Thursday, November 05, 2015

How did we happen to get together?

During the summer of 1959, as I indicated in the previous blog, when Dave and Tillie moved to Maryland, my involvement in the farming enterprise slackened. I traveled to South Central Pennsylvania with Mom and Dad (now known as Mimi and Barlow) to visit the Joe Lutz family: Oldest brother Joe, Shirley (also Aleene’s aunt) Greg, who was about four, and Jane (two.)  It is important to comment on this visit because.they were much older and I was only 7 when they were married in 1949. So, this  was a test as it turned out...they put up with my goofy antics and were interested in my plans to go to Penn State and study agriculture, which is where they spent the first three years of their marriage. I was becoming a young adult, so I felt like I fit in.

It was logical, then, for me to look for a ride to Chambersburg (only two hours away) for a weekend visit during my freshman year at State. Joe linked me up with his boss at Cumberland Valley Cooperative informal getting to know you visit. It was hardly the highlight of my visit because I again bonded with the little ones and enjoyed the family time and good food.

A couple of months later, after talking to Joe, I made another trip down south for a more formal visit with Mr. Floyd Mains, head of CVCA. He and Joe had cooked up interesting proposal...give me a job in the Chambersburg feed mill to learn the business, sort of an internship. Well, it  happened. By June I was in J&S little house on Krais Avenue. It was the summer of 1960.

My job was “strong back, weak mind” type of work. Just the thing an 18 year old needed to stay on the straight and narrow. It was the first time I got a regular pay envelop…$65 a week. While that does not sound like much in today’s dollars, it was more than adequate for me.

The Chambersburg location of Cumberland Valley Co-op was a branch of the Shippensburg home operation, it was however, the largest by volume. Dairy farms were everywhere around Chambersburg and my farming experience and growing agricultural knowledge made a good fit. But I was going to lift 100# sacks of soybean meal and cow feed, not planning and executing financial strategies, but it was a foot in the door and was giving me an perspective on Agri-business.

The story was not my work, but the day in, day out experience with my host family. We had a ball. Shirley packed my lunch every day...she fed me and cared for me like a mother might. In exchange I paid a modest amount for room and board and a little bit of child care on evenings when J&S wanted an evening out. We went on picnics virtually every Sunday, after church, either to Cowans Gap State Park or Caledonia State Park...each with its own unique characteristics, but a chance to escape the confines of Krais Avenue (the house was only two bedrooms and I occupied the single room upper level.) We frequently made these visits with friends of theirs...principally the Jacobs family who had a son my age and daughter 16 and twin boys about eight.

We also made a couple of sojourns to the Potomac river across the line in Maryland. Their dentist, Dr. Addleman, and his family had a cottage there and a power boat. That is where I learned to water ski.

The summer flew by...I was much more fit when I left in September than when I arrived in June. Oh yes, a word about leaving Chambersburg that summer. Brother Jim was finishing up his four year hitch in the Air Force at Langley, VA. On the way to New Castle he stopped in Chambersburg for a few days and was just in time to take me back home. I do not recall more specifics...oh, we went to a Liz Taylor movie while there, but I can’t recall which one...was it “Cat” or was it “Butterfield 8”?

Backing up a bit...I did more than lift heavy bags of feed during the summer of 1960, I drove truck once in awhile delivering feed. Joe also took me on farm visits and I got a chance to see what dairy farms looked like in the “breadbasket” of Pennsylvania. (Many think of Lancaster County when they talk about fertile soil and great farms in PA, however Franklin County with its predominately limestone-based soils had fantastically producing farms of corn and alfalfa.) They (the powers that be) assigned me to the County Fair to help man the CVCA booth there, and Mr. Mains made some interesting observations: he was 13 years older than Joe and Joe was 13 years older than me. I guess it was his attempt at succession planning in 1960.

CVCA had locations in Chambersburg, Shippensburg and Mechanicsburg all in what is known as the Cumberland Valley. It is fertile soil and it is historic, too as part of the skirmishes of the Battle of Gettysburg (just 25 miles over the mountain to the east) took place in Chambersburg. Chambersburg had two colleges located there….Wilson College, a small liberal arts school and Penn Hall, an exclusive girl’s prep school (which, I think no longer exists.) Penn State’s Mont Alto Campus (then the first year forestry school, and now a four year campus)  is located just a few miles south on the Marilyn border. Chambersburg was a good place for me to sample life other than Lawrence County (New Castle) and State College. It was rural PA.

I had a TV  in my upstairs suite...and watched with great interest the 1960 Democratic National Convention in LA, so I stayed up very late to see John F. Kennedy nominated. I was smitten. He had been a Naval Officer in WWII and I found that interesting.

I went back to State in the fall of 1960 and pledged Delta Theta Sigma a professional-social fraternity. Only agriculture majors (then) could pledge, which meant it was full (about 50 in the house that fall) of farmer kids, just like me, from all over the State of Pennsylvania...including forestry majors  from Mont Alto. Dave and Joe were both DTSers so there was a legacy thing going...I have to admit it. But DTS was dry (on the inside at least) and I was pretty sure I did not want to be surrounded by alcohol since I saw the effect it had on my roommate freshman year.

Pledging was tough, but I got to know the brothers who were the mainstays of the house...and...many of them are friends yet today. One in particular, a forester from Kittanning, PA, became my mentor through pledging. He graduated that next year, 1961, and joined the Navy aviation program; tough kid...good kid.

I was building a body of knowledge, of course, but I was also experiencing life as I had not quite ever seen it...socializing, learning, playing, laughing, and building relationships.

By June 1961  I was headed back to Chambersburg for a second summer at CVCA. Shirley took me on again and announced that she thought she would have to have more for board this summer because she did not realize how much a 19 year old could eat. It was still a deal. Greg and Jane were a year older and just that much more fun to be around. I could entertain them, play with them, talk with them and laugh at their interpretation of words and life. It was a blast.

There had been attempts to hook me up with girls the first summer...I took Suzie Jacobs (16) to a movie...Anatomy of a Murder, I recall. Can you imagine taking a young teen to a movie that took painstaking detail to lay out the court case of a sexual encounter? I was embarrassed, for her...and for me. But her mother knew what she was going to see and I felt rather honored that she felt I was OK to take her. We had good times with the Jacobs’, Claris and Poppy Jake...they were good people and both died way too young, as I recall.

The other attempt did not end in a date, but a lot of time spent talking. This girl, Carol Lawyer, lived across the street and while I am not arrogant enough to think that she spent a lot of time in our yard on summer evenings just to be around me...I think she just wanted to talk to a boy in a non threatening manner. She was a couple of years younger, but an interesting person.

I give all this background because another plan was going to be played out. When I arrived in Chambersburg in June 1961, Shirley announced, very nonchalantly, that her niece, Aleene who just graduated from high school, was going to join us in a week or so for about ten days. I knew who Aleene was...she had been a flower girl in J&S wedding when she was 5. She lived in the country with her parents and while not an only child, she was the youngest of three, with her brother Willie being 5 years older. So when I heard of her over the years, it was like she was doing things much like a princess might. That is what I thought, anyway. Where was this girl going to stay in our little house? There were two bedrooms, so was I going to have to give up my suite in the second story for her?

Well, as it turned out, she slept on the hide-a-bed couch in the living room so I did not have to worry. Besides she was not that big and did not take up much space at all. What I did not count on was that she would steal my heart. I fought it at first because she was only 17 and heading to college at Indiana, PA so there was no way we would get could you sustain a relationship from a distance? It wasn’t more that two or three days after she arrived we were sitting outside at dusk admiring fireflies and one thing led to another and we kissed. Mmm that was nice. So before many more nights progressed we kissed good night, frequently. What did Mabel and her sister Shirley expect when you put a 17 (almost 18) and a 19 (almost 20) year old together.

This piece is about my internship, but it now became much more. I felt attracted to her, but...too young...too confining. But to her credit and she admits she dated others at Indiana, I began to realize I, at least, found someone who might be the right one.

CVCA was more of the same: heavy lifting, good experiences in agriculture business management and that strange succession planning thing. Could that really play out the way it sounded? Oh yes, I got $85 a week this year. Let me put finances in perspective for fall 1961...Penn State was going on four terms (three for the normal student) and each term tuition was $240. My house bill was $80/ and board and social fee.  Each year was roughly $1,600...roughly $6,000 for my four years.

Aleene went home and we did not communicate until I got back to New Castle in the fall. After all what might people think? We went on a date or two before we both headed off to our respective schools. Neither of us had cars so the 80 miles between State College and Indiana could have been 800 miles. By Christmas vacation we began to realize this was more that a summer least I did. I invited her to State College for a big weekend and she accepted. I was shocked that her parents would allow her to do this, but she was now 18 and they trusted us. Quite a responsibility. I got her a room about two blocks from the frat house a place other guys had quartered visiting girl friends. She came over by was the spring of 1962.

As a wrap up to my two summers at CVCA I need to finish some details: (1) I did not go back for a third summer because I was all set to do an internship in the Agriculture Extension Service and deciding not to return to CVCA (Joe left their employ soon after) and (2) I felt indebted to Merv Paxton, the Chambersburg Manager, who made every day worthwhile. Mervin would never ask you to do anything he had not done or would not do if need be. He could have resented my status of being Joe’s brother, but he embraced it and made my stay very easy. (3) Shirley denies to this day that there was a conspiracy between her and sister Mabel to get Aleene and I together, but Aleene’s dad fessed up somewhere in his 90th year that yes, there might have been a thought or two about seeing if we would bond.

1961-62, my junior year, I was in Glee Club and we travelled several times...locally and then a big spring trip during term break to New York City. That is significant because my time at home was cut short with my schedule. As it turned out, there were very few times that I saw Mom and Dad, but Dad knew Aleene and approved of her...I will not write what he told me in confidence...but it was pure RC at his finest. And while Aleene and I  had our ups and downs his approval stuck with me since he died on June 1, 1962 and I never got to share just how serious we turned out to be.

I’ll write more about that in another entry. Suffice it to say that my formal education was roughly half done and my internships in farming and ag-business stood me in good stead in the classroom and in later life.

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