Her writing desk stood in the corner. It was too elegant for the room, polished cherry bound with gold. She told me it had been her grandmother’s, passed down through the generations, implying it would be mine. She always wore the key on a slim golden chain around her neck. The funeral director had given it to me.
In the bottom drawer I found a bundle of letters tied with pink ribbon. They were love letters written by a man as he drove across the roadless country in 1923. He signed with a skull and crossbones. It was not my grandfather.
They met on a golf course in Tallahassee, Fla., in 1926. She was a teacher at what is now Florida State University. He was a sixth-grade dropout.
Nonetheless, he won her hand. Two years later, John Carroll and Gladys Franklin married.
“He fell madly and deeply in love with her,” says their son, Chris Carroll. “She told him, ‘John, I could never be interested in an uneducated man.’ “
So the smitten young man read what is known as the Harvard Classics, a 5-foot shelf of books featuring authors ranging from Cervantes and William Shakespeare to John Milton and Jane Austen.
“Then he wrote letters to my mother and had his sister correct them,” says Carroll.
When Gladys’ father, Selim M. Franklin, died in the fall of 1927, she returned home to Tucson. John Carroll pursued her.
They married the following year at the Franklin home, in a double ceremony with Gladys’ brother, Selim H. Franklin and his bride, Marietta.
Before World War II, John Carroll ran a string of gas stations around town. Faced with gas and tire rationing, he closed them all and went to work as a mechanic at what is now Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
After the war, he opened an archery range on a vacant lot near East Broadway and Tucson Boulevard. Gladys sewed green burlap covers for the hay bale targets, and the children plaited cotton thread into bowstrings.
With partner Bob Gallant, John Carroll then went into business as Gallant-Carroll Hardware and Supply.
To make ends meet, the family moved by 1947 into the Franklin home, where Gladys’ widowed mother, Henrietta, still lived.
Despite subsequent partners after Bob Gallant, and the store moving to 2525 E. Sixth St., it remained Gallant-Carroll.
Gladys opened her Host and Hostess Shop there. “Everyone got their wedding presents there,” says Chris Carroll.
John Carroll sold the store in the late 1960s. He died in 1973.
The woman he fell in love with on that Tallahassee golf course would live another 17 years, dying in 1990 in the same house where she was born.