How Harold met Sally - a love story

Talk of long shots, how mother met father is about as long as they come. How my mother, born in October 1891 on a farm in remote Western Cuba, got linked up with my 100% Yankee father, born on a nice spring day in 1895 in Mansfield Massachusetts is about the tallest yarn I've had to spin in quite a spell. And to top if all off, how and when they met, wooed, married and then got it all together in the waning moments of their reproductive cycle to produce me in September, 1929, is a fascinating tall love story. Like I tell my boat crew in difficult situations, trust me. I'll do my best to stick to the facts.

My father's family had lived in New England since they first arrived from England in 1693. Josiah Butler settled in Lancaster, Mass until 1747 when he joined a small party that marched up to what is now southwestern New Hampshire to settle in a town called Hinsdale where the next three Butler generations took root. Two generations later my father was born in Mansfield, Mass, where he lived until it was time to go to Brown University where he graduated in 1918 as an electrical engineer. Finished with intense icy winters and 8 foot drifts, father joined General Electric and requested an assignment anywhere where it was nice and warm.

GE sent him to Cuba to work with the electric utility company they owned in Havana. During the next 6 years dad worked in the construction of a large new electric generating station. Once operational he stayed on in a variety of positions until, in the late 1930's, he become its superintendent. During this time, in particular during the 1920's, he pulled a lot of night shifts which required him to live in small hotels in downtown Havana and eat in Chinese restaurants, the only establishments open 24 hours a day. In later years, my dad and I would tease my mother when we spoke to each other with a Chinese Spanish accent. Poor mom would blow a fuse every time. In 1926 dad found a boarding house out in the Vedado section that was cooler and less noisy and rushed than the downtown hotels that he had called home for his six years. The boarding house served three meals a day. With a 2 hour lunch break he would regularly follow his lunch with a nap.

The Roges family arrived in Cuba from France in the early 19th century and as they migrated towards the western province of Pinar del Rio they changed their sir name to the more Castilian Roges. German Roges bought a farm near Ovas, still in Pinar del Rio Province, in tobacco country, developing a prosperous business. His daughter Juana caught the eye of Jose Salazar, a country doctor, who married her, moving into the farm compound which was in reality a small city with a school and a store. Several dozen slaves helped with the hard labor.

The marriage bore four surviving children, all delivered on the estate. When they became of school age, the local school took them to third grade, the highest level needed for the labor force. Dr. Salazar, reasoning his children required higher education had one of his friends, who was traveling to New York in 1902, to take his four children with him. The girls were delivered to St. Elizabeth school in zzzz New Jersey and the boys went dropped off at a nearby school,  . The four children, separated from their mother and father, unable to speak the language, struggled for months to adapt to their new surroundings. They stayed in New Jersey for zzzz years, graduated from high school, became fluent in English, and ended up considering the USA as their second country.

The two boys remained in the US for college. Jose went to Manhattan College and became a Civil Engineer while Emilio went to Notre Dame where he studied Mechanical Engineering. By the time they returned the Doctor and his wife had moved to a home on Consulado Street in Havana. Both girls moved right in and went to work as bilingual secretaries. When their parents died, the house was closed, Mother's elder sister Encarnita had married, and Mother moved into a boarding house in the Vedado district. Trala trala... and the stage was set for the great love affair to get under way.

Mother told me it took her the longest time to catch my father's eye. Of course, at 6 feet 2 1/2 inches he stood out like a sore toe. They sat at neighboring tables during breakfast but dad too busy carrying on with friends or reading the morning paper, gave her no notice. Months passed before she got his attention, and once she had it.. he was a sitting duck. Ever a die in the wool Yankee, they married on the fourth of July.


And that is the story of how Mother met Dad.... trust me.

Bill Butler

September 2003