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Grumpy Uncle Von (aka “GUV”)

Uncle Von and Gene was my introduction to luxurious living.  They drove Lincoln Continentals, one of which was a convertible.  Their homes in Palm Springs and Laguna Beach were spacious and beautifully furnished.  Uncle Von was my first wife Nancy’s favorite uncle and his life long partner, Gene, was right up there.  Uncle Von and Gene was our introduction to the LGBTQ community.  They were in the ceramics business.  In the beginning, they manufactured every day ashtrays and dishes.  After the War (WWII), the market was flooded with Made in Japan products, including ceramic ware.  Vohann of California was almost put out of business by the Japanese imports.  They were rescued  by an innovative, imaginative business plan—go high end where they found a niche market for their products.  Playful and creative designs coupled with an unheard of spectrum of bright colors, Vohann manufactured swinging ashtrays, hooded ashtrays and other ceramic products for the bathroom and kitchen.  Their factory was in Capistrano Beach, CA.  And their predominantly Mexican immigrant employees were treated well by Von and Gene.  Their beautiful, spacious, ocean view home was perched high on the hills of Laguna Beach.  We loved visiting, especially staying in their beautiful home.  They entertained us royally with food and drink; and we slept in luxurious beds.

A new challenge was presented when our 3 children were born.  Uncle Von’s attitude towards children was a variation on “children are to be seen, not heard.”  He expected children to learn how to live in an adult world, no matter their age.  So when children visited their beautiful home, Uncle Von refused to move or change anything in the house, to not put away any of the valuable art pieces.  Parents were responsible for making sure that their children behaved. 

In preparation for our children’s first visit to Uncle Von and Gene’s home in Laguna Beach, we firmly prepared the children for what to expect and how to behave, namely, don’t touch any of the breakables, which were practically everything within reach of little hands.  The children arrived tensed, but very well behaved.  At our very first dinner, we sat down around a glass top dining table, set with china plates, and sterling silverware, crystal water glasses and linen napkins.  We enjoyed (better, we survived) the gourmet meal.  The children were wonderful.  At the end of the meal, the children demonstrated their best manners by helping to clear their dishes to the kitchen.  Stephen very carefully climbed down from his chair and carried his china plate to the kitchen; but on the way he tripped and fell, smashing the plate to pieces as he hit the stone tile floor.  He burst into tears immediately and was inconsolable.  Finally when the dust (literally) settled, all of us returned to the dining table for dessert.  You could cut the tension in the air with a knife.  We ate our dessert silently until Jason broke the silence with a question directed at Uncle Von:  “Do you know why you don’t have any children?”  The adults gasped in shock!  Recovering after a seeming eternity of tense silence, I responded to Jason, “No, why don’t Uncle Von and Gene have any children?”  Jason confidently answered: “Well, it’s simple.  If you get rid of all of your breakables, you will have children!”  It was a totally different atmosphere in the house after that; and much more free and relaxed on the many subsequent visits after that eventful night.  Thanks to Jason, and of course, to Stephen. 

2 thoughts on “Grumpy Uncle Von (aka “GUV”)”

  1. What a poignant tale of “out of mouths of babes!” They are so smart.
    You and Nancy must have been super parents to have been able to teach Jason and Stephen to behave so well.

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