When my husband and I were married in 1955, I expected I was going to be a traditional housewife. (Husband bringing home the bacon, wife at home to cook it). I had quit my job at a bank and was prepared to cook, clean house, do laundry and wait for the babies. My new, easy-going husband had a slightly different slant on how our marriage was going to shape up. He said he was going to give me widow lessons. That was a scary thought for a new bride. Did he have some premonition he was going to die and leave me a young widow?
No premonition. He just wanted me to be aware of our financial situation and be able to function on my own if necessary. Before we were married, he had bought a house for us to move into when we got back from our honeymoon. He made sure I knew how much our income was and an idea how it was to be spent. I knew how much the mortgage was, what portion of each payment went to principal and how much to interest. I had a grocery budget and knew when to pay the bills: gas, water, electricity, taxes and how much put in a savings account.
As I became adept at handling household finances, he added more widow lessons. I was then expected to be responsible for the maintenance of the family car: oil change, tires rotated, water in the radiator, anti-freeze in winter and the gas tank filled. Keeping the gas tank filled was the big problem. About that time gas stations began to be self service. You no longer drove up and the attendant came out, you rolled down the window and said “fill-er up” and he would clean the windshield and check the oil level while the gas was running in. Now you had to pump your own gas. I hated that! I thought it was the most un-feminine task a woman could be asked to do. I would drive to the station, check to see if anyone I knew was around before I would get out of the car and start (ugh) pumping.
Next, added to my job description, was taking the car in for repairs. I dreaded that too and would procrastinate as long as possible. The first time I took the car in the man in the front of the shop asked “What may I do for you?” I said, “My car needs to be fixed.” He said, “What exactly is the car doing that it shouldn’t be doing?” I said “I don’t know, that’s why I brought it to you.”
His smile grew wider. He said, “Can you give me a little more information?” I said, “It’s making a funny noise.” “What sort of noise” he asked. “Thumpledy-thump” I said, ”Or maybe it sounds more like rattledy-whack under the hood.”
The man excused himself and went into the glass enclosure where several men in cover-alls were standing. They all turned and looked out at me, laughing their heads off. I wanted to sink into the concrete floor.
The front-man came back out and said “I’m afraid you will have to leave the car and one of our mechanics who is a specialist in “thumpeldy-thump and rattledy-whack” will examine it. We will call you after we find out what is causing your problem.” I flew out of there with my face burning.
I eventually learned enough about automobiles to at least describe the problem to a mechanic. All part of the widow lessons. But there was more.
Contributed by: Margaret Hall Simpson
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