Chub and I met at Little Bonne Femme Church during the Christmas holiday in December 1930. The young people were practicing their performance of Luke’s version of the birth of Christ - the stable, shepherds, angels, Mary and Joseph, the donkey. I was watching the practice when a busy woman put an open Bible in my hands and said, "Start reading in a firm, convincing voice." She pointed to Luke’s version of the Christmas story. I delivered that passage from memory for the performance to impress my boyfriend, who was on the improvised stage.
Chub Gerard was also in that presentation. I knew he was a University of Missouri-Columbia student in engineering because he parked his old truck daily near University High School, where I was a senior.
Chub lived with his family at Deer Park, where they operated the country store and the Shell oil station. Each morning, he’d go to farms to load many 8-gallon cans of milk and haul them to wholesale dairies in Columbia. Then he attended his classes at MU till about 4 p.m., when he’d go back to the three wholesalers, load the clean cans and deliver them to eight or 10 farms. It wasn’t much income, but it was a job, and the nation was deep in the Depression at that time. We became good friends and often ate our sack lunches together in his old Pontiac truck.
Mrs. Gerard, Chub’s mother, was anxious to tell me about her talented little boy. Walter Frank, or "Chub," was in demand onstage at age 4 or 5, singing to help sell war bonds in 1914 and 1915. Crowds came to see his dark-brown, shoulder-length curls and to hear him sing. Women sold war bonds in the crowds between songs. Pictures of him, dressed for singing, were of a boy in all white: high-top, buttoned shoes; long stockings that went out of sight under a pleated skirt; and a sailor blouse. He sang on stages in and near Pike County, Ill., and his act did sell bonds! As an embarrassed adult Chub would laugh and boast, "Yep, I helped win that war."
Early in our relationship, Chub and I ate our sack lunches in his dilapidated Pontiac truck in the parking lot between engineering classrooms and University High School, where I was a senior.
Our unusual, seven-year friendship was what old Plato defined as "love between a man and woman ... without sexual activity."
I made a little "pin" money by playing fiddle for square dances, and Chub learned to dance. I also waited tables at The Coronado for a dollar plus tips, working from 4 p.m. till midnight. Tips were slight because of the Depression. We played "Flinch" a lot and listened to a crystal radio my brother constructed, each listening to one headphone. Then our hired man, Joe, bought a long Silvertone radio with the big morning glory speaker on top, and we could all listen at once. Our world enlarged as we heard programs from WLS in Chicago and KDKA in Pittsburgh.
We swam in the creek and hooked bullfrogs from the pond, and one day, Dad halted the work and took all of us to Gans Creek to seine fish with chicken wire attached to two long poles. We had a great fish fry that night. The Depression had a lot of good days along with the lean ones.
Chub and I were invited to card parties and dances with a group of 15 or 20 married people. One beautiful, snowy Sunday, the men mounted runners on a farm wagon and hitched a work team to it. We had a calm, moonlit ride of about four miles each way when invited to Les and Mary Wegener’s farm for popcorn balls.
Chub attended, and later joined, Olivet Church with my family, and he was a great bass in its choir, although he read the music in his own unique way, not knowing one note from another in the hymnals. He also sang bass in Columbia’s Barbershop Chorus, but he didn’t have time for his milk hauling and enough spare time to practice in small groups.
In May 1937, Mother’s death after only four hospital days caused many sudden changes in all our lives. I took more responsibilities in the dairy bookkeeping, Chub bought into the retailing part of the dairy with Dad and I moved from an apartment back to the farm.
For the first time, Chub and I looked at each other and asked, "Is this the time for us to get married?"