Saturday, June 17, 2017

First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, Then Comes Seminary


Our wedding photo was taken by Mr. Rosen
my high school journalism teacher
June 17, 1972, was a beautiful day. The sky was blue. The roses were in full bloom. It was neither too warm nor too cold.
Morning of June 17, 1972, our wedding day.
Also known as the day of the Watergate break-in.
I read the paper in the morning and I have the photograph to prove it. Then my family and I prepared to be at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Ferndale, MI. I was getting married.

My cousin Debbie Becker was my Maid of Honor. Our ushers were my brother Tom and Bruce McNab.
With my brother Tom and Bruce McNab.
Photo by Mr. Rosen.
Me and my second cousin Debbie Becker
photo by Mr. Rosen
During the wedding vows when Rev. French came to "richer or poorer" I laughed. Not just in rehearsal, but in the ceremony! My sisters-in-law had warned me that I needed a good career because Gary would never make any real money. I did not know much about being a United Methodist minister's wife, but I had been warned about the financial aspect.
With my parents. Photo by Mr. Rosen.
The church had beautiful roses.
With the Bekofske family: Gary's brother and best man Keith
and their father Herman Bekofske, Gary and I, Gary's brother
Carl, and their mother Laura. Photo by Mr. Rosen.
Photo by Mr. Rosen.

The reception was in my folk's new Clawson house backyard.
With Grandma Gochenour, Gary's grandmother 'Girl' Loretta Bekofske, and Grandma Ramer.
Photo by Mr. Rosen.

Grandma Ramer was cajoled into joining the unmarried gals.
She caught the bouquet and was married before a year had passed!
Our Beaupied neighbors from Houstonia had offered their cabin for our honeymoon. Gary took the opportunity to drive me all over Up North. He grew up camping in the Upper Peninsula and knew it well. I was always a good traveler and usually fell asleep in the car. Gary would wake me up and say, "LOOK, here's Houghton-Hancock," or "Copper Harbor Lighthouse coming up!" I would rouse and take a look. And fall asleep again.

When I saw the Sleeping Bear Dunes I had to go down. And come back up again. It was the first and last time I did that.

After our week away we returned to my folk's house and picked up what we would take to our new home. Most of our wedding and shower gifts were very practical: sheets, towels, cleaning supplies, a toaster, and such. Most other items, like the Fondue and chip and dip set, were left in boxes because our apartment was so small.
Our apartment  at METHESCO was under the portico, above the door, on the second floor
We had arranged to live in the METHESCO apartments. We had a living/dining area, a kitchen that amounted to a closet, a bathroom, and a bedroom. The bed, couch, and dining table and chairs were provided. The refrigerator could be in the bedroom or the living room. The kitchen had no countertop space but someone had installed a table top attached to the wall that could be propped up on a single leg.

Gary had a student pastorate at a mere crossroads in the middle of Ohio farmland. I was just twenty and a minister's wife! I taught Third Grade Sunday School. One day siblings came in and announced their family had slept in. "Daddy woke us up and he didn't have any clothes on and his thingy was hanging down," the boy told me. It was hard looking that man in the face after that.

A family had a St. Bernard with a dog house like a minibarn. It had a sign, "Mail Pouch. Treat yourself to the beast," a play on the barn ads.

When the women gathered in the church kitchen, everyone working like clockwork, I did not know what to do. I sat with the farmers and listened to them talk about the weather and crops.

People would leave fresh produce on the seat of our car, which we found after church service. A nice couple invited us to have Sunday dinner with them. They had a pump organ which I loved to play. Another lady, Ida Mae, became a friend.

My hope of taking classes at Ohio Wesleyan was crushed when Gary lost his student aid because he now had a 'breadwinner' to support him. First, I got a job in downtown Delaware at Apple's gift shop as a clerk. I spent a lot of time dusting the display cabinets. I bought a Chinese teapot and cups that I fell in love with.

Every day Gary's clock radio went off at 6:00 am and we woke to the theme song "Zipa-doodle-doodle-doodle, doodle-doodle-day" and Dick Zip's farm report.

In the fall I got a job at the North Electric Research Company. I spent nine months in Reproduction running a blueprint copy machine. It used ammonia and gave me horrible headaches. Engineers would bring me a Mylar blueprint and I ran it through the machine to print on paper.

I worked fast and needed more to do. I was sent to help out in the archieves and library filing microfiche and blueprints.

A position as an engineering clerk opened up and I left Reproduction. I was to update files on a computer and edit reports. This was way back when a black computer screen with green type would say "Hello" and I had to type in "Hello" back to get started. As the engineers changed their hardware I updated the files, replacing 6120112 with 6120118. Sometimes I was asked to keypunch. I even got to go into the computer room where huge machines lined up along the walls, churning their mag tape on reels.

Gary's parents had given us their old Buick but Gary missed his VW. We bought a 1972 orange VW Superbeetle without a radio because we couldn't afford one. It cost $65 a month. Gary chose a stick shift not knowing I had never driven one.

The first time I drove it home from work I was going down the highway at 50 mph and had to make a turn into the school. I put on the brakes but I did not know about downshifting. The car did not slow down. I went over the curb and nearly into the pond! Thank God, no one was on the road or I would have killed them. That night Gary gave me a lesson on how to drive our new car. I called the car Bernard, and we had a love-hate relationship for over ten years.
Feeding the ducks at the seminary pond.
This was how I usually got rid of my failed baking experiments.
I was bored and lonely. Gary was busy with classes and studying. I did not like staying home alone. So I started auditing classes, hanging with Gary at the library, and we found new hobbies.

Gary bought me a sewing machine for our first Christmas. I had always wanted to sew. I taught myself in the evening while Gary was studying and soon I was making most of my clothes. I had to settle for inexpensive fabrics. My favorite jumper was a big yellow and purple plaid in woven acrylic. I made Gary leisure suits.

A jacket I made Gary

Me with Nasty buns.
I made the robe, one of my first sewing projects.
We took our Euell Gibbons books to the surrounding meadows and woods and brought home delicacies to try, making candied violets and sauteed day lily buds. Our folks seriously encouraged us to get Food Stamps.

A park opened up down the highway and many a Sunday afternoon we went on wildflower and nature walks with the naturalist. We learned to identify all the Ohio flowers.

We took an Organic Gardening class and that spring participated in the METHESCO garden. It cost $20 to rent a plot.
I am helping weed the garden plot before rototilling
That spring there was a rabbit's nest in the garden. I volunteered to take the babies home. We contacted a local vet and I hand fed the bunnies every three hours.
Feeding the bunnies
When Gary went to Annual Conference at Adrian Collage we had to take our wards along. We made them a bed in a dresser drawer. When the bunnies were six weeks old we took them the woods on campus and let them go.

The garden was very successful. We harvested loads of vegetables and I canned tomatoes, tomatoes and zucchinis, and green beans. We bought fruit and made jams. We bought armloads of rhubarb for a quarter and made pies and sauce. In those days I sealed the jams with parafin wax.

One night we were awoken by a pop. One of my jars of canned food had exploded. Another time we noted the plum jam had a funny flavor. It had fermented.

Gary and I watched The French Chief and borrowed library cookbooks and learned to cook and bake. Soon we made all of our bread every Sunday. We bought a wok and a Chinese cook book. We both lost over 30 pounds from eating so well!
Our first Thanksgiving dinner.

That winter we bought a pet rabbit. Gary named her Nasturtium. We liter box trained her; she trained us to pet upon demand. We collected apple branches for her to eat, otherwise, she chewed on furniture and electric cords.

Soon couples all over campus had pet rabbits.

We would drive to Columbus and Ohio State University for cultural programs. We saw the First MOOG Quartet in October, 1972. The amazing traditional folk singer, Richard Dyer Bennet, was memorable not just because of his amazing voice but also because he taught us about the music he presented. I later bought The Richard Dyer Bennet Songbook and played his wonderful variations on piano. We also saw Leonard Bernstein's Mass in October 1974. Simple Song remains a favotire.

Gary and I sang with the Delaware Community Chorus, singing the Carmina Burana by Carl Orff and participating in a Lenten Vespers service. Roy Reed, a METHESCO professor, was the director.

One day I heard that the position of Bookstore Manager was opening up. I interviewed and got the position. After several months in training, I was in charge of the campus bookstore, with Gary's help. The job allowed me more flexibility in auditing classes. Gary would cover the store while I was in class.

The METHESCO bookstore
My first class at seminary was a theology class. It was like working in a different language. I had to memorize a lot of 'ologies', like Eschatology and Soteriology. I took one class each quarter. I read Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, and Karl Barth. I learned about Post-Exilic Prophets, The Book of Romans, the Synoptic Gospels, and New Testament Parables and Stories. I had a class in Russian Church history. I participated in class but did not take tests or write papers. I also read Carl Jung.Our last spring I took two classes when a professor wanted to use my performance to judge what grade a student would get if they only attended lectures.

With the classes and working in the bookstore I felt a part of the community. People would hang out at the bookstore and talk. One boy would talk too long and be late for class. Once a student asked if they should wait for him and the professor said that waiting for him was like 'waiting for the Parousia'!

Gary would tell me what books the professors were talking about. We'd order them and that way increased sales. Students could place books on hold until they could pay for them. We also returned books that didn't sell for credit. In the spring I was called into a meeting with the president and other officials and told that for the first time in their history the non-profit bookstore had made a profit!

The job had its perks. We got a discount on housing, bought books at cost, and I had summers off. That meant that Gary bought a nice professional library. I got to look through catalogs for good deals. My copy of T. S. Eliot's complete poetry was one book I bought then.

I loved the Fortress Press salesman and their books always sold well. I placed so many orders I memorized their address: 2900 Queen Lane in Philadelphia.
At my parent's house at Christmas, 1973

At my parent's home 1973
I had cut my long hair. Some stylist gave me a goofy cut with a perm. The bangs and top looked like a French Poodle cut! I let it grow out.

After Gary left the student pastorate he worked in the MEHESCO library, was a student assistent to Prof. Devries, and in his last year he and another student co-taught a Hebrew class when too many students signed up for the professor to handle. When things got real tight he even stocked shelves at night in the local grocery store.

Sometimes in the quiet moments when the bookstore was empty, a poem would come to me.

Finitude

Who am I?
A small flame
sputtering
in a closed room
where no air flows

Brief light,
my gift a transitory
wisp of smoke

My world's boundary
is my shadow's reach.

Imagining

cool flowing air
infinite light
further sight

beyond 
the veiled window.

Another poem I wrote was far less serious:

I am an old Bic pen,
an empty tub of colorless plastic.
Bought cheap, used, discarded.
The consumer's whore.

We made many friends at seminary. Sometimes our floor in the apartment building would gather in the hallway, sitting against the walls, talking, singing with a guitar, and drinking tea.

Our neighbor Fred discovered he was a Shawnee Indian. He embraced his heritage and developed a wonderful outreach. His roommate Steve would sit in our apartment, Gary and Steve smoking their pipes, and we would drink tea and listen to Russian Orthodox Church music. Rich and Patti lived down the hall. Patti became the next bookstore manager. I had classes with Rich. Jim, who had been the means of my meeting Gary, was at seminary but graduated before Gary. (He did find that perfect minister's wife in another seminary student.)  And my first folk dance partner from Adrian was at seminary!

Gary and I in front of our apartment building on
his graduation day. I had made my dress.

METHESCO hoped Gary would stay for an advanced degree so I could continue to manage the bookstore. But I was eager to resume my education and Gary kept to his promise that after seminary he would support my returning to complete my education.

Some asked if I would go to seminary. I didn't even have my bachelor's degree! No way. I was going to be an English major and I still hoped to write. It was unusual for a married woman to return to college. Most wanted to start a family. I had waited for three long years. It was my turn.

I was concerned that the Bishop would appoint Gary too far from a university or college for me to complete my degree. The Detroit Conference extended along the Eastern side of Michigan and included the Upper Peninsula. One day we were in the coffee shop talking to Pro. Ed Meyer about this and he suggested we look at the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference.

After applying to the Eastern PA Conference Gary was told there were no openings for him. But later they contacted him. Rev. Hostetter's term as District Superintendent was ending and the church he was to serve needed to replace a pastor for Christian Education. Plus, the last pastor had conducted the youth choir and musical. Gary's degrees in MDiv, Christian Ed, and his courses in music and conducting at Adrian made him a perfect fit.

We drove to Philadelphia. It was memorable coming into the city on the Schuylkill Expressway and seeing Laurel Hill Cemetery on the far ravine, and then the city skyline. Going down the tree lined Ben Franklin Parkway to City Hall was so impressive with the museums, library, and Calder fountains, ending at the Second Empire City Hall.

I felt like I was coming home. I knew my Ramer ancestors had come to America through the port of Philadelphia.

We got lost and ended up on the Ben Franklin bridge, going to New Jersey. We were broke, so Gary made a u-turn on the bridge to avoid paying the toll!

While Gary went through the interviews I visited the Franklin Institute and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Standing on the steps of the PMA, looking toward Center City, I fell in love with Philadelphia.

When Gary was accepted into the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference we were thrilled.

Mom had always feared I'd marry and move to California. She had put her money on the wrong coast.

Mom, Dad, and Tom with Princess
After graduation, Gary drove our VW to Morrisville, PA to begin work. I had to stay behind, pack up, and turn over the bookstore to Patti. Everything we owned fit into a U-Haul trailer. Gary's folks came to drive me, Nasturtium, and the trailor to Pennsylvania. 

After three years at seminary, two at Adrian, and seven in Royal Oak, I was moving again.