Pen Pals meet un­der un­usual cir­cum­stances

The Boyertown Area Times - - OPINION - Ca­role Christ­man Koch

I got to know 96-year-old Mary Jane (Peters) An­der­son when I lived in Fleet­wood, in the early 1970s. We both at­tended St. Paul’s UCC Church. It was Mary Jane who took me “un­der her wing” by get­ting me in­volved in church ac­tiv­i­ties. Even when I moved again, Mary Jane and I cor­re­sponded some 45 years.

Mary Jane now lives at Keystone Villa, Blan­don. She was mar­ried 72 years be­fore her hus­band, James, died. They have 4 chil­dren — Roger, David (de­ceased), Rus­sell, and Ruth — 9 grand­chil­dren, and 15 great­grand­chil­dren.

It was re­cently, in chat­ting with Mary Jane, that she told me about her in­ter­est­ing pen pal story.

Be­fore Mary Jane mar­ried, her maiden name was Peters. She en­joyed read­ing Al Capp, the car­toon­ist fea­tured Sun­day in the pa­pers. This one par­tic­u­lar Sun­day in 1937, she noted the idea for Capp’s car­toon was sub­mit­ted by a Mary Peters from Ter­mi­nal Is­land, Cal­i­for­nia.

Since she had the same name, She de­cided to try to con­tact the other Mary Peters. The two ended up hav­ing a pen pal friend­ship, but they never met in per­son.

Some­time af­ter Mary Jane’s mar­riage, in chat­ting with her friend, Con­nie, she told her how another Mary Peters and her­self be­came pen pals, but never met. Con­nie sug­gested con­tact­ing Truth or Con­se­quences (a TV game show that pro­moted sur­prise re­unions), as she thought the pen pal story was neat. The of­fi­cials of the TV show even­tu­ally con­tacted the Fleet­wood Mary and asked her to write up the story to con­firm the Al Capp part. Mary Jane checked her scrap­book and found the Al Capp car­toon and sent the of­fi­cials her story.

Af­ter another wait­ing pe­riod, Char­lie, an of­fi­cial from the show, con­tacted Con­nie, who Mary Jane now calls “the con­niver,” and asked Con­nie to fab­ri­cate a story to get Mary Jane to her house, with­out know­ing he was from the show. He wanted to know her per­son­ally about how she’d do on TV.

Char­lies did show up at Con­nie’s house. He in­tro­duced him­self as a soap sales­man to both Con­nie and Mary Jane. It turned out Mary Jane must have been “talk­a­tive” enough that he had no qualms about her be­ing on the show.

Mean­while, the of­fi­cial from the show, con­tacted and fab­ri­cated another story in or­der to meet and get to know the Mary Peters from Cal­i­for­nia.

Thus it was that on March of 1962, on the 25th an­niver­sary of the two pen pals (now mar­ried) were about to meet each other for the first time on “Truth or Con­se­quences.” In the au­di­ence that day were the two Mary Peters. The one from Cal­i­for­nia was with her daugh­ter. Prior to the show, the of­fi­cial, asked the au­di­ence for vol­un­teers. The Mary Peters, who knew what was go­ing on, raised her hand. The other Mary Peter’s daugh­ter raised her Mom’s hand, and yelled, “Mom will do it.” Now the two were on stage with the em­cee, Bob Barker. He asked them to guess per­sonal ques­tions about the other. The Mary from Cal­i­for­nia was as­tounded that the other woman on stage with her, “guessed” so many right an­swers about her, such as “I’ll bet she loves to read and write.” Af­ter the fi­nal ques­tion, Barker in­tro­duced the two pen pals who never met. It was a joy­ous re­union.

Also, in the au­di­ence to see the show, was Mary Jane’s hus­band, James, and her friend, Con­nie. Mary Jane even won a re­frig­er­a­tor on the show, plus a week’s stay at a ho­tel, so the two Mary Peters could visit a bit, as well as do some tour­ing.

Mary Jane vis­ited the other Mary again in 1964 and 1979. They were pen pals some 70 years, when the other Mary died in 2007 at 101 years old. Mary told me “The Truth or Con­se­quences show was the high­light of her life.”

The two Mary Peters met thanks to the TV show “Truth of Con­se­quences” in 1962.

Mary Jane An­der­son, 2016.

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