Stories from Emails, Part 3

Bill, 5/27/21
Ella, “Dommie” as us grandkids called her, taught me everything about golf at age 8, at Denison CC. I was a quick study, but she still took my lunch money many times @ two-bits a point (not child abuse, I deserved it). I’ve parlayed those tiny losses into a lifetime of making lunch money as a single digit handicap. I’m no Bob Leahy, but who is?

Tina, 5/27/21
Well!! Ella Runge was not only a taskmaster on the golf course. She also put up with nothing at the bridge table. She taught me to play bridge when I was in high school. There I was, only in probably about the tenth grade. If I made a mistake in playing a hand and asked if I could take it back and play something else because I was just learning, she would shake her head and say “Nope. Next time you won’t do that.” I loved bridge then and continue to love it now. It’s by far my favorite card game. And yes, only contract bridge. Duplicate bridge drives me crazy. My mother was an outstanding player, both contract and duplicate. I inherited my love for cards from her, I guess.

An added note. If you don’t play bridge, just skip this. My dad played bridge very well, but he really didn’t like it. And he didn’t take it very seriously. When he had a weak bid, he would often say, “I’ll bid a little diamond [or whatever suit]. My mother would say, “Martin!!!! You can’t say that.” She saw it as cheating that he as much told her what he had (and it was indeed cheating). But it tore at our heartstrings when, after Bob’s plane disappeared and I was beyond sad and worried, he’d say to me, “Would you like to play bridge?” He knew how much I loved bridge, and he was willing to play even though he really didn’t like it. He and Mom really did what they could to make me smile. Sigh.

Paula, 5/30/21
I have two more memories regarding our grandparent’s house. First, we kids found 1930s high tech items at their place that we didn’t have at home. One was the player piano in the living room. We kids quickly learned how to load the cylinders, and enjoyed Joplin tunes. Then there was the Stereoscope (?) where you had two photos of the Grand Canyon (or whatever) held on a device that allowed us to see the picture in 3-D. Wow, did we have fun with those marvels.

Then there was the time Bob, Tom and I were playing out back where there was a big woodpile next to the house. Tom, a good three-plus years older than Bob and me, hid behind the woodpile and made ghost noises. He said, “I am invisible. I am walking on top of the wood.” I can still feel my indignation at this monstrous sham, as I yelled, “You are not!” To prove it (by child’s logic) I picked up a hefty piece of wood and threw it at the spot where he claimed to be. Oops, my throwing arm was way better than it is now, and there was a horrible crash. I forget what my punishment was, but I was sure our grandpa knew how to replace window glass.

Tina, 5/31/21
Barry was the first grandchild. I didn’t really like Mom and Dad to be called Grandma and Grandpa, so I decided to call them however Barry first pronounced their names. Same with Paula. So ever since he started to talk, they became Dommie, Paw Paw, and Paubie. And that’s what they are to this day.

When Paubie was very young, she wrote a letter to Mom and Dad. I found out later that this is what she had done. She addressed the envelope this way:

Dommie and Paw Paw
Denison, Iowa

The postmark was Van Nuys, California. So, when it got to the post office, the workers looked at it, wondering who was meant. Someone said, “Didn’t Martin and Ella Runge’s daughter move to California?” So, they asked my parents if maybe this letter was meant for them. That’s what small-town living was back in the Dark Ages. Actually, it was wonderful.

Steve, 7/2/21
I remember seeing a medicine bottle on Grandma C’s night stand labeled with masking tape, “Whisky.” Apparently, her doctor recommended a bit of whiskey every day for her heart, but Grandma was a teetotaler. She had my dad go to the liquor store and buy whiskey to pour into the medicine bottle. She took one teaspoon every night before bed. No more, no less. I’m sure my dad found a good use for the remaining whiskey.

Paula, 7/4/21
A long time ago when Nori was preschool, she was able to visit my folks in Denison by herself. Steve and Jan, you might remember seeing her then. So it was July 4th, and mom and dad took little Nori to see the local fireworks show. They sat in their non-air conditioned parked car for a long time after it got dark, and still no fireworks. After much grumbling from my mom and dad, there came this little voice from the back seat, “Oh, shit, let’s go home.” Of course, my folks collapsed in laughter. Sorry Nori, I just had to tell this one. XXXX Paula

Steve, 7/4/21
Paula’s story about Nori reminded me of a story about Cole and Chris, Dick and Brownie’s kids. Apparently, there was a time when preschool Chrissy corrected Cole’s pronunciation of the f word. “No, Cole, it’s f…” Those kids learned a lot of salty language from their parents, much to the dismay of my mother. Brownie once said of our mother, “She wouldn’t say ‘shit’ if she had a mouthful.”

Tina, 7/4/21
When my Paula was about three, she, Barry, Dick, and I were at City Park in Iowa City. I dropped something some place in the car, and I was really frustrated, looking high and low for it. Paula said, “Oh shit!” I said, “Paubie!” She kind of cried (thinking I would reprimand her for her language), “I didn’t say son of a bitch, Mommy, I just said shit!” I blamed Dick for teaching her those words. Yeah, right.

Paula, 7/5/21
Tina mentioned Grandpa C. always wanted to go back to Germany. I don’t know about that, for one thing, overseas travel was way too complicated in those days. But mom told me he wanted very much to see the ocean. Dot and Jack were willing to drive them to California, but Grandma would have none of it. She always said who would take care of her chickens. When anyone was talking about that, Jack would imitate chickens clucking and flap his elbows up and down.

I felt so bad for Grandma once when I took my two preschoolers to see her. She actually sat down and extended her arms to embrace them. Sadly, her stark appearance must have scared them, and they wouldn’t go to her. Nori and Bill, don’t think you were bad kids. I have a photo somewhere that Bill Muster took, and she did look scary with her pulled back hair and her thin face very dark from too many years in the sun Nori, maybe you have that photo???? End of another Paula report.

Tina, 7/5/21
Mother talked very often about much Grandpa wanted to go to Germany. And it was very doable like on a passenger ship.

I think Grandma had a pretty hard life growing up in the Lochmiller home. Her mother had problems. But she was a wonderful grandmother to all us grandkids. And as someone said, she cooked up a storm. “Make out your dinner” was her mantra. One time when the zillions of us were sitting down to eat, everyone was talking up a storm. Then the food was passed around and everyone started eating. All was quiet. I think it was Aunt Dot who said, “Well, the hogs are at the trough.” Can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that. Love it! Unfortunately, it was lost on my Los Angeles friends, who didn’t know about hogs and troughs.

Jean, 7/6/21
It’s interesting how sometimes a dream is not shared by another. Martha always talked about wanting to go to Hawaii. When I was a young adult I confronted him [Merwin?] on this and pressed him to take Martha on the trip. Don’t know whether finances were just too tight and he did not want to admit this, but he made some kind of excuses like there was “gang activity” over there and it wasn’t safe. She never did get to go.

Tina, 7/6/21
All so sad. My mother never got to take a vacation. One time we did go to St. Louis, where, incidentally, Mother only packed sunsuits for us girls. She forgot to pack dresses. Anyway, all the summer vacations were spent at either Lake Okoboji or somewhere in Minnesota, usually the former. Dad loved to fish, so that’s where we went. Mother hated to fish and was scared of water, so her vacations were spent cooking, cleaning, and making beds in whatever cabin we were staying in. However! We (including my mother!!) had great times, and usually went with other people. I can remember being there with Aunt Dot and Uncle Jack. Boy, did we love that!

Paula, 7/23/21
I’m thinking of two other cousins who are no longer with us. I grew up with Tom and Bob Leahy. Their house was but a short bike rice from ours. We spent many summer hours on their front porch reading Batman and Superman comic books. Maybe The Green Lantern also. Yes, they were the originals. We played Monopoly, rummy, and a game we called “21”, now better known as Blackjack. Tom was about three and a half years older than I was. Bob and I were both born in 1927; me in May and he in July. We weren’t exactly twins, but we were definitely good pals throughout our childhood. I remember a photo of Bob and me sitting up in a baby buggy, with Tom standing by. Tom and I each had an interest in writing. We talked about it early on, and as young adults we talked about it over a few beers in a little tavern near Denison. Tom wrote three or more fiction books after retiring from his lifetime career in the army. It looks like I am still freelance writing, now mostly for magazines. We always admired each other’s work.

Tom’s college career included a stint at UCLA in Los Angeles, where one day he spied a beautiful young woman named Lovella. He made her acquaintance, and wasted no time taking her to the altar. These two, along with their three young children, lived all over the world having many adventures. Tom retired in Gainesville Florida, and they had many happy years there until Lovella developed a rare and deadly malady. Tom cared for her until the end. He was a sweet and gentle friend to all.

Bob and I graduated from Denison High School in 1945, and he immediately joined the U. S. Navy. Fortunately, the war was over in August of that year, so he didn’t encounter any danger. He and his lifetime love Beverly and their two lively young sons spent most of their years in and around the Iowa university system. Our whole family was so proud of Bob’s career as Iowa Amateur Golf Champion. Every person in Iowa who followed golf knew his name. My son Bill Muster admired Bob so much, and was honored to play golf with him when they were both in Denison for the Donna Reed festivals, and in several charity tournaments. Love to all, hoping my memories are accurate, Paula

Paula, 7/24/21
We had another cousin we never got to know. Aunt Marie and Uncle Melvin had a third child, a little boy, who lived only a few days after his birth. Uncle Mark showed me his grave in the Lutheran Cemetery once, but I didn’t take note of the baby’s name. Mother told me evil tongues in Denison were saying this was God’s punishment for Uncle Melvin leaving the Catholic Church to become a Lutheran. I can only imagine how this must have added to the grief the family was already feeling. How disgusting anyone could even think such a thing, much less put it into words. Paula

Tina, 7/25/21
Bob Leahy was really a great golfer. Mother said his swing was kind of unorthodox in that he had a short backswing. He was not a really long driver, but as Mother always said, it’s the short game that counts. And Bob’s short game was superb.

One time when I was in Phoenix when Bob and Bev were there, he decided to go to a driving range to hit some balls. I asked if I could go with him. It was something I’ll never forget. Bob was walking rather slowly and in kind of a stooped way. He lined up alongside of a bunch of young guys. I watched them hit balls. Slices, hooks, fades, every which way. Then Bob started shooting. Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh. Every single shot landed in exactly the same spot, exactly where he wanted them to go. I was bursting with pride.

Bob and Bev for years went to the Pensacola, Florida area for a few weeks in the winter. They almost always went with other couples from Cedar Falls. In January 2000 I flew down to visit them. I flew into Mobile, where they picked me up. If you remember, a good many people were very nervous about the calendar changing from 1999 to 2000. Fears were rampant that planes would either not fly or fall from the air, all kinds of things. But luckily, January 1st came and went, so I got on the plane. It was a wonderful visit. One day Bob drove me to Warrington, right outside of Pensacola, where Bob and I lived when he was in flight training. I hadn’t been there since we left in 1953. I wanted to see if I could remember how to get to our house. Bob was so patient during the hunt. I was amazed that I could find my way back there! And one of the couples who were our neighbors still lived there. We had a really good visit with them.

Bob was one of the most patient people I’ve ever known. He and Bev had a wonderful life together. I just adored them. I’m still in touch with Bev, but not often enough. We don’t travel to Iowa anymore, but when we did, we always, along with Brownie, drove to Cedar Falls to have lunch with Bev. And when Bob was alive, we would meet them for lunch.

One more thing that drove Bob a little nutty. This happened when I was in high school, so I’m not sure why Bob was around. I’ve slept way too often since then to remember. But anyway, he and a good friend of his often played bridge with me and a girlfriend of mine. Bob and Dick were really good players. Colleen and I kind of played by the seat of our pants, if that makes sense. Anyway, Colleen and I often won, which would drive Bob and Dick absolutely bonkers. We had a lot of good laughs about that.

I’m attaching a treasured photo, taken in the summer of 2016, when Bob was starting to really fail. We drove up to see him in the care facility. It’s the five first cousins, from left: Tina, Paula, Bob, Dick, Brownie. We lost Bob that year (I’m sorry, I can’t remember which month), and in October we lost Dick. The sadness will never end.

Nori, 7/25/21
Hi Tina – I believe I took that photo. I think it was 2015, the year when we all visited at the same time. You and K picked Mom and me up at the airport. In 2016, Mom and I went for Uncle Dick’s eightieth birthday, then you and K visited a little later, at the end of Dick’s life.

I have other photos from that 2015 trip I’ll try to look up and share. It was in September 2015, for Dick’s birthday. [Steve: Go to the Photos section of this web site to view Nori’s photos.]

Steve, 9/6/21
Another Aunt Dot Story: The extended family was gathered at the Runge house in Denison. I don’t remember the occasion, but it was summer. Brownie was pregnant with Cole. I overheard Brownie telling Dot how much she had to pay for bras in her size, especially since she was pregnant. When Dot heard the exorbitant price, she replied, “Oh, Honey, I’d let ’em flop!”