One evening Maxine got a phone call from a friend who was from her home town, Florence Kansas. He was in the army and had just returned from the European war. He was in a tank force in North Africa with General George Pattan and had been wounded and was transferred to a base in Topeka. She asked him to come by to visit and thatís how I met Jean. I didnít pay to much attention to him because I thought Maxine was interested in him. Jean called me sometime the following week and asked me to go to a movie with him. I asked Maxine about her relationship with him and she assured me that he was only a friend so I said OK to the movie invitation. Jean and I started dating exclusively shortly thereafter.
Why Jean spelled his name Jean instead of Gene was one of the first things I asked him. He told me that his parents had a baby boy who died at birth and his mane was John. When they adopted Jean they named him Jean which they thought was French for John.
Jean went home with me many weekends and I spent a lot of weekends in Florence. Seneca was in the eastern part of Kansas and the farms there were what they called dirt farming. The farms around Seneca were very work intensive whereas Florence Kansas was in the south west part of the state and they raised cattle on the large rolling plains. Jean and I had a feud about who lived in the best town. Seneca was the county seat with two thousand people whereas Florence only had eight hundred souls. I realized how small and tight knit his home town was when Iíd telephone Jean. The telephone operator would tell me that Jean wasnít home because she just saw him go to the Jenkins drug store. The drug store was the local hang out for the young adults in the community. Thatís where anyone home for a visit from the armed services or home from their work in the city went to find out the latest news about their friends.
Florence was an old historic town made famous by the Santa Fe Railroad and the first Harvey house along the rails. A Harvey house was a cafť and hotel combination located next to the railroad to feed and house the many passengers who had a layover or had to change trains.
Florence was still an old time western town where you could easily imagine Wyatt Earp walking down the main street. A lot of the buildings in that part of the country were built of cut limestone blocks. The Horner hotel was one of the most beautiful buildings in town. The interior had a large walnut staircase off the main lobby. The cafť in the hotel was the only cafť in town so if you went out to eat thatís where you went. Jean took me there on one of my first trips to Florence. Jean knew almost everyone in the place so he spent the evening introducing me to everyone.
The catholic church was across the street from his parents so it wasnít a problem getting to church. Jean was not a catholic so I went to mass by myself. Jeans mother was not very happy about Jean dating a catholic girl but she didnít say anything to me.
We also spent many evening visiting Jeans friends the McLindens. They lived on a ranch ten miles from Florence. The ranch was an original homestead that they bought from Jimís grandfather. I donít know how many acres they owned but it was enough for them to raise Hereford cattle and make a decent living. Jim and Jean kept Lenora and I laughing at the stories they told, some real and some imaginary.