Pen Pals meet under unusual circumstances
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.