My grandfather, Thomas Henry Sanders, worked at Rudge-Whitworth in England, a bicycle manufactory in Coventry, England and left because of a broken heart. His best friend who also worked at Rudge-Whitworth got the girl. They stayed good friends! My grandfather took a job teaching finance in Japan. I guess you could do that in those days! Work at a bike company one month and be teaching finance the next.
Actually it wasn’t quite that way, he managed to get a BA and a Masters degree at the University of Birmingham. Anyway he took flight via steamship to Japan where he taught at the Higher Commercial School in Yamaguchi. He met my grandmother Anna Gertrude Schulz while hiking Mount Fuji. My grandmother was similarly on an escape trajectory from her life on a large family farm in Ohio where she was expected to marry and work the rest of her days. Instead, she put herself through Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, by being a house servant to a doctor’s wife. Upon graduation, she went to Japan as a missionary and found herself on her day off with a group of expatriates of all descriptions climbing Mount Fuji.
When the rain drops began, ever the Englishman, my grandfather produced his umbrella and sheltered her for seven miles. Yep that’s courtship 1914 style! And they were married right away! It did the trick. He said, “You can get to know a lot about another person walking 7 miles in the rain.” They came to the United States in 1917. When Nana married Pop, she lost her US citizenship – which was the law back then. Women lost their citizenship upon marriage to a “foreigner.” Men did not.
She became a British subject, and he retained his British citizenship. When they settled in the US and applied for US citizenship, his application was processed first. When he took her to Lexington & Concord in Massachusetts – to tour the site of the “shot heard round the world” — the beginning of the American Revolution against England, Pop said, “Look Gerty, this is where we beat you in the first battle of the revolution.”
And a final thing about Pop and Nana. He was 5’4″ and she was 5’8″ and we always thought of them as the biggest people alive. He had a big heart and a wonderful sense of humor and a quiet personality that filled the room. Nana also had a big heart but had the severity of many an olden day missionary. Life was serious business. So they were wonderful balances to each other. He kept her from being too serious, and she gave him a fresh start.
As an older person, I realize that my grandpa might have been sad, and maybe my grandma helped him with that – not only because he didn’t get his first sweetheart, but because all of his sisters lost their sweethearts in the Great War. Only one of the four of his sisters married, and she to a Scotsman! That’s how desperate the young women of the early 1900s in England were for suitable men to marry! Of course we all know nowadays that such prejudice is nonsense, but back then… Auntie May was really stooping! Story shared by: Rebecca Sanders