was a charter member of the Altar and Rosary Society of Our
Lady of Perpetual Help Church, and of the Lake View Community
Association. My Mom
participated fully in the village
View, including contributing to “The
ABC’s of Cooking.” I
remember her typing recipes for this Cook Book.
She had been a legal secretary and could type at a blazing speed.
When Gene was a child, the Mayer family spent summers in Idlewood, renting
on North Creek Rd. just west Burke Road. At the end of one summer, my
grandmother declared to my grandfather, Ed
Mayer, “I don’t want to go back to Buffalo.” So, Ed bought the house
on Lake View Road
across from the Congregational Church and caught the trolley to Buffalo to
go to work.
Gene was the eldest of six Mayer children and she willingly accepted the
responsibilities that came with her status, including working to help
support the family during the Great Depression.
Probably as a result of living through the Depression era, Gene was
notorious not letting anything go to waste in her kitchen. If
the bread had gone stale, Gene soaked it in something and ate it.
If it got moldy, she cut out the moldy part, and ate the rest.
“Waste not, want not!” she would say.
In her youth, the tennis court at the Mayer’s house was a Lake
gathering place on summer days, I’m told.
Gene’s household chores allowed her little time for tennis, but
her brothers, Ed and Bob, seemed to have had plenty of time, and they were
quite good players. The story
is told about the occasion of the Notre Dame
tennis team playing at Wanakah Country Club, sometime in the 1930’s.
As I understand it, a challenge was made for a match against the
Mayer boys—and accepted. The
match took place at the Mayer’s Lake
tennis court, amid a certain amount of fanfare, one summer Sunday
afternoon. There are two
versions of who won, but in my Mom’s version, “Why, my brothers,
Edward and Robert, won!”
Gene was a devout Catholic. As
a girl, some called her the “Saint of Lake View,” and everyone figured
that she would become a Catholic nun.
Entering the convent, though, was delayed by the responsibility of
helping to support her family. Next,
one of the neighborhood tennis players, Gordon Hummel, married her.
Gordon, by the way, was no Saint!
It must be true that opposites attract, I guess, since Gordon and Gene’s
personalities were dissimilar in many respects.
Gene was matter-of-fact. Everything
had its place and had to be in its place.
She carried herself with poise and practiced proper etiquette.
Her temperament was as constant as mother earth.
Gordon was multi-faceted. His
personality was expansive but volatile, and his intellect was substantial.
He loved theater and opera, appreciated art, took great pleasure in
traveling, and read voraciously. At
the same time, he could explode in a rage in a flash.
(Somewhere we have a Brownie snapshot of him and Phil Staats, with
broken knuckles and black eyes. I
don’t know the reason for the altercation, but the occasion was the
yearly Lake View Firemen’s carnival.)
Both Gordon and Gene shared one trait equally:
Gordon had died and Gene was in her 80’s, my brother took care of her
accounts. On occasion he had
to warn her that if she continued donating to charities at the current
rate, she would soon have nothing left, and she might have to live off
Gene’s interests were simple interests—home, family, and religion.
Yet, she dutifully accompanied my father on travel adventures to
Europe, South America, Cuba (coincident with Castro’s revolution),
Japan, Egypt, India, and even an African Safari.
They always traveled first class.
She and Gordon lodged at the Palace Hotel in Madrid, drank Dom
Perignon Champagne in Reims, and ate Sacher tortes in Vienna, yet my Mom
never thought of herself as anything but ordinary.
Gordon and Gene’s last collaboration was building a retirement home in
Great Valley, in Cattaraugus County. They
built the house pretty much by themselves.
Gordon was architect, engineer, carpenter, and jobsite
foreman—Gene was the laborer. She
was already in her 60’s!
Gordon and Gene had five children and they shared over 33 years of
marriage, until Gordon’s untimely death at 58.
They never had the chance to live together in their retirement
passed away on June 6, 2003. ©
Bill Hummel 2006