Jack the Giant Killer

by , under Fiction Prompts, Friday Fictioneers

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.

 

Friday Fictioneers

 

From the Arizona Daily Star:

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.

  1. ellenbest24

    More! I thirst for more, you left in that place wher my mind tangled with your thoughts and now i have the day to toss scenarios to the wind. I fill precious pages of my christmas gifted notebooks with alternatives and all I want is the end…

    Reply
    • J Hardy Carroll

      My grandfather met my grandmother on a Florida golf course in 1927 and fell immediately in love. She was the daughter of a prominent Arizona family and had a master’s degree from Wellesley; he was the son of Alabama sharecroppers with a fifth-grade education. He drove in a Model T from Pensacola to Tucson across a country with no highways and few marked roads, writing her almost every day. To educate himself he had bought Dr. Eliot’s Five-Foot Shelf of books, and would often pepper his letters with quotes from things he had learned. He signed each letter with “Jack the Giant Killer” and a small skull and crossbones. As a boy, I always wondered why she called him Jack in private, and didn’t find out until after she died. I don’t know what became of the letters, but I read them many times. It was an adventure traveling across the country in those days. In one letter he described breaking an axle and walking eight miles to a farm where he bought a wagon axle and hired a team to take it and the Ford into a neighboring town for repairs. He had no money, so he lived in the town doing repairs for a couple weeks until he had paid the debt off. I think the journey took more than three months.

      Reply
        • J Hardy Carroll

          Oh it’s an epic for sure. The family came to Arizona in 1880, so there’s a lot there. My dad always wanted to write a history of the family, but he had a hard time making himself write. There are a lot of notes and transcripts, but because it’s family I have been hesitant to tackle it. I think it could be something like Angle of Repose or East of Eden, should I ever get around to it. Thanks for the sweet comment.

          Reply
  2. michael1148humphris

    I hope that all people have a magical moment hidden in the past, for me it does not distract from a kind life. Lovely story with great images

    Reply
  3. Lynn Love

    Oh, I love that. Signing with a skull and cross bones – what kind of chap does that? One we want to know more about, of course. 🙂 Just read your reply to Rochelle. So this is based on fact – it’s amazing. Whay was he driving across the country? For work? Lovely tale and well told

    Reply
  4. Sandra

    Oh the joys of reading other people’s letters after they’ve gone, and finding out there were aspects of their lives that you never knew about. And of course, too late to ask now. Good one.

    Reply
  5. Sandra Conner

    Oh, I love it. But then after I read your response to Rochelle and discovered that the author of the letters really was your grandfather, that gave me a whole different story to contemplate. What a great heritage of love you have.

    Reply
  6. spicedmullings

    Very beautiful story. For a minute I thought it was a German who wrote it. Read your explanation and thought differently.
    So finally she didn’t marry the blue collar worker!

    Reply
  7. Michael Wynn

    Great story made all the more interesting by the detail you reveal in the comments. Like others I think this could make a fantastic longer piece

    Reply

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