In Response to: David Morgan Firestone ’53 [6]

Things concerning Princeton have been a thread throughout my life that has been rewarding, fulfilling, and certainly inspiring. I now live in Montana, where the sky is large and blue, and I can see the Bridger Mountains from my back windows. I’ve been pushing back tears since I read the memorial for David Morgan Firestone ’53 (July 15). Funny how some little thing makes you realize that so many years and events have gone by, and here you are alive and well and remembering 1945 better than where I put my reading glasses.

I thought about writing the widow of Morgan, but I wouldn’t mean a thing to her. I even wonder if Morgan would have remembered me. He was my first kiss, and I do believe I was his. We both lived in Akron (rubber’s hometown). My father was an executive with the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., and of course, Morgan was a Firestone. Morgan’s older brother Russell dated my sister, Patricia, and I dated Morgan. Russell was old enough to drive and Morgan was not, though a chauffeur driving one of those fabulous “woody” Ford station wagons took Morgan and me wherever we wanted to go. Several times Morgan and the chauffeur picked me up after school at the back door of John R. Buchtel High School. This happened enough that my class yearbook’s “Will and Prophecy” willed me to “whoever can afford her.” In the winter the Firestone family spent time at their winter home in Miami Beach. The house and property eventually were sold, and now the Fontainebleau Hotel stands where their house used to be. Morgan wrote me letters from there. I wish I had kept them – why would I ever have thrown them away?

One day when Morgan was home from school, he and the driver picked me up after school and took me to his grandfather Harvey Firestone’s horse stable. (St. Paul’s Episcopal Church now stands on that property.) Morgan had asked me if I could ride and I said “yes,” which was extremely foolish of me. Yes, I had ridden a horse at Tommy Hughes’ stables an hour at a time on Saturday mornings with a group of kids learning how to walk, trot, and canter. But those horses were bent to the burden and not the likes of the horseflesh that I saw behind the monogrammed brass-plated stalls at the Firestone stable.

The grooms were in elegant riding clothes with high black boots and hard hats. I was in blue jeans and tennis shoes, like a lamb being walked to the slaughter. I think I owned a black velvet hardhat, and I was wearing it. I had no idea of the horse world that I had walked into that afternoon. It was a world I had never seen. I don’t believe that in 1945 anyone in Akron had a stable like that. 1 was so dumb, so out of my element, but delighted to be there (my mother was ecstatic). Morgan led me to a stall with this enormous white stallion (his grandfather’s favorite horse), and then led this magnificent beast out of the stall and proceeded to help me mount this giant. Well, I guess I’ve always had guts, but that was not at all smart. This absolutely beautiful stallion, which probably had not been out of the barn all winter, walked about three steps with me astride behind Morgan on his horse and then proceeded to take the bit in his mouth and start out across the fields at a gallop, with me holding on for dear life. We left Morgan far behind and I was at a loss as to how to even slow the horse down, let alone get it to stop. I just held on. I think I leaned down and put my arms around its neck. Morgan caught us and led us back to the stable. I really don’t remember seeing Morgan after that. Small wonder!

Morgan went to Princeton and I went to Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., where our Southern-born father sent all three daughters to be finished. I used to say to my children, “I’m not sure whether your mother was finished or finished!”

Years later, in some airport or some such place, I was just standing waiting for someone or something. Hands went around my eyes and a kindly male voice said quietly, “Who was the first boy you ever kissed?” I turned around, and there was Morgan. That’s the end of my memories with Morgan.

The memorial leaves many questions like “he pursued many interests” – wonder what they were? Writing this has helped. I’m so glad I knew him and I'm so sorry he is gone; 77 is really not that old. It’s wonderful to live a long time: You experience so many denouements.   
How I would have loved to have gone to Princeton. My two daughters graduated from Harvard and Wellesley. In 1949, when I was 18, women didn’t go to Princeton. And even if they had, I doubt I would have been smart enough to be admitted. I think life made me smarter as I went along, and for a time at about 50 or so, I might have been able to do it. Now at 77 it is certainly questionable. I have a “bucket list” that includes speaking French moderately well and getting a degree from Princeton. The French seems more attainable than the Princeton degree at this point.

While an employee at Princeton as the undergraduate secretary in East Asian Studies I did take a number of courses for credit, and maintained a B or better average. However, the homework in one of Professor Billington’s classes in the engineering school was beyond me. I even had a tutor who asked me about tangents and cosigns, and I said I’d heard of them! I receive PAW as a friend of the Class of ’35. I am a friend of the class because in 1985, when my husband Henry Patton was celebrating his 50th reunion, I made a quilt for him of 50 years of reunion jackets. It took me two years to complete, but of all the things I have sewn in my life, this will last the longest, for it hangs behind glass at the entrance of Frist commons on the stairway. What a wonderful honor. It makes me happy just to think of it hanging there every day.