Saturday, January 30, 2010

Clarence Mahan-The Man From Bloomer

Today I said I would tell you about my husband's first boss in Virginia who grew up in Bloomer, Ohio which is just a few miles south of Russia, Ohio. I met Clarence Mahan, Jack's first boss in Virginia, at a lovely garden party that he threw at his home in West Kings Park. Clarence would throw a beautiful garden party each May when all his hundreds and hundreds of exquisite irises would be in full bloom. Clarence and his wife Sooki grew and developed irises as a hobby and they both belonged to the American Iris Association. Later Clarence would be president of the American Iris Association and would travel all over the United States visiting other iris growers and giving talks at iris meetings.

So here I am with my family at Clarence's home when he comes up and introduces himself to me and says I understand that you are originally from a small town north of Dayton, Ohio. I am thinking to myself that here I go again---having to explain that I'm from Russia, Ohio and that it was named Russia by the French soldiers immigrating to America who had fought in Russia under Napoleon, including that famous General Grilliot who has his name on the Arc of Triumph in Paris, France. And then I suppose I will have to explain that although the village is spelled Russia the village is most often pronounced Roo-she.

So I did explain all this to Clarence and everyone sitting around us. Then Clarence said he wanted me to guess where he was from in Ohio. It is very close to Russia. So I played this guessing game with Clarence for a moment. Is is Versailles? Is it Fort Loromie? Is it Minster? Is it Piqua? When I gave up and Clarence told me that it was Bloomer I just about flipped out.

Bloomer, Ohio! Get out of here. I then told Clarence that I could never understand why anyone would name a town Bloomer. It sounded too much like bloomers. Those lady's civil war era white underpants that came down to the knees much like men's basketball trunks do today. Then of course, Bloomer is the single of a pair of bloomers so it must be half of a pair of bloomers or half of a lady's underpants. Actually, pretty risque if you start thinking about it. At that point I'm thinking to myself that this is my husband's big boss at the energy department so maybe I should just stop talking about Bloomer and steer the conversation to another topic if I want my husband to get a good performance evaluation from this gentleman.

But Clarence wanted to keep chatting about Russia and Bloomer so he asked me what house do you think I grew up in Bloomer. What house you grew up in in Bloomer? What? I then replied that my family never spent much time in Bloomer. In fact we never ever stopped in Bloomer. We just drove down the main drag thru town on our way to somewhere else. But I declared that the few times we did drive thru town we always remarked that there was one house that surely stood out from all the rest white clapboard houses. It was that two story house that was painted a very odd shade of lavender like it was meant to be the Easter Bunny's residence.

That's when Clarence announced that that lavender house was his step dad's house and that's where he grew up in Bloomer! Oh, my gosh, I wanted to just crawl under the carpet because I obviously had stuck not one but both feet in my mouth. Oh, my golly, good luck Jack on your upcoming performance evaluation. I think I just blew it for you big time.

But Clarence said that he had been expecting me to give that response because everyone in Bloomer would tell him that that was a really strange color to paint a house but his stepdad never repainted the house. This event took place in 1980. I wonder if that house in Bloomer, Ohio is still that color. Anybody from Ohio know? If so, leave an anonymous comment below.

Later in the day I learned that Clarence graduated from high school in 1956 and that he met and married Sooki in Korea soon after high school when he was an Army GI stationed in Korea. Clarence told me that with my long dark hair I looked like one of those wild French Catholic girls from Russia. What? Wild French Catholic girls from Russia!

Yes, yes, replied Clarence. My stepdad warned me about all you wild French Catholic girls from Russia. He told me his stepdad said that the parents of those girls don't want them dating Protestants and he as a staunch Protestant Lutheran didn't want his stepson dating those Catholic girls. I listened to my stepdad and didn't he added.

And since this was typical back then, not too many people from Bloomer married people from Russia. Now how funny and parochial!

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