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A “Pick-Up” At Lipe’s Pharmacy In 1953

by Mary Jo Shannon

Every Wednesday at 7:00 a.m., approximately twelve persons gather in the chapel at Raleigh Court Presbyterian Church to read and meditate on the lectionary reading for the day, to pray, and to celebrate Holy Communion together. As part of this group since it started several years ago, I look forward eagerly to this opportunity for a mid-week spiritual lift with others who share that perspective.

After the short service, those who are not on their way to work adjourn to the Fellowship Hall, where we share bagels, coffee and conversation. Sometimes the discussion is theological, concerning the scripture we have read, but often our conversation deals with ordinary events in our lives, bringing us closer to each other as we learn more about our lives outside the church.

Recently the talk turned to how we met our spouses. Several met in college through roommates or were introduced by friends, but my experience might be classified as a “pick-up.”

When I came to Roanoke fresh out of college, my roommate and I shared a garage apartment on Cardinal Road, in South Roanoke. Within walking distance to Crystal Spring Elementary School where I taught third grade, the location was a bonus, since I didn’t own a car. I could also walk to the post office, a grocery store and a drug store.

A member of a Lutheran Church in Staunton who attended regularly; I wanted to find a church home in Roanoke. So one Sunday afternoon in early September I strolled down Richelieu Avenue to Lipe’s Pharmacy, hoping to get directions to the nearest Lutheran Church.

The clerk said she couldn’t help me as she did not live in the area, but “That fellow over there lives near here and maybe he can help.”

She pointed to a handsome “older fellow” – older, that is, to a twenty-year-old. He was sitting in a booth reading the Sunday paper and sipping a Coke. I introduced myself and explained my problem, explaining that the clerk thought he might be of assistance. He invited me to sit down and bought me a Coke. Noticing my school ring, he asked where I went to college.

“Mary Baldwin,” I replied.

“Know anyone in Staunton?”

“I was a day student, and I lived in Augusta County, so I know many people in Staunton.”

What a coincidence that both of his parents grew up in Augusta County, and I actually was in the same home room with his cousin, Johnny Henderson! We talked on and on, almost forgetting the purpose of this meeting. I learned he graduated from VPI the same year I did, but it took him much longer, since he served in the army during World War II and again in the Korean War. Finally we got around to the church situation.

“I know of two Lutheran churches in Roanoke,” he said, “but neither is in South Roanoke. I’ll be glad to take you in my car and show you where they are.”

Now I faced a dilemma. Should I risk getting in the car with an older man I had just met? I knew what my mother would say. But, I argued with myself, if he’s John Henderson’s cousin, he must be okay. So I took a deep breath and nodded, and soon we were rolling down Franklin Road to St. Mark’s and out Brandon to Christ Lutheran.

But we didn’t stop there. Harry became my private tour guide, pointing out all the high lights of the city I had chosen for my abode. He drove downtown past the American Theater, the statue of the Elk on Jefferson Street, the N&W office buildings where he worked in the drafting room, and of course, up Mill Mountain to see the Star and the panoramic view of the city

When he delivered me to my apartment, he asked me to go to a movie with him that evening, but I said no, I had papers to grade. I told myself I would not go that far! But we did make a date for one night the following week.

I took the bus to visit each of the churches I had located, but somehow neither was a right fit. I. When Harry asked me which church I chose, I told him I had decided to walk to First Presbyterian Church, right in my neighborhood.

“I can’t believe it!” he said. “That’s my church, but with college and the army, I haven’t been going much lately.”

From that day forward, we attended Sunday School and church together. Three years later we were married in that same church. Was that pick-up just a  “coincidence” . . . Or maybe something more?

 

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