Hogan’s Passion for Pancakes

Penny Photos 032

Penny at 85 with Gilly at 7

Those who officially or casually “follow me” –love that phrase which makes me feel positively Pied Piperish! – may remember Hogan. For those who need an introduction, Hogan was the black miniature French poodle who was my guard dog as I drove to and from play rehearsals and meetings sometimes ending as late as 11:30 p.m! in wicked downtown Fairmont, West Virginia. I left him behind with my parents when I moved to New York and Mother wired me a few weeks later reporting that Hogan was “crazy about pancakes!” Naturally, I needed to learn more.

A call home – possibly the wire’s true purpose? – revealed that many Sunday nights, Daddy and Mother feasted on pancakes and sausage, cooking the pancakes on the electric griddle at the dining room table where they could also watch television. Hogan, intrigued by this novel performance, was rewarded with small- dog sized pancakes. The first he ate rapturously beside them at the table, he begged for second and third he carried into the living room where he had a preferred spot for chewing bones or toys and eating chunky dog treats.  This became part of the Sunday supper routine.  “You should see him, P” Mother bubbled. “He is so proud of himself!” I expressed my amused appreciation and basically forgot all about it.

However, apparently Sunday nights went on all winter and then came Spring.  My mother was an extremely fastidious housekeeper, a trait to her grief she could not instill in me.  I got a call one day in early April, Prime Housecleaning Season in West Virginia. “Do you remember about Hogan and the pancakes?” Mother asked.  “Of course,” I said. “There’s another chapter,”  Mother continued, “do you have time to hear it?”  “Of course,” I said again, beginning to get curious. “Well,” said Mother with a long shuddering sigh, “we take the big oriental rug out of the living room every other year, you know” (hopeful but inaccurate) “ and when we moved the couch to get the rug out from under it, there was an enormous pile of Hogan’s pancakes, dusty, moldy, some partially eaten behind and under it.” She sighed again and I thought she would cry. “In MY house!  Guests have been sitting above those awful things all winter and I never had a clue. I’m mortified.” She was silent, sniffling morosely.  I could feel it through the phone. I took a deep breath.

“Mother,” I began, “who cleans the living room? You?”  “Of course not,” she snapped, then beginning to see the trail, more cheerfully, “Tom vacuums and dusts several times a week but Annie when she’s here on Thursdays is supposed to dry and wet mop the bare floor and do a more thorough job.”  “Well,” I ventured, “I think Annie must be the major slacker but Tom needs to hear about your disgust as well. You trust these people to do the job. I cannot see that you should blame yourself very much for their sins of omission.”  Mother had perked up remarkably now. “No, you’re right. I’m probably getting a little lazy or just too trusting because I don’t really look for things they haven’t done if they’re not obvious. But, oh, P!” she was starting to giggle, “if you had seen the size and height of that pile!  I think Hogan ate the first pancake and never took another bite!”  Her giggles were getting to me. “What on earth do you think he was thinking,” I asked , beginning to giggle myself. Mother gave a virtual whoop of laughter. “What fun it was to trick those damned old fools you left him with!” she gasped, and hung up.

I may be a damned old fool myself, but I have the joy of visiting children over the next ten days and it seems I can either write blogs or enjoy family fun. So I’m going to indulge myself while giving them the pleasure of seeing the difference their younger eyes and energy can make around here. Look to hear from me again about August 1. Enjoy yourselves but please don’t forget me!   p

True Confessions


Sitting out of the cozy cluster is less satisfying than being the Only Child in your first 25 years

You probably think you know quite a lot, possibly ENOUGH about me but you are totally wrong. Let me show you. I’ll begin with basics.

Being an only child, possibly depending on your parents but mine were good at it, is a lovely way to grow up. Possibly not in the later stages of life but I would have opted for more than an 8 year stint had anyone consulted me. I recognize this is contrary to my c. 3 year old desire for an “older brother with a pink bonnet on him” but what do three year olds know?

Although I was brought up as a Republican I turned Democratic on the 4th floor of Brooks Brothers on Madison Avenue because George McGovern was better than whoever was the other guy. I have seen no reason to change my mind on this carefully arrived at decision.

There is only one right, normal, America way to put toilet paper rolls in holders. The paper must feed over the top, NEVER out from the bottom. This is the only hygienic way. Indisputable fact. Period.

The woman who invented peanut butter should have been sainted.  It is the manna from Heaven mentioned in the Bible. Skippy’s is the better brand and well regulated households have both crunchy and smooth available at all times.  Peanut butter sandwiches have butter applied lavishly under the chosen variety of peanut butter despite what my Danish daughter- in- law has clearly been telling my impressionable younger grandchildren. The Very Best peanut butter sandwiches are on toast with butter, pb, and crisp bacon. A feast for the gods is one of these with a bowl of Campbells tomato soup.

Curry makes almost everything except PB & Bacon sandwiches taste better, in many cases, a whole lot better. Try it. Today!

Soap has not touched my face in something over a half-century. Cleansing cream was God’s gift to her female believers who want nice skin in old age!

I hold grudges. Roughly forever as far as I can presently tell and with oomph and a certain satisfaction. Very poor behavior.  Prime sample. The day I was married, our next door neighbors in Fairmont, the Philip Johnson’s, gave a lovely luncheon for all family members, the wedding party with spouses and special out of town guests already in town. It was a sunny, warm April day and women were warm enough standing outside, drinks in hand, in spring suits. (A moment of reverence for the lovely days when a skirted spring suit played major roles in my wardrobe. The one I wore that day was a several year old pastel tweed one from Peck & Peck’s Green Street, Northampton, MA shop. Sigh.)  

I had scarcely arrived at the party, when Katie, my step-mother in law, asked if she could have a private word with me. I led her to a sheltered spot under the stairs. She cut to the chase. “Did you know that my husband and your sister-in-law are arriving to join you and Howdy on Wednesday?” My thunder struck face was her answer. “I thought not,” she said. “I wonder when Howdy was going to mention it?” I nodded grimly. “What’s their plan?” I tried to speak clearly through gritted teeth. “Julian will drive Marian to you on Wednesday, both will spend the night with you then Julian will come home and Howdy will drive her to Idlewild (now JFK International) for her plane back to Europe on Saturday.” I stared at her in horror. “Over my dead body!” I snarled.

Howdy and I met under the stairs in about three minutes. First he kissed me, then he asked what I wanted to say. “When did you intend to tell me you had invited guests to share our honeymoon, tonight?”  Howdy had the grace to look uncomfortable. “I wondered about that but they thought it would be fine with you and it seemed convenient and logical.”  “Not for me, it’s not,” I snapped at my beloved. “They know nothing about me, you know me very well. Chew on this, Sweetheart. Honeymoons include only one man and one woman. Pick your woman now so I can go and tell people if the wedding is off.”  “I’m sorry, darling, I wasn’t thinking straight. It was a ridiculous idea. I guess I knew it because I couldn’t face telling you.” I was not quite through. “Thought so,” I said smugly. “Get out there and undo your plan, NOW!”  “Aye, aye, mate,” he said, giving me a quick peck wheeling around and heading for the rejects. I sighed, feeling vindicated but vicious.  Yuck!

That was 64 years ago. The memory is vivid and still infuriating but I did learn to love my marvelous sister-in-law and realize how much her love for her big brother influenced that stupid, un-thought through idea. “Grr-rr” as Hogan would say.

See you Thursday? (I told you I was unpredictable – didn’t I?) Happy second half of July!  p




Marg and Penelope Spurr with Rufus, Cinder(ella!) and Genevieve

Does the charming mother pictured above look like a devious, cunning husband manipulator?  She occasionally was but I think only in aide of one of his and her children. In this tale, it was to help the sweet child with her above but about 15 years after this picture was taken.

In the fall of 1950, although I had begun to plan for my “future”, I had a lively present occupying me at home in Fairmont.  I was deeply involved in little theater and children’s theater which are not two ways of saying the same thing!  Little theater exists to entertain grown ups, and the amateur actors on stage while children’s theater is for school children and during school hours. I was children’s theater program planner bringing touring companies in to perform children’s plays, directed Alice in Wonderland and played the Tin Woodman in The Wizard of Oz.  I acted in little theater plays, wrote publicity for them, served as costume or props manager, and persuaded my parents to put on two rousing First Night Cast parties. Most little theater action occurred at night, and having me out late alone so many nights, mostly in down town rehearsal spaces, driving my father’s recognizable blue and white Cadillac worried my parents.

“I think Penelope should have a dog she can take with her when she’s out alone at night,” Mother proposed to Daddy over pre-dinner  highballs.  Daddy was flipping through the evening paper. “Mmmmn,” he said. “Do you like that idea, dear?” she asked me, using Daddy’s newspaper screen as cover for mouthing to me that an enthusiastic response should be made. “Oh, yes, that would be wonderful!”, I exclaimed on cue. “Then that’s settled,” Mother said happily, to which Daddy absently said “Mmn. Good.” After dinner Mother asked me to come upstairs with her to help her find something, and behind closed doors, explained the near future. 

“What kind of dog would you like?” she asked. “A miniature French poodle,” I said, having thought this through during dinner. Mother thought this a fine choice but not a good idea as a beginning suggestion. Daddy must be permitted to give permission for my choice and was not a poodle fancier.  “I have an idea ,” she said. “Avanel Hennen’s boxer has puppies that are almost old enough to go.  Shall we go see them tomorrow? Clint hates boxers.”  I was learning a lot about my parents!

The puppies were adorable as all puppies are and it was easy to bubble with enthusiasm to Daddy about my ardent wish to get one of Avanel’s adorable puppies. My loving father glared at me. “Over my dead body,” he replied. “Nasty, Germanic, dangerous dogs. You don’t need to have a fierce dog. Sorry, it just won’t do!”  Per instructions, I wilted visibly and moped in Daddy’s presence enough for him to notice. After about a week of this decline, Mother said it was time for my next choice.  “What about a great Dane?” I tried on Mother.  She beamed at me. “Brilliant! You’re good at this! You take this Dog World and I’ll look in last month’s and look for ads for Great Dane puppies.”

Next night at dinner, I smiled happily at Daddy and said, “I’ve decided on a Great Dane, Daddy.”  He looked at me with disdain and disgust. “Are you completely out of your mind, Penelope?  Do you want a dog that will eat us out of house and home? Why his tail will sweep every table clean of everything on it. HONESTLY P, use your head!”  To which Mother chimed in, mildly reproving, “Your father is right, dear”.  “You don’t need a pony to protect you, P, just a small dog devoted to you who can bark up a storm if anyone comes near you,” Daddy said, sounding faintly sympathetic. Glancing at Mother, I saw she was fighting the giggles and coughing into her napkin. To my own surprise, I burst into tears and ran upstairs to my room.

Mother spoke to me in the morning. “Give it a week more. I’ve found a litter of registered black miniature poodles in Little Washington and we should make an appointment to go see them. But not before you speak to Clint – we don’t want to tempt fate!”  So on an agreed upon evening, I spoke once more, this time highball in hand and before dinner. “Daddy, I don’t want to spoil another dinner and I have to leave early for rehearsal – can I get a miniature poodle? They’re small, very intelligent, not fierce, and easily trained to be watch or guard dogs.” Daddy sighed heavily.  “Sure, darling. I’m not crazy about poodles but if that’s what you want – maybe I can learn to love it – but no damn fancy French monikers like Pierre, or Alphonse or Guillaum.”  I jumped up and hugged him. “It’s a deal!” I said, “You name him what ever you want!” “Really? I can?” and Mother and I laughed as he looked like a little boy who had just been told HE could have a puppy.

We brought the puppy home the next day as a pre-Thanksgiving blizzard began and he enchanted us all with his exuberant discovery of the fun of deep snow.  He cared for neither Murphy nor Hooligan but clearly responded to Hogan. When I moved to New York a year later, he stayed home. I received a telegram from Mother a month later which said, simply, “Guess whose bed Hogan sleeps on!”  Still later I learned by wire, “Hogan’s crazy about pancakes!” But Hogan still felt his bonds to me.  Howdy arrived in Fairmont on a late night train a year and a half later, newly engaged to me, and my parents and grandmother brought out champagne for a midnight toast to our future. Howdy and I sat on the couch together with Hogan lodged between us.  After a laugh about something, Hogan sat up, looked at me, then Howdy, looked at me again then back at Howdy. Showing every sharp, small tooth in his mouth, he spoke firmly to Howdy.  “GR-r-r-RRRR!” he said, then got off the couch and stalked away to lie under my grandmother’s wing chair.

My current chocolate standard poodle didn’t answer to Murphy either but in the family tradition is named MacGillicuddy, normally known as Gilly. (I had just returned from 12 days in Ireland when I picked her up so was well prepared with possible names.) Since I’ve learned I’m 19 percent Irish, this tradition feels appropriate along with my alternating Jameson’s Irish Whiskey with Dewars Scotch.  It being Friday, may we toast together, each in the beverage of our choice the joy our four legged beasties bring us?  Here’s mud in your eye! Hope to see you mid week when  I sort out if that is Tuesday or Wednesday!      p

A Date To Remember


Tennis Partners

PROLOGUE- 1949-1951:

I made a deal with my parents to go home for a year after college, after my graduation present of an 8 week post tour of England, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy and France –now ready again for visitors. I was to join the Junior League, improve my bridge so I could play civilized grown-up bridge, and let everyone “savor the results of all that Eastern education.” Somewhat to everyone’s surprise, I loved the League provisional course and all I was doing and learning so I stayed home in West Virginia a second year, beginning, however, that fall of 1950, to plan for my “future” which we all recognized would involve leaving Fairmont. To my shock and outrage, Harvard Business School snottily declined my request for an application as “Women are not admitted.” (As women could not enter until the fall of 1963 my scorn of “that stuffy male chauvinistsl debating club” seemed amply proven.) My father, a Yale Law School graduate who firmly believed I could do anything I really wanted to do, urged law school as an equally useful training for business, gamely accepted the cost of an extra year of schooling  and generous loving father that he was, if he hoped I would apply to Yale rather than Harvard, he never said a word about it, recognizing, perhaps, it was a choice of Boston over New Haven rather than Harvard over Yale.


Jump to a Friday night in mid-May 1951, in Crestwood, NY where I was a houseguest of Ted and Sallie Brophy, who had invited another Smith classmate and her husband for dinner and a law school/law firm friend of Ted’s for me to meet and to even numbers. I had been told that the friend was “very good looking and a wonderful dancer” (these from Sallie so ballroom not ballet) and “a terrific tennis player with a wonderful sense of humor – someone I really like” according to Ted. As Ted and friend came through the front door I came out of the master bedroom where a phone call from my excited parents had announced a fat envelope from Harvard Law School, which when ripped open invited me to attend.  Heady with my success, I looked at the tall, dark-eyed man with Ted and thought “He’s not so handsome: he looks like Daddy’s pictures when he was young” and then was amused by remembering old wive’s tales about girls marrying men who reminded them of their father. But in conversation after dinner Howdy quizzed me about why Harvard Law, why law, and proved himself to be one of those wonderful men who really listen to your answers and respond to them rather than just waiting to say what they plan to say next. By evening’s end, I thought him more likeable and attractive than anyone I had previously gone out with, and, really, remarkably good looking, as well!  


Why was I going to law school in Boston when this man was in New York and when I had a solid invitation to make a fourth with 3 New York based Smith friends in their new apartment for four come September? Why indeed! I tossed and turned the required eight hours, woke up knowing what I must do and managed not to let Sallie worm my decision out of me.  I had known Sallie since second grade in Fairmont and knew she suspected my problem.


I cautiously deferred my law school entrance for a year, moved to New York in September,and began to hunt for a job. Giving up my chance to be the first Smith graduate also to graduate from Harvard Law School – I was the first Smithie to apply – was the only real regret my decision produced. However, I pursued my chosen course enthusiastically, and with great determination and only one major lie. The week after meeting Howdy, staying as planned all along with my future roommates in New York, I called Howdy and invited him to use a spare theater ticket that night as my theater companion and friend had a nasty sore throat and cough.  The sick friend was a fraud but Howdy had to work so I didn’t have to spring for an extra seat for her. We gave a housewarming party in October and I, of course, invited him– he was off to Baltimore for the weekend. In November I saw him at Princeton where I’d gone to the Yale-Princeton game and said a friendly “Hello, Howdy” as I passed within two feet of him.  He looked startled, could clearly not remember my name and possibly even me, and I moped the whole way to the city in the car with my Yale educated date so deep in despair over the 0-27 score he never noticed. Fortunately my social life had picked up as I was out of ideas for further pursuit.  

In March, when another Harvard Law classmate of Howdy’s was coming from Boston to see me for the weekend but staying with Howdy, Howdy called on Monday to invite me to come to a little cocktail party he and his roommate were giving.  Could he finally be asking me for a date, I wondered? After thinking hard and fast and then remembering his nice manners, I said “I think we’d love to.” A long silence followed that apparently unexpected response and then “Who is ‘we’? ” Howdy asked cautiously. “Jack, of course,” I said. “He’s coming down to see me, you know.”  Howdy had not known. Hesitation “Oh. Uh, we were going to ask him and his date anyway!” he said, but it did feel odd on Saturday night at the St. Regis Maisonette where we all ended up for dinner and dancing, to be seated between Jack and Howdy and hold hands with Jack aware that Howdy had noticed this.


So when in June Sallie called to ask me to a house party at Ted’s parents cottage in the Catskills and asked whom they should invite for me, the only single invitee, I said “Anyone but Howdy Marshall!” “I thought you really liked him,” Sallie said, surprised. “I do”, I admitted “but he’ll think I put you up to it and I’ve made every move the law allows and do not want to give him that satisfaction.” “Okay”, said my good friend, sounding reluctant, “I’ll tell Ted.”  A week later she called back to report.  “Bad news. Ted saw Howdy at work, wanted him for a tennis partner and asked him anyway I’m really sorry, P”  She sounded anything but. Fighting down a surge of hope, myself, I assured Sallie that perhaps it would work out for the best, praying it would but doubting it very much.


Howdy picked me up on Friday, July 11, after work and we chatted pleasantly for the two hour run to Merriewold.There were three couples plus Howdy and me and we had a delightful time together with good weather, good sports, collaborative good food and lots of somewhat uncomfortable sly teasing of the “marriage hold-outs”. Saturday night Howdy paddled me around the small lake, mainly focusing on a huge beaver lodge we were both fascinated by. Getting closer than the sentry beaver thought safe, we were drenched by a mighty tail slap right next to the canoe and as the mountain night was cooling, my teeth started to chatter. Back on the dock, Howdy grabbed a dry blanket we had not thought we’d want and draped it over my shoulders, apologizing for having caused us a soaking. I reminded him I wanted to see as closely as he did and “I could have stopped you from getting too near if I had wanted to” Howdy grinned skeptically at me, “You could?” he said. “Well, maybe,”  I said less assuredly. “Yes, maybe” he allowed, smiling.

Talk on the trip back to the city flowed easily and clearly we had become friends over the weekend. We worked only a few blocks apart and when Howdy called me for lunch together on Tuesday, it was the beginning of perhaps the happiest summer of my life.

Lawyer as Pilot in a Favorite Rhode Island Farmer's Field

Lawyer as Pilot in a Favorite Rhode Island Farmer’s Field

DUH It was only when writing this that it suddenly became crystal clear that Sallie and Ted connived and lied and never intended to invite anyone but Howdy Marshall as my “date” that July weekend 65 years ago.  I have totally believed the story about Ted’s preferred “tennis partner” all those years! No wonder they have been so proud of their matchmaking – they hatched a highly successful scheme. So today is my major Memorial Day when I think of clever Sallie and Ted and the wonderful best friend and husband they found for me. Sure beat law school!  

For those of you who get hung-up on details, I’m pretty sure I told Harvard I wasn’t coming. I’m absolutely sure that despite our best efforts, it often takes a little help from our friends to arrive at the chosen goal post. More at nearly ninety than ever before! Be good to your friends, ALL your friends. Back on Friday – see you?  p


Born on the Fourth of July

President Calvin Coolidge

President Calvin Coolidge

As I am writing this on July 4, the day each year when the tides of my patriotism are at their annual peak, I want to salute two very different people, each born on July 4, one in 1872 on a Vermont farm, and the other not!  The first is a famous man I never met – I’m not THAT old! – but have always had a friendly feeling about. His name was Calvin Coolidge, he was our 30th president and my friendly feelings stem from the fact that he lived in and was once mayor of Northampton, MA, the delightful Connecticut River Valley town where I went to college.

A stray remark of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who lives in Northampton, warmed my feelings for Mr. Coolidge significantly when she reported finding his entire presidential library and museum on one of the upper floors of Northampton’s (public) Forbes Library. Such a size and location for his library reveals Mr. Coolidge’s admirable New England thrift and modesty. As I feel costly, palatial presidential library/museums reek of self adulation and waste money that could be better spent accomplishing something of magnitude as a gift to the nation, learning this propelled President Coolidge almost to Rhett Butler eminence in my admiration!

Silent Cal may have spoken sparsely but he was an excellent listener and dispensed some notable wisdom in writing and speaking  – when he did. A conservative Republican lawyer, he climbed the political ladder step by step winning national notice as Mayor of Boston for his decisive handling of the 1919 police strike there. That won him the vice presidency under Harding and the Presidency when Harding died in office. He won his own full term and therefore had the honor of being President when the A. C. Spurr’s of Wheeling, WV set me loose (figuratively speaking) on a deeply disinterested nation.

Some of the things Silent Cal did say!  

“No one ever listened himself out of a job.” 

“Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.”

“I want the people of America to be able to work less for the government, and more for themselves.”

“To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.”

“I have noticed that nothing I never said ever did me any harm.”

“Any man who does not like dogs and want them about does not deserve to be in the White House.”

“Little progress can be made by merely attempting to repress what is evil. Our great hope lies in developing what is good.”

“There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.”

And a final short tale, showing that dry witty sense of humor remembered by his Amherst classmates. Seated next to a woman at a dinner party, Mr. Coolidge was informed flirtatiously that she had bet a friend that she could make him say more than two words.  “You lose,” he said.

Katharine Taylor Rodgers Marshall was born July 4, probably about 1899 and in Baltimore. She was my husband’s step-mother if one can be viewed as a step-mother to the best man at one’s second wedding. She was a charming second mother-in-law to me and an outstanding wife to Howdy’s father.  He was not a business success, never having been the teacher he was constitutionally meant to be. Katie and the countless loving, appreciative notes she wrote Dad restored his self confidence and esteem and made the years of their marriage the most fulfilling and happiest of his life.  He saved them all, notes on his pillow when Katie was out of town, notes on the dashboard of his car when he was off on a business trip or sales opportunity, post-it size notes in his wallet, under his breakfast coffee cup. I found them in Howdy’s safety deposit box after Howdy died. I read them all, crying over some, my admiration and appreciation of Katie growing with every word along with regret that I had not thought to do the same for my own beloved. I burnt them, guilty for having read someone else’s love letters, determined that no one else could be so intrusive Julian and Katie surely knew they were blessed but I suspect no one else in the family knew how greatly.

Happy Birthday to Katie and to Cal. How wonderful that the more I have learned about each of them, the more highly I regard them.  May you and I so live that the same may be said of us some day.  See you next Tuesday?  Happy weekend!      p

Photo Credit: Masslive.com


Rescue by Rockefeller in Rye

If one is destined to be stranded, a lone island in a sea of convivial togetherness, it is a great and rare blessing to feel you are looking your very best! My navy chiffon flowy pantsuit was “very becoming, glamorous even” or so my husband had assured me when I bought it and I had remembered to pack the right underpinnings, jewelry and shoes and, incredibly, I was also having a great hair day – wow! It was comforting to feel this arriving at the formal awards dinner of the 2003 Garden Club of America Annual Meeting in Rye, NY.  My good friend Beth and I were representing our Maine garden club and Beth, who had previously belonged to a California club, told me as we stepped off the bus bringing delegates from our nearby hotel, that she was deserting me as she’d promised to meet her California friends for the cocktail hour.

Seeing no one I knew well enough to feel I could break into their conversation, but as yet undaunted by the lack of a companion, I sauntered up to the nearest bar where I disappointed the young bartender by removing the fun of meeting a real Maine woman by admitting to having lived across the county for 40 years but he perked up on hearing that I had come to New York from West Virginia.

Drink in hand I moved away from the bar, checking the crowd before me for a friendly group to join.  I could see no one I had ever seen before which made me momentarily wonder if the bus had left us at the wrong party’s door. I considered my options.  Faint gracefully if I could manage it and see what happened next? Too drastic.  Stand there looking at ease but occasionally check my watch as if I was waiting for someone who was supposed to find me there and see what …

A man’s hand was suddenly stretched out to me and a friendly male voice spoke. “Hello”, it said, ‘I’m David Rockefeller. Should I be welcoming you to my home state or are you a fellow New Yorker?” “Hello, Mr. Rockefeller”, I responded happily, thrilled to be so wonderfully saved. “I’m Penelope Marshall and I was a neighbor of yours in Irvington for forty years but now I live In Biddeford Pool, Maine.” Mr. Rockefeller smiled. “Still a neighbor then, just farther to the south!” Smiling back, I told him how happy I was to see the Rockefellers being recognized for their support and gifts to conservation and the recipients of the GCA conservation award.

“I should also tell you” I continued, “I applied for a job with your wife the first year I was married and living near you in the city.”  Mr. Rockefeller looked surprised but interested.  “Why didn’t you take it? I assume she offered it to you?” “Yes, she did,” I answered, “and I liked her very much and would have loved to work for her.  But what she needed me to do I was not good at, and I hated the idea of disappointing her and her keeping me on to be kind or her having to fire me,” I confessed. “You should have taken it,” Mr. Rockefeller said firmly. “She would have found you something you liked to do better if she liked you and I know she must have.  It wasn’t all our children that worried you was it?” “No,” I grinned, “I have five myself”  He nodded.  “She was the best thing in my life, much the better half of our marriage. She made me a better person because she always demanded I be my best self.  I miss her very much. I don’t think most people quite understand what it’s like to feel so wonderfully partnered. Are you still married?”  “Yes and no. I still feel married but I’ve been a widow for six years.”  He smiled wistfully at me. “That’s it, isn’t it?  When a marriage feels like that, it lasts forever.” Fighting back tears, I nodded. Mr Rockefeller stood taller, visibly willing himself out of this mood.

“I need to get back to my friends,” he said, “and someone is hovering behind you who hopes I”ll let you go.” Sticking out my hand I said, “Thank you, Da-Mr. Rockefeller, for your kindness in rescuing me. You’ve made me even more sorry I turned that job down.”  “Kindness, Penny? Rescue? I’ve no idea what you are talking about!” Mr. Rockefeller gave my hand a friendly squeeze. “Oh, thank you, indeed!” I said.  “Goodbye, Mr. Ro –David.” “ Goodbye, Penny, ” he agreed and we both turned away.

Once in a while you meet and share a part of your heart with a total stranger making a connection you never forget, a friend you only meet once in your life. Because I already knew of and admired David Rockefeller, this is a precious memory to me. I like to imagine, however, that hearing me recognize and affirm that I felt about my marriage and Howdy as he did about his marriage and Peggy was, somehow, a tiny gift to him.

Serious considerations for the end of a Holiday Weekend!  Real life. Maybe Friday will feature something lighter?  God only knows, I certainly don’t!  See you – -?   p

📸 Click for image credit

Hollywood Star: All Alone Although Admired

Jimmy Cagney Actor

Hollywood Actor James Cagney

It was a lovely May afternoon in late March of 1943. Fifteen years old, I was home for spring break from boarding school as was sixteen year old Jeanne Black. Together, we were entering the Hotel Fairmont ballroom where we were to hear Hollywood actor James Cagney promote the sale of war bonds. The room was already filled with people occupying an odd mix of tables and normally placed audience chairs.  The podium was to our left, still unoccupied and we found a table for two just to our right, near the door and helped ourselves to punch and cookies as we saw others had already done.  The doors opened and closed quickly behind us and Jimmy Cagney followed the local Bond Sale Chairman into the room.

After a brief introduction, Mr. Cagney rose to speak greeted by tumultuous standing applause. Waving us back into our seats, he introduced himself as “plain Jimmy Cagney with a pitch for War Bonds”. He gave an enthusiastically received speech, sketching in the history of war bonds, their role in financing the war, worked us up with proud excitement for recent victories, grief for precious young lives lost and finished to another round of tumultuous standing applause. The Bond Chairman then shook the star’s hand and left the room. Mr. Cagney was left standing alone, front and center, cheerfully facing his admirers who were still standing in place and in huddles looking at him and talking about him across about a 30 foot bare space.  After another minute or so of lonely Mr. Cagney looking amiably at a still distant crowd, I grabbed Jeanne’s hand, muttering “absolutely inconceivable , embarrassing!” and telling Jeanne we were going up to welcome and thank him. Pulling back, she protested, “Oh  I would never have the nerve”. “Well I do, “ I snapped, pulling harder, “this is uncivilized!”

Seeing us approaching, Mr. Cagney’s big smile flashed and he met us halfway, stretching out a hand to each of us. “Welcome to Fairmont, that was a terrific talk, Mr. Cagney,” I said.  “I’m Penelope Spurr and this is Jeanne Black.” As Mr. Cagney let go our hands, he said wryly, “I’ve had practice!  You girls are a little younger than the rest of this crowd – what brought you in here on this gorgeous day?”  “We’re here on my parents tickets,” I admitted. “They wanted to play golf instead.”  Mr. Cagney threw his head back in a gusty, big laugh, admitting for himself, “Boy, what I wouldn’t give to trade places with them!” Then as we realized the crowd was moving in on us, he grasped a hand of each of us again, looked in both of our faces with friendly warmth and appreciation and commented, “It must have taken both kindness and courage to come rescue me like that. You’ve made Fairmont live up to its slogan of ‘Fairmont is Friendly’ and I’ll remember you both!” As he dropped our hands, winking at us, Jeanne found her voice. “You bet it took courage – I was terrified!All laughing, we left Mr. Cagney to the restless throng now crowding about him, some of whom smiled approvingly at us but  most did not.

Going home in the car, immensely pleased with ourselves, Jeanne asked me how I ever had the nerve to do that? “Mother would have killed me if I didn’t,” I answered. “She has a real thing about lone chicks, newcomers  or strangers that you owe the kindness of welcoming and making them feel at home. But I never thought someone important or famous would ever need that kindness.”  “I will never forget that,”  said Jeanne. “I owe your mother a big one!”

There’s a companion story to this.  Sometimes it’s the important or famous ones who rescue the stranded and apparently friendless in a festive crowd. Next week suit you?  Have you put your flag out yet? July is upon us!   p

This great image is not my own – I would provide photo credit, but have no idea who may have taken this photo