A nother and daughter communicate. Locale: Rutgers Street, Rochester NY 1956-59. The Hallauers of Bausch & Lomb
I learned early that fathers are 'out of the loop' even when mothers and daughters communicate out loud.
Copyright 2013 Franklyn E. Dailey Jr.
We have had a happy family life. There were seven sons and one daughter. I have had many experiences communicating with sons. The father and son experiences were often direct, and some, in the heat of the moment. Thankfully, most of those are forgotten.
It is special when memory brings back an episode where I was simply standing in the wings, so to speak, as a mother and her daughter handled an interesting subject. Women, as we now all know, are different.
Elizabeth was about five when one mother and daughter exchange took place. We were living in Rochester, New York, in a block that included the Blessed Sacrament Church, and its Parochial School, where Elizabeth had just entered kindergarten in the fall of 1956. This event took place late that year or early in 1957..
Between our house and the church-school property were a number of pleasant, modest, well built homes. Defying assignment to any particular architectural style, most of these homes had three above-ground levels; each contained a finished living space. With bay windows wherever these could be fit, these city houses filled the residential sections of many cities by the end of the 19th century. Lots were small and the homes amply filled the available space.
On a winter evening in our front living room, I was in my chair near one of those bay windows, reading the paper. Elizabeth, by now, "Missy," to her seven brothers and her parents, entered and took an interest in a reading book she received that day at kindergarten. Peggy, my wife, was straightening some furniture that I knew did not need straightening.
Then I heard Peggy put forth the question, "Missy, have you been into the pickles? I can smell 'em."
A pause, as Missy reflected on "yes," which would bring some trouble, or "no," which did not seem to fit one of those Commandments she had just been introduced to.
Then Missy responded, "Mommy, I can't smell 'em."
I waited for more. But, there was no more. Question asked. Question answered.
Time to get on to the next event of life.
It was not a long wait. Likely the spring of 1957. Dad replaced Mom as the "middleman."
Three Ladies and a Visitor
We were living in a nice three-story home that did not fall into any well- known category like Victorian or Colonial. It was on a city street in what had been a residential section for first families of the city in the early 20th century. By now, just past mid-century, it was for second family occupants or even third. The first families of the city had become the first families of the suburbs, many of whose homes could now be found on tracts lining a fairway on some golf course. But this residential area was by no means run down. We had fine neighbors up and down the street. The pavement was maintained; we had curbs and good street lighting. Tree belts of maples and elms lined the sidewalks on both sides.
Children could make maximum use of the good sidewalks. The younger ones were generally restricted to our block. Crossing any street was forbidden for the small fry. A Parochial School playground and parking area at one end of the block provided extra biking, and triking, space.
I was home a bit early from work and enjoying an Indian summer afternoon on the front porch. Elizabeth, our only daughter, going under the name of Missy for reasons both my wife and I have forgotten, was home for the afternoon because her Parochial School kindergarten was on half-day sessions. Missy was very active on her tricycle, pedaling furiously from one end of the half mile block to the other. Then a lull, and I could see that a few doors down she was paying a visit to three highly respected ladies who were long time tenants in a home much like our own.
Perhaps a half-hour went by until Missy made it back past our house. I called to her. She took a detour up to our front porch. "Could you tell me where you have just been?" I inquired. "Yes Daddy", she replied, "I was visiting the three ladies who live in the house with the stone porch." "I'd be interested in your visit," I responded. "Could you tell me about the ladies?"
"Well," she said, "I saw the candy lady." Missy always had clear priorities. She quickly followed, "And there was the sugar lady." She had now aroused my interest. I could begin to mentally extrapolate to a neighborhood source of cookies. She paused in her presentation. So, I prodded her a bit. "Well, there are three ladies there. Are you going to tell me about the third lady?"
Finally, she offered, "Oh Daddy! You mean the other lady."
This girl was going to be a good communicator. Our session ended right there.
A Letter to Dad
Two stories about me by my father appeared in a recent issue of a local paper. I found them to be very entertaining. (refers to the two preceding stories, which first appeared in a suburban newspaper)
I think you should know that the 'candy' lady did not distribute candy, but rather she put real butter, not the margarine stuff of our household, on saltines, and we wolfed them down gratefully. How she came to be known as the candy lady, I don't know. But, maybe the "saltine lady," was not in our vocabulary. We could have used "cracker" lady, but perhaps we had a precocious inkling that this had a negative connotation. The 'sugar' lady did give us sugar cubes, which we loved. But the candy lady was best because she invited us into her kitchen, with its rotund old fridge which looked like the eighth dwarf, a small table with a red and white checkered tablecloth, and other old fashioned cozy touches which charmed us. And her house had a pleasant old people smell. If I had to nail it, I would say it was the smell of fresh ironing.
The 'other' lady would come to her door when we rang and would say hello in a very nice way, but she never offered anything and I got the feeling she was working on something. She never opened the door very far, not even far enough for us to peek in and see what was there. The sugar lady wouldn't invite us in either, but if the day weren't too bright, we could see her kitchen, which was not unlike the candy lady's kitchen.
The other lady had something growing in her garden. When she closed the door, we surreptitiously pulled up this edible plant, which I later realized was mint. Probably it was for her iced tea and lemonade, which we never had the good fortune to sample.
We lived on Rutgers Street along a line of college-named streets. Perhaps you will remember that there was a mortuary on Oxford Street, the next (parallel) street over. There were bodies laid out in boxes and the top of the box opened so you could see just the head part of the body. What I would now call a Dutch door for the dead. There was a new body Tuesday and Thursday. By the time I was in first and second grade, Liz, Tommy and Patty Blanda and I were making regular visits. There was a kneeler by the box and, as little RC's [Roman Catholics] in training, we knew what to do. It took a bit before we had the nerve to touch one of the hands. It all came to an end one dark October afternoon. It was probably only about fivish, when the janitor chased us out of the building and told us the police would come and take us away.
That night I went home to 185 Rutgers Street, Greenfield 3-7971, told Mother I was going to throw up and went upstairs and got into bed and turned the light off. I had the conviction that it would be illegal to wake a child to take them to jail. There was a lighted doorbell at the mortuary, an item almost as fascinating as the bodies, but I would never be ringing that particular bell again.
With your habit of visiting cemeteries, Dad, I guess I came by my mortuary fascination honestly. As they say, the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.
Opening Fenway (yet to come in these pages) is a lovely story. It makes me think how you and your cousin, Tommy, tearing around on your bikes, never seemed to be grown-ups when you were bike riding. If Fenway weren't so elegantly written, I would say the author wasn't a day older than twelve.
My children are crazy about pickles. lngrid and Genevieve like the dills and Andrew the sweet. The sweet pickles leave a sticky trail and a smell. As a mother I know that. As a five-year old, I didn't. But Mother's question clued me in fast. Thanks, Mom.
Mom was always careful to let us preserve our dignity. She lost it a few times, but not very often. Once, making oatmeal cookie dough in one of those bright colored mixing bowls we had that were the color of different jellos, Mom admonished Philip for jabbing a finger in the dough when she was stirring. Another brother chimed in the admonishment "Yeah Phil," and Mom cuffed him on the head. Not hard. She told the cuffed brother that no child was welcome to join in when Mother was correcting another. It seemed reasonable to all of us. There was surprise, but no tears. And the oatmeal cookies were sensational. I still love 'em.
Feel free to make this fit the concept of your letters columns. This is not a pay item nor is it a trailer promo item. Call it self indulgence.
Missy Moo (She is Elizabeth Dailey Kvam, today.)
Our family was among the earliest users of margarine. It used to come all white, with a yellow coloring kit, and we would color it yellow. The Dairy Cooperatives had a lot of clout in those days.
One close neighbor who did not take off to a golf subdivision was Carl Hallauer, President of Bausch and Lomb, Rochester's history-making optical manufacturing company. It was not the custom to tell folks how much you appreciated them as good neighbors. So, here, just 50 years late, Mr. and Mrs. Hallauer, and the Blanda family who suffered living next door to us and our seven children at the time, we are indebted to you for your friendship and neighborliness above and beyond the call of duty. We were Navy family migrants, just past the middle of our odyssey of 17 homes, and we had to make friends quickly. You certainly met that challenge.