Red Headed Stepchild
(The Barrett family memoir of Navy Life)
by Sophie Ruth Meranski with photos

 

{S}{F}Sophie Ruth Meranski 1911 38-932
Fro0m 1911 family group. Her mother;s shoulder appears. Sophie born October 4, l901 was about to celebrate her tenth birthday. Photo was probably at time of September holidays. Sophie married John Berchmans Barrett then a naval Lieutenant at New York City Hall about 2 pm Friday June 21, l929 an hour before he left by train for Chicago and the Orient and duty in the Asiatic Fleet aboard destroyer TRUXTUN based at Cavite, Philippines. A mole or birthmark on Sophie's left wrist was removed early l930s, not known to be cancerous - visible in photo.ESTHER TEXT to be TRANSFERRED:As Esther's birthday approaches on the nineteenth of November it occurs to me that I have neglected her shamefully in my accounts of the four sisters in my family. That is unfaiur as she was as interesting as any of us-taller than the other three with jet black hair like my mother, jet black eyes and with a better figure than Bee, Babe or me.- and from an early age she mothered us as we were eight by birth and more than fourteen by additions of motherless children who actually lived with us.Esther had more close girl friends and boy friends than we did, and with the first money she earned she bought a piano for the family as well as a record player and many records - and paid for a telephone when so few people we knew had telephones that ours rarely rang.She did well professionally because she was smart and went to a fine business college for bookkeeping, typing, and shorthand- at which she was a whiz.But her first job was at Vogel and son,a Hartford wholesale grocer. To preserve their stock there was no heat in the place - not even in her office as the men wore overcoats and sweaters at worlk and warm gloves. It was a big, profitable business that Esther enjoyed,but because she had to do bookkeeping,typing and stenography, she couldn't wear gloves while working and got frostbitten hands as well as feet! He boss liked her, so she stayed despite the cold, but when she confided to her best girl friend that her married boss was trying to make love to her- that friend told my father, who would not let her rtrun to that job- not even to collect her pay and her sweater!Soon the business college got her a job at the H.L. Handy Company,-wholesale dealer in meats, poultry and eggs. In the (p.2) office was Charles Bardous the head bookkeeper, one other male bookkeeper, and Esther.She really liked that job, was a happy girl with a piano record player, telephone,and always treated us to "college ices" -sundaes of chocolate sauce and nuts and always had a pound box of chocolates in her bureau drawer.I used to steal a few candies, which she never complained about if she knew they were gone.One night Pete was reading in bed at age fifteen, and I said to him,"Don't drop those apple cores on the floor- throw them out."-And as he chewed Esther's candies, he replied with a gleam in his eye,"Sis, there are no cores in these apples!"Esther must have known we were eating her candies, but she never stopped us or let us know she realized we were at her drawer.And when I could not see how I could pay the colllege fees, Esther and Al told me to go ahead - they would meet the expenses! Esther gave me her suitcase, her winter coat, and a lot more , and Al took me right to my room at the college (September l9l9). =And Esther was at the station to see me off in HER best clothes I was wearing. In my freshman year she came to visit and won the hearts of my classmates, who gave supper parties in their rooms for her, and the house mother invited Esther to sit with her at the head table while I waited on that table for one hundred dollars that year.Esther was so proud of me as very few women from Hartford went to the five best women's colleges in those days- certainly none of our friends except one older one who went to Brown University in Providence (earlier) but was working in Washington when I was growing up. And when I came home, Esther had a grand job for me (l921) for the summer in HER office- so we walked to and from work together every day and across the street near the lad I eventually invited to my junior prom (p 3) for a fabulously delightful weekend- a prom date with a car and a tux of his own!I was blind to the charms of Esther because she never seemed to have men come to the house for a date but yet she went out every evening, and I thought she was walking with her girl friends - who by then had telephones.One night I went to an outdoor summer dance with a girl Esther's age and was startled when she told me she was sorry for Esther. Only then did I learn that Esther and her young boss in the office were deeply in love and had been for years, but Esther would not marry him.What I did not know is that my father REFUSED to allow it and would not let Charlie come to the house, so she met him every evening on Main Street - had no place to entertain himin any weather, and that bothered Esther's close friend, as Esther told her it would be Charlie Bardous or no one. My father objected to Charles only because he was not Jewish. This went on for years while Esther saw me through college after Al married, and then Esther began to see Pete through college and medical school and mother Babe when I was away and when my mother died.Even then my father would not see Charlie.H.L. Handy sold out to Swift and Company, so Esther and Charlie were transferred to a big office force where they were never alone. Charlie then lived w8ith his aged mother, who was as opposed to a Jewish daughter-in-law (beautiful and generous and wise and kind and musical and in love with Charlie to the exclusion )(p.4) of all other men) Julius Aronson loved her for years before he finally married Mollie at an advanced age.So it went on.My father died in l933, so Esther was free to follow her heart, but Charlie's mother stayed alive.- and by the time she grudgingly agreed that Esther could live with them Esther would not marry Charlie and live with that old witch -whom even Charlie thought to be a witch- and he supported her as his duty and not for love of her.Esther could not bring herself to live under the same roof as she knew the mother would make her true love's life miserable. That mother lived until she was close to one hundred (years).I don't know what finally happened to Charles as I was so rarely in Hartford- but Esther never dated dany other men! She went to live with Babe and with Geetter to help them with the five children when Geetter went to war.She lugged home the meat and eggs after work from Swift and Company and stayed with the five babies while Babe shopped in the evening- and helped with the washing and the housework in addition to her job. Geetter said to me, "I think so much of Esther I don't know which one I married - Babe or Esther." She was always "Nan" to the children and should have had a flock of her own! Now her birthday approaches- about seventy-nine and Geetter will send the the big yellow chrysanthemum he sends every year - the flowers that will still be fresh on Thanksgiviing Day. Esther and I were very close, but never once did she breathe to me the sadness of her broken romance.
Subject: Sophie Ruth Meranski 1911
Year: 1911