Chapter 7 - Picking up the pieces

Veronica and Evie

I make no excuses, I was hurting and lonely, and a wonderfully, warm and gentle girl offered me her love.

I didn't hesitate for an instant to accept her gift.

Veronica Dorn was a customer on my milk route, a job I had while working my way through the University of Connecticut after my parents both died within a year of each other.

Veronica, or as our daughter calls her now, Ronnie, lived in Prospect CT with her father Joe,  older sister Margaret and younger brother Bobby, but at sixteen Vera ran everything and acted years older.

She ran her father's house, and I don't recall anyone successfully challenging her authority. Her mother Mary had run off with a long-time boyfriend, and she reminded me much of her daughter.

Vera was tall, voluptuous and eager for love. She looked very much like Leonardo DiVinci's portrait of the Mona Lisa, and she probably saved my sanity during this period.

We married in the rectory of a Catholic Church where I agreed to raise our daughter in that religion. We named her Evelyn after my mother.

Sometime around our first year together I woke up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night with vivid memories of my mother's death and memories of her life flooding my mind.

I had not thought about my mother in well over a year or longer.

I suppose some sort of self-defense took over at her my mother's death, and my subconscious mind knew I could not handle the grief at the time  even if my consciousness didn't realize it.

I cried in Vera's arms for a long time that night, and have been able to think of my mother rationally ever since.

Right after my father's death I had quit college and looked for a job at an area newspaper. I had never thought of being a journalist or a newspaperman before his death.

At twenty I got my first newspaper job in 1951 at the Naugatuck CT Daily News as Classified Advertising Manager at $35 a week and all the newsprint I could eat.

Unfortunately Naugatuck was then the home of US Rubber's reclamation plant and the two smelled like a municipal-sized fart.

Vera and I used to double date with Don Anderson, the Sports Editor who took our wedding photo above on right, and Justine Kirkwood, the Society Editor who ended up living a miles away from me on Cape Cod a lifetime later.

Justine became the conservative chairman of the Orleans Republican party and I became a liberal Democrat - ah, youth.

On to Greenwich

Vera and I had an apartment in that town for almost two years until I moved up to the Greenwich CT Time in that swanky , seaside town.

Vera was a lovely woman, as this photo from our marriage shows,

Here we are walking newborn Evie in Prospect, CT.

Vera sitting on our bed in Naugatuck, CT.

At the defunct Naugatuck Daily News I drove a '49 red Ford Convertible with a white top and white wall tires.

At the Greenwich Times I segued into a 1953 MG-TD, two of the spiffiest cars ever built.

As last man hired in Greenwich they assigned me the worse economic territory they had, the down-market, factory town across the state border, Port Chester, NY.

There were only three good things about Port Chester in those days;

  1. The town smelled like Life Savers because the factory was there,
  2. The hot dogs at the Texas Hot Wiener stand was still the best I've ever eaten, and
  3. A guy named Carl Bennett had a warehouse-like store at the end of town where he sold electronics, house goods and toys at what was just starting to be called "discount prices."

None of the Greenwich newspapers other ad salesmen deigned to call on such a lowly sort, but I was fascinated.

Carl didn't get co:op advertising matching funds from manufacturers because he wasn't selling at their "suggested retail price."

The newspaper had bought me a new Polaroid "Land Camera" which had just come out, and I suggested to Carl we take photos of his stuff and run full pages across the border in Connecticut featuring item and price, item and price, ad infinitum.

Carl became the newspaper's biggest advertiser, and he hired me to moonlight as his advertising director at age 23.

I would spend an evening each week in his apartment in Stamford CT with Carl and his wife Dorothy as we planned campaigns.

He named his fledgling discount store after him and his wife, and called it CALDOR.

The rest is history, and Carl and Doris sold out at the height of the market.

Around this time Vera and I split up after six years.My departures was utterly selfish, but I assuaged my guilt by leaving her with everything I owned at the time, and took off in my corvette to work on the road for the H.T. Dickinson Ad Agency where I created TV magazines for newspapers from Pennsylvania to Maine.

Vera went on to marry a couple more times, moving to Phoenix AZ with Evie. We lost touch completely for three decades - she wanted no part of me, and who could blame her?

By the time she allowed me back in her life she was owner of a junk yard and wrecker service on the Alcan Highway in Valdez, Alaska.

I may be the only ex-husband who has such an interesting ex-wife as the remarkable Veronica.

My daughter Evelyn (now called Lynn) lives in Arizona with her two beautiful daughters, Carah and Robyn, and now their children, so I am even a great grandfather to boot. Two years ago Vera died from breast cancer like so many women today.

She was a wonderful wife and a wonderful woman.

I was a rotten husband and father.

I did well at H. T. Dickinson, and seldom spent more than two months at any newspaper.

This was in the mid-1950s, and America was sleeping through the quietest years of the last century during Dwight Eisenhower's placid administration where everything was cool, women, blacks and immigrants still were second-class citizens, and of course some people protested the peace and quiet.

They were known as Beatniks.

They wrote angry poetry about America's ills, and I, sitting alone in hotel rooms from Houlton ME to Greensburg PA, begin scribbling his own protest poetry as I sold advertising and created television magazine or sections for newspapers.

If that's not a little schizophrenic I don't know what is.

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