LEE AND ANN … AND HOW THEY MET!
A couple of days ago I realized that I had no idea how my mother and father first met.
I was always closer to my mother than I was to my father, but my mother was very closed mouth about things that weren’t any one else’s (meaning her children’s) business. By just using simple math and a little historical data, I had figured out that they had met about 1933 when my father was 19 and my mother was 21. (My mother didn’t know about the age difference, because my father lied about his age, telling her he was two years older than she.) But how did they meet one another?
While they lived only eight city blocks away from each other, they lived in entirely different social and cultural neighborhoods. Both were third generation American citizens, but my father lived in a predominant German/Catholic neighborhood and my mother in a mixed Polish/Irish/Italian/Catholic neighborhood. (Sort of a Depression Era North Side Story.) To confuse matters more they also belonged to two different Catholic parishes that were only three blocks apart.
Now my younger brother was always closer to my father than I was, and they shared a passion for fishing, which all things considered is a rather boring pastime. So I figured they had to spent time talking about something other that the fish not biting while they were threading worms on fish hooks. So I gave him a call, and asked the question. Unlike my mother, my father apparently had no secrets and he had revealed all to my brother.
Flashback to My Grandpa Skip … my mother’s father. He was a baseball fanatic and he had hoped to have nine sons so that he could have his own baseball team. While he had nine offspring, three of them turned out to be girls. And while my mother, his oldest daughter was a more than adequate batting practice pitcher, she didn’t qualify to play with his team against the other all guy teams. So he resorted to picking up possible players from the guys who were watching his team practice at Fairgrounds Park in Old North Saint Louis.
One of the guys he asked to join his team was a friend of one of his sons. The friend also had a friend who had a friend who happened to be my father. So my father joined my grandfather’s baseball team as an outfielder. As he told my brother, he was an adequate outfielder who sole claim to fame was the day he was running to catch a hit ball when a woman pushing a baby carriage decided to cut across the ball field. There was no way he could stop without running into the carriage, so he jumped completely over the top of it. And also caught the ball for the out. (I was skeptical about this story, so I went on line to research early 30s baby carriages and strollers. I discovered many had smaller diameter wheels and were actually built closer to the ground. So it would have been possible for a running 19-year old to leap over one. Dumb, but possible.) When my brother retold the story, I remembered my mother’s brothers always talking about the incident at family picnics and other gatherings. But I had completely forgot about my father playing on my grandfather’s team. And since my mother was at all the games, and since she was rather hot looking at the time … …it was only natural that my father started “courting” her.
My grandfather’s baseball them was part of the Saint Louis Amateur Baseball League and they regularly played against teams in the Negro Baseball League and other semi-professional teams of the era. His two twin sons tried out for the Saint Louis Cardinals. One was a pitcher and the other was a catcher. They wanted to sign the pitcher to a contract, but he refused to sign because they didn’t want to sign his brother. So they continued to play on my grandfather’s team until the start of the war.
And finally my father married my mother in 1938. This is the picture he carried in his wallet until the day he died.