The Odd Couple
People have asked how my parents met. It’s an interesting story, and I’m not sure I can do it justice, but here goes.
Characters: My mother, 41 at the time, never married. A true Victorian: prim, proper, quiet, shy Had worked as a docent at the Paul Revere House in Boston’s North End, for about fourteen years
My father, 37 at the time, never married. For 21 years he had been on the move, either in the military or on the sea. Having been in many, many ports, he had wonderful stories to tell.
Where they met: Boston Baptist Seamen’s Bethel on Hanover St. in Boston’s North End. This was a refuge for seamen, providing them with a place to stay, hot meals, and church services. My father was in port, having finished service on one of many oil tankers, probably looking for the next ship to go out. My mother’s sister, Gertie, was an administrative assistant/ missionary at this facility and hired him temporarily to tend the furnace and do some cleaning. This turned into a permanent job as my father struggled with the decision of whether to stop going to sea. Finally he realized, in his own words, “I’m always taking myself with me.” The Bethel was just a block away from the Paul Revere House, and my mother would frequently stop there on her way home from work to help Gertie set up for the evening meal and meetings. They had found their “someone.”
What they had in common: They each came from large families where religion played an important role in their lives. My mother was a product of such revivals as Billy Sunday and had always attended church, taught Sunday School, and read devotional books. My father was brought up in church, and through his years of wandering, he had one sister, Carrie, who never gave up on him. When she sent him a Bible, he proceeded to read it through several times, and when in port in Washington State he had a conversion experience which helped him turn his life around.
Many questions: I cannot imagine their courtship at all. I have a feeling there was a lot of talking, a lot of listening. It is likely that each of them was lonely and welcomed the one person who seemed to care about them. It was the Depression, and they had limited incomes, so did they ever go to movies, eat out? Maybe they just worked side by side setting up for meals and meetings at the Bethel and straightening up afterward. Sometimes my father went over to the Paul Revere House to help my mother with the furnace. They might have gone to Sunday dinners at my grandmother’s which is no doubt where they, as a couple, became close to my Aunt Dot and Uncle Sam.
Outcome: August 3, 1932, my parents were married at Tremont Temple Baptist Church, Boston, after the Wednesday night prayer meeting. Gertie, Dot, and Sam were the witnesses. There were no other guests. Legend has it that Gertie had slept with a knife under her pillow and wanted to kill my mother out of jealousy over her marriage. After the ceremony, my parents walked up over Beacon Hill to a small apartment on Myrtle Street. This was an ideal location, allowing them to walk back and forth to work as well as to church. I think they probably imagined that they would live out their lives uneventfully, probably right in that area. But then, six years later, a surprise . Along came a baby: me.
Bottom line: What united them initially and what sustained them throughout life was a deep and abiding faith in the Lord. And there you have it. God as matchmaker? Who’d a thunk it?
© Dorothy C. Judd
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