This post was inspired by the Valentine's card I came across recently that my Grandpa Hawes gave to my Grandma Hawes 50 years ago this month. It prompted me to ponder their "love story":
The inside is here.
Stella Otelia Fredericks graduated Union High School in Bremerton in 1925 and went to work in Detroit where her older sister lived.
Sometime after Stella's return to Bremerton a year or so later, her parents took in a boarder named Mary Hubbell. They went to a movie one night and behind them sat William John George Hawes with a friend. Mary already knew Bill and introduced them to each other. Bill remembered Stella from school but Stella didn't remember him since he was a grade or two younger. He would stare at her in Study Hall - he told people before they ever met that he was going to marry her. He ended up dropping out of high school – (more on that later).
A few weeks after the movie meeting, Bill asked Stella to the Crystal Ball - a dance for young Masons in DeMolay. They dated for a year and were engaged for a year before they married. When asked if there was a story of how he asked her to marry him, Stella replied, "No, no story - every time we went out he kept saying, 'so, when are we getting married?'"
Bill was working at the Puget Sound Navy Yard as a Machinist at the time. Apparently I’m in possession of stolen property; I hope the statute of limitations is up. Grandpa used a little bit of metal and the machinist equipment to fashion these rings for the both of them - he even engraved her initials S. O. F. on hers. Pretty romantic but illegal!
They eloped on January 26th, 1929. Stella worked Saturday morning (in the offices of Attorney Moore in Bremerton); they caught the ferry to Seattle and got married at Plymouth Congregational Church in Seattle. The newlyweds moved into their apartment Sunday and went back to work on Monday.
Grandma gave me a chocolate tin that she had kept. I thought is was beautiful but I'm sorry I didn't ask questions about it. I've been trying to find out more about Artstyle Chocolate Company but have not been very successful. I have found their ads (in the historic archived Seattle Times) from the late 1920s which would coincide with their dating time frame so I kind of like to imagine this one pound tin box of chocolate was a gift he gave her when he was courting her.
She kept some random items in it and I've put a few more of her things in it - (White Shoulders is the fragrance I think of as hers . . . )
Backing up - Bill had dropped out of high school at some point – I think to be able to work more hours. He started working at age 14 (1921) as a delivery boy and later clerk at Diamond Drug Store which was later named Jamison’s Drug Co. and later still Olbergs on 4th and Pacific in Bremerton. He also simultaneously started picking up work as a messenger boy for the PSNY. Sometime in 1930, Bill went to work as a salesman for the Western Gas Co., in Bremerton. He then purchased the merchandising department about June 1932 and was the Manager/Owner. He sold it May 1933 to accept employment again at the PSNY. After marrying and one son, Bill earned his high school diploma from Bremerton High School (same school as his wife but the name had changed) in 1935. Another son (my Dad) was born in 1936.
Work and life happened. They had a home in Bremerton but also purchased a vacation home on Hood Canal. My Dad remembers his Dad was always off somewhere saying, "I'm off to see a man about a horse". Bill initiated the bingo games for the Bremerton Elks as one of their primary fund raisers. He was a manager of their travelling band and raised funds to get them new uniforms. One of his highest honors was being elected Exalted Ruler of the Bremerton Elks for a year long term in 1951. He was also an active Mason (just like his father) he had been installed as worshipful master in 1938. He enjoyed annual hunting trips. My Grandma also returned to work after my Dad started Junior High. Life was busy - they were both children of immigrants and living an American Dream.
I thought I remembered Grandpa still working for the PSNY when I used to stay with them in the summer – I remember you could hear the Shipyard’s whistle which signaled 5 o’clock quitting time and meant Grandpa was coming home. But his obituary says he retired there in 1965 (age 58). I would have been three so I don’t think I actually remember him coming home from the Shipyard. After the Shipyard, he worked for Larkin Realty until retiring in 1972 at age 65.
It was about that time that Grandma noticed Grandpa’s memory deteriorating. I’m not sure when we actually had the official diagnosis of Alzheimer’s but it must have been heartbreaking for a wife of fifty years to be asked time and time again, “How often do you come to clean my house?” and other repetitive questions. For their 50th anniversary, my parents and aunt and uncle threw a party for them. Grandpa had no idea why everyone was there. He smiled big and kissed his wife when prompted. But really didn’t know what was going on.
(My Dad's camera strap is visible standing above them - I've got my hand up to him)
Grandpa used to walk down the hill from his home to get his hair cut - he started getting lost returning home. They worried he would wander and put himself in danger. It became obvious he needed to live in a secure facility. I remember feeling like it wasn’t still a love-story if Grandma didn’t want to live and take care of Grandpa anymore. They worked hard their entire lives but their Golden Years were robbed by dementia. Grandpa died in the nursing home in 1986. Not really a "happily ever after" ending. Just a real one.
If you're lucky enough to be "in love", take the time to enjoy and cherish it while it lasts.