Yachta Mache - 13
My sister, Judy, came to visit in June, and as she was very nervous about the whole thing, she talked one of her friends into coming with her. They both had rooms in the next floor up of our nursing home, and they could do touring on their own on the days when I was at work.
Judy was a high school English teacher. She had paid for most of my fees for my last year at university, so I decided to pay her back at least part way – by buying her a ticket to come and see me.
Judy and I had one very memorable day in Manhattan. It started with a trip to the Village, where we had our portraits drawn in charcoal on pale green paper by a sidewalk artist. We had them framed to give to our parents for Christmas, but we claimed them when our parents died, and I now have mine in my bedroom.
Then we went to the Museum of Modern Art to visit with cousin John Szarkowski. He hadn't known we were coming, and was busy, although we were shown to his office, and he spoke to us for a few minutes. Because his wife Jill was ill, and he had tickets to see the Proms Concert at the Philharmonic Hall that evening, so he gave us the tickets.
We had time to kill, and as well as going through bits of the museum, we took a tour bus and saw the outline of the city, and spent a bit of time at the UN building, but never went inside.
Finally the time came for the concert, and we were looking decidedly under dressed for the occasion. Judy had a trench coat over jeans on, and I had a blouse and slacks, nothing special. We were shown to a table in the middle of the audience area – and sat down. Soon another couple joined us, and looked most perplexed. They asked if they could see our tickets, and when we showed them, they had to admit we were in the right place. They then asked where we had got the tickets, and we replied, from our cousin John Szarkowski who couldn't come because his wife is sick.
So the light dawned, and the man explained to us that he had given John the tickets because he wanted him to see the photographs of ballet dancers which he had taken, which were being featured on the walls. So we had a good look at them ourselves during the intermission, and reported back to John what had happened. A few months later, there was a spread in the Sunday paper featuring this
The concert was good too, but what we both remembered best about the evening happened afterwards. We took the subway to South Ferry and got on the Ferry ready to go back to Staten Island. It was about 11 at night. We became aware that a man was watching us. He was middle aged, dressed like a work man and was carrying a small brown paper bag. When we moved to another section of the boat which was quite empty, he moved too. When we went upstairs, he did too. Finally we decided to stand near a policeman, which gave us a bit more protection.
When the boat finally docked, we raced to the bus area, turning around and noticing that the man was racing after us. Unfortunately our bus was not in its usual place, so we quickly sat down on a bench and tried to look nonchalant. The man raced out and hopped on the bus which was waiting in the stand, and shortly after, off it went. What a relief. We had no idea whether he meant to still be
following us and assumed we had caught that bus. We didn't know what he had in his brown paper bag, but we thought it might be a gun, or then again, it might have been sandwiches. When we finally got our right bus and returned to the nurses' home, we took some beers and went up to the roof, and smoked and drank with great relief for our safe delivery.
Finally it was time for us to say goodbye to our five friends who would be staying behind until September. It was only Helen that I had gotten close to – and I knew I would be seeing her again.
And I knew that both Carolyn and Ruth would be in my life in some way in the future.
At our last meal together, I told them about dating Hector. Why did I do it? I suppose I was showing off – me the quiet shy one, breaking the rules. But they were surprised, and shocked, and the story got around, and two years later when I left my nice job in Evanston in order to move to England, my replacement actually was one of the 1967-8 interns – two years later than us – and she said they were still talking about me and my sneaky ways. I'm sure the story got embellished all out of proportion to the reality of what really happened. I hope Hector found someone to marry who appreciated all his good qualities.
Then I went to say goodbye to the cooks. Melvin asked me to ride up in the freight elevator with him, and as soon as the doors closed, he kissed me firmly on the lips. “Bet'cha never been kissed by a black man before,” he said with a big grin. “How did you like it?”
“It was good,” I said.
Mike kissed me too, and had done so a few times before when nobody was around late at night.
Otis didn't kiss me, but I wanted him to. Does that count? But both of us were holding back tears. (Otis towards the front of the picture above.)
Sigmund said, “Yacha Mache, Miss Wyngarden. Don't come back until you have a ring on your finger and a baby on your arm. You aren't really meant to be a dietitian at all.” I think that was meant as a compliment.
Frank drove me to the airport. He had continued to be my friend after my discovery that he didn't want to kiss me, but things were never the same after that. I never heard from him or about him again.
So I have fifty pictures, and a certificate from the White House saying that I fulfilled the requirements and was therefore an official dietitian
- and now, a book full of happy memories.
I stayed in contact with Carolyn, Helen Kamm, and Ruth Pabst for a few years.
In September, 1966, I went from Chicago to Indianapolis by bus, a month or so before Carolyn's wedding, as there was a shower being given for her. Also there were fittings for the bridesmaids' dresses. I stayed at her parents' house, and had a bedroom with its own bathroom. I didn't know that en suite bathrooms existed in those days.
Our dresses were beautiful, beige, slim, silky fabric, with a train. Carolyn gave us each a gold hand- painted brooch in a circle shape, which we wore on the dresses. We had roses in our hair. I looked better than I think I ever did before or since, including my own wedding.
The wedding on October 15th, was huge and expensive. Helen, Ruth, Juanita (who was now engaged to Crawford ) and Kathy came from all over the country. There was a drink fountain. How could I resist refilling my glass over and over?
I drank far too much – and in the act of trying to catch the bouquet, I tore the seams in the back of my dress, but undeterred, I pulled the stole over my shoulder. Juanita caught the bouquet and she
and Crawford were married later that year.
When the bride and groom needed to leave for the airport for their honeymoon, the best man, a friend of Mikes also called Mike, drove them there. No doubt we embarrassed them, me with my split down the back dress, and we were silly drunk, and way over the limit for driving.
I kept in contact with Carolyn for a few years – and knew that she and Mike had several rocky patches, but eventually they seem settled in Grosse Point Michigan, and had two children.
She didn't come to our wedding, but sent a huge beautiful piece of hand made pottery which was meant as an ashtray, but we never used it for that. She came and visited us once when they were in London, and she came up to Manchester for the day. I asked her to be godmother to my second child.
In researching this book, I found out that she died four years ago, after a long illness. She was a heavy smoker back then, so maybe it was cancer. She was divorced from Mike, but according to her
obituary, they were still good friends, and at the time of her death, she lived in Nashville, Tennessee, as did their daughter Lesley with her husband and two children. Their son, Brendan, lives in Chicago.
Carolyn got a master's degree in Public Health, but there is no mention of her ever working as a dietitian. She had volunteered with many civic organisations.
I had my first child while we still lived in the Chicago area, and I invited Helen Kamm to be the godmother for Stephanie. She came to the church and our very small gathering afterwards – just us and the sponsors.
Ruth married Neil in April, 1967 in Eau Clair, Wisconsin, but they continued to live on Staten Island and she to work at the hospital. In 1970, we took a trip to the US with two little kids – aged 4
and 2, and stopped on Staten Island and stayed with Ruth who had two kids of her own by then. Kathy and Helen and their families who lived close by also came over, and we went back to the hospital for a sentimental visit – but the cooks didn't really remember me. I had been there four years earlier and they had had lots of other interns in the meantime. Otis was now head cook, which pleased me. He said he was sorry I had cut my hair short, so I guess he did remember me to an extent.
I also found out from researching this book about Ruth's life. She and Neil moved to Las Vegas, and have a married child who also lives there. Another child with grandchildren, still lives on Staten
Island, and Ruth wrote a book for her grandkids, which was published by a company she set up for the purpose. She also published a children's book about food which she sold to schools.
Jeanette also has had a very busy life, and I found her retirement write up in the Lincoln Nebraska paper. She interestingly did the same thing I did – swapped dietetics for Continuing
Education management. They have two children, and four grandchildren.
I also found the other Helen through google, and find that she has five children and at least eight grandchildren. She lives in Matawan New Jersey, and most of her children live not far away.
The hosptial still exists but is no longer under the USPHS. It is called the Bayley Seaten Hospital and specialises in mental health. The nursing home has been demolished but it was left to rot for years before anything happened to it.
I also found out that Sigmund, Otis and Frank are all dead - but I think Hector is still alive and living in New York.