Reality Check

My mother’s latest lover, entrepreneur Henry Sperling, drove a gleaming, silver-gray Pierce-Arrow sedan with sleek, fender-mounted headlamps. I rode in it once. And I thought it was awesome.


My mother and Henry Sperling had crossed paths again at a club in downtown Portland. One friendly nightcap had led to another. Soon, they began going out together, quietly dining around. The chemistry sparked. And their occasional dinner dates blossomed into a heated, full-blown affair.

One problem, however: He was married.

That didn’t stop the ingenious money-man. He rented a small cottage near Ladd Park as a Pied-a-terre for their midweek trysts. And he showered her with attention in the months that followed, leading up to an overwhelming surprise on her 37th birthday—or maybe it was her 38th. He presented her with the keys to a shiny, yellow and chrome, two-door Hudson-Terraplane, parked out front.

My mother was astonished—and ecstatic. When she drove her new car home that night, I joined with her in the excitement. We danced around the dining room table.

My mother accompanied Sperling on several trips, too: I think they sometimes drove up to Olympia or Seattle. Once, I know they traveled the full length of the Oregon coast from Astoria to Gold Beach. Another time, in that elegant Pierce-Arrow, he took her along with him on a business trip—all the way to San Francisco. It was my mother’s first visit to California. She said they stayed at the Mark Hopkins on Nob Hill, with a lofty room looking out over the bay towards the Golden Gate Bridge.

Before returning to Portland, they also headed up over the High Sierra for a holiday in Reno. Both of them still shared a kindred interest in the gaming tables.

No question about it, those were playful, devil-may- care days for my mother. A time of strong emotion and fairy-tale dreams. It ended with the inevitable let-down.

Somehow, Mrs. Henry Sperling learned about the Hudson-Terraplane. That blew it. Almost overnight, the entire affair unraveled. My grandmother told me later that Sperling’s wife issued her philandering husband a bitter ultimatum, “Give up your mistress—-now. Or, I’m filing for divorce. And believe me, I’ll take you for everything you’ve got.”

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