Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Irene Louise Babos Marotta Joseph

Today would have been her 86th birthday. My mother left me with two enduring learning points.
  • Good music is cheap and cheap music is expensive.
  • It does not matter how much money you have as long as you are educated. 
5th Grade Buhrer School
Miss McGovern, 1941
There were many others. She was given to maxims, glittering generalities, and statements of opinion as fact. From my point of view, she had about 12 or 13 good years, and then slid downhill for about 25, though she enjoyed a couple of counter-trend peaks. After she died, we cleaned out her apartment and two salient facts gave me pause:
  • She had no mirrors (except for the one that is standard in the bathroom). When we were kids, we used to make Transylvania jokes about being Hungarian; maybe it was not so funny. 
  • We found a candle that had been burned at both ends.

c. 1964
Mom played the piano and owned a couple of them over the years. She taught my brother, Paul, and me to play, though I soon stopped because he eclipsed me. Nonetheless, I learned to read music, and later did not learn to play the coronet and French horn. We had classical (mostly Romantic) music on high fidelity 33-1/3 rpm records. Interestingly enough, Mom was supportive of rock ’n’ roll. Mindful that good music is cheap and cheap music is expensive, she still paid for 45s of hit songs from Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, mostly at my brother’s request. I was not much for pop music until 1966, when I had my own favorites.

Cleveland Dental Manufacturing 
is now a residential loft space
Her best years started in 1956 to 1961 working for Walter S. Smith’s Cleveland Dental Manufacturing Company. Cleveland Dental did some overseas business, and Mom brought home envelopes with foreign stamps. She tried to get us interested in stamp collecting, but neither of us had much passion for it.

When Mr. Smith retired she worked a year or so more for the new president, but after the sale to Cavitron, she found another job. She then went to work for Dr. Robert Morgan Stecher who had offices at Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital from its days as City Hospital. He was not a practicing physician, but an academic researcher whose passions included early horses and the genetics of arthritis. He was independently wealthy. His father, Fred W. Stecher, was a pharmacist who invented Pompeian Massage Cream  and built his home in Lakewood on a natural gas well that brought lease income.
No longer interested in politics.
City Hall Chambers 1998.
Working for Dr. Stecher broadened her horizons. She took us to the Cleveland Health Museum, bought me memberships in the Natural Science Museum, and split season tickets to Severance Hall with neighborhood doctors. (Our home was two blocks from City Hospital. Some of the rentals, ours and others, went to interns and residents. I benefited from a lot of extra-curricular education and exposure to the research labs at the hospital.)  She wrote Dr. Stecher’s international correspondence and prepared his journal manuscripts. Their office was next to the hospital library; and I bought some discards for a dime each.
After Dr. Stecher retired, she worked as an office temporary until she met her second disastrous husband. That marriage lasted no longer than the first, but the comparison is between the harsh voyage of the Mayflower and the gaiety of the Titanic.

When it became clear that neither Paul nor I was going to graduate from college, she took over management of our sister’s education and got Kelly through Baldwin-Wallace with a major in English and a minor in Biology, including a field trip to the Galapagos Islands. Mom did not live to see Paul and me go back to graduate with honors.

However, she did participate from the audience in the Cleveland punk music scene hanging out with Paul’s band, and billing herself as “Irene Styrene.”  

Her last job was as a full time administrative assistant at Cleveland City Hall. By then, she had lost her passion for politics. Forty years earlier, she had sent me to school with a Nixon-Lodge pin and the next time around, it was AuH2O in 64, which is how I ended up in Young Americans for Freedom in 1965, and ultimately wrote a blog.


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