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From: David C. Madden
Sent: Wed 15 Oct 03
Subject: my mother was once a woman who dated
Dear The New Yinzer:
In 1967 or 1968, my mother went on a date with a young man her
age (19) named Lee Van Der Veen (honest) who worked at a nearby
sawmill. She knew him through his mother, a co-worker of hers at
some accounting office in Charleroi. Back then, according to my
mother, “if you wanted to be adventurous, you had to drive down
[Route] 51.” Adventure in their hearts and, maybe, the wind in
their hair, Lee took my mother down that very road for their
About halfway into their journey they came across a hitchhiker, another young man her age. They asked where he was going. “I'm heading into Pittsburgh to see some family,” he said. “Going that way?”
“Well, we're headed to the Cue & Cushion to shoot some pool.
Wanna join us?” Lee said, or maybe my mom said. I like the idea
of my mom opening the date up to this guy, this stranger,
possibly dangerous, risking her life out of a growing disinterest
in Lee in order to save the date from boredom. This scenario
gives her a kind of exotic mystery, like some wild highway girl
men of the time read about in pulp novels, a mystery my mother
doesn't really have otherwise, so let's go with it.
They picked him up (“Back then,” she says, “it was okay to pick
up hitchhikers, you know”), and drove to the Cue & Cushion,
splendidly named and deftly photographed in your last issue.
There they shot pool for a bit (“Well, I didn't shoot pool,” she
says, “I'd just stand back and watch”), and let's say, for the
grand fun and improvement of this story, that Lee and this
hitchhiker dueled through billiards for my mother's giving heart.
Lee kept it, in the end. It got late and the hitchhiker was
expected, so the two of them drove him into Pittsburgh and headed
Shortly after this date, Lee lost four fingers of his right hand
in an accident at the sawmill. He drifted into the sort of
melancholy such an event produces in a kid, not to mention a pool
player, and soon broke it off with my mother. In time, he ended
up moving near Indian Head, Md., or maybe he was born there and
moved to Charleroi. It doesn't matter, the only reason I include
this bit of the story is that Indian Head is where my dad grew
The world, it's a small place, and yet I remain so far from you.
Hope you're thinking of me.