Wednesday, June 16, 2010
One reason my parents have lived as long as they have in relatively good health is my mother's wonderful sense of humor.
Take for example, the case of the missing pudding pack.
One day, Mom was doing a load of wash, when something went awry.
Ever since they moved into a rancher in a 55-and-older community in Montgomeryville, Mom and Dad have been cramped for space. They used to have a three-story twin home in Norristown where I grew up, and they had a house in the Poconos until a few years ago.
Anyway, there are always things other than clothes and laundry detergent on top of the dryer. Diet sodas, canned goods, and various and sundry other items she can't find a place for in the kitchen cabinets reside there temporarily.
On this occasion, as Mom stuffed a load of colors into the washer, a Jell-O pudding pack got swept in with the clothes.
The pudding packs survived the wash cycle, but when Mom put the clothes in the dryer, she and Dad got their first clue something was amiss.
"It smelled like I was baking a cake," Mom said, unable to stifle her laughter.
All that tumbling around in the hot dryer proved too much for the pudding packs and they began releasing their chocolatey goodness, coating the damp clothes like some ill-conceived fabric softener.
It took a few minutes for Mom to figure out what had happened.
Dad stood behind her, wondering aloud if she wasn't having an episode of some sort.
"Why did you put pudding in the dryer?" Dad asked incredulously.
"I didn't do it on purpose, you dope," Mom responded, equally nonplussed.
Back in Norristown, the laundry room was in the basement. God only knows how many similar incidents occurred when the laundry was something Mom did away from prying male eyes in between her full-time job as a key punch operator at Bell Telephone and making dinner.
Mom preferred it that way and, truth be told, Dad and I also liked it when the laundry was squarely Mom's province. Now, with everything on one floor, foreign objects in the laundry are more easily detected by otherwise oblivious males.
To her credit, Mom rarely treated us like laundry morons except the time she accidentally splashed bleach on my favorite golf shirt.
When I complained about the white blotches on the shirt, Mom showed her true colors.
"Here," she said. "Let me rinse that out."
He doesn’t talk about it much, but my father, Dan Kelly Sr., was one of the heroes of the Battle of the Paymaster’s Shed.
The little known skirmish took place at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1952.
Until then, Dad spent most of his time on the streets of West Philadelphia, hanging out on 53rd Street, combing his hair and smoking Lucky Strikes.
This did not please my grandparents, Eugene and Rosalie Kelly.
One night grandpop and Uncle Jack, a sergeant and Marine recruiter, invited my dad out for a few beers.
Early the next morning dad woke up on a bus to Parris Island, S.C.
Dad was only 17, so even though most of his Marine Corps training class went to Korea, he was detailed to the navy yard.
Marines were working security details. They got to go into the city and carouse on leave.
Their biggest concern was making it back to their rack before the shore patrol got them.
Then one morning a bugler sounded general quarters.
Turns out someone misplaced the key to the paymaster’s shed, rumors abounded, and the longshoremen and pipefitters started rioting.
The paymasters shed was located on a macadem strip about 50 yards wide between huge warehouse-like buildings where all the work was done.
I can see this nervous bean-counter pulling on the door knob of the shed as the angry workers approached.
Dad said he’d never seen so many angry men (not his words), all armed with lug wrenches and pry bars.
The Marines, all new recruits, and their green lieutenant marched past the paymaster’s shed toward the angry men. The men kept coming.
The lieutenant ordered the Marines to form a V. Still the men kept coming.
“I was pretty scared,” dad said. “There were only about 30 of us and there were hundreds of them.”
When the longshoremen were about 20 yards away the young lieutenant raised his saber and shouted one final order: “Fix bayonets!”
“They parted like the Red Sea,” dad said.
There were no injuries. The lieutenant kicked in the paymaster’s door and the workers were paid. But the event lives on in Marine Corps. and Kelly family history.
He doesn’t talk about it much, but there’s a flag hanging on our front porch 365 days a year and on Veteran’s Day he’s one of the first to arrive for the flag raising by the Neshaminy Falls Veterans Association.
Carol Wells and her Wyomissing neighbor Lillian Landau got together every Monday night to watch “Dancing with the Stars.”
So they were thrilled when Lillian’s son, Duane Landau of Wernersville, won four VIP tickets for the show in a raffle for the Lancaster Country Day School.
Duane offered the tickets to Lillian and Lillian invited Carol to go with her to Los Angeles and be backstage for two days of filming for the season finale.
“It was very cool,” said Wells, owner of Sweet Surprises, 544 Penn Ave., West Reading.
Carol, Lillian and two of Lillian’s granddaughters, Christine Landau of Sinking Spring, and Elise Landau of Wernersville, flew to Los Angeles on May 23.
They were given a front-row look at the show and went backstage to watch the dancers prepare.
“We had VIP passes, so we got to see the stars coming out of their trailers,” Carol said.
Carol said Kate Gosselin had donated the four tickets to the school, where Lillian’s granddaughters attended.
“Kate Gosselin was so warm,” Carol said. “She was very nice and went out of her way to introduce us to everyone.”
Carol said she was also surprised by how friendly all the stars and dancers were.
But the show was only half the fun, she said.
“We stayed at the Beverly Hills Hilton and Queen Latifah was there filming a commercial,” Carol said. “It was great.”
Three days later the girls took a bus trip to Santa Monica.
On the bus, Carol met Christopher Hansen of Germany, who was on vacation in California and was leaving in a week to visit family in Pennsylvania.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “He said he had family in Allentown, Lancaster and Stevens.”
Hansen, through an e-mail, said he was sitting in the back of the bus on his way to Venice Beach when Carol, Lillian, Elise and Christine boarded.
“I asked them if they knew where I should get off for Venice Beach and they said they weren’t locals,” Hansen said. “It was pretty cool to be in L.A. and meet people who are living about 4,000 kilometers away and then they are ‘neighbors’ of my family.”
Minutes later, a second bus passenger, a college-aged man named Chris Reuling, said he overheard them all talking about Lancaster, and Reuling asked Carol if they were talking about Lancaster, Calif., or Lancaster, Pa.
“When I said ‘Pennsylvania,’ he said his name was Chris, and he was from Strausstown and went to college in California,” Carol said. “It was like this small circle of people from Pennsylvania meeting on a bus in California.”
Carol said Christine and the two Chrises were all Facebook friends before they got off the bus.
Posted by Geedas Jones at 9:42 AM