Call Her “Susie”; A Life of Both Hardship, and Strong Faith. Part Two; Moving Toward the Church.
Journey Towards a Call.
I've decided to write mom's story, because it is her faith which inspires my faith. In fact, mom has touched countless lives through her example of faith and perseverance, even through what for many would be impossibly tough times. I hope that you will gain some inspiration, as her story unfolds.
In part two, mom journeys, both physically and spiritually, toward the Catholic Church.
The Texaco Station, where mom met Gloria.
Old St. John The Baptist Catholic Church Interior
As Told to Her Son, Stuart.
As stated in part one, Susie’s family moved North, to the Fort Wayne area, circa 1937. They lived in Fort Wayne, on Lawrence Avenue, for a little over a year, before moving to New Haven. During that time, Susie’s mother, Wreatha Mae, was pregnant with twins. Susie’s father, Cyril, had promised his wife that the family could visit a Catholic church before the twins were born, so they visited St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, on New Haven Avenue. But the visit was short lived, since Wreatha Mae became faint, and Cyril had to help her out of the church..
Shortly after this, the twins, Lois Ann (“Annie”) and Larry were born. Susie often recalls, with her mischievous sense of humor, that she had no interest in having yet another brother, and was delighted by the news of a sister, which she had longed for ever since she could remember. She went around the neighborhood telling everyone that she had a baby sister. When the neighbor’s reminded her that a brother came along with her, Susie just simply shrugged it off, and said, “Yeah, but I ain’t interested in him. I got a sister!”
While Susie was in the fourth grade, her family moved to a small five acre farm, just on the North side of New Haven, so that they could live closer to Cyril’s place of business. He ran a Shell Gas Station and garage out of the Interurban Station in New Haven.
It was during this time that Susie became familiar with mortality, as well as the grief and horror of a tragic death. While in the fifth grade, Susie and her friends were waiting on the Southern end of Broadway, just outside of Schnelker Park, preparing to take the school bus home, when another little girl fell under the back wheels of another school bus, and was crushed to death. Susie and her friends tried to attract the attention of the driver, but to no avail.
The trauma of witnessing a young friend crushed in such a way could easily have been too much for such a young girl. Indeed, in today’s world, such an incident would have been dealt with though therapy. But, in those days, all Susie had were family, friends, and the sense of trust in God that her mother had instilled in her early on, to sustain her. (Truly, this is a lesson for our times. Perhaps, if we all had young Susie’s trust in the Father, we would all be better off. Indeed, Jesus’ admonition from Matthew 18: 1-5, and Luke 18: 15-17 fits quite well with this lesson.)
As she grew, eventually Susie’s childhood friends would give way to high school friends. During this time, she recalls being a New Haven brat. Ironically, this soon to be devoutly Catholic girl used to hang around with an anti-Catholic crowd, and, whenever she passed St. John the Baptist Catholic School and Church (en route to home), she’d join in taunting the Catholics, by chanting “cat lickers, cat lickers”, in the general direction of the school.
Susie’s first high school friend was Loraine Stellhorn (who would eventually marry Susie’s older brother, Dick), who was Lutheran, and, perhaps, was one of her anti-Catholic influences. They were best friends. Indeed, they were closer than many siblings to one another. This love would continue to the end of Loraine’s life, and to this day, Susie recalls their relationship as having been more of a sisterly one than anything else.
While a teenager, Susie would often take lunch to her father, and he would reward her by letting her take a soda pop (cream soda, her favorite flavor) from the pop cooler. (This was after the Shell Station and garage had been closed, and Cyril had opened a smaller Texaco Station and garage on the corner of Broadway and Lincoln Highway) One day, while she was getting her pop, one of the girls from across Lincoln Highway saw her, and, not realizing who Susie was, said “I’m gonna tell Mr. Elwood on you!”
Susie’s response was a very bratty, “So? Go ahead and tell him.” So, the girl went in, and told Susie’s father that there was a girl stealing pop, and Susie’s father came out, and straightened out the misunderstanding. The young lady who thought she had caught a thief in the act was Gloria Hathaway, whose mother, aunt, and uncle had become close friends with Cy Elwood (as he was known, to his customers, and his friends), despite the fact that the Hathaways were Catholic (whom, normally, Cy Elwood hated).
Eventually, Susie and Gloria became friends. Gloria soon introduced Susie to Bonnie Isenbarger (whose brother, Donald, would later become Father Isenbarger), and the three became inseparable. At he age of sixteen, Susie was invited by the Hathaway family to attend Friday Novena Services at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. Not knowing what to expect, nor indeed, what was going on, Susie stayed in the back pew, and lied down.
It was while lying there that she felt an overwhelming sense of peace and belonging. After going to just her second Novena Service, Susie knew, right then and there, that she was home. She knew her father would object, but she didn’t care. She was going to become a Catholic, no doubt about it. She was called, by name, to join the Church, and join she would.
In part three, the story will focus on the years from when Susie and her siblings joined the Church to the time that her family moved from the farm on New Haven’s North Side to “Out Home”, which was just off of Seiler Road, which is just South of New Haven. Until then, God bless.