Saturday, September 24, 2016

Eugene Gochenours Memoirs: Gene Gets A Girlfriend

Gene Gochenour and Joyce Ramer. 1948. Grand Island, NY
Dad named this section of his memoir "Gene Gets a Girlfriend." The story of Mom's pursuit of Dad was legend in our family. Dad takes his girl hunting, on the motocycle, and for a Niagara Falls Honeymoon. Of course, things do go awry. And I finally make my arrival in the story! 

My grandparents Lynne and Evelyn Ramer and their four children, Joyce, Nancy, and twins Don and David moved to the Sheridan Park Project during WWII. Gramps worked as a testing engineer in the airplane factory. He also obtained his MA in Mathematics from the University of Buffalo and taught there after the war. Mom was the 'jitterbug queen' of the project. Sadly, she never could teach me to jitterbug.

My Aunt Pat, Dave Ramer's wife, and her sister Bonnie told me that ALL the girls had a crush on dad.
1946, Mom age 15, at Sheridan Park Project
Gene Gets a Girlfriend

"My first and only real girlfriend was Joyce Ramer. She lived across the tracks at the housing project.
Shy teen Gene
"As a teenager I was very shy. I was told by a friend that a certain girl named Joyce Ramer had “set her sails for me.” I knew that when I got on the school bus in the morning there would be an empty seat next to her, and she would trip me as I went by, but I was too shy to even acknowledge her. She probably thought, “What do I have to do to get this bonehead’s attention?” They say cave men would hit a woman over the head to get her attention: Joyce did other things to get mine.

"Thank goodness she was persistent, because I finally got the courage to visit her at her house. [Ed. Note: Mom told me that she had a mutual friend bring Dad to her house!] The first time I went to Joyce’s house, her best friend Doris Wilson was there also. Doris lived with her family right next door, and they were always together. We went into the living room and I sat down. Then Joyce and Doris started wrestling on the floor. I guess they were nervous too. I didn’t know what to do around these crazy girls, so I just sat there like a bump on a log. Soon I was going there a lot, but it took six months before I got up enough nerve to kiss her.
My teenage mom, Joyce Ramer, at dad's Military Road house.
"When we first went together Joyce was fifteen and I was sixteen years old. Every Friday we would go to the dance at the Project Administration Building. Joyce was a good dancer; I was not. She loved to Boogie Woogie, and I could not, so she often danced with one of her girlfriends, or one of the guys who could dance. The last dance they played was always “My Happiness,” and that became our song.
Steve Capuson jitterbugging with Joyce Ramer at
Sheridan Park Projects dance

Joyce Ramer, 1947, Sheridan Project

Joyce Ramer, Sheridan Parkside
"Joyce, I, and my good friend Dale Thiel rode to school very often on my father’s three-wheeled motorcycle. After school we would drop Joyce off at her house and Dale and I would find some coal jobs and make a few dollars. Other kids rode to and from school on the school bus so we always beat them to the jobs. I drove the cycle all through the winter, even though it was very cold. The cycle had a windshield, and I wore a leather jacket someone had given me.

"One day on the way home from school a policeman stopped me because there were five people on the cycle. He stood with his hands on his hips, looked at me and said “Where do you think you are going?” I said we were just coming home from school. Since I only had a Junior driver's license, I had to have a valid reason for driving. He shook his head and said “Get some handles on this thing!” So when I got home I put some cupboard handles on the rear seat.

"The photo below is what we looked like, although it is with my father, sister Mary, a cousin, me, and my sister Alice. The year was 1947.

1947. Dad's motorcycle.
"I once took Joyce to a farm at Allegheny, N.Y, where we often hunted. The farm was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Putt, and I had hunted there with my father since I was very young. I had my shotgun and Joyce and I walked up a large hill till we got to the top where we found a large log to sit on to watch for deer. After a while I asked her to stay sitting and I would try to find some deer. Later when I returned I found that she was petrified since she had never been alone in the woods before. [Ed. Note: As Mom told me, she was also pretty annoyed. Some date!]
Joyce at Putt's Farm, 1948
"Joyce had one living grandmother and grandfather, on her mother’s side of the family. Della Victoria Smith was her grandmother’s maiden name and Cropper Greenwood was his. Cropper was born in Bacup, England; Della was born in Manchester, England; and they came to America when they were still young. They lived at Watervliet, New York, a small town near Albany.
"Cropper was a small, shy, gentle man. He was a jewel! Joyce’s grandmother was a large, portly woman, and she ruled the roost! One summer before Joyce and I were married we asked our parents if we could visit her grandparents, and they all said yes. My father let me use his '37 Buick for the trip, and one summer day we packed up and left.
Gene Gochenour at Greenwood home
"We took old Route 5 and everything went fine until we got to about ten miles from our destination. Latham Circle was the name of the place. I went to stop at a stop sign, and the car just kept going. The hydraulic brake hose had broken, and I lost my brakes! I did not hit anything when they broke, and luckily we were through the mountain area. Since it was not too late in the day when it happened, we found a garage where they repaired it, and we continued on our way.
Joyce Ramer, age 15,  at her Grandparent Greenwood's home
"Cropper had waited all day for us to arrive. Joyce’s grandmother had given him a burlap bag with kittens in it, and he was told to drown them. Timid soul that he was he could not do that, so as soon as we pulled into their driveway, he came to the car with the bag, and asked me to drown them. I was shocked and didn’t know to say no. I had grown up around farm animals, had rabbits that we butchered, and hunted, and I knew that was how people got rid of unwanted cats. So I drowned them, relieving Cropper of the foul deed. I did not feel very good after that, but at least Cropper was happy.
Gene and Joyce at Watkin's Glen, NY
"While we were there we did some sightseeing. We stayed there about a week, then headed home. In those days it was about a full day of driving for the trip.
Joyce and Gene
"A few years after we visited them, her grandmother decided to move to be near the rest of the family, so she bought a house on Englewood Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda. During 1955 she decided that they needed a new car, so they bought a new Chrysler. It was a big fancy car with a huge engine. We bought their old car, a 1950 Dodge Coronet. It was a black stodgy four door, with a six cylinder engine. But my wife’s grandfather loved that old car, and when they came to visit, he would go out in our backyard, and sit in it. When Joyce and I bought another car a few years later, we used the old Coronet at the station to pick up parts, and occasionally tow a stalled car. We called it “The Tank.”

Joyce in graduation gown,
Sheridan Parkside Projects
Joyce Ramer's Senior Photo 1949

"Joyce took up comptometer courses and got an office job after her graduation. The job was in Buffalo and she had to take a bus to get there every day. After I graduated I got a job at the construction company working on the [new Philip Sheridan Elementary] school, then when the station was ready to open, I went to work for my father.

"When I was single I was paid twenty five dollars a week at the station, then when I married, my pay was forty two dollars a week. Not very much money, even then!
Gene Gochenour at Military Road

Joyce Ramer high school graduation 1949
Joyce and Gene at Senior Dance, Kenmore High School, 1948
"Joyce’s father worked as an engineer, testing aircraft engines at the Chevrolet factory during the Second World War, then as a professor after the war at the University of Buffalo. Because he had gone to college to be a minister and was ordained, he was also an associate pastor at an Episcopal church in Kenmore. When the time came that Joyce and I were to be married, Joyce’s mother wanted us to be married at that church by a high ranking bishop who was a friend of theirs. Dick Watkins was my best man, and Joyce’s sister Nancy was the bridesmaid. It was not an elaborate wedding, because no one had much money in those days.
Dick Watkins, Gene Gochenour, Joyce Ramer, Nancy Ramer
Mom and Dad's wedding 1949

Joyce Ramer Gochenour and Gene Gochenour
I believe at the Niagara Falls gorge.
"The reception was at Joyce’s parent’s house, and Joyce and I did not stay very long. It was the first week of January, and the weather was very bad. We did not have much money, so we went to a hotel at Niagara Falls, the honeymoon capitol of the world! Niagara Falls was about twenty miles from where we lived, and when we got there we found we were about the only people at the hotel. The next day we took a walk to the falls, but everything was covered with ice careful and fell, I think we could have slid over the falls! It was a beautiful sight though, with all the ice coated trees glistening in the sun! Since the weather was so bad, and it was so quiet at the hotel, I remember going to the lobby to get some comic books for us to read! So after a few days we decided to go back and work on fixing up the apartment we were to live in.
My Mom, Joyce Ramer Gochenour

"The apartment was upstairs from where my mother and father lived, behind the station. My sister Mary and her husband Clyde lived in the apartment below us.

"Joyce found a job closer to home, but she did not like the people, or the work. She still had to ride the bus to work, and in those days, women that worked in offices did not dress casual, but spent a lot on shoes, suites, make up, etc. Since she only made twenty five dollars a week, we decided she should quit, and be a housewife. I was happy she quit, but we were very poor then. When I was single I was paid twenty five dollars a week at the station, then when I married, my pay was forty-two dollars a week. Not very much money, even then!

Joyce and Gene
"Since I was a child I had always saved old coins like Indian head pennies, Buffalo nickels, silver dollars, and so on. One day the paper boy brought in a whole handful of old coins, and I thought I had hit the jackpot! I traded them for some newer ones, then he told me that my wife had paid the paper bill with them. So I had bought my own coins back! I could not blame her, for in those days we were very poor.
Gene and Joyce in Allegheny
"When we were first married I told Joyce that she should handle the finances, and that we should never buy anything we could not afford, and we should never have a late bill. Well, a few years after we were married, Joyce gave me a check to mail, and a few days later we were notified that the payment was not made. This disturbed Joyce very much, because she knew that the check had been made out and sent in. So after she was told of the non-payment, she made out another check, and sent it in. About a year later I decided to sell our car, and when I cleaned out the glove box, I found an unmailed letter. In the letter was a check, and it was I, that had caused the bill to be paid late! I don’t think I told Joyce about that! Joyce always did a good job of handling our meager finances and balancing the check book.
Joyce Ramer Gochenour and Nancy (me!)
"A few years after we married we had our first child, Nancy Adair.
Nancy Gochenour and Debbie Becker (daughter of Lee Becker,
Dad's uncle) 1953. Rosemont Ave and John Kuhn's barn in background.

Joyce Gochenour and Mary Becker with Nancy and Debbie
on Rosemont Ave, 1953

"This picture was taken at Military Road. The girl with the cowboy hat is Linda Guenther, my sister Mary's child, the other is my daughter Nancy. The lot behind them is where the Town dumped trash, and where a Texaco gas station and a bicycle shop would be built. Connie Ippolito ran the bicycle shop, and his brother Joe ran the station. In the background is the Brace Mueler Steel warehouse. The house on the right was owned by the Kellers, and it sat on the other side of Waverly Street."

Mom in 1958, Military Road House. Rosemont Ave and the Kuhn's farm in the background.

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