From “Flood of Memories” written by Lois Lawrence 11/14/00
Thanksgiving Day! Joan and Frank had a garage apartment in the Montrose District, a Model T Ford named Josephine, and Yvonne. I believe that Joan was working at Ford Motor Company and Frank was probably studying at Feather & Feather Institute of Design. Since he had some experience as a draftsman, he was taking architectural courses with an aim to becoming an interior decorator.
For the benefit of those who never had the pleasure of knowing Frank, I’ll attempt to give you a character sketch. Having served on Guadalcanal as a Marine in WW II, Frank was a “can-do” man. Not only was he capable of doing almost anything, he was always attempting any job that Joan wanted done. Every inch of his six-foot plus frame quivered with energy, and his sinuous arms and legs appeared to propel him through space. He could spring across a room in two long strides while running the vacuum and dusting at the same time. He never walked, always ran; never sat still, always moving, shuffling his feet, wiggling in his chair, and giving a perfect imitation of a ten-year-old boy dying to be allowed out-of-doors to play baseball. Was he truly a “Peter Pan” who never quite grew up?
Frank was noted for his “wet wit and dry humor,” and for his never-changing boyish good looks. He was a perpetual age thirty-nine. At a grand opening of a furniture store, Frank was introducing Yvonne (age about 16) and Joan to the owner.
“Sir, I would like for you to meet my wife and daughter.”
“Why Frank, I never knew you had a grown daughter.”
With a twinkle in his eye and not missing a beat, Frank said, “Oh, she’s my wife’s daughter!”
No picture of Frank would be complete without a peek at him at a family poker game. Picture him in his usual perpetual-motion mode, shuffling cards, which invariably flipped all over the floor. He would exclaim, “Clumsy as a cub bear with a paw paw!” – retrieve the cards, deal out a High-Low before any of the other players at the table had deciphered what he meant by “cub bear with a paw paw!”
To add to this picture, you must know something about Joan. She could have given General Patton lessons in how to organize anything – whether it be running a household or running an office. She could type, print, collate, bind, and deliver a full set of architectural specifications within twenty-four hours. Yep, she was one of a kind.
Of course, Joan was always instructing Frank on what and how to do things, so he called her “Sarge.” Now, when one combines a perpetual-motion machine with an old-fashioned Marine Sergeant (Joan) something’s gotta give! Consequently, when Frank exploded, his ever-resounding affectionate comment to Joan was always, “Now, damnit darling . . .”
Thanksgiving Day, November 1950 dawned in bright sunshine. I was preparing Waldorf salad to take to the dinner at the Neagli’s garage apartment. I had a new blue sweater and plaid wool skirt to wear. Quite frankly, I thought I resembled June Cleaver!
Bill and I climbed into our second-hand Chevy, and sputtered over to the Neagli’s. Unaccustomed as I was to Novembers in Texas, I had not counted on the weather being so warmish! We left our apartment about ten in the morning when the breezes were blowing and the weather so pleasant we did not even need a coat. By the time we arrived at the Neagli’s the temperature had hit eighty-degrees!
I thought I could brave the uncomfortable heat because just as soon as I got out of the car I could smell that turkey cooking.
“I bet Joan has already made her butterscotch pies!” Bill cried out as he raced up the steps.
The scene that greeted us has been tattooed on my brain forever!
Clutter covered the entire floor of the small living room: dishes stacked in the corner, pots and pans heaped up on the desk, kitchen chairs pushed against the wall, and freshly washed clothes piled on the couch. Next to the clothes sat Yvonne, about 5 or 6 years old, cutting out paper dolls and playing with books.
“What has happened here?” I shouted. “Did a hurricane hit?”
From the kitchen came the resounding roar, “Frank, I told you they would be here soon. Now get that paper up there quick!” Joan leaned against the door frame of the kitchen, and Frank stood on top of the kitchen table hanging wall paper! At that precise moment, a long strip of wall paper came lose from the ceiling and covered Frank from head to toe.
“Damnit, Darling, I’m moving as fast as I can!” Frank called out from under the wall paper.
Thus began our celebration of The First Thanksgiving in Texas.
Needless to say, in the midst of re-decorating the small kitchen, Joan had prepared a feast for a king! Turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, (my Waldorf salad), creamed cauliflower, buttered peas and carrots, butterscotch pie and minced pie. Who could ask for anything more.
Throughout the future years, no matter how busy Joan and Frank were with working, helping with the Princess Day Nursery, having two more children, moving from Houston to Louisville and back again, Joan always found time to cook a delicious meal. Frank, too, would help, especially in making guacamole.