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The Girl from "Across the Tracks"

There were only the two of us on the courts that beautiful September (9/23/15) afternoon - DeBooy and I. We must have been playing for nearly an hour when I noticed a pair of trim middy-clad figures coming across the campus. Each carried a tennis racquet and a pair of shoes. They went up the steps into the Administration Building, came out after a moment and walked very slowly past us. "Ask them if they want to play with us, Auri," I said, not having nerve enough to ask myself. In answer to his call they came over to us. "We two can't play against you two, Mildred, hasn't played much," the darker one said. "Then you and I will play together" I told her.

We didn't talk a great deal while playing. I suppose they were college Frosh. Later when some more people were playing next to us our balls got mixed. "Is this ours?" my partner asked, picking one up. I looked. "Yes, see that 'A'? That's Anderson, my name."

"My name is Westphal," she returned, spelling it. Then, thinking I might want to know her better, I said, "But these aren't my balls. They belong to my roommate, and his name is Anderson, not mine." I didn't tell her what mine was.

As we were taking down the net to go home one hour later, I asked them if they were going to the Frosh reception the following night. Then they confessed that they weren't college girls, but lived down the line a mile or so. Mine, was a high school senior, the other fluffy haired one was a junior at Hamline U.

We walked home with them that night. Westphal said she didn't live "so very far", but it was way across the tracks. I had a most enjoyable time walking home with her and listening to her chatter. She told of her life in California , something about her H.S. [high school] life, tennis, etc. Finally as we came within a couple of blocks of where she lived, an airedale dog called "Jeff" came running to meet her. Beyond the Park Drugstore, across a little three-cornered park in that beautiful quiet wooded residence district we went. She lived on Bayless Avenue across from the park in a large white house set back a little from the sidewalk. A seven passenger touring car stood in front. As I was standing talking to her at the steps, the old man came home and glanced at me; evidently he noticed my white pants. We made a date to play tennis the following Sat. morning, and after saying "goodbye" at this time I expected to see her again in a couple of days. However, altho [sic - although] De Booy and I were out the following Saturday at 6 o'clock it was raining and so could expect no girls. The following week I called up my new friend and a week or so later made a date with her for a little musicale. Met her at the M.E. church after choir practice on Sat. eve. October, 9. Had a good time that night. Told me to come and see her sometime.

In the weeks that followed, those beautiful hazy October days when all the campus was alive with football and tennis players, and the pungent smoke from the burning heaps of dead leaves signified autumn was with us, I looked forward to the afternoons after market classes when we met the girls on the courts. They were always on time, punctual to the minute. The afternoons with them are the only times in fall of 1915 I remember. We always paired off the same; Edna and I, Mildred and Henri. Edna always was quick to chase stray balls, a trait I liked.

Our tennis playing ended in Nov. I took the girl to a couple of U. [university] dances, and so our friendship continued; many dances, a couple of nights at the carnival in St. Paul, some basketball games, and finally March 8 we went to see "The Bird of Paradise" together. Lent ended the dancing season. By this time I had met all the family, was down to dinner a couple times, (and they sure fed me up some) and was feeling that I was lucky in having my tennis court friend. Whatever else I may remember of her, I shall always remember how very nice she was to me at all times, always kind, considerate, and thotful [sic]. She seemed always to know what to say and do, seemed never at a loss.

Used to tell me that I lacked self-appreciation. "If you believe in yourself, you can make others believe in you" she would say.

So, no matter what other memories I may ever have of her, let me always remember to appreciate her kindness to me, a stranger acquaintance of the tennis courts. (Written March 1916.)

Goodbye to "Across the Tracks"

It was her last night in the Twin Cities. In the morning she would leave for the north to stay at Leech Lake with some friends. I had called her up in the afternoon to say goodbye. Her sister was going to give a party for her that evening, so she would have to time for me, at least, so I understood. However, as was characteristic of her, she called up the Dairy Barn later in the afternoon and asked me to come down to supper.

I surely made record time milking my eleven cows that night. Got a shower bath, changed clothes, delivered my milk bottles , and was at the house at 6:35. Edna was out watering flowers when I came. We sat on the porch till supper in the swing. After supper (I didn't get strawberry shortcake often those days) we sat in the swing again and talked. She had letter she had received from her cousin who was a Frosh at some college in Cal. A little girl came over to see her, then a little later the young girl who helped look after Mabel's children. (Mabel Jurgins was the lady with whom she was going north) came over with the two little girls, Aurilla 6, and Lorraine, 3. The two little girls immediately came into the swing with us. A couple of other women arrived for the 500 party. About 8:30 we started up the street. Edna and the two kids were going to walk home a part of the way with me. The two children were very pretty - dark blue eyes and brown hair with perfectly formed features. "I wish I had two like them" she said, voicing the eternal maternal instinct.

As we crossed the bridge we got a good view of the sunset, real beautiful that evening. We didn't say much to each other as we walked up. Each of us held a hand of the younger child. She had the older one on her right. About a block beyond the bridge where Raymond Ave. curves a little to the left again Edna stopped. "I think we had better go back now," she said. "I'll write soon".

"Of course I'll be waiting to hear from you," I returned. "Will you? I didn't know," she answered with a laugh that had no mirth.

"So there's nothing to say but goodbye", my mind wouldn't work. Nothing clever or appropriate would come! Thus we stood for a moment or so. A [sic] auto with a man and woman in it came by and stopped with a blow out a couple of rods from us. I remember that the grass was high along the walk there.

So, as I hesitated, she crossed the street with the two children. The older one waving to me with its free right hand. I waved back and we all said goodbye and the girl, holding the two children by the hand started southward. I stood for a second or so looking after them, went a little distance and looked back again. Thus she passed out of my sight in the deepening twilight of that beautiful June 26th evening. I can see her yet with her dark brown hair and white clinging dress with small red flowers in it, walking toward the southward holding by the hand the two little girls in white on either side. And even the memory brings back the same old lump in my throat that was there that evening.