown, Connecticut and opened his tailor shop. Peter spoke very little English, so it must have been very difficult for him to communicate with the public. Nevertheless, Peter Lund's tailoring skills were welcomed in the community.
Mathilde Feldhaus grew up on a farm in Bastrup, Denmark. Life in Denmark was very difficult at that time and Mathilde, an adventuresome lass, decided to leave Denmark in search of a better way of life. Mathilde's older sister, Anna, had emigrated to the United States, married a carpenter and was living in Naugatuck, Connecticut. So, in 1902, eighteen year old Mathilde, undaunted by her inability to speak English or her lack of any marketable skill, set out to seek her fortune in the USA.
Having a sister in Connecticut drew Mathilde to that state. It was a good choice. In the early 1900's manufacturing plants were developing in many Connecticut communities--brass mills in Waterbury, chemical plants in Naugatuck, clock making in Thomaston, and silk mills in Watertown. These industries drew many foreigners to the state. Poles, Lithuanians, Italians, and French Canadians came to find jobs in the factories. However, there were very few Danes in the area. The Danish language was a strange tongue in Watertown,, Connecticut. But it was Watertown where Mathilde found employment.
Mathilde was hired as a housemaid in Dr. Loveland's home. She began to learn English by answering Dr. Loveland's telephone. Mathilde memorized the telephone messages for the doctor. By parroting the memorized messages back to the doctor, she directed him to his house calls. What an amazing feat! Although life was not easy , Mathilde was convinced that she was better off in the USA than in Denmark. Still, it would be nice if there were others from Denmark in town.
There was one. The young tailor, Peter Lund soon learned that a pretty girl from Denmark had been employed by Dr. Loveland. How wonderful to find someone from the home country--someone who spoke the same language! Their native tongue brought Peter and Mathilde together.
In sharing their family histories, Peter and Mathilde discovered that their parents had lived in the same area of Denmark---Schlesvig. Both families, the Lunds and the Feldhauses had fled the area when the Germans took over in the 1870's. Truly, Peter and Mathilde found more in common than the Danish language. Romance bloomed.
Peter and Mathilde were married in 1903. However, it was not until their first child entered school that they learned to speak English fluently. Little Ted learned English at school and came home to teach "Muz" and "Fah". Although the Danish language had brought Peter and Mathilde together, as soon as they felt comfortable with English, they spoke only English in their home.
There was one exception to this. Gradually more Danes were arriving in the area and naturally they banded together. The Lund home became a gathering place for the Danes on Sunday afternoons. They all conversed in their native language at these times. The younger Lund children learned to understand some of the Danish language by listening to conversations on these Sunday afternoons. However, only Ted, the first child was be-lingual. The others never learned to speak Danish.
Peter and Mathilde never yearned for the old country. Although they never denied their heritage, they became fully American. None of the children were allowed to help "Fah" in his tailoring shop. Peter declared firmly, "If I had wanted you to become a tailor, I would have stayed in the old country." Peter and Mathilde's heartfelt goal was too obtain the best possible education for their children. They worked very hard to insure that their three sons acquired college educations. The endured very hard times, especially through the depression, but they were happy to be citizens of the USA.
Mathilde and her sister Anna were the only members of the Feldhaus family to come to the USA. Several of them had outstanding careers in Denmark. For instance, Mathilde's brother, Theodore, became Chief of Police in Copenhagen. After the war, Theodore was decorated by the King for his role in aiding Danish Jews to flee the Nazis and find freedom in Sweden. Clara Feldhaus became the head nurse in the largest hospital in Copenhagen. Although Peter and Mathilde kept in touch with their families in Denmark, they never returned to visit. They loved America and America was their home.
Note: Peter and Mathilde Lund raised 7 children. The three boys graduated from college and the four girls all obtained some post-high school education. Theodore, the eldest son graduated from Massachusetts School of Pharmacy. He was employed as chemist by the P.J.Noyes Pharmaceutical Company in Lancaster, New Hampshire. Harold graduated from Pratt Institute as a chemical Engineer and established his own paint company in New York City. Ralph, the youngest son, also graduated from Pratt Institute as a Chemical Engineer and worked in Plastic and Chemical companies in Connecticut and Virginia. Ralph Arnold Lund, the youngest of the Lund boys became my husband.
On December 9, 1944 when Ralph gave me a diamond engagement ring, we had no hope of marrying for about two years. Ralph had just returned to the states from England and was stationed at the hospital at Westover Field in Springfield, Massachusetts while he was being treated for stomach ulcers. The stress of the Air Force Intelligence work he did during the war had caused ulcers. He had been sent home for treatment. Ralph did not know whether or not he would be returned to his overseas post as soon as he was sufficiently recovered. I was employed by Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in Hartford, Connecticut and was under contract until June 1945. We could make no plans for marriage. We were happy to be able to meet on weekends at Ralph's family home in Watertown, Connecticut. We were in love and engaged. That was enough for now.
About three weeks after we had announced our engagement, Ralph phoned to announce that he was to be released from the hospital. His 21-day overseas furlough had come through. In addition to this overseas leave, Ralph was granted a period of "Rest and Recuperation" in Atlantic city where he would receive his next orders. It meant over a month of leave. Obviously he would not have to return to England. His furlough started February 1st. It was wonderful news!
At that time I was living in a rooming house with 6 other girls. We shared kitchen privileges, taking turns preparing our evening meals. I remember receiving Ralph's call in the middle of our dinner hour. When I returned to the kitchen breathless with Ralph's news, one of my friends said, "Why don't you get married now?" What a ridiculous suggestion! We couldn't possibly do that. I was under contract until June. We had no money. We had no time to arrange a proper wedding etc.
However, I began to think about it. Perhaps I could get a leave of absence. Some of my colleagues were breaking their contracts to get married. I didn't want to break my contract, but it would be wonderful to share Ralph's leave time with him. I decided to telephone him and discuss possibilities.
Ralph couldn't believe his ears. "Get married now?" His enthusiasm was tempered with skepticism. He couldn't believe that I would suggest such a move. He knew that I desired a church wedding and he thought that if we got married in such a hurry, we would have to settle for a civil ceremony. But,this month of leave did present an opportune time. Why not take advantage of it? Ralph needed some time to think about this big decision.
It was about an hour before he called to say, "Let's go for it." If I could obtain a leave of absence from work, we might be able to arrange a proper wedding. What did it matter that we had no money and no idea of what the future held for us? We had just been through a war!
My work in the metallurgy laboratory of Pratt & Whitney had slowed down considerably since the situation in Europe had improved and an allied victory seemed assured. Therefore I did not expect much resistance to my request for a month's leave of absence. I was right. My bosses approved the idea and I proceeded to tackle the next obstacles.
I had no intention of settling for a civil ceremony. I decided to call my mother to see what kind of arrangements could be made for a church wedding. I told my mother that Ralph and I had decided to get married right away. To say the least she was alarmed. She had only recently received news of our engagement. "I thought you told me that you were not going to marry for at least two years." she exclaimed. I explained the situation to her and told her that we would like to be married in the church on the first weekend of February. We desired a very simple wedding with just our family and a few close friends attending. Did she think arrangements could be made in this short time? After the shock had worn off, my mother started thinking of possibilities. I knew I could count on her to arrange for the church, the reception etc. What a load I was throwing on her!
My next objective was to obtain the minister of my choice--my brother, the Reverend John Wilson Haynes. Brother Johnny was the minister of a church in Wilmington, Delaware. Would he be able to come? Johnny was shocked at our attempt to arrange a wedding on such short notice, but he promised to work on the problem and let me know.
By January 10th plans were in place: February 3, 1945 at 3 P.M. our wedding would be held at St Paul's Episcopal Church in Lancaster, New Hampshire with the Rev. John Wilson Haynes, brother of the bride, officiating. The reception for 100 people (my mother had added names to our small guest list) would be held at the Community House with Lettie McKee catering. Both my mother and brother had come through for us!
My mother was a bit upset at first to realize that there was not enough time to send proper invitations. Guests had to be invited by telephone. Formal announcements would be sent later.
Small towns are wonderful places. As soon as the word was out about the upcoming wedding, many friends came forth with offers of hospitality for out-of town guests.
My father took a dim view of all these preparations. My poor mother had so much to do, but there seemed very few ways that my father could help with the physical preparations. However, he seemed pleased about the marriage and happy that we were not going to run off and get married by a judge. Yet,he played the role of the curmudgeon. He fussed about having such short notice to arrange so many things. He mentioned that any time there was a quickie wedding in town it looked suspicious. He knew many tongues were wagging and the gossips would be counting the months to the birth of the baby. He went around muttering, "Pulling off a stunt like this in the dead of winter is the height of folly". I remember his words well.
Ralph's family in Watertown, Connecticut made plans to travel north for a winter wedding. Ralph's brother Ted agreed to be Ralph's best man. He lived in Lancaster and would help arrange housing for all the Lunds who would be attending. Ted and Grace Lund had introduced Ralph and me. They seemed very pleased about the wedding and were eager to help.
My best friend, Carolyn Cleasby (Carney), was my current roommate in Hartford, Conn. She agreed to be my attendant. We could do our shopping for clothes in Hartford. Carolyn's mother was an organist. A phone call to her assured us of beautiful music. Things were falling into place.
Money was a problem. I had to arrange a temporary loan to finance my new clothes and transportation expenses. However, I was earning a good salary and I hoped to be able to pay for everything in a few months.
One of ny girl-friends offered to help me shop for my wedding gown. We visited G.Fox & Co. and found a lovely white satin princess style gown with a sweetheart neckline trimmed with seed pearls. For shoes (I did not want high heels) I chose white satin bedroom slippers. I attached light blue ribbons to the slippers to make ankle straps. (Something borrowed, something BLUE). I purchased a handsome blue faille suit trimmed with black braid for my "Going-Away" outfit. I found a feather hat to match the suit. One feather curled down along the right cheek, rather snazzy, I thought. Carney found an aqua gown and net headdress to match. We were pleased with our choices.
Ralph's sister-in-law, Grace Lund offered to loan me her wedding veil. It was silk tulle bordered with a deep band of lace. It went well with my dress and I was delighted to accept this offer. (Something OLD, and something new, something BORROWED, something blue). Things were falling into place. The Pratt & Whitney girls gave me a lingerie shower on January 19th. I received some lovely gifts which supplied me with all the wedding finery I needed.
Ralph had no clothes to worry about because he would be in uniform. However, he agonized about where we could go for our honeymoon. Northern New Hampshire has limited transportation facilities. We had no car, so we had to depend on public transportation. Ralph decided that the only thing to do was to go further north. He arranged for us to go to the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec.
Our biggest problem was getting from Lancaster to St. Johnsbury, Vermont where we could catch the train to Quebec. My brother Elvin and his wife Fritzi came to our rescue. They volunteered to drive us to St Johnsbury, Vt.(28 miles) after the wedding reception. So, Ralph made reservations for our first night at the St. Johnsbury House (the largest hotel in the town).
Many friends and most of our family members planned to attend the wedding. However, many of our friends were still overseas. We were especially disappointed that my brother Arnold could not attend. He was still in Europe in the infantry.
I met Ralph in Lancaster the day before the wedding. It gave us time to get our marriage license, and to take care of last minute details such as ordering flowers. Ralph's mother, father and 3 sisters arrived in Lancaster about the same time.
My mother arranged a party at our home the night before the wedding. By this time all the family and the out-of-town friends were in town. My mother had baked my favorite cake--daffodil. I was so excited and happy to see everyone, that I didn't get around to eat until the party was almost over. When I went to get a piece of the beautiful daffodil cake I found it all gone. I was really disappointed.
After all the guests had departed and only family was left at the house, I suddenly broke into tears. I couldn't stop crying. It was a real case of anxiety hysterics. All the tension of the last few weeks broke forth. I wondered if getting married was the right thing to do after all. Perhaps we should call the whole thing off. My family comforted me and reassured me that I was just suffering from pre-wedding jitters. Eventually I calmed down and was able to get to sleep.
Our wedding day dawned bright and beautiful. There was about 5 feet of snow on the ground and in the bright sunlight it appeared almost blue. However, it was very cold. Ralph claims that it was 20 degrees below zero at 2 P.M. that day, but I think that is a slight exaggeration.
My attendant and I dressed for the wedding at the rectory. My sister-in-law, Eleanor (Dodo) pressed my gown for me. There was much hustle and bustle at the rectory, but I have very little recollection of it. My father met me at the door of the church, ready to escort me down the aisle. He was all smiles --his good humor had returned.
I vaguely remember the ceremony. I remember being pleased to have my brother there performing the ritual. That added a special touch. As far as I recall, nothing disastrous occurred. When we left the church to go to the reception, I remember my father rushing out to the car, opening the door, kissing me and saying, "I want to be the first one to congratulate you, MRS.LUND." He got a big kick out of using my married name.
When we arrived at the reception, someone mentioned photographs. We had forgotten to engage a photographer. My brother Elvin had his camera and took some snapshots. However, he had no idea that he would be the official photographer. He was not prepared for such a role. Elvin's photographs provide the only record of our wedding. We are very grateful for them.
By the time the reception was over it was snowing. Elvin and Fritzi had to drive us to St. Johnsbury in a storm. However, we made the trip without mishap. With a light snow falling around us, Ralph and I took a walk before retiring that night. It seemed a romantic beginning.
Looking back it is hard to believe that within three weeks we successfully arranged a beautiful wedding with our friends and family present. We thought of the many people who had helped us arrange this event. We were so grateful for their love and care. We often chuckle as we think of those suspicious home-town residents who were surely counting the months before the baby's birth. It was three years before our first child was born! It may have seemed like a shot-gun wedding but it has lasted 51 years so far. We fooled them all.
Ruth: Ruth Almeda Haynes
Ralph: Ralph Arnold Lund
Ralph's best man: Theodore R. Lund (Ted)
Ruth's maid of honor: Carolyn Cleasby (Carney)
Organist: Isabel Cleasby
Ruth's sister-in-law (Dodo): Grace Eleanor Haggerty Haynes, wife of Rev. John W. Haynes
Ralph's sister-in-law: Grace Bradley Lund, wife of Theodore R. Lund
Ruth's brother: Elvin B. Haynes
Ruth's sister-in-law (Fritzi): Fredericka Chapple Haynes, wife of Elvin B. Haynes
For many years my husband has maintained that, if it hadn't been for me, he might have had a brilliant military career. Of course, he never aspired to a military career. As a matter of fact, he was never happy with military life and could hardly wait to be discharged after WW 2. Yet, he continues to enjoy telling this tale of my gross ineptness as a military wife.
He is correct. As the blushing bride of 1st Lieutenant Ralph A. Lund, I was young and naive. I knew nothing of military protocol. I knew very little about the rank and order of military personnel. I joined my husband at Moody Field in Valdosta, Georgia in the summer of 1945. This Air Force base served as a waiting station for many who had returned from overseas duty and awaited discharge. The war was almost over. Nothing of great importance was happening at Moody Field.
We lived in barracks assigned as "Married Officers' Quarters". There were two very small rooms and a lavatory for each couple. Summer weather in Georgia was extremely hot and humid--a sharp contrast to the New England climate I left. My salvation was the beautiful swimming pool right outside our door. I decided to spend all my time in the pool or at poolside.
This decision proved to be a mistake. After my first day in the hot Georgia sun, I acquired a terrible sunburn. No one had warned me about that brutal sun. However, I was not alone in my misery. Susan, a pretty young woman who was about 7 months pregnant, was also suffering from a severe sunburn. We commiserated with one another. Each day Susan and I met at poolside to compare notes on our respective sunburns. We found that we had much more in common than sunburned bodies. We became good friends.
It was not long before I learned that Susan was the wife of the Colonel, a young man of about 25 years who was the Base Commandant. I was the wife of a 1st Lieutenant. What was I doing associating with the Colonel's wife? Actually, I found it very difficult to tell the military rank of the husbands upon meeting their wives in bathing suits. They all looked the same to me. Yet, the unwritten rule seemed to be that rank associated with rank, and wives of Lieutenants did not associate with wives of Majors etc. I didn't realize that my friendship with Susan was viewed by many as an attempt to "butter-up" the Colonel and enable my husband to attain a higher rank. Nothing was farther from my mind. Susan and I were just friends. Was everything in the military like this?
Our husbands were very busy doing nothing. As an Intelligence officer, Ralph's duties ended with V-E day. Prior to that he had to brief the Commandant each morning about the events of the previous day on the war fronts. Now, in order to waste time until they acquired the necessary "points" to be discharged, the men resorted to playing card games, chess, etc. Although pilots still took planes up daily to keep their skills intact, there was nothing of any importance happening at this base. Ralph spent most of his on-duty time playing bridge!
As the wife of the Commandant, Susan, had certain duties to perform. She had to host a monthly luncheon for all the officers' wives. Susan and her husband had recently arrived at this base, and this was her first official function. She was a bit apprehensive about this event and asked me if I would support her by sitting at her side. I was pleased that she asked me to do this.
Susan explained that the Adjutant's wife must be seated in the place of honor at her right. Susan seated me on her left. If someone of more importance than a 1st Lieutenant's wife was supposed to sit there, neither Susan nor I knew about it. Furthermore, we didn't care. We were happy to be together.
At the luncheon, we were all seated in a large circle. Susan presided and gave a nice little speech welcoming the newcomers. Since there were so many new faces, she asked that each person tell something about herself and describe what her husband was doing at this base. The Adjutant's wife, was asked to be first. She explained that her husband was second in command and it was up to him to keep everything operating efficiently. She made us all aware that he husband was a very significant person on this base. The next lady, described her husband, a pilot, by first telling of the many missions he had flown over Europe. After this, she described his extremely important position here at Moody Field as a supervisor of pilot training. Indeed, it was her husband who kept all the pilots in peak condition to be ready for combat at any time etc. The next wife described her husband's position as supervisor of maintenance of all the planes (A 20's). He was responsible for keeping all the planes in top condition and combat-ready. As the wives around the room continued to brag about their husbands and the very, VERY important positions they held, one would think that the war was not over at all. These men were keeping our Air Force in top shape for future action. Moody Field sounded like the most important base in the USA.
As I listened to all of this, I could not believe my ears. All of us knew that our husbands were just playing a waiting game. What the men did here at Moody Field was no longer important to our country. The war was over. How could these women keep exaggerating? Wasn't anyone going to tell the truth?
Because I was seated on Susan's left I was the last to speak. By the time my turn came, I was fed up. I stood up, introduced myself, told my husband's rank and official position as Intelligence officer. Then I said. "My husband plays bridge."
We heard gasps, then silence. The silence was deafening. Finally, my friend Susan, the Colonel's wife, could no longer contain herself and burst into laughter. After that, of course, everyone laughed.
I told the truth that day, and I have never regretted it. However, if Ralph Lund had wished to pursue an Air Force career, his greatest obstacle would be his wife. Obviously I would never have fit into military life.
Ruth H. Lund
Written March 25, 1997
Poor spelling ability rarely contributes to success. Yet it was the means of our finding our first apartment.
In the fall of 1945, while Ralph was awaiting his discharge from the service, I went to Watertown, Conn. to stay with Ralph's family temporarily. Ralph was transferred from Valdosta, Georgia, to Savannah and then to Montgomery, Alabama. The discharging process seemed to be taking forever. And, after his discharge, Ralph would have to find a job, so it appeared that it would be some time before we would be able to move out of our parents' home. Therefore, I decided to get a job to bring in a little money. It also served to keep me out of my mother-in-law's hair.
Ralph was discharged in March 1946, He joined me in Watertown and proceeded to search for a job.I continued to work at the Waterbury Hospital where Ralph's sister was employed.
Ralph soon found a job at Cordo Chemical Company in Norwalk, Connecticut. He rented a room in Norwalk, returning to Watertown on weekends until he could locate an apartment. This presented real difficulties. In 1946 there was a severe housing shortage everywhere in the U.S. due to the many G.I.'s returning to civilian life. Ralph and I were caught in this squeeze. There seemed to be no apartments available. During our first year of marriage we had been together only a few months. We were anxious to get on with our lives, but the circumstances seemed insurmountable. Ralph followed up every newspaper ad for apartments, but nothing affordable turned up. We became very discouraged.
One day Ralph noticed an ad for a 6-room downstairs apartment in East Norwalk. Applicants were requested to send a letter describing their family to a P.O. Box before being granted an interview. Ralph responded immediately. He described us in terms he hoped would be favorable to the landlord. Among other things, he mentioned that both of us were college graduates. He sent his letter and anxiously awaited a reply. He hoped for the opportunity for an interview and a chance to see the apartment.
It seemed like forever, but it was only about 2 weeks later that Ralph was summoned for an interview. He reported to 12 Rowan Street in East Norwalk where he met Regis and Lewis Wanamaker, owners of the 3-story home. The Wanamakers had purchased the 1900 vintage house in a very run-down condition. They had been working on it for several years. They had made the structural improvements necessary to make the house livable and had renovated the 2nd and 3rd stories for their own abode. (They had 2 young sons, 6 and 8 years old.) The first floor was "the rental". They had started to work on it, but decided to take advantage of the current housing shortage to hasten the completion. There were special conditions for renters of this flat. In order to occupy this roomy apartment, in addition to the reasonable rent, all we had to do was agree to help with the renovation and redecorate all 6 rooms at our own expense. Ralph saw that the kitchen would need considerable work (it contained nothing but soapstone laundry tubs) but the other rooms only needed redecorating. Ralph was excited about the possibility of renting this place Although neither Ralph nor I had any experience in making household repairs, painting, wall-papering, or floor finishing, Ralph declared that we would be happy to take on the project. After all it meant that we could be together. The Wanamakers seemed pleased at Ralph's reaction, but said that they had quite a few more interviews scheduled. They said that they had had over 200 replies to their newspaper ad. They promised that they would notify us soon.
Perhaps there were not too many applicants who were willing to put up with the special conditions involved in renting this apartment, because it was not long before we received notice that the Wanamakers had chosen the Lunds to rent their first floor apartment.
At last we could move into a place of our own. We were both excited. It was mid-summer of 1946 when we took possession. Much hard work awaited us, but we were happy to have a place of our own.
Working with the Wanamakers on our apartment, cemented our friendship. One day while we were working together, we asked them why they had chosen us out of all the other applicants for the apartment. Regis said that of all the 200 replies they had received, Ralph's letter stood out. It stood out because of many misspellings! Regis was shocked. Ralph's letter had mentioned that he was a college graduate, but Regis was skeptical. This person couldn't spell! Regis decided that she must meet this COLLEGE GRADUATE who had never learned to spell accurately. Of course, as soon as Regis met Ralph she decided that accurate spelling was really not that important. I believe that Ralph's winning personality tipped the scales in our direction, but it was certainly his misspellings that had opened the door. The inability to spell accurately might be termed a liability by some, but for us it proved to be an asset. We found our first home.
written January 17, 1997
Ruth H. Lund
The renovation of our newly acquired apartment presented many challenges. We were rather overwhelmed by the look of 6 empty rooms. Even the arrangement of rooms seemed strange.
There were two front entrances, one from a front hall which connected to our landlord's upstairs home, and one from the side porch. Both opened into a large room. We didn't know what to call this room. It contained 6 doors and two windows which meant that there was no wall space. In order to get anywhere in the apartment, you had to go through this room. It was more like a lobby than a room. Besides the two front entrances, the front parlor, two bedrooms and the back hall opened into this room. Between two bedroom doors was a mantel which indicated that at one time there had been a fireplace in that spot. This room certainly presented an interior decorating challenge. We decided to postpone thinking of this and concentrate on more immediate concerns.
One of the best features of this apartment was a built-in cupboard which extended over the entire wall of the back hall. Underneath the glass doors of the china cabinet were six drawers, suitable for linen storage. Such wonderful storage space!. I was able to arrange all of our wedding gifts of crystal and china in this space. Never, since that time have I had enough space to do this.
The back hall led to a dining room and a room which would have to be converted into a kitchen. It contained nothing but soapstone laundry tubs. Our first challenge was to create a workable kitchen. Our landlords, the Wanamakers agreed to help us. Ralph decided that I should wait until the kitchen was ready before seeing the apartment. I believe he was afraid that if I saw the dismal condition of that back room, I would give up the project before it was started. So, every night after work, Ralph showed up at 12 Rowan street to work with Lewis and Regis Wanamker on the kitchen.
First, the laundry tubs had to be eliminated. Ralph and Lewis worked diligently to disconnect them and move them out of the area. Things were not going well. Ralph was completely dependent on Lewis to tell him what to do. Lewis was knowledgeable, but impatient.
Lewis was a very tall, well-built man with a broad chest and heavy muscular arms and legs. Lewis was not only a very strong man, he also possessed a strong temper. Just when it seemed to Ralph that they would have to get more help to achieve their goal, Lewis suddenly became very angry. While uttering a few expletives, he picked up the heavy tubs, turned, carried them several feet, and threw them down the back steps into the yard. What a display of brute strength! Ralph was flabbergasted. How could he have done that? Lewis' flash of temper must have caused the adrenalin to flow profusely. It was an impressive feat. The tubs must have weighed at least 250 pounds. And, one problem was solved.
Next, they tackled the floor. The old sub-flooring had to be removed, a new one laid, before putting down linoleum. Ralph remembers little except that the Wanamakers always had plenty of beer to keep the workers' spirits high as they worked. Ralph reports that as the evening progressed, he found it more and more difficult to hit the nails with his hammer. Yet, they finally succeeded in laying a floor in both the kitchen and a small adjoining pantry.
After this, it was only a matter of purchasing appliances. Here, the Wanamakers were a godsend. They knew all the second-hand and junk stores in the area. Ralph found a used sink and a small used refrigerator which would fit into the pantry. With the purchase of a new gas stove, and the construction of a small shelf around the sink, the kitchen was almost complete. In the junk shop the Wanamakers found a booth (a table and two benches) once used in a restaurant. This became our dinette. All that remained was the painting. It was time to get Ruth into the project.
However, Ralph and I had no furniture. Before I arrived, it appeared to be time for furniture shopping, especially for a bed. Ralph and I spent some time in furniture stores and found the quality very poor. Good furniture had not been made during the war, and the stores were still not stocked. We did not find any bedroom furniture which suited us. However, we found one quality piece, and we fell in love with it. The trouble was, it was not a bed. It was a Chippendale sofa, covered in a floral tapestry--quite formal in appearance. We thought it was wonderful and purchased it immediately.
The new sofa was delivered and sat in the middle of the big empty room. It looked so elegant in this barren setting. We called the Wanamakers down to see and admire it. They gasped when they saw that our one purchase was a formal sofa. "But we thought you were going to buy a bed. Where are you going to sleep?"
We hadn't really thought about that, but we answered that we would just sleep on the floor. You could tell that our landlords thought we were truly crazy. How could we be so impractical? Their new tenants were nutty. They laughed about it, but went right upstairs and found a mattress for us to put on our bedroom floor. At least we would have a place to lay our heads temporarily.
We have never regretted our impulsive purchase. Our sofa has survived many years of hard use. After several slip-coverings, and a reupholstering, it still graces our living room. We still remember how beautiful it looked--a lone piece of furniture in six empty rooms. It served as the key to our decorating scheme. What better way to begin?
With the completion of the kitchen, the redecorating project got under way. For many weeks, the paint brush was my constant companion. Ralph joined me by painting during evenings and weekends. Those six rooms contained a lot of woodwork We got tired of painting. But another challenge faced us. We needed money. We had managed to purchase some bedroom furniture, but all else was on hold. I had to find a job!
I found a job at the R.T. Vanderbilt Company in their development laboratory. The best thing about the job was its convenient location. I could walk to work. Since we had no car, this was a real advantage. However, this served to slow down our apartment project. Now, I, too, could work on the apartment only evenings and weekends.
We needed to wall-paper 5 rooms. After visiting a few wall-paper stores, Ralph and I felt totally confused. There were so many choices. Ralph decided to let me make the decisions, but I needed help. Ralph's older sister Frone offered to help me choose wallpaper. I was delighted. Frone loved pretty things. I knew that Frone was very creative with flower arrangements, so I relied on her ability to judge color and pattern combinations for each room. We came home very pleased with ourselves for choosing such beautiful paper. We could hardly wait to have it in place.
We had no experience in hanging wallpaper. We sought advice from my father who was an expert wall-paper hanger. He answered our prayer. He offered to come and help us paper our apartment. How wonderful! This was great news, but we had no extra sleeping accommodations. We had to purchase a sofa-bed which put a strain on our budget. A cheap sofa-bed became the lone piece of furniture in our lobby-den.
Next, we had to prepare the walls for the papering. This meant tearing off layers of old paper. We did not use a steamer. We did it the old-fashioned way--soaking the walls with vinegar and water and scraping off the mess. Sometimes we found places which had been patched with old newspaper. It was interesting to read the advertisements in these old papers. I remember being fascinated by the fashions in clothes, but Ralph recalls a specific ad for a brand new 1936 4-door Pontiac available for $680! What a strange recollection!. After much hard work, we called my father to announce that the walls were ready. My father drove from New Hampshire with his wallpapering equipment and set to work.
Alas, when the beautiful wallpaper that Frone and I had chosen was on the dining room wall, we became aware that the large floral pattern should have been reserved for someone's banquet hall. It was much too bold for our small dining room. I realized then that Frone had never had any interior decorating experience and her ability to arrange flowers creatively was not a reliable yardstick for choosing wallpaper.
My father worked by himself most of the time. He preferred it this way. So, while we were at work, he struggled with the papering. I say struggled, because he complained that he couldn't understand how I could have picked the hardest possible paper to hang. The wallpaper we had chosen for the parlor and the lobby-den was a soft pastel aqua color with a glossy finish. My father said that when he wet this paper, it became just like silk--impossible to handle. How could I have known it would act that way?
The next challenge was floor-finishing. The house had fine hard-wood floors, but they were dirty and well worn. I still recall working during the hot summer with scrapers, steel wool and varsol to clean up the floors. It was tedious work, and I recall being in tears when, after much hard work, the floor did not come out well. Those floors were covered with our sweat and tears.
We decided to concentrate on our front parlor next. In the corner of this room was a marble fireplace which had been painted a very ugly dark green. Using paint remover we tried to clean it up. We could never get all of the green paint off, but the little hint of green on the marble gave it an interesting look. My father was delighted with the results. He said it looked just like Italian marble! It also blended well with the wallpaper in the room--as if it had been planned that way. We had done one thing right!
The Wanamakers watched our progress with interest. They probably thought we would never finish the job. They told us of an estate sale where we might purchase some furnishings cheap. We found draperies for both the parlor and the den (5 windows). The drapes were a dusty rose shiny fabric which blended well with our sofa and the wall color. We started watching for more estate sales. This gave us hope that we might eventually finish this project, even if we didn't have much money.
Lewis Wanamaker stopped at a 2nd hand store one day and found a set of dining room furniture in excellent condition. It must have come from an elegant home. It was solid walnut with carved legs and trimming. The style was reminiscent of 1920. I would never have chosen that style, but it suited the house. Lewis and I negotiated with the seller to get it for a very low price. I phoned Ralph to stop on his way home from work to look at it. When Ralph got there he was delighted to see the quality of the furniture. There was a table, a large buffet, a server and 6 chairs. Of course, Ralph did not know that we had already worked the price down considerably. He started to haggle for a lower price when the seller burst out angrily, "I have already had to deal with your wife and that other fellow over this price, I absolutely refuse to come down further. Take it or leave it." So it was that we furnished our dining room. This room with its striking wallpaper and heavy furniture was quite overwhelming, to say the least.
Eventually, we made a furniture-buying trip to New York city obtaining a rug, two chairs, a table and lamp for our parlor. We even bought a desk for our lobby-den. This room now contained a sofa-bed, a small rug, floor lamp, a bookcase and a desk. We could bring the two arm-chairs from the dining room to create a conversation area when needed. The room still looked empty! We would never solve that challenge.
I am not a very creative person, but I was inspired by a picture in a magazine of a coffee table made from a large ornate picture frame. Finding just the right frame in a junk store, I bought a fine piece of fabric which blended with the tapestry on the sofa and mounted it under the glass of the frame. I then searched for an old piano stool suitable for a base. When the frame was attached to the ornate legs of the old piano stool, I antiqued both the frame and the legs. It provided a unique coffee table. It fit very well into our formal parlor with its Italian marble fireplace. Although this table appeared very fragile, it survived many years. Incredibly, three active toddlers failed to destroy it, although there were many near disasters.
Our energy and our money gave out. We still had one bedroom to finish . We just closed the door and left the room untouched. In 1947 when I became pregnant for our first child, we realized that the extra bedroom would make a great nursery. However, we kept procrastinating about it. One evening at a card party I happened to win a prize. The prize was the wallpapering of one room! What a break! Of course we then had the motivation to prepare the room for the wallpapering. It turned out to be a very attractive room and served as a nursery for our first son until we moved to Richmond, Virginia when he was 6 months old.
At last we had finished our project. We had expended much time and energy on someone else's home, but we have many good memories of these two years. We have never regretted taking on the challenge of the 12 Rowan Street apartment.
Written January 25, 1997
Ruth H. Lund
Ruth Enters the Real World
Eventually, the Lunds and the Wanamakers became good friends. However, this relationship developed slowly and rather painfully.
Regis and Lewis Wanamaker were our landlords. We rented a first floor apartment from them at 12 Rowan Street in East Norwalk, Connecticut. We had moved around a lot during our first year of marriage. This was our first home. The Wanamakers occupied the 2 floors above us. This proximity, at times, proved to be a disadvantage.
Regis had liked Ralph from the first time they met. He was the "college graduate who could not spell accurately". They developed an instant rapport. Lewis, Regis and Ralph had worked together on the renovation of the kitchen and this project cemented their relationship, So, when I finally appeared on the scene, I felt like an outsider.
Meeting the Wanamakers for the first time was rather shocking to me. They were different from anyone I had ever known. I did not know how to take them, and it was obvious that they had the same feeling about me. They accepted me because I was Ralph's wife, but I think they wondered how this wonderful guy could have chosen such a dud for his life partner.
After my first meeting with Regis, I felt that I would never be able to get along with her. Regis was a very tall, thin woman. She had a stick-like figure with absolutely no fat on her body. She had probably been blonde when younger, but her hair was now ash brown, and held in place with a single bobby pin. She dressed plainly. She was not a pretty woman, and she made no attempt to improve her looks with makeup. Although she was only in her thirties, she appeared to be much older. She looked haggard--as if she had been through a lot. Her pallid countenance gave an impression of weakness, but actually she was very strong and she bristled with energy. However, it was not her physical appearance which bothered me. It was her manner. She had a very strident voice and talked constantly. She spoke as if she were yelling at you. She came on very strong, dominating everyone else in the room. She immediately started telling me what I should do. She was correct in assuming that I knew nothing about housekeeping or cooking, but, as a bride setting up my first home, I did not appreciate being directed in all my activities. I preferred to "do it my way". So, Regis found me cold and unfriendly while I found her dictatorial manner offensive. It was not a great beginning.
I found Lewis easier to know. When I told him that ny grandmother was a Wanamaker, Lewis decided that we must be related. That broke the ice. He soon called me "Cuz". Lewis was a very tall man, broad-chested, with heavy muscular arms and legs, probably built up by weight-lifting. He had a very manly build, and seemed proud of his physical appearance. His erect posture and confident stride showed him to be a person with a strong ego -- someone who should not be crossed. He had dark hair and a ruddy complexion. He appeared to be in excellent health, in contrast to his wife who was so thin she appeared sickly. Earlier in his life, while working in a factory, Lewis had suffered an accident losing the sight of one eye. He did not have a glass eye, but the injured eye did not focus. This was a bit disconcerting until you discovered which eye to watch when making eye contact with him. Lewis almost always dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and tie. When he went out he wore a black Homburg hat tipped at a rakish angle. His shoes were always polished, and his clothes brushed. Good grooming was obviously important to him. This again, seemed a real contrast to Regis who paid little attention to her personal appearance. I could only wonder how this couple got together. Furthermore, Regis might appear to dominate others, but she certainly did not dominate her husband. He was king of the roost.
Lewis had an air of knowing all. He must have considered the Lunds real dummies, because we seemed to know nothing about practical matters. We certainly knew nothing about household upkeep. However, we were willing to learn and Lewis enjoyed being our mentor. We deferred to his judgement on many issues during our apartment redecorating project. Lewis was a good bargain hunter. His knowledge often saved us dollars and cents.
Lewis must have had a disability pension, for he did not have a regular job. He worked off and on at many different jobs. Lewis loved automobiles. He always had a large expensive car -- a Cadillac, Lincoln or a Buick. He was constantly dealing for a better model. He kept his cars immaculate. He spent much time tinkering with them or polishing them. At one time, Lewis was employed as a chauffeur for a wealthy estate owner. He looked quite grand in his chauffeur's uniform and he loved driving the big expensive automobile. We never learned his true financial situation, but Lewis always seemed to have ready cash.
The Wanamakers were excellent landlords. A leaking faucet, or a loose doorknob were taken care of immediately. They took their responsibilities seriously and we could not have had better landlords.
I would have been happy to maintain a tenant/landlord relationship with the Wanamakers. However, Regis would not allow this to be. She expected us to become part of her family. At any time, she would walk into our apartment. She seemed to have no realization that she was invading our privacy. I considered this intrusion very rude and unforgivable. I tried to indicate this without hurting her feelings, but I was never successful in changing her ways. When Regis walked in and found me reading a book, she was shocked. In the middle of the day, I should be scrubbing the kitchen floor, washing windows or cooking some exotic dish for my dear husband. How could I waste my time like that? Of course I became defensive. I might not keep house the way Regis recommended, but I was not shirking my domestic duties. I just had different priorities. How could I make her understand?
Gradually I came to understand Regis. I learned that Regis had truly had a difficult life. She was the oldest child of a large family. Her father was an alcoholic and her mother had a real struggle raising 7 children. Regis had never finished high school. She had gone to work very early to help with family finances. The depression had been a very difficult time, and things did not go well for her family. Her father died early and her mother's health failed. Regis had too much responsibility placed on her at an early age. She had endured many hardships. No wonder she looked haggard.
Regis and Lewis had both struggled to better themselves. Early in their marriage, they had to live in subsidized housing. They hated this and worked very hard to get into a better neighborhood. They both had been employed in local factories until Lewis' accident. Somehow, they had managed to save enough money to purchase the house at 12 Rowan St. in East Norwalk. They had done most of the renovation themselves. They were proud of being property owners. Regis was frugal and sewed most of the clothes for her sons and for herself. They worked hard for all that they had.
I soon learned that Regis was the one who was called in every family emergency. Her family, the Iliffs, all lived in the East Norwalk vicinity and they all depended on Regis whenever they had a problem. Someone was always in trouble. Almost every day, Regis would bounce in to tell me of the latest incident in the Iliff family. It might be that one of her brothers was in jail, or a sick sister needed help. Regis responded as best she could. She often disapproved of the behavior of her siblings, but she was always there for them. I had to marvel at her constant giving of herself for her family. At the same time, I tired of hearing of all the escapades, illnesses and problems of this extended family. Gradually, I learned to be shocked at nothing. The Iliff saga became my daily soap-opera.
Ralph and I found it difficult to accept some of the Wanamakers' behavior patterns. Both Regis and Lewis yelled at their children. Their boys, Lewis and Charles were about 5 and 7 when we knew them. They were full of mischief and often needed discipline, but we hated to hear the yelling. They also whipped the boys. I can't say that they abused them, for I know they loved their children. But Lewis had a strong temper, and he often was harsh in his treatment of the boys. This upset us.
We learned to laugh about their language patterns. Both Regis and Lewis murdered the King's English! They loved to use big words, but often it was a misuse. They confused words. They would say "prosecute" for "prostitute", or "conscious" for "conscience". They mispronounced many words either by omitting or misplacing syllables. ("conspicuous" would be "spicous", "statistics", "tatistics"). It was very frustrating. After listening to them talk for a while, I found I couldn't think of the correct pronunciation of the misused words. I felt as if I was being brain-washed. However, after I learned that neither Regis or Lewis had finished high school, I became more tolerant. At that time I knew nothing about language learning disabilities, but after many years in this field, I believe that they both had auditory perception problems.
The Wanamakers held strong prejudices. Italians lived across the street from us. The Italian children played in the street, and their foul language made me decide that I would never want my children associating with them. However, I wasn't sure that the source of the problem was the ethnicity. The Wanamakers were sure. And they had no use for many other ethnic groups. They were vocal about their feelings on this subject. How could we deal with this?.
Our first child was born while we were in East Norwalk. Regis fell in love with our baby boy. She delighted in taking him upstairs and playing with him. At that time television was very new, but the Wanamakers had a TV set. Ralph and I had no desire to own a TV set, since all that was shown was wrestling. However, Regis exposed baby J.P to television and she claimed that he loved wrestling! How could I explain that it was probably the visual image of movement which fascinated the 5 month old baby? Again, we just looked at things differently.
With all of these differences in attitude and perspective, how could we have become friends? Well, the Wanamakers taught me a great deal. Before meeting them, I realize that I was very naive about people. I had lived a sheltered life. Growing up in a small New England town, gave me a narrow perspective of life. Going off to college had not broadened me much. I knew very few negroes, no Puerto Rican, Italians, or Mexicans. Most of the people I knew were very much like me. I didn't know it, but I was a snob. That is exactly what Regis thought of me when she first met me. (She admitted this after we had established a relationship). I had never had to struggle to rise above my circumstances. I had been fortunate to be born into a middle-class family. My family was never rich, but we were also never on welfare. The Wanamakers had an entirely different background. They had persevered and had made a batter life for themselves and their children. They loved each other. They loved life. They had maintained a wonderful sense of humor throughout all their difficulties. They had a strong loyalty to family and supported one another through thick and thin. I came to admire their fortitude.
Ralph and I realized that we, too, had prejudices. That's what made us snobs. It was none of our business how the Wanamkers raised their children, how they kept house, or how they felt about various ethnic groups. We need not be concerned about these matters.
Underneath all the brashness, we found out that the Wanamakers had hearts of gold. From the beginning, they had decided that we needed protection and they gave it. It took us a while to appreciate it, but we finally realized that we could never have better friends. They would do anything for us. They accepted us with our snobbish ways and loved us anyway. We learned to laugh and cry together.
Ralph and I stayed in Norwalk only two years, but it was where I learned about the real world. I will always be grateful to the Wanamakers. Through them I learned that worth should never be measured by outside appearances.
IT'S ALL IN THE WAY THAT YOU SAY IT
Regional dialects can cause problems. In 1949 when I moved from New England to Richmond, Virginia, I had great difficulty with the language. I was targeted immediately as a stranger when I called Thalhiners /tall hi mers/
Thal hi mers. We visited Staunton, Virginia and learned that it is pronounced /stan ton/. My neighbor, Mr. /tol iv er/ spelled his name T a l l i a f e r r o.
The problems were not one-sided. No one seemed to understand me. I was continually asked to repeat my requests in stores or when telephoning. The vowel-r phoneme was my nemesis, especially ar. ( I pahk my cah in Hahvahd yahd) and the or (I love strawberry shotcake). Our first street address, Berkeley Road contained that troublesome r /ah/, and we moved to Dollard Drive which was spelled with ar /ah/. When giving these addresses over the phone (yes, it's D o l l a ah d) I always had to spell the words twice. It was annoying.
I remember being very pleased one day when shopping in a Baby-Wear Store in downtown Richmond, that I was not asked to repeat myself at all. It was wonderful. I bought too much. I learned later that the store was operated by New Yorkers who understood my Yankee twang.
My friends tease me about my Yankee accent. My husband tells stories about it. Even my children came to realize that my speech was different.
One day I went shopping for a "gahden caht" (garden cart). I went to several hardware stores and failed to find a "gahden caht". How could it be that all these stores were sold out of such a common item? I was becoming angry. My eight-year-old son was with me and he detected the problem. At the next stop, he said, "Mom, try asking for a small wheelbarrow". I took his advice. I found my "gahden caht".
The years have brought many changes. The Richmond of 1995 is full of many regional dialects. My speech no longer appears so glaringly different. Perhaps my accent has modulated a bit, because verbal communication seems considerably easier now. However, I am pleased that my current street address, Caledonia is spelled without an r /ah/.
Law and Order
As parents, Ralph and I tried to teach our children to be responsible for their actions. If they broke the rules of the family, they paid some price. We didn't inflict harsh punishment, but misbehavior brought negative consequences. Dealing with the law outside the home proved to be somewhat different. We had a strange encounter with the law in 1967.
Our son Stephen was 16 years old and had just obtained his driver's license. He was eager to gain more experience behind the wheel. As yet he had not been allowed to drive into the downtown Richmond area. One day it became necessary to transport Haynes (age l5 years), downtown to the music store to get his saxophone repaired. Stephen volunteered to drive Haynes to town. I hesitated, but finally decided tolet him do it. Stephen really needed the experience.
The boys chose to make the trip in the mid-afternoon before the rush-hour traffic. They checked the city map to determine their route. They estimated that they could complete the trip to the music store in about an hour. They loaded the heavy saxophone case into our small 4CV Renault and took off.
All went well until the boys reached the intersection of Franklin and Foushee streets. Stephen failed to see the red light and drove through the intersection. The inevitable happened. The Renault was hit broadside and was tipped over on its side. The boys crawled out of the car and shook themselves. They found that they were not hurt. This was amazing because the Renault was a total wreck and the saxophone case was destroyed. (The saxophone itself was uninjured). Someone called the police. The driver, (Mr. X) who hit the Renault was quite shaken. Although he was in no way to blame for the accident, his car was also damaged. However, he appeared very concerned about the two teenagers he had hit. Mr. X probably had teenage children of his own. He made sure that the boys were ok before he left the scene.
Down the street, Jim Harris looked out of his office window to check on the commotion at the intersection. Seeing the Renault on its side and the two boys near it, Jim suddenly realized that those were the Lund boys. (Jim was a personal friend). Jim hurried over and offered the use of his office to the police officer. So they all went to Jim's office where the necessary information was exchanged and Mr. X was permitted to depart. The police officer charged Stephen with failure to stop at a red light, issued the ticket and left. Jim Harris then telephoned me to inform me of the accident. He was quick to tell me that the boys seemed to be ok, and that he had them safely in his office where they would await my arrival.
I hurried to the scene. The boys looked pale and shaken, but were not physically hurt. The Renault had been towed to a nearby garage. We thanked Jim for his concern and his care and headed back home.
That afternoon television cameras were capturing a downtown fire on film. Hearing the crash on Franklin and Foushee, the television crew hurried to the intersection and photographed the two teenagers crawling out of a small Renault lying on its side.
When we arrived home we found Ralph watching the 6 o'clock news. There on the TV screen we all watched Stephen and Haynes Lund crawling out of the overturned Renault. It is hard to describe our feelings as we watched this unbelievable scene.
For Stephen, more traumatic than watching the TV news, was delivering his morning papers the next day. There on the front page of the Metro section of the Times-Dispatch was a large photo of the overturned Renault. It seemed to Stephen as if the whole world knew of his accident.
Within the family the immediate consequences were that Ralph would hold Stephen's license until after the court hearing. Stephen would also pay whatever fine the court imposed. It was not a happy time. We all dreaded the day Stephen had to appear in court.
Stephen went to court accompanied by his mother and father. Finally his case was called. The judge had a deep voice. In a very stern manner he boomed out, "Stephen Eric Lund, you are charged with failing to stop at a red light." We all shook in our boots. This was going to be worse that we had expected. The arresting officer came forward and explained the accident to the judge. In addition, the officer told the judge that the boys had been very polite when addressing him, and had given him no back talk. He suggested that Stephen had missed seeing the red light because he was a new driver, not used to driving in the downtown area. The officer implied that the judge should not be too hard on Stephen.
Next, Mr. X, the driver who had hit the Renault suddenly appeared in court. He was not required to appear, but he had decided to come and tell his story. He, too, seemed to be apologizing for being on the road at the time and not being able to avoid hitting the Renault. He mentioned how upsetting it was to watch those two teenagers crawl out of the overturned car. He complimented the boys on their polite behavior. He also suggested that the judge be as lenient as possible.
Then, Conrad Bareford, the Assistant Commonwealth Attorney strode through the door and asked permission to address the court. Conrad lived across the street from us and was fond of Stephen, who was his paper boy. Conrad spoke glowingly of Stephen. He told of his diligence as a newspaper boy, of his fine character, his excellent academic record at school etc. Conrad also informed the judge that Ralph Lund was a very strict father. Ralph had already grounded Stephen and taken his license. Stephen was also going to have to pay for everything with his hard earned paper-route money. "Judge, believe me, there is nothing that you can do tho this boy that his father has not already done more severely." With this statement, Conrad made his exit. Conrad Bareford had made us all feel very sorry for poor Stephen Lund.
People in the court room were beginning to smile. Even the judge seemed to be having difficulty keeping a straight face. As parents, Ralph and I were flabbergasted at these events. We certainly didn't want Stephen too be unjustly punished, but he was guilty of this offense, and everyone seemed to be making excuses for him. What was going on?
Finally, the judge lowered his voice and spoke in a kindly manner--a real contrast to his earlier demeanor. "Now, Stevie, you did go through a red light. I do have to fine you for this offense. Now, the lowest fine I can give you is $10.00. And, Stevie, there are some court charges that you must pay. I want you to know that I have nothing to do with these costs. :You will have to pay court costs of $17.80. So, if you will pay this $27.80 to the clerk, you may be excuses. And, Stevie, don't go through any more red lights. Case dismissed."
Ralph and I had mixed feelings. Of course it was a relief and we couldn't help but feel happy that it had turned out so well. Imagine, Conrad Bareford, taking the time to check the court calendar for Stephen's case and coming to speak for him. How wonderful that Mr. X had come when he was not required to do so. How could we ever thank all those people for being so kind to our son. But, the situation was a bit troubling. Was the punishment sufficient for the crime? Would our son learn from this experience? Would he lose respect for the law? We wondered.
Well, to my knowledge, since that day in 1967, Stephen Eric Lund has not failed to stop for a red light.
COMEDY OF ERRORS
It appeared to be ill-fated from the very beginning. Our well-planned train trip to New Hampshire in February 1974 lingers in our memories even though we have struggled to forget it.
Our youngest son, Haynes and his fiance, Michelle Polich decided to marry during their senior year at Dartmouth. They scheduled their wedding on Carnival weekend in February. It was exciting to anticipate a winter wedding amidst all the Carnival festivities. Every year at Dartmouth Carnival time, Hanover, New Hampshire becomes a winter wonderland with huge ice sculptures decorating the campus and party festivities everywhere. For New England college students, Dartmouth Carnival is a highlight of the winter season. In 1974 the Lund family would be there to participate.
The most practical way to travel from Richmond, Virginia to New Hampshire in February appeared to be the railroad. Amtrak's Montreal Express would take us to White River Junction, Vermont which was only a few miles away from Hanover, New Hampshire. Our train travels in the past had been comfortable and enjoyable, so we proceeded to book passage for a round trip on Amtrak. Our son, Stephen was living in Virginia at that time, so he would accompany us on the trip. As the train stopped in New York City, our oldest son, J.P. and his wife, Mary Foote (Footie) would join us there. Our good friend Harriett Mercer and her teenage daughter, Ann decided to attend the wedding also. We persuaded them that the train trip would be an exciting part of the whole weekend. So, the Mercers and Ralph and I booked sleeping cars for the trip. The young people would travel by coach. We were all anticipating a wonderful weekend.
Amtrak's Montreal Express left Washington, D.C. about 4 p.m. We planned to take an Amtrak train from Richmond, Virginia which would connect with the Montreal Express. This meant leaving Richmond around noon. When all 5 of us arrived at the Amtrak station in Richmond, we discovered that our connecting train was running very late and we would have to make some other arrangements to get to Washington, D.C. We hurried to the bus station and caught a bus to Washington. The bus station in Washington was not close to the railroad station and we had lots of luggage, so we had to hire a taxi for the trip across town. We just made it to the train in time. The first leg of the journey was over. We began to relax. We had a delightful time ahead--a whole night on the train!
Ralph and I searched for our compartment on the sleeper without success. We enlisted help from the conductor. Alas, we discovered that Amtrak had booked space on the sleeper which did not exist! We had no place to lay our heads! We were quite concerned about this, but our conductor assured us that he would find a place for us. He urged us to go to the lounge and he would notify us when he had found appropriate accommodations. So we joined our friends in the lounge and ordered drinks. The waiter returned to announce that the drinks we ordered could not be served. The bar was low on supplies. There were only a few mixes and no bourbon or gin. What was the matter with this train? The train originated in Washington, D.C. where it should have been provisioned. We had just boarded in Washington. It certainly seemed strange that the bar was short of supplies. Oh well, we couldn't argue with the facts. Perhaps Amtrak was going to stock up at some other stop. We just ordered drinks from the available inventory and tried to relax. We were all looking forward to a fine dinner on the dining car later.
The dining car looked very inviting, but we soon learned that only half of the items mentioned on the menu were actually available. Indeed, this train seemed poorly organized in many ways. We had been disappointed at every turn. Somehow, we managed to have a satisfactory dinner, but we still had no sleeping compartment.
At last, the conductor appeared and led us to our sleeping quarters. The compartment appeared adequate and we decided that everything would be ok from now on. We were wrong. Our luggage was not in the compartment. Checking on this error, we discovered that our luggage was lost, or as the conductor phrased it, "temporarily missing." How could this be happening? We had turned everything over to the conductor in the sleeper when we arrived. How could he have lost our bags? I now began to panic. All of our fine clothes for the wedding festivities were in the missing bags. This was TOO much!
By now, Ralph was a bit irritated. He expressed his feelings of frustration to as many attendants as he could find. They assured him that our luggage would be found. But, I could not relax until we had everything together. We could do nothing but wait. It was an anxious time. Amtrak was certainly not displaying the fine service it advertised.
At last the conductor came with the missing bags. We never found out where he located them. We were just relieved to have our belongings together.
By this time our son J.P. and Footie had boarded the train. We related our tales of woe, but assured them that all was now ok. So, Ralph and I left the young people and retired for the night. Little did we know that more trouble lay ahead that night.
Our train was due into White River Junction at 4 a..m. It was right on time. We were delighted. We got off the train expecting our rental car to be awaiting our arrival. There was no car to be seen. At 4 a.m. there was no place to go. The station was open but there was no attendant. We had no idea whom to phone concerning our car rental since all arrangements had been made through Amtrak. The ground was snow covered and it was about 10 degrees below zero. Again, there was nothing to do but wait. It was a very cold and uncomfortable two hours before the car we had rented appeared at the station. The driver was amazed to see us. He claimed that the train had not been on time for weeks, so he had deliberately timed his arrival to coordinate with the usual train schedule. Ralph expressed his displeasure at such negligence. Certainly someone at the car-rental office could have checked on the train's arrival time. However, we were all so glad to get in out of the cold, we couldn't bother fussing about the poor service. Finally, seven very cold, tired persons staggered into the Hanover Inn. Here, at last, our accommodations appeared to be faultless.
Even after we had rested from the trip, we continued to talk about the train trip north. Despite the inadequacies of the Amtrak bar car, there was plenty of beer aboard. Our son Stephen informed us that he had really enjoyed the trip up. The train was crowded with skiers heading north for a skiing weekend. College students heading for Dartmouth Carnival partied all night. Steve claimed the bar on the train was better than any singles bar because there was no obligation to take anyone home! We were all amused by his observations. At least one person in our party had a good trip.
All the events surrounding the wedding were delightful. Friends and family from far and near gathered for the occasion. The weather was bright and sunny on the wedding day. The Dartmouth campus was spectacular. About three feet of snow covered the ground. The ice sculptures sparkled in the sunlight. The wedding occurred without a flaw. From the skylight of the chapel, a stream of sunlight bathed Haynes and Michelle as they stood at the altar to make their vows. Their reception was held in an activity building overlooking a skating rink where skaters in colorful clothing could be seen enjoying themselves. It was all that a winter wedding could be. Everyone had a great time.
However, Ralph and I were feeling very guilty about the big build-up we had given out friends, the Mercers about the joys of train travel. Judging from the trip north, the Mercers were not at all impressed with Amtrak. We now had to face a return trip. Ralph and I hoped that, if all went well on the return, we might salvage some credibility about train travel.
We were due to leave New Hampshire at midnight. We drove to the station in White River Junction, Vermont to await the arrival of the train from Montreal. Unbelievably, the train was on time. However, no passengers were allowed to board. While the train sat on the tracks with workmen going back and forth and in and out of cars, no one stopped to explain the situation to the waiting passengers. It was 20 degrees below zero outside, so we all crowded into the unheated station and struggled to keep warm. Ralph, wandered in and out of the station restlessly. He finally found a trainman who explained the situation to him. It seems that, by mistake, this train had been improperly equipped for the severe winter weather encountered on the Montreal trip. The cars and the engine on this train were suitable for the New York to Miami run instead of Washington to Montreal trip. All the steam lines under the cars, being uninsulated, had frozen. These were the pipes which brought heat to the cars. Trainmen were attempting to direct enough heat to the engine to clear the windshield so that the train could proceed. What a ridiculous situation! How could Amtrak be guilty of such poor planning?
We were finally allowed on the cars at 2 a.m. Of course, there was no heat on the entire train. There was not even hot coffee available. What a mess. We all huddled in our seats with our coats wrapped around us and tried to keep warm. At no time did our car reach above 50 degrees. It was unsuitable for cattle, let alone humans.
When daylight arrived we all yearned for hot coffee and breakfast. We soon learned that the train had no provisions for breakfast. The train had been stocked in Washington, D.C. on the way north. More food than expected had been consumed on the way north and there was no way to restock the train until it again reached Washington. This was unbelievable! The train cooks attempted to build a charcoal fire to make coffee. It was a further disaster. The cars filled with heavy smoke and the coffee was awful. By this time, our friends, the Mercers proclaimed that they would never again take a train anywhere. What could we say?
In desperation Ralph went to the bar car to see if anything was available there. He found that the last bit of liquor on the train was one case of vodka. Ralph bought the entire case! So. all those in the Lund party fortified themselves with Bloody Marys. In truth, we did feel some degree of warmth from the vodka.
The train continued to fall behind schedule because the engineer could not keep the windshield free of ice. By the time we arrived in Springfield, Mass we were another hour behind schedule. However, believe it or not, when we arrived in Springfield, Amtrak borrowed some food supplies from another train, so we were able to satisfy our hunger a bit, although it was all cold food.
In New York city, J.P and Footie were delighted to leave this train which had provided nothing but misery all night. The rest of us envied them.
When the train got into the Philadelphia area, it stopped again. We sat for a long time without knowing why. Finally, Ralph found out that there had been a wreck on the tracks ahead of us. We had to wait for the tracks to be cleared. What next? This delay meant that we would be late arriving in Washington, D.C. and probably miss our connection to Richmond.
At last we arrived in Washington,D,C, six to seven hours late. We should have been in Washington at 10 a.m. Instead, we arrived about 4:30 p.m. Of course we had missed our connection. My husband was so angry by this time that he sought out some Amtrak officials in the Washington station to whom he could complain. He got very little satisfaction from this. We persuaded him to forget the past and continue the journey. We wanted to get home.
Ralph decided to rent a car to drive back to Richmond. At this point this seemed to be the easiest way to get back home. Soon we were on our way.
As Ralph, still angry about Amtrak, drove the car out of the city we attributed his careless driving to his anguish over the miserable train trip. However, we soon realized that, although he did not appear to be drunk, he obviously had drunk too much vodka to drive safely. I entreated him to stop and allow someone else to drive. However, he also had consumed too much vodka to respond to reason. He refused to stop. declaring that he was perfectly capable of driving home. We were feeling desperate. Finally, Harriett Mercer, sitting in the back seat with her teenage daughter Ann, spoke very quietly, "Ralph, this is a situation which I have been trying to teach my daughter about. I would appreciate it if you would stop this car and let one of us drive home." Ralph responded. We elected Stephen to drive. We arrived home safely late Sunday night. Never had home looked so good.
A few days later, Ralph vented his fury in a letter to the president of Amtrak. In this letter Ralph wrote the following: "Harold Lloyd once said that the essence of comedy is to take a possible situation and carry it to its logical absurdity. My recent experience with Amtrak convinces me that you are approaching the absurd as a transport medium. If I had not experienced it, I would be rolling in the aisles with laughter. Only an entrenched government bureaucracy could reach this level of inefficiency and callous disregard for its customers."
The memories of this trip are still vivid, but after 23 years we find we can, at last, laugh about this comedy of errors.
Written April 6, 1997
Ruth H. Lund
LOST AND FOUND
I lost my faith in the goodness of mankind and found it again within a one day period.
In 1976 I was in New York City attending a national conference of the Orton Dyslexia Society. The entire faculty of The New Community School in Richmond Virginia attended this conference. We stayed in the large hotel in Manhattan where the conference was held.
Besides the excitement of attending the conference, I was looking forward to seeing our oldest son, John Peter (J.P.). At that time, J.P.was attending graduate school at Columbia University in New York City. He was living in a very large top-floor apartment on the west side of Manhattan which he shared with four other students. He wanted me to meet his friends. In a great gesture of magnanimity, I offered to take them out to dinner. We made plans to meet at his apartment. J.P. said that he would make dinner reservations at a nearby establishment. I was to phone J.P. from my hotel and confirm the time of our meeting.
On the day J.P. and I planned our get-together, the principal of our school invited all of the faculty to join him in the cocktail lounge about 5 P.M. after that day's conference sessions were over. Dinner plans could be formulated at that time. I had already made my dinner plans, but I joined the others in the lounge anyway. It was a good opportunity to share our conference experiences.
The cocktail lounge contained a very large circular bar in the center with smaller areas set apart by steps and railings. It was in one of these corner areas that our faculty party took place. It was slightly elevated from the main floor and surrounded by a brass railing. I chose a place at the table which would allow me to make an easy exit if the party went on too long. I had tried to phone J.P. once without success, and was eager to try again as soon as possible.
I carried a very large leather purse which contained all important things such as hotel keys, plane tickets, conference materials, credit cards, makeup, and money. Since I had offered to finance dinner, I had filled my wallet with cash which I had removed from my "bosom pal" moments earlier. I placed my purse carefully between my feet. I was sitting near the outside rail.
After about an hour I decided to leave the party and place my phone call to J.P. I excused myself, reached for my purse and found that it was no longer between my feet. It was nowhere to be seen. It was gone!
I panicked. Without my purse I was penniless. Without my purse I couldn't even call my son here in the city. I had no idea how his telephone was listed in the directory and his phone number was in my purse. What should I do?
Friends went with me to report the theft to the hotel security guards. I expected some sympathy, but received none. Hotel Security was so used to dealing with thefts of handbags that they treated me in a very unconcerned manner. There were dozens of such thefts every day in the hotel. They explained to me that they were aware of a thief who was very adept at maneuvering handbags through the brass rails in the cocktail lounge. They had been trying to catch this person (probably a female) in action, but had not yet succeeded. However, to help me, the hotel security people ordered a search of all the public rest-rooms in the hotel, because, they explained, thieves often took money from purses and then threw the purses in the trash. But the jurisdiction of the hotel security was limited to the hotel premises, so the hotel insisted that I report the theft to the New York police. The city police came reluctantly to deal with yet one more case of a stolen purse. They claimed there were hundreds in the city each day. Yet, they checked all the gutters around the hotel in case the purse had been discarded as the thief hastily left the hotel. None of these measures produced the missing handbag.
Since my hotel keys were in the stolen purse, our hotel room was vulnerable. Arrangements were made to install a new lock and provide keys for my three roommates and me. It was all very upsetting.
I was bereft. I was penniless. I felt the need to call my husband, Ralph , in Richmond, Virginia, but I didn't even have change to make the call on the pay phone. It was humiliating. The security guard gave me enough change to dial the operator and place a collect call. I told Ralph my sad tale and asked him to notify the credit card companies as soon as possible. I also obtained J.P.'s phone number. I had to notify J.P. that our evening date was off.
I reached J.P. by phone and explained my predicament. He was unwilling to call off our date. He said that he had enough cash to finance a dinner for the two of us. He wanted me to meet his friends and see his apartment. So, I borrowed from my friends just enough money to pay for a taxi to J.P.'s apartment.
I will never forget the empty feeling I had while riding in that taxi. I carried the taxi fare wrapped in my hanky. I had no identification. If there should be an accident, no one would know who I was. I didn't even have a compact to powder my nose. I felt like a non-person. A woman without her purse is like a homeless person.
I also felt very guilty. How could I have been so stupid? Just because I was with friends, I had felt safe in that cocktail lounge. No one is safe in New York City. I should have known better. Putting my handbag on the floor was a dumb act and now I was just one more statistic in the New York police files.
Besides all this, I felt violated. As the victim of the crime, I felt as if my personal space had been invaded, and I was angry. I was greatly inconvenienced by the loss of my money, but as I thought of the hundreds of victims who experienced this shock daily in the city, I was saddened. Why are we so cruel to one another? Here in this city, the evil in man seemed to be overcoming all the good, and. worst of all, no one seemed to care. I was disillusioned.
As soon as I met J.P. I was OK. His friends were wonderful to me and we had a very pleasant time together. Finally, J.P. said we should leave for dinner. He had made reservations for us at an Indian restaurant. Just as we reached the elevator to descend to the first floor, one of J.P.'s friends dashed into the hall saying that there was a telephone call for Ruth Lund. How could that be? No one except Ralph, in Richmond knew my whereabouts. I was alarmed.
I went back into the apartment and answered the call. A strange male voice asked me if I was Ruth H. Lund. I replied affirmatively and was asked if I owned a large leather handbag? I explained that my handbag had been stolen a few hours ago. The gentleman on the phone said that he had come home to find the bag in his entrance way. He looked inside and found a New York phone number sticking out of the top of the bag. He decided to take the chance that he might find the owner of the bag by calling that number. I couldn't believe my ears. The gentleman gave his name and address and J.P. and I took a taxi to his apartment. It was a long trip across to the east side of Manhattan, and an extremely long way from my hotel.
The gentleman lived in a very fine apartment complex. He was very gracious and delighted that he was able to return my handbag to me. I examined the bag closely and found all of the contents intact. Even the credit cards were there. Only the cash was missing. I was so grateful. It was unbelievable that someone would take the time and trouble to do something about a purse which had just been thrown away. There were good people left in the world after all. No one would believe that this had happened in New York City.
J.P. and I had a very late dinner together. He introduced me to some Indian food. I was surprised to find it very tasty and not as highly spiced as I had expected. We talked of the amazing turn of events, the incredible timing of my phone call which came just before we entered that elevator. A few seconds later and we would have missed it. We speculated about the thief who must have lived in or near those expensive apartments where the bag was discarded. What could have been the motivation? Since only money was stolen, it was probably a need for drugs. Thinking of money made me feel very sorry for J.P. He had to finance an extra taxi across the city as well as the dinner. I had hoped to treat him and instead he had to treat me.
Back at the hotel my roommates opened the door to me and gasped in wonder at seeing me with my leather bag in my hand. I told them the whole amazing story, This incredible experience had renewed my faith in the goodness of mankind. And, to think, it all happened in that den of iniquity--New York City.
Ruth Haynes Lund 10/22/96
Ralph and I anticipated the date with eagerness. We had laid careful plans for a trip to Nova Scotia in 1976. Because it was a first trip since we had entered the "empty nest" stage of life, we agreed to splurge a little. We booked passage on the Ferry BOLERO which sailed from Portland, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. It was an all night cruise.
The brochure listed many amenities including a comfortable cabin with full private facilities, s Swedish Smorgasbord served in a large dining room, a cafeteria for snacks, a large lounge seating 500 people, dancing to live music in ballroom, a casino, a swimming pool and a gift shop. With so much to choose from, we intended to stay up all night and do everything. It would be an all night party. We intended to get our money's worth on this trip.
Only one thing worried me. In the past I had been subject to car sickness and sea-sickness. I made preparations to avoid this problem by carrying some anti-sea-sickness medication. The directions stated that the pills should be taken at least six hours before boarding a ship.
We spent a delightful weekend with family at my brother's cottage on Lake Winnepesaukee. It was not until we were in our car driving to Portland, Maine that I remembered the pills. I quickly swallowed a couple, hoping that the 6 hour period was not really necessary for the medicine to work. We had to drive about three hours to reach Portland.
It was drizzling rain as we boarded the boat in the late afternoon. The BOLERO was a beautiful boat. We were quite excited. As soon as we had settled our automobile in its parking place, we set out to locate our "comfortable " cabin. The cabin may have been comfortable for midgets, but it was impossible for two people to stand up in it at the same time. In order for both to occupy this cabin, one person had to lie on a bunk. It was true that it was equipped with full facilities. but everything was too close together to be considered comfortable. It made us wonder if some of the other advertised amenities might leave a bit to be desired. Anyway, we did not intend to spend much time in our cabin. We were ready to party all night.
We toured the boat. We had to locate all the places we wished to visit before the night was over. It was raining harder as the boat left Portland harbor. We wore raincoats as we stood on the deck to watch the boat leave Portland. We then decided to celebrate the beginning of this adventure with a drink in the cocktail lounge. Ralph ordered a Jack Daniels on the rocks. The waiter who was of Asiatic extraction had difficulty understanding exactly what Ralph ordered. The waiter brought a drink made of blended whisky. This did not please Ralph at all. He sent it back. He tried to explain the differnece between bourbon and blended whisky to the waiter, but it was hopeless. Finally, Ralph ordered Canadian beer. The waiter understood that, but Ralph was not completely happy.
As we left the lounge the weather was growing worse. It was really raining hard and we knew we wouldn't be able to be out on deck again. I began to feel a bit queasy. Perhaps I shouldn't have had a drink . Perhaps the alcohol did not react well with the medication I had taken. I put all that out of my mind because we were on our way to the large dining room which was set up with a Swedish Smorgasbord.
I had never seen so much food. The serving tables were stretched all across the huge dining room. We slowly worked our way through the line, filling our plates with lots of delicious-looking food. Ralph and I chose lots of seafood. When we arrived at the end of the line, we discovered that we had to pay for the food before we were seated. Ralph was shocked to learn that I had $17.00 worth of food on my plate.
We were seated at a table with white cloth and all the silver and glasses for a full meal. The waiter was very nice and eager to be of help.
As I sat looking at my plate piled high with food, I realized that I was not at all hungry. That was very unusual for me. I have always had a big appetite and I love to eat. I decided to try a cup of tea first. The waiter brought hot tea which I sipped slowly as I watched Ralph eat. The tea didn't seem to help. Perhaps I had better visit the ladies room. I excused myself.
Visiting the ladies'room did not help. In fact, it exacerbated the problem. I found many other ladies there who were in more advanced stages of illness. I began to feel very poorly. I returned to the table just long enough to let Ralph know that I would not be able to eat my dinner and that I was returning to our cabin until I felt better. Ralph had already found a buddy to share our dining table. Ralph promised to come after me as soon as he had finished dinner and we would continue our plans for the night.
By the time I reached our cabin, I was intensely glad that all the facilities were so close together. I hardly had to raise my head from the pillow to use the basin. I needed all the facilities to be close at hand.
I was absolutely miserable.
When Ralph arrived he realized that it was hopeless to count on my participation in anything. The weather had worsened. The storm was quite severe and the boat was really rocking. My condition continued to grow worse. I asked Ralph to please leave and let me die in peace.
Ralph tried to stay away as long as possible, but the evening was also a disaster for him. He soon became tired of the casino. Somehow it was not much fun to gamble alone. Dancing was out and hanging around in the cocktail lounge was boring. There was nothing to do but go to bed.
He returned to the cabin. Although I continued to be ill the entire night, Ralph miraculously did not get sick. He escaped into sound sleep.
As soon as we left the boat the next morning, I recovered. All I needed was to set foot on land. However, the thought that we would be returning to USA on another ferry hung over me the entire time we spent in Nova Scotia. I made certain that I took my medication six hours before boarding the return boat. It was also a shorter trip and took place in the daytime. This allowed us to spend lots of time out on deck. I did not get sick. Our return ferry trip was quite uneventful.
Ralph figured the cost of our big date. Considering that we enjoyed only the first two hours of the overnight journey, he claimed it was the most expensive date we have ever had. He especially resented the $17.00 dinner that I didn't eat.
We have had many dates that have been memorable, but this is one I choose to forget.
YANKEE TWANG SCORES
Many times my Yankee twang has been troublesome, and I have had difficulty being understood. But, one time, my accent proved to be helpful.
In 1976 when Ralph and I were planning a summer trip to Nova Scotia, our friends warned us to beware of the U.S. Customs procedure. We were told that the Canadian customs inspection was easy to pass, but the U.S. Customs inspection at Bar Harbor, Maine was very strict. Friends advised us to be prepared.
I was appreciative of the warning and I prepared carefully. I gathered all the important papers I thought might be useful---birth certificates, marriage certificates, Ralph's discharge papers, records of immunizations etc. I packed this packet of important papers carefully and locked it in the glove compartment of our car. The packet traveled all over Nova Scotia with us. Occasionally I would check to be sure the packet was in its secure place and easily accessible.
Finally we were ready to leave Nova Scotia. We boarded the ferry, THE BLUENOSE, which sailed from Yarmouth, N.S. to Bar Harbor, Maine. At Bar Harbor we had to undergo the U.S. Custom inspection. This was the event we had been warned about.
I unlocked the glove compartment and retrieved my full packet of important papers. I held them in my hand, ready to present them to the Customs Officer. I was very nervous.
The officer came to my window first. He asked my name and where I was born. I gave my name and said that I was born in "Lancaster, New Hampshire". The officer abruptly left my window.
I was disappointed that the officer didn't let me open all my papers and show him all the documentation I had brought to prove our citizenship. Instead, the officer turned to Ralph and asked him to open the trunk of the car. The two men chatted about the trip. Seeing Ralph's fishing rods in the trunk, the officer asked about fishing. Ralph told him how disappointed he had been to find all the woodlands closed because of the drought and the danger of fire. Consequently Ralph had been unable to fish in Nova Scotia. The officer then inspected our purchases, and questioned us about animals and plants. We had neither in our possession. The officer and Ralph just stood around chatting pleasantly about the trip while I sat impatiently in the car awaiting the time when I could show the contents of my packet. All of a sudden, the officer said, "You may go".
I was outraged. He had not even returned to my window to allow me to display my papers. I called out to him, "Sir, come here. I want you to see these papers. I've carried them all through Nova Scotia just so that you could see that we are truly U.S. citizens. Don't you want to see them?"
The officer politely returned to my window. "Lady, do you know what my job is? I am here to find those persons who are trying to enter the United States illegally--those who are not citizens. I have no doubt of YOUR citizenship".
"But, how do you know? I asked. "You have seen no proof of our citizenship".
"Lady", he continued patiently, "Do you recall the first question I asked you?"
I replied that he had asked my name and birthplace.
"Exactly right", he answered, "And what did you tell me?"
I repeated my name and said, "I was born in Lancaster, New Hampshire"
"Exactly right again,"said the officer. "And, only a person who was born in Lancaster, New Hammpshire could say it as you did. I do not need to see any of your papers. You may go".
We didn't argue. We left. Ralph kept chuckling about the incident. "Just think of the time-consuming preparations you made for that encounter, when all you needed to do was open your mouth. For once, your Yankee accent proved to be useful"
AN EARLY START
"Let's get an early start."
I hear those words before every auto trip. My husband, Ralph, a morning person, believes that a successful trip depends upon getting an early start.
It has always been difficult to protest since the advantages are so apparent. Getting on the road early before heavy traffic means making an easy 100 mile leg of the trip before breakfast. Sometimes it means getting through a difficult city before the city wakes. Since Ralph is wide awake as soon as he rises from the bed, it is easy for him to drive this early leg of the trip.
But, I am not a morning person. Rather, I barely function for the first two hours out of bed. It would never be my choice to start a trip before daylight. However, this has become one of those compromises which allow marriages to survive. I agree to be wakened at 4 A.M. provided I can sleep in the car for the first two hours. After the first stop and plenty of coffee, I will take my turn at the wheel. This system has worked well. For years the early starts have made long trips easier to manage.
In the summer of 1980, our son Stephen, a Wisconsin resident, arranged a family reunion at a remote area of his state--Plum Lake. At that time our family consisted of John Peter, Mary Foote and Benjamin (20 months old) from Ohio; Stephen and Barbara from Wisconsin; Haynes, Michelle and Darren (9 months old) from Minnesota, and Ralph and I from Virginia. We occupied two cottages on Plum Lake for a week and enjoyed a wonderful time of togetherness and relaxation.
As the week drew to a close, Ralph started planning the long 1500 mile trip home. As I expected, he said,, "Let's get a REAL early start." As always, it made good sense. If we could get through Chicago during a low traffic period, we could save much time. So, our sons agreed to close up the camp for us so that we could get a "real early start." After all, we had the longest trip home. I acquiesced, but I asked Ralph to wake me just enough to lead me to the car so that I could fall back to sleep immediately. I requested that he not disturb me until time for breakfast.
At about 3 A.M. we rose and prepared to leave. It was a very clear night and the stars were brilliant. I woke enough to gaze at the sky in absolute wonder. In the total darkness of the wilds, the stars jumped out at us. There were millions of them. I have never seen such a beautiful sight. It was truly awesome! It woke me so thoroughly that I could not return to sleep immediately as planned.
Other things did not work out as planned. After driving about 30 minutes on the narrow country road through the dark Wisconsin woods, our car suddenly sputtered and died. Nothing worked. We had no lights, no trouble blinker, no radio, and no heater. We were powerless. Of course, if our trouble was just a faulty battery, all we needed was a jump start. But, we had no jumper cables. Also, at 3:30 A.M. we appeared to be the only car on this road.
Indeed, this area of Wisconsin was sparsely populated. Primitive camping was "big" here. There were a few family resorts such as the one on Plum Lake, but on this night, no other "early starters" were evident. The sense of aloneness was overwhelming. The sense of helplessness was alarming. As those millions of stars jumped out at us, we experienced a real sense of humility.
We reasoned that someone was bound to come along. This road was the only way to drive south from Plum Lake and later in the day our sons would have to travel this road. Of course, we hoped that we would be rescued before that happened. There was nothing to do but wait.
Finally, after what seemed a very long time, a car stopped. The driver was a junk dealer traveling north to a Flea Market. His trunk was full of everything imaginable except a jumper cable. He tried to push us, but that did not work. Nothing to do but wait.
At about 4"30 A.M. another motorist stopped. This time we got a jump start. We were so happy to be on our way. Our car actually traveled about a mile before it sputtered and died again. Nothing to do but wait.
Two other cars stopped to help but did not have jumper cables. Nothing to do but wait.
The next jump start kept us going for several miles. Our car rolled to a stop in view of a sign reading, "Mom and Pop's Motel" What an answer to prayer!
It was still early--before 6 A.M. By this time I was feeling the need for rest facilities. We had been on the road for three hours.
At about 6:30 A.M. we saw lights at the motel. Ralph walked up an rang the bell, intending to ask permission to phone for help. As soon as Pop heard of our predicament, he called Mom and they invited us into their home. Pop persuaded us that it was too early to call a garage. However, it was not too early for Pop to help. With his truck he towed our car into his yard where he connected it to his generator. While our battery was charging, Mom and Pop treated us to some real Wisconsin hospitality. They served us coffee and spent at least 1 1/2 hours with us when we knew that they had other things to do. They seemed genuinely happy to give us a helping hand. We certainly appreciated their gracious attention.
Several of the motorists who had stopped to help us had warned us about the town of Tomahawk. It was renown for "scalping" the tourists. We were advised to avoid Tomahawk and seek a mechanic in another town. However, Tomahawk was the nearest town and Pop called as soon as the garage opened to tell them that Ruth and Ralph Lund were on their way. We prayed that Pop's charge to our battery would take us the 20 miles to Tomahawk. We barely made it. With the last gasp of life, our car rolled into the garage lot.
The cause of our trouble proved to ba a broken alternator. Of course, the Tomahawk garage did not have the necessary part to repair our car, so the mechanic had to travel to the next town for a new alternator. Again, nothing to do but wait.
We took this opportunity to get breakfast at a nearby eatery. We consumed lots of coffee while we waited for our car to be repaired. Ralph paced back and forth worrying about the probable cost of this repair deal. Having been warned about Tomahawk he was very uneasy. However, when the bill was totalled, Ralph was surprised. It was very reasonable. We had not been "scalped" in Tomahawk.
While Ralph paced I found a nice grassy spot near the garage where I sat reading my book. Occasionally I looked up to see a car go by. Suddenly, I realized that the car I had just sighted was our son John Peter's car. Of course, it was time for all the Lunds to be on the road. It was about noon.
Soon after we were on the road again, we spotted our son Stephen's car. We passed him and signaled him to stop at the next rest area. In a short time, the whole family knew that we were on the road WITH them instead of being miles ahead of them.
It was about 1 P.M. when we joined our three sons at the rest area. Before we had a chance to explain our situation. Stephen, strode up to his father and patted him on the shoulder, saying, "Dad, what great time you've made! I am VERY impressed. It certainly pays to get an early start."
We all laughed. "Getting an early start" became a family joke. Yet, for Ralph and me, this experience remains memorable. We will always remember the starry night when we were stranded on a lonely road--completely dependent upon the mercy of strangers. We will always remember the strangers who rescued us--the kind motorists who stopped, Mom and Pop who took us in and the Tomahawk mechanic who treated us fairly.
Despite the misfortune which marred this Wisconsin trip Ralph and I continue to start early whenever we travel by car. And, the jumper cable is our constant companion.
Christmas cards tell us how angels look. They all wear long white robes, have gossamer wings and sparkling halos. Well, Ralph and I met some real Christmas angels, but they had a very different look.
It happened in l989, just before Christmas. Ralph was chairman of the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church Search committee which was commissioned to find a new rector for the church. The committee was winding up its work with visits to the churches and personal interviews with all the candidates. Several committee members had traveled to Florida and Pennsylvania but there was one candidate in South Carolina awaiting a visit. Ralph was anxious to finish all the visitations before the first of the year. At last he was able to arrange an interview with the candidate in Sumter, South Carolina. However, it was just before Christmas, a difficult time to find committee members free to make the trip. Ralph decided that he and I would go. Although not a member of the committee, I was asked to submit my report of our visit. It was a compromise. But how could I refuse?
We made reservations to stay in a hotel in Sumter, SC for Saturday night. We invited the priest and his wife to have dinner with us. We would attend his church services on Sunday morning, and return to Richmond Sunday evening. In good weather the trip should take about 7 hours.
The trouble was, we didn't have good weather. Two days before the trip a heavy snowstorm, about 8 inches, hit the mid-Atlantic states. As usual, Richmond was closed down. Nothing moved. Ralph remained optimistic. He shoveled us out of our driveway and figured we could still make the trip. We just had to maneuver ourselves out to the highway. The transportation department would have the highways plowed. The snowfall continued and it was very cold but the weatherman predicted the precipitation would soon change to rain. I was anxious to cancel the trip, but Ralph reasoned that because we were heading south we would soon be out of the snow and we would not be bothered by rain. He refused to cancel our plans.
On the morning of our departure, Ralph phoned the Virginia state police to learn of the road conditions. He was assured that all the Virginia highways were clear. We started off. It was true, we found the Virginia highways clear, but when we got to North Carolina, the situation was quite different. North Carolina had not plowed their highways. The traffic had formed ruts through the snow creating ridges on either side.
These snow ridges had frozen during the night which made changing lanes extremely treacherous. Also, by the time we reached North Carolina, the precipitation had changed to rain, but it was freezing rain. We stopped at a rest stop and could barely walk over the icy surfaces. I voted to return to Richmond immediately, but Ralph was determined to fight on, despite the weather conditions. He felt the temperature would soon warm up a few degrees and we would be ok. We moved on.
Ralph maneuvered our car into an outside lane so that we could go as fast as he felt was safe under adverse conditions. I would have chosen to stay on an inside lane and be content to creep along, but I was not driving. We followed a Florida car for a long way, until Ralph got impatient and decided to pass. Just as he tried to change lanes our tires hit one of those icy ridges, Our car rolled off the highway careening down into the median strip. Luckily the median was very wide at this point, and our car finally came to a stop in the drainage ditch in the center of the median. What a shock! As soon as we caught our breath we realized that we were unhurt, just shaken up a bit. The car seemed to be ok. We just needed to get out of the ditch. Ralph attempted to drive the car out, but the wheels just spun around in the slippery red clay and we sank deeper into the ditch. Rain was still coming down and was freezing as soon as it hit the ground. We were in a mess.
While we were contemplating what to do next, we noticed that a military bus from Fort Bragg had stopped up on the highway. Soon, two soldiers in camouflage suits and paratrooper boots came up to our car. They looked at our position and shook their heads in dismay. It looked pretty bad. It would not be easy to get our car out of that ditch. However, they offered to stop at a garage in the next town and send someone to pull us out. We thanked them for stopping and settled ourselves down for a long wait. It was very cold and Ralph was very wet. He had gotten out of the car to assess our position. It was just long enough to get soaked.
We noticed that the bus had not moved on. We wondered why. Soon, about six soldiers came running down the hill to our car. Apparently, when the two soldiers got back to the bus, they had discussed our situation and decided that they couldn't leave those two pathetic old persons out there in the cold to await help. They gathered volunteers to rescue us. They had big grins on their faces as they told us that they were going to get us out. FEAR NOT FOR WE ARE HERE. We were amazed at this turn of events. They told us to do exactly what they said. We were delighted to follow their orders. Ralph was told to get out of the car and out of their way. I was told to get behind the wheel and follow orders. The soldiers positioned themselves around the car and pushed and pulled. They ordered me to step on the gas or stop stepping on the gas. They grunted as they lifted, pushed and pulled. Very little happened except that they were completely covered with the North Carolina red clay thrown up by the spinning wheels of our car. But they refused to give up. Finally, they maneuvered the tires up out of the ditch so that it was possible to get some traction. Slowly we got the car headed up the hill toward the highway. As they held the car from slipping back into the ditch, I was told to accelerate and head for the highway. Amid their cheers I drove up the slope to the edge of the road. Gradually I was able to maneuver across the highway to pull in directly behind their bus. Soon everyone was whooping with joy. GLORY, GLORY HALLELUJAH! The soldiers came up to the car with their arms waving in the air shouting, "We did it. We got you out. Hallelujah" Their happy grins shone through their mud-stained faces. They were jubilant and
we were jubilant. JOY TO THE WORLD!
We learned that the bus was carrying a group of choristers from Fort Bragg to present a Christmas concert at a church in some small North Carolina town. I'm sure that their music was sweeter that night because they had taken the time to rescue us. Perhaps they had to present their concert while still in their mud-stained uniforms. If so, I hope the audience did not condemn them, for they were truly Christmas angels. Real Christmas angels wear camouflage suits, paratrooper boots, and have red clay spattered all over their faces and bodies. They wear broad grins. They shout for joy. They bring good news of great joy. They glory in their ability to change the world around them. After all, isn't that what angels do?
January 12, 1997
Ruth H. Lund
This story is true. It happened to Ralph Lund in summer 1998. This is the story as I recall it being told by Ralph.
Background: Ralph loves to fish. For the last few years he has had permission from his friend, Blair Massey to keep his fishing boat at a small lake in Goochland county owned by Blair. This arrangement enabled Ralph to drive out to the lake for a few hours of fishing any time he wished. The boat was also available for anyone else who might wish to use it there. In the spring of 1998, Ralph received notice that the land had been sold for development and the lake would no longer be available to him for fishing. Sadly, Ralph drove out to the lake for one last day of fishing in this beautiful locale. He had enjoyed many pleasant hours in this place. Reluctantly, Ralph brought his boat home.
As Ralph tells it:
I decided that I must go to the lake and retrieve my fishing boat. I had been procrastinating about it, feeling reluctant to give up such an ideal fishing hole. The deadline for my vacating the premises was almost here. At least I could fish a while before bringing the boat home.
It was a pleasant day to be on the water. Although it was hot, there was a slight breeze which made it fairly comfortable, but the fish were not biting. I caught a few fish that were too small to keep. After a couple of hours I decided to call it quits.
I loaded my boat on the top of my old Volkswagen Rabbit, anchoring it firmly with bungee cords. I gathered all my fishing gear and set off for home.
A few miles down the road I glanced out my rear-view mirror to see a long cord
hanging down. Alarmed, I stopped the car to examine the bungee cords which held the boat. I thought one of them must have worked loose. I carefully checked the cords and found none out of place. I couldn't imagine what I had seen hanging down. Since everything seemed to be ok, I resumed driving toward home.
As I drove on my peripheral vision picked up something moving on my left side.
I had my window open and suddenly I realized it was a SNAKE. The creature was coiling down from the roof, brazenly entering my window and staring me in the face. Immediately, with my left hand, I whupped it and knocked it out of the car. As rapidly as possible, I rolled up my window. Apparently what I had thought to be a loose bungee cord was really a garter snake. I couldn't be sure that I had knocked it completely off the car or whether it had returned to the roof. I could no longer see it and I reasoned that the wind would soon knock the creature off the car.
However, soon the snake came crawling right down the post of the front windshield right in front of my eyes. I could now see that it was just a garter snake and about 3 feet long. As the snake reached the hood of the car, it found conditions too hot for comfort and retreated to the roof. Well, at least the windows were now closed and the snake couldn't get inside the car. However it was becoming increasingly uncomfortable in the car because the Rabbit's air-conditioner had ceased to operate long ago. Oh well, I would soon be home.
This snake seemed determined to stay in my company. I became aware that it was crawling down the back window very slowly. It seemed to be struggling to hang on. Eventually the snake crawled too far to maintain control and fell off into the road. What a relief!
I suddenly realized that this creature and I had been together for some time. This snake had been in my boat all the time I was fishing.
Written by Ruth H. Lund
September 7, 1998
I have never been lucky. That is, I have never won a raffle or a sweepstakes. Slot machines just devour my money and never cough up a jackpot. I have never even found a four-leaf clover. Yet, in one instance, Lady Luck truly smiled on me.
I was lucky to find Sarah. I met her at the home of a friend. Sarah worked every day cleaning and polishing someone's home. She had worked for the same special people for years, and she had no available days for new clients. So it was my lucky day when Sarah called to say she could come to work for me. Sarah is a gem.
So, for several years, every other week, Sarah came to the house after I had left for work, cleaned my house and left before I returned. It was always a joy to return home from work and see the brass on the outside door gleaming brightly. Sarah made things shine. Sarah and I rarely saw each other. Our communication was mostly through notes which we left for one another. But on the rare occasions we had a day together, we shared our joys and our sorrows. Sarah and I are friends.
One day as I was working in the kitchen, I noticed that the stone was missing from my diamond ring. I had no idea when or where I had lost it,but it was gone. I was very upset. I had worn that ring constantly since Ralph had given it to me in December, 1944.
I hated to tell Ralph. I feared that he would think it was my fault for not caring for the ring properly. I had not taken my ring to the jeweler regularly to be checked as I should have done. I felt terrible about it.
Ralph comforted me. He helped me search the house for the stone, but we had little faith in our chances of finding it. I felt so sad about losing it. Finally, I took the empty gold ring off my finger and placed it in my jewelry case. Perhaps the gold was worth saving.
However, I could not get used to being without my diamond ring. I felt naked without it. It was a small stone but it had a huge value. It was THE diamond we had chosen together. It was our engagement ring.
Sarah continued to work for me after I retired from teaching school. I enjoyed being at home when Sarah came to work. I told Sarah about losing my diamond and she commiserated with me.
It was late summer of 1987 when I lost the gem. At our wedding anniversary in February of 1988, Ralph presented me with a beautiful diamond ring--almost exactly like the one I had lost. While it wasn't THE diamond, I was delighted to have a diamond ring on my finger again. It was a wonderful surprise.
When I showed Sarah my new ring, she was happy for me. She praised "Mr.Lund" to the skies for being such a thoughtful and generous husband.
One day, just as Sarah was about to vacuum our bedroom rug, she noticed something shimmering on the floor. She carefully picked up the sparkling bit, wrapped it in a piece of Kleenex and brought it to me. She explained that it might be just some left-over Christmas sparkle, but she wanted me to look at it. When I opened the little packet of Kleenex and saw a glittering stone, I was flabbergasted. It looked like a diamond. Could it be MY diamond? I quickly retrieved the gold ring from my jewelry box and tried to fit the stone into it. I wasn't sure, but it did look right. I raced to the jeweler. He confirmed that it was the very stone which had been in that ring. Imagine! It had been TWO YEARS since I had lost the diamond!
Ralph and I tried to explain the sudden appearance of this stone after two years. We reviewed our actions on the day that Sarah found the diamond. That morning, before Sarah's arrival, Ralph and I had turned our mattress both ways, changed the mattress cover and remade the bed. The diamond must have been dislodged from its hiding place in the bed by this action. However, we had certainly turned the mattress several times within the two year period. Why hadn't we dislodged the diamond before? It took Sarah to find the gem!
Sarah was delighted that she had found THE diamond. She said it was just luck. She shuddered to think that she had almost vacuumed it up. Her thoughtful hesitation had made me the luckiest person alive. Perhaps I would never find a 4-leaf clover, but, through Sarah, I had recovered a diamond which had been lost for two years! Could anyone be luckier than that? It was Lady Luck who brought Sarah to us, and it was Sarah who brought us luck.
Shortly after this incident, Sarah (Mrs. Frank Thornton) was forced to retire due to deteriorating health. We miss her. We will never forget this experience. We will always be grateful to Sarah for recovering my diamond.
Instead of having my ring put back together, I chose to have my diamond mounted in a pendant which I enjoy wearing around my neck.
B.C. (Before Computers)
One of the purposes of my stories is to point out to children and grandchildren the differences in lifestyle in the 90's from the 20's and 30's when Ralph and I were growing up. This was brought home to me today when I realized that at the big Air Show being held this weekend in Richmond, hundreds of people would be standing around staring at the spectacular modern airplanes performing their wonders in the air. It seems impossible that when I was a child, the sound of an airplane overhead brought everyone running from the house to view this amazing object. What incredible advances have been made in this one field during the last 50 years!. It's impossible to explain all the advances in technology that have occurred in our lifetime. Ralph tried to point this out at his 50th High School reunion. He gave a little talk entitled " The Class of 1936 B.C".
THE CLASS OF 1936 B.C.
- That is BEFORE COMPUTERS. But we were even before Nylon. I wonder if Caruthers, the inventor of Nylon knew how useful Nylon would be at cementing foreign relations. If you don't know that, you were not overseas in World War II.
- We were before television, penicillin, Dacron, Xerox, frozen food. In 1936 we thought fast food was a diet for Lent.
- We were before the pill--THE PILL, and the inexplicable population explosion. In 1936 people usually waited until they were married before they lived together. Quaint! As a matter of fact, a book about two women traveling in Europe together was entitled, "Our Hearts Were Young and GAY". How innocent!
- We were before radar, florescent light, credit cards, ballpoint pens. For us, time sharing meant togetherness (but we did not know that word) not computers; a chip was wood, hardware was hardware, and if the word software (which did not exist) was used, we would probably have thought of intimate apparel.
- We were before Israel and the United Nations; before India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka Indonesia, Iceland and the Philippines were independent countries. Since our graduation, ninety two countries, forty eight of them African, have become independent nations.
- Almost no one flew across the country. Remember the Ford Trimotor? The trans-Atlantic flights belonged to Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindberg.
- We were before heaters in automobiles, even as an option. Remember the South Wind Heater? It was over there under the dash in the right hand corner and burned kerosene and your legs. We were before autos were loaded with options and before a four door Pontiac Sedan cost $700.
- When we were in school, pizza, frozen orange juice, instant coffee and McDonalds were unheard of.
- We were before DDT, vitamin pills, the white wine fad, disposable diapers, jeeps, Scotch Tape, M & M's, and the automatic shift. We were before Grandma Moses, Frank Sinatra and cup-sizing of bras.
- In those days, a bunny was a small rabbit, and a rabbit was not a Volkswagen. Made in Japan was junk and "making out" referred to how you did on an exam.
- In our day a Five and Ten Cent Store sold things for $.05 and $.10. A nickel bought a ride on the subway, a phone call and enough stamps for a letter and two post cards. A dime bought a gallon of gas.
- CIA. NATO, UFO, JFK, ERA, IUD---we not only did not talk in initials, we would not have been able to identify any of the above.
- We were before Leonard Bernstein, Ann Landers, Plastics, hair dryers, the forty hour week and minimum wage. We were before Blacks played in the Major League. We were before ethnic jokes and references were unfashionable and derogatory. As a matter of fact, we probably would have had to look up that word "ethnic".
- We were before tape-recorders, FM radio, electric typewriters, word-processors, Muzac, electronic music, Disco dancing, and interstate highways.
- We were before panty-hose and drip-dry clothes; before ice-makers, dish-washers, clothes-dryers, freezers, and electric blankets. We were before males wore long hair and earrings, and before women wore tuxedos.
- We were NOT before the difference between the sexes was discovered, but we were before sex changes. We just had to make do with what we had.
NOTE: Ralph does not claim authorship of this essay. He obtained it from a friend who heard it at a VMI reunion. Some people claim that it originated at Vassar College. Ralph adapted it for his purposes--Class reunion 1986.
Ralph and I now have a computer, but we are infants in cyberspace. We do not have a web-site and we do not cruise the inter-net. Recently, our grandson sent us his E-mail address. It was the natural thing for him to do. We undoubtedly could communicate with our grandchildren more often if we did not still require a postal address. We are slow in catching up with this electronic age.
Ruth H. Lund
Written October 11, 1997