Over the Hill

A love letter 60 years in the making

Special to The TribuneSeptember 19, 2013 

My wife’s name is Mamie, pronounced MAY-me. It’s uncommon these days. Many people read it on her Medicare card or other records and say MAM-me, as though it were spelled Mammy.

When we got married nobody mispronounced Mamie. We were married Sept. 19, 1953, 60 years ago Thursday. That was the year Dwight D. Eisenhower became our 34th president. His wife’s name was Mamie.

My Mamie and I were married on a Saturday in an Army chapel at Camp Roberts. We returned the following Monday so I could get my final pay and orders to go home. It was my last day in uniform.

I didn’t have a job or any realistic future plans. Fortunately, Mamie was still a telephone operator, and we were in love. We settled in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I tried selling vacuum cleaners but couldn’t suck in many buyers. Mamie was a better salesperson. She sold one to the self-service laundry she used. She also helped me service cleaners in the evenings.

But Mamie was having a difficult pregnancy. She had to quit the telephone company. Fortunately, I found a real job with a finance company. The starting pay was low, but the promotion chances seemed high.

We moved into a little cracker-box attached to the owner’s house. It rented for $55 per month, all we could afford. Mamie didn’t complain. She swapped my remaining used vacuum cleaners for two unfinished chests of drawers.

By then, we were seriously budgeting our money. And “our” is the key word. It didn’t matter who brought home the money. It was all “our” money. It wasn’t my money or her money. Those distinctions had separated my parents.

The finance company eventually promoted me to branch office manager. In 1961, I told my supervisors I would prefer something more rural. They offered me the new office they planned to open in Paso Robles.

Mamie had to manage the sale of our house in San Jose. I could only come home weekends. She dropped the real estate agent we had. She advertised, talked to prospects, showed the house, kept it spick-and-span. She also mothered our first-grade son and kindergarten daughter.

After selling the house, she managed our move to Paso Robles. I did find a house to rent.

Paso Robles still had its own Red Cross chapter. Mamie soon became its Service to Military Families chairwoman. She was on-call 24 hours a day during those Vietnam War days.

Mamie is an orphan, raised by an aunt and uncle. She hadn’t finished high school. So she attended night classes at Paso Robles High School and in 1966 earned her high school diploma, not a GED.

She became a skilled secretary and, in addition to her Red Cross duties, worked part time for the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce.

In 1967, the owner of KPRL Radio in Paso Robles asked me to be his news director. Mamie encouraged me to do it even though it meant a cut in pay. She knew it was what I wanted. So I took it.

In 1973, Mamie got herself a full-time job as a secretary at Ennis Business Forms in Paso Robles. That turned out to be a good move because in 1980 I felt the urge to run for county supervisor.

I’d have to quit KPRL. As a candidate, I could no longer be on the air. She said OK. She supported us. She also helped me campaign. But I still lost by 56 votes. After the election, The Telegram-Tribune (now The Tribune) hired me. Mamie and I retired together April 1, 1994.

She’s had more than her share of illness, including three cases of bleeding ulcers. Thank God for those two Australians who discovered the bacteria that causes peptic ulcers. Mamie is now cured.

She also has a little pill bottle containing the three gumball-sized stones that a surgeon removed in 1975 from her gallbladder.

She won’t like me discussing her illnesses so I’ll stop. But despite them, she still strives to keep her house neat and clean and to help other people. I’m a lucky man.

Phil Dirkx has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column is published weekly. Reach him at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

The Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service