Sunday, May 11, 2014

My Mother Dolores Allen

This Mothers’ Day I think about my mother, who was different from any other mother I knew. When I was growing up, other mothers spent a lot of time at home as housewives. Not my mother. She filled her life with creativity and activity. She married the right man (my father) and the two shared creativity and innovation for many years. Mother and Father didn’t compete; they collaborated and encouraged each other and their children (us). Yes, they nurtured three children also.

 My father started two radio stations, and my mother helped him. She was a writer of fiction and radio drama, and they acted in her dramas. She created and published a long lasting guidebook for tourists visiting Door County, of which she was the principal owner and which continues today in altered form; he sold advertising for it and distributed it. She created the well-known House and Garden Walk fundraiser for the Hospital Auxiliary in Sturgeon Bay, which still exists as an annual event and for which she was given two life memberships in the auxiliary.  Mother had what was said to be the longest running recipe program in the history of Wisconsin radio, lasting from 1951 until shortly before she died in 2005.  She wrote a cookbook, Door County Recipes and a Little Local Lore, in 1989, which sold well in the Door County area. It contained many recipes that were given on her recipe show on radio. Her interest in local history was in the cookbook in the form of little vignettes about Door County places. Mother also played golf and was in a bridge club for many years. Father was president of the Door County Chamber of Commerce; that was fine with her. He was chairman of the Door County Republican Party; she supported him in that. The Governor of Wisconsin came to dinner; she was there making it happen.

One thing deserves special recognition. It is nothing much in the eyes of the world, but I see it as a sacrifice on her part. Mother had become a successful writer of short stories, and had sold some, when the plan to build a radio station in Door County solidified. She gave up fiction to give her heart and her time to getting that radio station going. She had various office duties, including scheduling and monthly billing, which involved us kids. Our job was to put those bills into envelopes and get them ready for mailing. Father was the manager and the on air person. He also did everything else that no one else there did.

That’s pretty good accomplishment for a child of a single mother who grew up in Minnesota. Mother was born in 1913 and graduated from high school in 1929 at age 16. She was chosen Miss Winona sometime after her graduation. She attended the College of St. Teresa in Winona and received a degree with a double major in English and French. I have no idea how she financed that college education. Her mother worked but never had extra money for education. Mother was a teacher in small town schools and then moved to Chicago and was a model for a while. During that time she wrote stories. She also met my father in Chicago. He was a radio announcer who worked at several stations until landing at the NBC affiliate there, WMAQ. Three children and a bunch of years later, in 1951 we all moved to Sturgeon Bay, where creativity and opportunity joined together as described above.

My brothers and I were part of their ongoing enterprises. Both brothers became radio announcers in Sturgeon Bay as teenagers and it was just something our parents expected of us. I worked in the office during several summers until I got married. I was doing radio commercials in fifth grade for Scofield’s Hardware Store. I illustrated Mother’s tourist guidebook when she wasn’t using clip art.

At home my mother, who was famous for her recipe show, had little time to cook old fashioned meals for us. I have repeatedly said she bought the first of many conveniences that are taken for granted today. She came home with the first convenience food called the TV dinner. She bought the first automatic washer and dryer. She owned a car when many women didn’t drive. She always had a cleaning lady. Father supported these decisions, and said that she was more interesting when she did the things she liked to do. She tried to instill in me an interest in wearing fashionable clothes, but I wasn’t interested, except when prom time came.

I would say that parenting was not Mother’s primary interest. She was a very modern woman and had many interests while loving us. Her attitude that we can succeed as she did was a gift she gave us. She lived ninety-two years and I think she loved most of her time on this earth. Happy Mothers’ Day to my mother, Dolores Allen.

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