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The #23 Trolley Race

(Reading time 6.5 minutes)

“Meet me at Germantown and Chelten Avenues at 8:00, tonight” she said. That was the plan! Winnie, my pretty lady friend was forbidden to date me. Her plan for this evening was to make an excuse to get out of her house, take the 23 trolley, and meet me at the trolley stop. I agreed to the secretive meeting, but hated having to make such sneaky rendezvous for our meetings.  The need to do so was because I was of a different religion, a Protestant, and Lutheran no less, plus the fact that my parents were divorced.  In the opinions of Winnie’s family, those two things rendered me unsuitable for a date with their pretty daughter, who at the time looked like Betty Grable, but prettier. Her family preferred a sailor of the same religion, who was then on active duty, and with whom she had a few dates during the war.  That made him OK with the whole family.

Before my dating Winnie, I never had to sneak around anywhere for a date.  The families of girls I dated usually invited me for dinner, and made the living room available for our comfort and courting rituals. I remember vividly one dinner invitation, when I was in high school. FISH HEAD SOUP was on the menu, cooked by Mama who learned the recipe from her Italian Mama in the old country.  I think they liked me, a nice American boy, and invited me to come back, but for fish heads soup. No thanks. I felt the fish were watching me eat.  The heads floated on top of the bowl, eyes looking straight at me.  Mama said, “Mangia, mangia. Make-a you handsome and strong and give-a you good eyes. It’s-a brain food.” UGGH. They were nice people with two gorgeous daughters, but my favorite is still spaghetti. As I reminisce, there is a possibility they really didn’t want me for their daughter. Oh well. Now, back to my date with Winnie and the “23 trolley”.

I was freezing, standing on the corner, in my best suit, coat and hat, waiting for my pretty lady to arrive.  Here comes the 23 trolley, down the avenue from Chestnut Hill, at the north end of Philadelphia. It finally stopped. Out stepped my pretty lady.  She was all dolled up in her finest fur coat to have dinner and go to the theatre.  As she exited the trolley, and I was just about to embrace her, I heard the screech of braking tires sliding on the trolley tracks. A car stopped. I saw three of its doors swing open wide in the middle of the street.  Out jumped Winnie’s mother, a brother and a sister, leaving the car running with the doors wide open in the middle of the street, behind the trolley, blocking traffic. All three ran to get Winnie and usher her into the car. This would ruin my date for sure.  Winnie was quite upset and yelled to me, “I’ll call you tomorrow.”  With that, her mother yelled back in her Irish brogue, “INDEED NO SHE WILL NOT.” They left, ushering Winnie ahead.

That embarrassing incident served as an impetus to set the course for the next 62 years of our lives. Parents sometimes fail to realize that by their interference, they may unwittingly engender a hasty marriage that would otherwise never exist. They can actually drive children to leave home and get married prematurely.

The time of this embarrassing incident was at the same time I sold my service station and made arrangements to open a business in Florida. On our next date, I told Winnie I was leaving Philadelphia. She cried. I asked her why she was crying? The tearful reply was, ”I don’t want you to go.” I said, “What do you want to do, get married or something?” She said, “YES.” Sooooo…I said, “OK.”…and we did!  On our wedding night, we sent a telegram to her family advising that we were on the road to Florida on our honeymoon.

Ultimately, I became a REALTOR, which enabled me to employ all three of her brothers and a brother-in-law.  This is what is known as a TRICKLE DOWN CONSEQUENCE.

How about this for another trickle down consequence?  Winnie’s Irish mother and sister Mary, married twins—German LUTHERANS, just like me! The ladies wanted their weddings to be in their homeland, County Mayo in Ireland.  The honeymoon was to be on the ship, when they returned to the USA.  All four went off to Ireland to be married and show off their new LUTHERAN husbands to their family, which they did.

As they were leaving Ireland to board the ocean liner for home, their small shuttle vessel had engine trouble.  They missed their honeymoon ship connection by just minutes. They all watched their brand new giant honeymoon liner leave the harbor. As it sailed away they cried, ”There goes our ship to America. There goes our honeymoon.” THERE GOES THE TITANIC!

One more trickle down consequence.  If Winnie’s mother and father had boarded Titanic, they would have died in the sinking.  None of their children would have been born. There would have been no Winnie, nor either of my children etc., etc., etc., etc. The Trickle down consequence allowed for the birth of Winnie and all of her seven brothers and sisters, and then their children from all seven of their families.  They could not have chased the 23 trolley. I wonder whom I would have married if Winnie’s mother and father had caught the Titanic?

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