May 26th………….“SHARE THE STORY OF HOW YOUR MATERNAL AUNT MET HER HUSBAND”.
There was a mellow, musical magic as the sun was setting across the waters of Fountain Lake in Albert Lea, Minnesota. Spent droplets of water, having arched towards the sky in the lake’s fountain burst, now came cascading down as amber diamonds into the waters below, being assimilated into the rippling water’s entrancement that was about to lead to romance.
It was early Fall of 1946 and the late Indian Summer was still giving out its warmth in the shadows of this Midwest town’s dance hall located just off of Broadway Avenue in those days next to the lake. Strains of The Tommy Dorsey Band could be heard on the air as the tenor of his gentle trombone lent to the aura of all things quaint, reflective and celebratory for a nation now relaxing in the first full year of peace since the end of World War II.
Seventeen year old Beverly June Sletten was bubbling with excitement of attending this dance with her girlfriends and, as they arrived on the pleasant scene that evening, these lovely young ladies drank in the crowd of young couples enjoying the Big Band music that surrounded them on the dance hall floor that wonderful night.
Bev and her young lady friends had decided that they’d saunter out to the veranda by the lake shore where they could relax on one of the benches there and enjoy the magnificent Minnesota sunset and yet hear the sweet, lilting music that fed the nation’s airwaves in those dear days when a gentler aura of life held sway among that Greatest Generation.
Beverly’s brown, Norwegian eyes began to twinkle with heart-pattering anticipation as her gaze locked onto the manly frame of a classic, tall, dark and handsome young man across the veranda from her.
Mr. Gene Smith had been blessed with a thick mane of dark hair that was naturally curly and wavy in its male splendor. Little did Beverly know at the time, but Gene’s life before this gentle evening’s encounter had been the totally opposite of peaceful.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by the Japanese (December 7th of 1941), Gene was among the 16 million other young Americans who stepped up to the needs of that current and global World War. Gene had valiantly volunteered for the war effort in the United States Navy and served aboard one of Uncle Sam’s thousands of sailing vessels. This virile young patriot garnered the rank of “Water Tender 2nd Class” as he performed boiler maintenance duties in the heart of his ship from the year 1943 till peace returned to the world on September 2nd, 1945. Gene then maintained his naval obligations till being honorably discharged from military service in the late Summer of 1946. In parental celebration of his son’s survival and homecoming from the war, Gene’s father saw to it that his fine young son was gifted with a handsome new suit, from the Meyer & Wolfe store in Austin, Minnesota. Once again a man of civilian life, Gene was now fitly prepared to look his very best in sporting this new suit to wear to the dance that evening. Little did they all know that that handsome young man in a handsome new suit of clothing was to be the ignition-point of romance between two young people attracted to one another.
Beverly’s inner voice whispered, “Ohhh be still my fluttering heart”!!! as she realized this dreamboat of a man that she had been admiring from across the veranda was now carried by the same magnetic pull as he walked towards her and, in his admiring tone of voice, introduced himself and asked if she would like to dance.
With her feminine smile receiving his greeting, she had a bit a quiver in her voice as she accepted his gentle invitation to the dance floor that awaited them. As if on cue, the crooning voice of Frank Sinatra began the ballad, “All The Things You Are”. With each swaying step of their dance, the words of this song became their own……..“You are the angel glow, That lights the star, The dearest things that I know, Are what you are. Someday, my happy arms will hold you, And, someday, I’ll know that moment divine, When all the things you are, are mine”. Such a serene moment this dance had been for both Beverly and Gene. This young man was worth getting to know better and better, as far as our young Norwegian maiden was concerned.
“May I have the honor of taking you home this evening“?, asked Gene to his new lady acquaintance. “Well, thank you so much, that’d be a pleasure”!! , responded the twitter-pated young woman to her gentleman admirer. Accepting the masculine outreach of his hand to hers, they began, hand in hand, a slow stroll towards the line of cars parked near the dance hall. Beverly assumed that a very handsomely dressed young man, like Gene, would likely be driving the newest car in the parking lot………at least his clothing was indicative of that theory. “Is this one yours”?, Bev would ask as they walked along the line of metal chariots. “No”, came the gentle Gene’s response. “How about this one”?, she’d ask, pointing to a flashy new car. “Nope, not that one either”, Gene would reply. Finally, at the very end of the line of automobiles, there was this old, old car that had been hand-painted green and was NOT what Beverly had expected. “Here we are……this is “The Green Hornet”, said Gene with a wink and a giggle in his eyes! 😉
Gene lived in the city of Austin, Minnesota which was over 20 miles from Albert Lea where Beverly and the dance hall were located. On the days when his old “Green Hornet” was broken down, Gene was determined to be with his sweetheart anyway. So, out to the highway on a trot he went and he’d hitchhike the distance for the joy of being with his new darling. There along the thoroughfare heading west, up came his short digit as he swung that thumb and forearm in the direction towards his honey and Albert Lea. Luckily, many drivers, in those kinder days of American life, were inclined to trust a young person hitchhiking, so Gene was blessed with many a lift to Albert Lea and back to Austin.
A most loving inauguration of romance was nurtured and relished by Beverly and Gene, along with the blessings of their respective families, from that Fall of 1946 until their blessed nuptials on July 1st of 1947. From this blessed union of marriage came a lovely family of three daughters and one son. Gene, following in his father’s footsteps, in the coming decades, met his family’s daily needs by working as a shipping administrator with the Milwaukie Railroad system that funneled through their hometown of Austin, Minnesota. Gene’s faithfulness to that employer, over the next 43 years, garnered them the resources in purchasing two new homes, over time, that were fully paid for as they worked together being the great team they were of husband and wife.
The amber diamonds of Fountain Lake, combined with the mellow music and dances in the era of that Greatest Generation, resulted in a most beautiful union of two lives and two hearts that, to this very day, are still a blessing to this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉