It was the 1930s.
To quote Dickens … “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Gandhi was busy leading the march for India’s independence. Hitler was rising to political power. And … through hook and crook, Henry Ford was keeping the United Auto Workers out of his business.
They had the Great Depression. The Midwest Dust Bowl. The Ford Hunger March ~ a peaceful protest against hunger … which quickly became “The Ford Massacre,” leaving 5 dead and 60 injured in Dearborn, Michigan … and cementing a stain on Henry Ford’s reputation.
Betty Boop, Donald Duck, and Superman all made their debuts, bringing fun and laughter to people’s lives.
And, during this time, according to a 1932 Detroit city directory, a young woman, Helena GoFrank was a nursing student at Providence Hospital, living at 6520 Wabash Avenue.
At the same time, Wilfred Meath, a young farmer from Cylon, Wisconsin, became one of the 1,623,452 people now living in Detroit ~ although no records have been found to announce his arrival.
Somehow, nobody is sure exactly how or when he was hired, Wilfred was working at Providence Hospital. He was a painter (the handy-man type, not a starving-artist).
Helena Gofrank’s uncle, George Winters, also worked at Providence Hospital … as an electrician. Wilfred eventually learned the electrical trade from George. Did George have a hand in hiring Wilfred? Or did Wilfred meet him only after hiring on at the hospital? Nobody seems to know.
Somehow, again nobody is sure how or when … perhaps through George Winters … perhaps through friends at the hospital … or perhaps he just saw her in the cafeteria … but Wilfred and Helena met … and dated … and eventually, on February 3, 1936, they “tied the knot.” (And somewhere between 1932 and 1936, Helena became Magdalena.)
Regardless of how they met … what did they do for fun? … how did they get to know one another?
Sadly, they’re not here to tell us.
But … the Detroit Zoo opened in 1928, the Ambassador Bridge was completed in 1929, and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel first saw cars travel a mile under water in 1930.
The electric streetcar was in its heyday, having 30 lines stretching over 534 miles.
The Detroit Institute of Art (DIA) was built in 1927, and Diego Rivera painted his controversial “Detroit Industry Murals” on the walls in 1933.
And … in 1935, a year Wilfred & Helena were certainly together, the Detroit Tigers baseball team won their first World Series, defeating the Chicago Cubs 4 games to 2. Did they by chance see any of those games? Fun to think … possibly!
Perhaps they watched Joan Crawford, Shirley Temple, Will Rogers, or Clark Gable at the movie theater. Or just hung out with friends and family at the local hall, listening to Duke Ellington and dancing to the new Big Band and swing music.
In the summer, they might have taken the ferry to Bob-Lo Island to enjoy the amusement park. I can see them in my mind’s eye, sitting on the top deck with new-fangled sunglasses shading their eyes, the wind whipping their hair, energized by the excitement in the air.
I’ll probably never know how they spent their time … or what their dating life was like … but I love knowing they had so many fun options.
Til next time …