My father, Ambrose Hoffman was born in Atlantic City, N.J. in 1895 and my mother, Edna Stokes, in Philadelphia, Pa. in 1899. Dad finished high school with studies in typing and shorthand. Mom finished the 9th grade and then went into a musical academy to continue her studies to get her teaching credentials in the piano.
Dad had a heart condition, which kept him from serving in World War I. However, his ability to type and take shorthand made it possible for him to obtain the position of secretary to the head of the Philadelphia Navy Yard during that conflagration. During the evening hours he taught ballroom dancing. People had Victrolas then, those funny things that played records so that everybody could dance, or they had somebody play the piano. It was because of music my mother and father met.
They married in 1919 and a couple of years later my sister Jeanne came along, and then I was born. Daddy, by this time, was working in the building industry. I remember our moving from South Philly, where Jeanne and I had been born, to a brand new row house in Upper Darby, an affluent suburb of Philly. Then the depression hit and all of the good times ended.
Daddy’s company went out of business and he couldn’t find work. Mother found a job at a department store. Every once in awhile, daddy would find work. But he always lost his job when he showed up “under the weather” which was all too often. Mother had it easy, compared to my sister and my daily lives. She went to work six days a week.
Jeanne and I got home from school to face what all too often was my father already on the way to ruining the evening. We never knew what to expect. Daddy was out of work more often than employed. I know that my parents simply loved each other and that connection was more important to them than how my father’s drinking affected their children.
When my father died, not from his heart problem or his heavy drinking, it was from years of smoking two packs a day of Camels. He wasn’t yet 60. Go ahead a couple of years and my husband, Don and I had sold our home in Roslyn and were moving to Ambler. We had purchased a big, old house with room for our growing family. Danny was expected in about a month and the moving arrangements had been left to me.
I looked up movers’ names in Ambler rather than using one from where we lived. The name that stuck in my mind was the same as a friend’s, so I called the gentleman and made arrangements. Plans were for him to come in the afternoon. Very pregnant I wanted time to clean out and pack the food in the refrigerator and unmake the beds. The mover showed up at 8 a.m. He took one look at me and sat me down in a rocking chair.
He emptied the refrigerator, unmade the beds, packed up everything and had us out of there in record time. One week later, way ahead of time number five son made his appearance. My mother decided, just about then, to move from her home in Philadelphia to an apartment in our town so to help her I called the same mover, who had been so nice. To make a long story, short, he fell in love with my mother.
It wasn’t any time until arrangements had been made for mother and the groom to marry at the chapel of the church where she played the piano at Sunday services. The little chapel was located in our town, but they had a second one in another town close by where mother also often played. Things got really messed up, and when the minister didn’t show up where we all thought was the appointed place, everybody soon panicked.
Thinking that my pastor could do the chore, I called him. He informed me that he couldn’t marry anybody he hadn’t met and had one of those private “you know marriage is difficult” sessions. I couldn’t believe my ears and told him that these people are in their 60s. It didn’t matter. However, I then called another assistant pastor at a larger church. Fortunately, he said he would gladly to take charge of the nuptials.
Charles, the groom and my mother Edna finally tied the knot. Now you know how I got my mother married.
Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer.