Aunt Ruth's Pocketbooks

Aunt Ruth's Pocketbooks


During the summer of 1962, just before my freshman year at Rutgers, I worked for my grandfather, Powie Layton. We all called him Powie instead of Pop pop or some name like that. His middle name was Powers which had been his great-grandmother's maiden name and since he and his father had the same first name (Fletcher), he was called Powers by his family and Powie became his name. 

He had inherited a tobacco distribution business from his father delivering cigars from the Bayuk Cigar Co. These included Phillies and Webster cigars. I worked as his driver and handyman and lived with him and my grandmother for that summer. They lived in Woodbury Heights about 20 miles north of Pedricktown and I went home about once every three weeks.  

One Friday evening, we were invited to my grandmother's younger sister (Ruth's) home in Mickleton for dinner. Ruth and her husband Larry Crispin had a ranch style home on several wooded acres which sat on a small hill about a ¼ mile off the Kings Highway. It was a very nice home, befitting Uncle Larry's standing as a successful lawyer. 

During dinner, the two men consumed more than a fair share of cocktails (Powie and Gram had me as their designated driver) and began talking about their wives (who were still at the table!). I think Powie started it by exhorting on the number of pairs of shoes that Gram had. He estimated 20+ pairs, though I believe he was exaggerating since Gram was more prone to be on her hands and knees weeding the flowers than attending teas. Not to be outdone, Uncle Larry declared that Aunt Ruth had over 50 pocketbooks and purses. Now this was a bit more believable since she would hire out the gardening before doing it!

Of course, she began to protest loudly that Uncle Larry had over estimated by more than half. A lively discussion began on the subject and since he was a lawyer, Uncle Larry declared that we would gather the evidence. He and Powie would be detectives and I would be recorder of any evidence found.

We began in the master bedroom closet and there were a large number there, but no where near 50, Uncle Larry was not deterred and we pressed on by opening dresser drawers, then moving to the guest bedroom and the third bedroom as well. By this time, we had approached only 40 or so pocketbooks and I thought that Aunt Ruth would win the day.

But wait, there was the hall closet and it was good for 6-7 more and finally he led us downstairs to the family room where the closet yielded even more. I don't remember today the exact count, but it did exceed 50.

Presented with the evidence, Aunt Ruth, quite flustered, declared that we must had counted some of them twice and besides many of them were old and she didn't use them anymore so they shouldn't count!

This is one of my favorite memories of my Aunt Ruth and when I look in wife's closet at the number of shoes or the number of my daughter's pocketbooks, I am reminded of it.

Davdan @ 2008-2018