Table of Contents
< PREV Letter:
NEXT Letter: >
by his sister, Irma Stolt
He was my "little brother." I was two years his senior and we
grew up together in that little South Dakota town during the
depression. We were poor but we didn't know it because we were
happy, well fed, and had great parents with priceless values.
We made our own entertainment. We were great readers. Gene
loved the Tarzan books so we climbed the great old trees and
Gene was Tarzan. We played war games or Cowboys and Indians in
the cellar which when darkened was a spooky place. We weren't
allowed to point anything even resembling a gun at anyone but
we zapped a rubber band at anything that moved in the dark. He
even learned to crochet one very long winter when we were much
housebound. It was quite a sight watching that big boy with
the Charles Atlas physique make a table mat out of some coarse
thread Mama found for us.
We went fishing in Medicine Creek and no matter how
infinitesimal our catch Mama would fry it for us in a little
granite pan when we got home.
I remember when we decided to try smoking and decided corn
stalks looked about right, so we sneaked forbidden matches,
hid behind the pump house in tinder box conditions and lit up.
Our coughing gave us away and we were apprehended Mama
could sense a kid in trouble a mile away. We were sent to find
a switch for our "licking". You never heard of child abuse in
those days we just knew we had it coming. The biggest
humiliation was getting your own switch which we did
and I can remember standing in front of Mama and Aunt
Min who was visiting us. We weren't that fond of aunts — they
were kind of fault-finding and grumpy as a rule and Aunt Min
was looking sternly down her nose at us — and then broke out
laughing and said "I wouldn't give a nickel for a kid that
didn't try it." She was immediately our favorite aunt of all
time, and Mama let us off with dire warnings.
Papa bought Midget, a Shetland pony from a circus and Gene
lavished much affection on this little temperamental beast.
Gene was the affectionate one of the family and his bear hugs
were something to be reckoned with. But it wasn't all bear
hugs. I considered him a real pest at times and especially
when I had my first boyfriend. It never occurred to Gene that
the boy had come to see me. Come to think of it he was worse
when he did realize it.
Early in his teens Gene became interested in Charles Atlas and
all on his own discipline he developed a physique that would
be the envy of any of the physical fitness fanatics of today.
He wanted to study political science and had a never ending
interest in government and politics and was passionately
When he graduated from business college he came to California
to live with me for several years. As our long suffering
children can attest, we never got over living on $18.00 a
week. But life was good. We were on our own - no longer a
burden to our parents and living in a big city was a new
adventure. After church we dined — and I do mean dined — at a
French restaurant where we had a four-course roast beef dinner
for seventy-five cents — ending up with a beautiful French
pastry and steaming coffee in tall glasses. We could take the
street car, ten cents each way, to Santa Monica beach and
spend a day at the beach for less than a dollar. And Gene, who
learned to dog paddle in Medicine Creek, took to the ocean
like a fish. While I, who wasn't allowed in Medicine Creek
because of the skinny dipping was terrified in water over my
When we were both working 48-plus hours a week with long
streetcar commutes, we — two young hayseeds from South Dakota
— found time to work at Republican headquarters in downtown
Los Angeles, where we stuffed envelopes for Wendell Wilkie.
And guess who came in to help one evening: Mary Pickford. No
Gene would have made a great filibustering Senator, but he
worked hard at his insurance and had his own agency. He liked
his work and said it made him feel good when his insurance
agency helped someone through their difficulties. He finally
retired at 77.
He put up a long valiant fight against cancer and was
optimistic when I talked to him a few days before he died. He
always put his family and his country first and himself last.
I will miss my Little Brother.
Irma Howard Stolt
< PREV Letter:
NEXT Letter: >