Yesterday's Magazette

5 – Something Old, Something New

Something Old, Something New

By Mary Chambers Reiter

In 1931, Ohio, like the rest of the country, was held tight in the jaws of the Great Depression. My parents lost their farm and had no choice but to move in with my grandparents. There were six of us—Mother and Daddy, two younger brothers, an older sister, and me. Mother was expecting a baby.

We were fortunate to have food on the table and a roof over our heads, even if it wasn’t our own, but we had to have made things difficult for my grandparents. I don’t know if it was my talent or Daddy’s love of music, but even in those dark days, he managed to save enough money for me to take music lessons in town, five miles away. It had to have been a tremendous sacrifice, especially since his parents had opened their home to help us out. I never heard a word of complaint, but there must have been some pinched lips each time I boarded the bus into town.


One fateful day I had completed my music lesson and waited in front of a corner grocery for the bus that would take me home to our tiny village of Millville. I hadn’t been there long when a boy came out of the store carrying a bag of groceries. Though there was plenty of room, he managed to bump into me. A village boy, I told myself, recalling the humorous story Daddy told us about the local judge who cautioned his daughters, “Don’t talk to the village boys.”

Well, I hadn’t talked to him. I knew my sister Marge would have given him ‘what for,’ but at sixteen, I was a shy, quiet girl and pleased that I had managed a cold stare.

During the coming weeks I sometimes remembered the encounter. I may have been shy, but I wasn’t immune to the attention of a handsome young man. Some weeks later, when an older cousin invited me to dinner, I arrived to find another guest there as well. It was none other than the boy who’d bumped into me at the grocery store. His name was Lawrence, a strong name for someone who didn’t leave things to chance.

Before the evening was over, he’d invited me to a movie. From that night on Lawrence was never far from my thoughts. We didn’t have much money, but there were plenty of occasions for us to have good times with other young people. There were movies, picnics, parties, and wiener roasts. I played the guitar and several other instruments, including the piano, so I was happy to provide entertainment when we were invited to someone’s home. My sister always said a party didn’t begin until I arrived, and Lawrence seemed pleased to be my escort.

Lawrence could usually borrow a car so we double dated a lot, too. Our favorite couple, newlyweds, had recently moved to the town where I took music lessons. I met Doris while Marge and I waited in line at a shoe store. Lines were a given in those days of hardship, but waiting in that line brought me the best friend I’d ever have. Doris was soon like a second sister to me, and Lawrence and Doris’s husband, Walt, grew to be like brothers.

Lawrence and I dated for about four years, and during that time he proposed and managed to buy me a beautiful engagement ring with a small diamond. He secured a job with Champion Paper Company, and by the time we were married in a small United Brethren Church in 1935, he’d even managed to buy his own car.

My mother made my white satin wedding dress using an old treadle sewing machine. When she draped the veil over my face, I felt every inch the blushing bride. No longer in a family way, Mother also fashioned a red velvet suit for my three-year-old brother, who was my ring bearer. Lawrence’s brother and sister were our attendants.

Lawrence couldn’t take time off from work for a honeymoon so Doris and Walt let us spend our wedding night at their apartment. The following weekend was to be our honeymoon, and after much begging we convinced Doris and Walt we wanted them to come with us. This would be the first of countless vacations together, but we weren’t off to an auspicious start. It was pouring rain, and this was before the days of reservations at motels. When we finally stopped for the night, the proprietor gave us a hard look and began scolding the boys and ordered them to, “Take those girls home right now!” I had a copy of our marriage license in my suitcase, but Lawrence wasn’t about to have his character questioned. The next time we stopped the proprietor was less concerned with our morals, and we were finally able to laugh about our perceived “affair.”

Years passed, and Lawrence replaced my small diamond with one that seemed almost foolishly large. Our friendship with Doris and Walt remained a treasured part of our lives. This friendship survived arguing children, rained-on picnics, and moves that sometimes separated us not just by miles, but by oceans as well.

Today if Lawrence bumps into a young girl, she’ll be wearing wings. On our 66th anniversary, Lawrence left me. He was 87 and I was 85. I miss him terribly, but I like to think he and Walt are together once more. As often as I could I traveled from Ohio to Michigan to visit Doris in her apartment, where we revisited our memories of the old days and shared the new times of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Those trips came to an end recently when Doris joined Walt and Lawrence among the angels.

Happenstance or miracles—a tender collision with a village boy and meeting a young girl with flaming red hair in a Depression era line at a shoe store? My heart tells me they were miracles.

*Ninety-five-year-old Mary Reiter played the organ for church services for many years and taught Sunday school for sixty years. She still plays the organ for special occasions, and family and friends are fond of saying the parties still don’t start until she gets there  She has written a novel, and music for hymns used in local churches. Her sister Marge provided lyrics for the hymns. Mary has published in Ideals and a local newspaper.

Vol. 38 No. 1 – Yesterday’s Magazette – Spring- 2011


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