Through Any Given Door ~ Catherine Sevenau

Catherine Sevenau Catherine Sevenau is a writer, humorist, and storyteller living in Sonoma, California. The stories in this series are excerpts from her book, Through Any Given Door, a Family Memoir. The full memoir is available as a web series at A longtime Realtor and Owner/Broker at CENTURY 21 Wine Country, she can be reached at [email protected]


His moral fiber was as starched as his collar

Posted on January 12, 2022 by Catherine Sevenau

Chapter 25: 1946 • Sonora ~ Sundays were family days that were spent reading the newspaper comics, going to church, and calling on relatives. The adults played canasta and bridge; the kids, Monopoly and Chinese checkers. They went for drives and had picnics in the country with Aunt Verda’s family. Our other cousins, Joanne and Shirley Fouch (Jim and Ina’s girls) were close in age to Larry and Carleen and they visited often. Dad walked the kids to Brandi’s next to the Sonora Theatre, treating them to Cherry Colas or Green Rivers, a soda made with fizzy water and green syrup; it was Shirley’s favorite. Joanne and Shirley thought my father was a peach and a saint. He sang with them in unison, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!” He always had hard candies in his shirt pocket for the cousins, told them riddles, and sang them songs. Actually, the only song he sang was “Goodnight, Irene.” He wasn’t much of a singer.

On quiet weekend nights Carleen stayed home with Betty and Claudia while Mom and Dad took Larry along for bingo night in the church hall. From the age of ten, caring for the younger girls fell to Carleen when our folks went out or when Mom worked in the store. Caring for the house fell to her as soon as my sister could pick up a broom and a dishcloth.

Dad was partial to the girls, harder on Larry. When he was fourteen, Dad found out from Mr. Burns that Larry was in his cigar store too many times after school playing the pinball machines.

My father remembered his own long-ago flirting with gambling and pinball. He dragged my brother down to the basement of the store and used his belt on him, the only beating Larry ever remembers getting. (Carleen says he has a bad memory. He does. He forgot about the whipping he got for setting the bedroom curtains on fire.) Dad was going to beat that lesson into his son, or beat those impulses out of him. My father occasionally played Friday night poker at the Elks club, but he was careful, very careful. He hadn’t forgotten about his inability to keep his compulsion at bay, the ones he’d cast from himself as a younger man.

There were no shades of gray softening my father’s edges, he was only black and white. Nor was there deviance from the rules—on his part—or anyone else’s. Having moral fiber as starched as his collar, Dad also drew a hard line with my mother’s behavior and kept her on a short leash. She was smoking cigarettes, which he hated, and drinking some, which he also hated. He bought her anything she needed, but controlled the purse strings; she didn’t have money of her own, not even pin money, even though she worked in the store. But Mom wasn’t to be controlled; she was going to do what she wanted to do, when she wanted to do it, and Dad couldn’t stop her. This was about the time (after thirteen years of marriage, four children, and two years before my arrival) that Mother began to unravel.

To be continued…

Catherine Sevenau is a writer, humorist, and storyteller living in Sonoma, California. The stories in this series are excerpts from her book, Through Any Given Door, a Family Memoir, the full memoir is available at Catherine is an author of three books, several volumes of family genealogy, and a longtime Broker/Realtor at CENTURY 21 Epic Wine Country. She can be reached at [email protected]


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