Thursday, August 20, 2009


(Another story from the nursing home, told by my 92-year-old father and 90-year-old mother.)

My father lived at home and worked for his father on the farm until he got married in 1941 at the age of 24. During that time, he was never paid any wages. Up until he got married, whenever he needed money, he had to go to his father, ask for the money, and tell his father what the money was for. Or if he wanted to go somewhere, my dad had to ask to borrow his father's car.

Finally, in the winter of 1941, when he was engaged to be married in June, my dad's father bought him his very first car. My dad was really proud of that car--a 1941 Ford that cost $695 plus $15 for a heater and defroster. The total cost: $710 because they didn't charge sales tax back then. My dad is still very clear on those figures--68 years later!

His father Albert told my dad it was his "pay" for working on the farm all those years. My dad kind of chuckled when he told me that. He said he thought his dad had gotten a pretty good deal since he had gotten a lot of free labor out of him in his 23 years.

My mother remembered the first day my dad had the car. She was teaching school in a one-room schoolhouse north of Carlisle (District 111), and she remembers the day because it was one of the most embarassing times of their courtship for her. It had been a bitterly cold morning, and when she left her aunt's house (where she boarded while she taught) to walk to school, her aunt had insisted that my mother's cloth coat was not warm enough for the freezing walk to the schoolhouse. So her aunt had gone to the closet and pulled out an old-fashioned, ugly, thick wool coat with a ratty fur collar that belonged to her and insisted that my mother wear it to walk across the fields to the school.

Wouldn't you know--that was the day my dad got his new car and drove up to the school at the end of the day to show off the new car and take my mother for a ride. She was so embarassed, wearing her aunt's dumpy old coat.

My dad reassured her that he was so busy looking at his new car that he didn't notice what coat she was wearing!

The 1941 Ford was the car that they drove when they left for their honeymoon in Duluth after their June 13, 1941, wedding--all decorated for the day by family and friends. As a child, I remember seeing this picture and being amazed that the very proper woman I knew as my mother could ever be referred to as "Leapin' Lena!"

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