My mother was a meticulous housekeeper, old-fashioned cook and better-than-average gardener. She was also a tireless listener and kept an “open door policy” for the young married women of our neighborhood, offering well-qualified advice as they faced difficulties. After all, she and my father had raised children during the Great Depression and they learned how to cope.
She never wore house dresses, as were common in these days, but instead, retired her former best dresses, over which there was always a stiffly-starched apron. (She kept a supply of them on hand in the closet under the stairs and a knock at our front door saw her donning one before responding to the caller.)
Her three daughters had other interests. My two older sisters were more interested in keeping up the morale of the servicemen in WWII, dancing with them at The Victory downtown, bringing them home for dinner and corresponding with them later. I was only interested in losing myself in the neighborhood.
Mother was such a dedicated homemaker, that she did both the laundry and ironing in one day, getting up at 4 a.m.
After lunch, when I had gone back to Cherry Hill School, she tidied up the kitchen, took her apron off and seated in her rocking chair by the side window in the living room, she turned on our new cabinet radio (a birthday gift from my dad) and tuned in to her favorite shows.
She was partial to the give-away programs; loved “Queen for a Day” and “Art Linkletter’s House Party.” If I didn’t stop off at a schoolmate’s house to play, I’d come home at exactly 3:35 and as a soap opera came on, I would hear the announcer say it was “created and written by Irving Vendig.” I can’t imagine how that odd name stayed with me through the years, but it did. I wondered what “Irving Vendig” looked like…
The years went by, I married, welcomed two daughters and was happily broadcasting on local radio five days a week. It was a show for women and I handled it all by myself, selling my own accounts to those faithful sponsors. I hoped it would see me into old age. Ha! That was only a pipe dream. My husband and our girls decided they wanted to move to Florida, no doubt drawn there by beaches and the blue-blue waters of the Gulf and “untold opportunities.” I was stricken! On and on they nagged. Our every meal was filled with talk about Florida.
I had never been able to swim a stroke and the thought of relocating to a strange place gave me pause. But they kept on. Finally, I relented and told them I would go but hastened to add, “Don’t expect my heart to rejoice! I plan to retire from active duty in the work place and will spend my place in the sun reading and/or sleeping.”
Mick, my husband, whom I had taken for better or worse, went down first, leased a beach house near friends on Bonita Beach, on the Gulf. I had to admit, it was mighty cozy, that is, until 5 a.m. when the motor boats began roaring under our bed which was in the back of the house, built over pilings.
This location soon paled and we went in search of the kind of farming life we had known in Fayette County. We found it in the small ranching community of Arcadia, some 50 miles south of Sarasota. Cowboys were seen everywhere. This delighted me as I had always nagged my parents to take me out west so I could see “a real, live cowboy.” I found them polite, driving pickups to town with gun racks in the back windows.
At last, this brings me to the point of my story. I became restless, bored with watching our new house being built, with Mick’s auction barn in the rear.
In the morning edition of “The Sarasota Herald-Tribune,” I saw an ad for a bureau chief in Arcadia. While my newspaper experience in other years was not extensive, perhaps I could sell somebody in the home office on the idea of hiring this “mature woman,” as they had specified in their ad.
I donned my best suit and headed north. Before I could believe it, I was hired and back out on the street carrying the key to my new office in Arcadia—a job I held for almost 20 years…
One morning, I saw where one of our reporters had interviewed “Irving Vendig,” who was now retired and living in a colony of name-authors in Sarasota. He was slated to speak at a Sarasota Business and Professional Men’s luncheon. I immediately called my boss, asked to cover the talk, received permission and soon—at last— I would meet the man behind that name that stuck with me from childhood.
He was a dapper gentleman, seemed more interested in learning about my career than he was in giving me an interview! The hostess had seated me across from him and we laughed as we were all served chicken that would not cut but was so rubbery it slid over our plates.
Mr. Vendig had been an early soap opera creator and writer for some 26 such programs in his studio in Chicago. Probably one of his more famous ones was “The Guiding Light” which went from radio into television where it had a long run.
He was so nice to me, I was glad I had retired my working pants suits for the day and wore instead a beige chiffon with coral jewelry.
I guess the moral of this story is, “Never say never!” Who knows what lies around the bend? Had I not gone to Florida, I would have missed knowing some great people and working for a marvelous company that certainly brought out the best in me.
Jean Mickle is a local resident who writes columns for the Record-Herald.
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