Don’t wash that man out of your hair…..

My friend, Evelyn Thompson (Wybenga) of 55 Morton Street worked for RCA in the Engineer Department. It was an amazing era of scientists competing for the Empire of the Air— radio, telephones and television. She left Concorde, NC in 1932 when she was twenty-six years old. Little did she know 1953 would be the year of the fight for her spinster’s heart by a middle age Dutch radioman. He was balding, lonely but blindly in love. Within the pages of her lover‘s onion skin letters, he begged her using a commercial jingle— “to not wash him out of her hair.” Here is my unedited prologue as I sit isolated during our pandemic in Charleston, SC:

Prologue


On the heels of the Higgins family in my current novel, Gardenia Duty, created through the box of a US Navy Service Record— I stumbled upon a small David and Henry UPS box that had over 100 love letters. They were a time capsule of my late friend, Evelyn Thompson Wybenga, and her soulmate, Pieter Wybenga. Scattered within the onion skin airmail envelopes were exchanged photos, New Yorker cartoons, articles about healthy and late life marriage.

Apparently blindsided and falling in love in 1953, Pieter courted and became Evelyn’s knight. Estranged from his Dutch wife, for years Pieter’s mistress had been the SS Nieuw Amsterdam. Now, it was the American woman standing in the window of 60 Broad Street waving to the Dutchman. Simultaneously, he searched for her with binoculars from the bridge of his deployed steamship.


Ironically, he often referred to “the iron in her spine” and “her golden heart” as he navigated the Atlantic route as the radio man. Meanwhile, a nervous Evelyn sat in her office wrestling with the relationship. She played out various scenarios. There was possible scandal of alienation of affection or falling for a possible immigration fraud. Did she want to give up her liberties as a social butterfly in Manhattan? Also, was she compromising her security clearance?

Meanwhile, after hours of receiving and replying messages for passengers, every day Pieter sat at the typewriter. In spite of weary Morse code fingers, his infused love letters plead for patience and trust. He assured her he was honorably pursuing a discreet divorce. As a result, he hoped to grow old with Miss Evelyn Thompson of 55 Morton Street.


As I catalogued and googled the letters, they were chocked full of historical mile markers. In time, I put together social, philosophical and legal hurdles. In addition, books, LPs and heartfelt gifts were memorialized and glued hope in their hearts. His words left an intriguing road map of how little we know of our life’s journey. They wove their choices through each intersection they encountered finding their way to each other. In the words of Pieter….

Myn liefste Evelyn…. Queen of the Skyscrapers, My sturdy Belgian brewery horse…. Love, Pieter