The world was a quieter place, no longer filled with the rumble of war. Hard to believe World War ll had ended some ten years ago. One only had to look around at the quickly constructed, economy houses that had sprung up all across the landscape to house the thousands of service men and women who had descended upon America to change it forever. They came home to live out their lives and raise their families in suburbia. Their coming created an immediate need for adequate inexpensive housing, more schools for their growing families, and a desperate need for employment. At last the government stepped up and formed the GI Bill, to help with the inevitable mortgages and to lend a hand for education in colleges and trade schools. Eventually the unemployment lessened and the quality of jobs and life improved. The going was rough, but as the old saying ’the tough got going,’ said it all.
The town of Taylor was small town USA. It was hot in the summer and cold in the winter but most people liked the change in seasons. The air was invigorating. Freshly washed clothing hung out to dry in back yards, but electric dryers were gradually changing that scene. Only a few ‘country kids’ had to be bussed to school. The rest walked.
Taylor had sprung up after the war. Construction for the town had latched onto a nearby foundry, partly because there were jobs available, partly because there was clear land to the north. The new houses were bare of the gingerbread trim of the southern homes in the more affluent sections of town. By comparison, these new houses had postage stamp size lawns, no frills, and asbestos siding that came in colors from white to tan or green. They were affordable and it showed.
In the mid-fifties most homes had television sets, but only the very rich had the new color sets. Telephones were sometimes party lines, but more were becoming private. ‘Survival of the fittest’ was still taught in schools, and morning Bible readings and the pledge to the flag were a must. By and large, most people were satisfied to be able to work at whatever was their lot in life, and women were usually the homemakers, though the war years had its share of women working in production lines while the men were called to the draft. When it came to religion, each town had a spattering of the traditional churches, the Catholic and Protestant denominations and sometimes, a Synagogue.
Though there was no longer war to cause the rumble, it was felt, nevertheless, coming from the green shingled Cape Cod Martin home. Sound emanated through the thin walls. Jenny Martin and her teen aged daughter Trisha, were at it again, yelling at the tops of their lungs. In the midst of that noise, the telephone rang for the third time, and before Jenny could turn off the mixer, Trish grabbed the phone off the wall and disappeared down the cellar steps to take the call in private. Her mother’s shouts about stretching the phone cord and tying up the line for hours was heard two houses away.
Chocolate cake batter dripped from the beaters into the white bowl. “And go upstairs and change your school clothes,” she screeched while she opened the cellar door and made sure Trish got the message “Your father often calls before he leaves for home. Don’t tie up the line.” She poured the cake batter into the pans and slammed the oven door so hard it shook the kitchen window.
Trish flipped her long dark brown hair and finally hung up the phone and yelled back, though her mother was only two feet away. “You don’t have to make a scene every time I get a call. Most of my friends have their own phones, but not me…we’re too poor,” she hissed and tossed her hair, giving her mother a dirty look as she headed to her upstairs bedroom.
“Just wait until your father gets home,” Jenny yelled up the stairs. The bedroom door slammed and created a draft that rattled the pictures at the landing. Jenny shook her head and sighed, wiping her hands on her apron. Jim won’t say a word to his ‘darling’ daughter, she thought.. A second later the phone rang again.
”If it’s for you Trish, you’re not at home,” she shouted and winced at the kick on the upstairs door. Taking a deep breath, she tried to calm her voice.
“Ted,” she sighed into the receiver, controlling herself. “How are you, and how are things in New York, and the job, and when are you coming here for a visit?” All thoughts of disobedience vanished when her brother called.
“Is that Uncle Ted?” Trish called from upstairs. “I have to talk to him.”
“Quiet, I can’t hear,”
At that moment Jim came, noisily in the back door, and put his lunch can on the counter. Trish ran down the stairs and into his arms. He started to hug her but looked at the foundry dirt on his clothes, and gave her a peck on the cheek. Then, after they exchanged pleasantries, he went to shower and change his clothes. Tired lines were etched into his face from the black dust of the foundry mold.
“Will you two be quiet so I can hear Ted?” Jenny ran her fingers through her snarled hair, a hint of a line showed across her brow. Her face and body were still attractive, hardly attesting to the fact she would soon be thirty-five. “Start over will you Ted? I was finally granted peace and quiet. You know how it is here,” she whispered.
“I was calling to tell you I have a surprise for you,”
“You’re getting married,” she gasped..
”Hell no. I’m not the marrying kind. Don’t you remember? You think I’m as dumb as my big sister?” he laughed.
She ignored the remark. “Well, what then. A promotion? A vacation?”
“Will you shut up and listen? This is costing me money. Next time you want to talk so much I’m going to reverse the charges. Better yet, I’ll send a Western Union telegram.”
She could hear his smile, picturing his handsome face, and the blue eyes that danced. When was he getting married? Aloud, she said “Okay, okay, I know when I’m being told off.” She tried to relax. His surprises hardly ever affect her anyway.