When I think of our world today I wonder how it looks through the eyes of my 93-year-old father. John Gardner was born in 1926, a few years before the Great Depression. When he was a boy, he sold vegetables with his siblings out of the trunk of the family sedan on Sunday mornings after church. His was one of eleven children. The Gardner family lived a very modest life centered around preparing food, providing shelter and getting a good education.
Most of us have grown up with many more privileges than my dad had and sometimes it is hard for me to slow my brain down. One of my favorite things is to sit with my dad and listen to him talk about his life. His stories are rich and beautiful to listen to and his recall is on point. Here is a story he told me about how he met my mom.
“In the summer of 1942, it was popular for high school kids to meet up at the local roller rink. Western Rollerama was right down the street from Western Hills High School. My best friend, Al Kuhn and I would often go there on Saturday evenings to skate and socialize. It was the thing to do.
Other times, I would skate with my friend, Betty Blume, who lived on Hegry Circle. After skating, I would walk her home and then walk back to the rink to get my car, it wasn’t far. In those days I would often borrow my brother Leroy’s 1939 Pontiac because at that point he was already in the service engaged in WWII. One Saturday evening in 1942 we were all skating, and Betty introduced me to her friend Gladys Jeremiah. I fell in love right away. From then on, my trips to the rink were intended only to see Gladys.
As the year progressed, Gladys and I became dear friends and many times I would meet her after school and wait with her until she caught the Warsaw streetcar to go home. Then I would take the bus home from Western Hills High School to our family home on Rapid Run Rd.
When I began my senior year in high school, Gladys was a junior. We were not in any classes together, but sometimes she would help me by proofreading my reports and checking my grammar. Since West High separated class locations by grade, I would rarely see her in school, with one exception – typing class was located in the junior wing of the school. After I signed up for typing, I was more than delighted to find out that Gladys was in a class just down the hall. I worked really hard to catch glimpses of her – she was a beautiful girl and it was exciting to see her and I took every opportunity I could to spend time with her!”
My mom and dad dated for several years after high school. Truth be told, she was a bit out of his league, but persistence prevailed, and they married on June 19, 1948. Together they raised five kids (I am the second youngest) and while our family had many bumps along the way, I know that my parents loved us all very much. My mom passed on September 11, 1985, but dad is still very much in the game at 93!
Happy Birthday Pop!