Tragedy dampened joy of moving

It was 1940 in good old Warren.

Spring had come and we were having a new home built next to the water tower on Genesee Avenue. It was exciting for me to run through the unfinished rooms of that strange new place.

I turned 5 that October and had a big birthday party at our York Avenue home with the neighborhood kids as guests — like Mary Joyce Gehring, Carol Mansfield, Kenny Adair, Nancy and Jimmy Chappell, Marilyn Grimsley and Gail Gardner (an outsider). Dad joined us and brought in a large Lincoln Logs set that was so big that its wooden container was mounted on four wheels. It was coming ever closer to the last time I would see most of those kids.

About two years before, Dad’s bus company, called Warren Transportation, was bought out by a gentleman named Mac (McAllister) from Massillon. He also owned a bus company in Massillon called Fidelity Motors and had properties in the state of Delaware. Each fall after that, he would send us an oaken barrel of live oysters packed in salt and ice from Delaware.

Dad would eat those darned things raw right out of their shells, and Mom would make oyster stew with the help of Grandma (Dad’s mom).

Plans were made for Mac and his wife, Mabel, to drive up from Massillon to join us at our York Avenue home for a Thanksgiving dinner, which included oyster stew and turkey with oyster stuffing. Mom had everything ready and the table was beautifully set.

But our Massillon guests had not shown up yet.

While we waited, Mom decided to serve the oyster stew to the family and our one guest, a guy named Harvey, who was a fare box salesman from Chicago with a melodious Southern accent. My sister (Shirley) and I didn’t really like oyster stew, so Harvey tried a little incentive trick he had up his sleeve. In each bowl for the three of us, he placed seven oyster crackers. He then said, “Seven ships a-sailing on the milky sea, three and one sank, and then there were three.” (We spooned out and ate the crackers each time). “One sailed to Shirley and one sailed to me, and there was one ship left on the milky sea.” He did the same for me, but my sister and I didn’t like oyster stew any better.

The phone rang. It was a long distance collect call from an employee from Fidelity Motors. It turned out that Mac and Mabel had been in an accident caused by a truck passing another truck as it crested a hill in a no-passing zone. Mac swerved to avoid a head-on crash, and their car rolled over. Mac was all right, but Mabel had a concussion. We silently ate our Thanksgiving dinner.

Mabel passed away before Christmas.

Just before that Christmas of 1940 we moved into our new home on Genesee. In spite of the sadness, we erected a long-needle pine Christmas tree and wound a silvery tinsel garland around it. The next morning, we discovered that the silvery tinsel had turned golden.

Audrey — Mac and Mabel’s daughter — who was my sister’s age (10), stayed with us at our new home for that Christmas season. Even at this early age, I could feel some of the sorrow that she felt. She played the piano beautifully and was playing Christmas carols for us. As she played, I felt compelled to say something to her about her mom. I said something like, “I bet your mom up in heaven can hear your music.” She wept quietly.

So, 1940 ended on a sad note for all of us, and the joy of moving into a new home was considerably dampened. I would never see many of my York Avenue playmates again.

Mumford, of Warren, can be reached at columns@tribtoday.com.

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