It is funny how something like spreading mayo on a sandwich can remind me of my grandfather. I never knew my dad’s dad, Popoo, but there are things that I know of him from my own father. My grandfather was a chef, a caterer, a steward, and a hotel/restaurant manager among other things. As a young man he worked at the famous Palmer House in Chicago. He was a salesman and probably a bit of a con man. At one time, he worked for a company that sold land in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in the years before the Depression. He bought some of that land himself, but went broke a year or so later with the Depression. So why does spreading mayo remind me of him? Apparently, he would get very upset if someone double-dipped in the mayo jar. You were suppose to just dip once, get enough mayo to spread on your bread, but you were not suppose to go back into the jar after touching your bread. Just try it; it is rather difficult.
This memory took me to the next memory of my grandmother. As ornery and difficult as my grandfather seemed to have been, my grandmother was always a lady, gracious and pleasant. I often wonder how my tall (5’11") graceful grandmother fell for my short (5’6") grumpy grandfather. (I also wonder why I could not have gotten the tall gene rather than the short gene.) My mom says he was a "beautiful little man," charming and quite handsome. Maybe it was the con man in him that was able to con my grandmother into marriage. Throughout their marriage, five children, moves from Chicago to Harlingen, TX, back to Wichita Falls, and many different career moves, my grandmother was always a good wife and mother – never complaining – just working along side her husband. I have written about my grandfather’s obscure past and my grandmother’s reluctance to look into his past in this post. I have also been told of my grandfather’s love of strong drink. After he died, whiskey bottles were found hidden all over the garage and storeroom. Apparently, he did not drink in the house – could that have been out of love and respect for my grandmother? Like I said, she was never harsh or mean. I doubt Popoo had any fear of her, but he did have love and respect for her as a lady and his wife.
My grandmother was no pushover. She was one strong lady. As Wichita Falls expanded, the city bought up the land and house where my grandparents lived, which had been my great-grandmother’s house. My grandmother took the money and immediately went and bought another house in Wichita Falls. She did this without my grandfather’s knowledge or okay, but she did it before he could get the money and blow it on some "great scheme." According to my father, Popoo was pretty upset and stayed gone for three days. When he came home, he never said another word about the incident. There is another story that when Popoo found out he had cancer, instead of going to bed, he went to work to make more money for my grandmother to live on after he died.
That brings me to another memory. About six years ago, my brother and I attended the Wichita Falls High School "Friends of the Forties" reunion with our parents. At the reunion we were introduced to Lloyd Ruby, the famous race car driver, who happens to have gone to high school with my father. My brother and I were standing there in awe talking to Lloyd and his wife. I don’t remember much of what Lloyd said, maybe because he was visiting more with my brother, but his wife said something I will never forget. She told me that as a young girl she had worked with my grandmother at the YMCA where as I understand, my grandparents were caterers. Mrs. Ruby said something like this, "Your grandmother was a great influence in my life. She was always so gracious and always a lady. I wanted to be like her." She went on to talk about how she tried to emulate my grandmother throughout her life. Wow! What a testimony that my grandmother could change a young girl’s life!
You know I am named after my grandmother, Lou Ella. My name is also, Lou Ella, but I was always called Lou. I thought that appropriate. As a kid I associated the name "Lou Ella" as her name – a ladies’ name, a gracious, beautiful name. Someday, I would like to be Lou Ella, but then, maybe I have a little too much of Popoo in me as well.