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Letter: 1

Introduction

      REMEMBERING GENE
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 conservative.

      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 knees.

      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 kidding.

      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

     


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