Charlene Quint remembers Clyde

Jan 19, 2010

Almost all of my memories of my childhood and early adulthood included the Vetters.  My dad, Dick Quint, whom Bud called “Quintless,” considered Bud one of his closest pals and the entire Vetter family as his own adopted family.  While his friends called him Sarge, Bud or Clyde, to me he was always Mr. Vetter.

As a kid, we enjoyed wonderful weekend getaways at Lake Sara, where a sign at the front of the lake property leading to a bumpy dirt road aptly stated: “Sarge’s Mess.”  Mr. Vetter had invited a bunch of guys, including my dad, to help him build a lake house, and when it was finished, we happily came to share in the fun.  The lake house had a huge tree swing that, if one jumped just right, one landed in the lake.  If one didn’t, it meant mortal injury, or – like me – a scraped back.  Mr. Vetter taught me how to water ski on that lake.  When I didn’t quite get it right after the first 10 or 15 tries, Dick jumped in, with all his clothes on, to show me how it was done.  Mrs. Vetter never seemed to mind all the commotion that came with guests and kids and dogs and who knows what else.  She delighted in passing along her little tidbits of wisdom to the young audience consisting of my sister Kathy and me. I remember her showing me how she hid her jewelry and valuables (in the bottom of the dog food bin or in the freezer) so that if someone broke in, they wouldn’t find it. 

When I was about seven or eight, my parents bought me a Schwinn bicycle for my birthday.  It was blue, but I wanted sissy bars and a pink and white banana seat.  Mr. Vetter told me that it was $10 extra, but that if I came into his bicycle shop every Saturday morning for a month and dusted all the bicycles in the shop, then he would sell them to me.  I didn’t realize that part of the deal was to scratch Mr. Vetter’s head for an hour after I had dusted all the bikes.  But after I got used to that idea, I realized that it was a fun place to hang out for the day.  Mr. Vetter’s multitude of friends would stop in to chew the fat, and he always had a number of good-looking boys who worked on the bikes.  It was a loud and busy place.  Mostly loud because of Mr. Vetter, who had a booming voice.  We could always count on him to tell things exactly as he saw them – no sugar coating, no political correctness.

Since Mr. Vetter and my dad were always working on a project, whether it was building a house or rebuilding a car, I just assumed that all men knew how to build or fix anything. My dad and I spent one summer putting a new engine in an old green van.  He had bought it to give to one of the Vetter kids, but it needed a new engine.  I think that might have come from a junkyard (which seemed to be another favorite spot of Mr. Vetter and my dad). And so, I thought everyone spent their summers hanging out in junk yards and working with their dad on cars and things.

Mr. Vetter never went anywhere without his dog, his truck, or his toothpick.  The first dog I remember was a German Shepherd named Taz.  When the Vetters would come to visit Rantoul after they had moved to Naples, we would often dog sit, since we had a fence in our back yard.  But my mother would never let the dogs in the house.  One night, poor Arkie (a golden retriever) was so lonesome and homesick that he wouldn’t stop howling – it was just pitiful.  I awoke the next morning to find my dad sleeping outside in the yard under the apple tree lying next to Arkie to keep him company.  That’s a real pal.

When I was about nine, the Vetters decided to move to Florida.  I was very disappointed.  I helped Mrs. Vetter clean out some boxes from the warehouses that they owned, and she gave me a beautiful glamorous nightgown that she had had from the 1940’s when she was first married.  Since she was so small, it fit me, and I thought I was quite fashionable in it.  She also gave me a real seal jacket that they had brought back from Alaska.  Now, that was cool!

The disappointment turned to joy when my dad announced that for our family Christmas vacation that year we would be visiting the Vetters at their house in Golden Gate by Naples.  Their first house had a pool, which Mr. Vetter refused to heat, so all our lips turned blue when we swam.  Mr. and Mrs. V took us shelling on their boat, and Mrs. Vetter had a wonderful collection of shells and taught me each kind by name.  We continued visiting nearly every Christmas until I was well into college.  By this time, they had built what we called “the tree house” since it looked like it was on stilts and the living quarters were mostly on the second floor.  Nearly the entire house was surrounded by a second floor porch which was good for observing the wildlife that would come and visit. 

During our visits, my dad and Mr. V would spend hours at flea markets or in Mr. V’s garage working on some project, but I just wanted to hang out with Mrs. V, who I thought was absolutely magical.  She reminded me a bit of Cinderella’s fairy godmother, who was short and plump and always made everything right.  She always had a fun laugh, worked on amazingly hard puzzles, was an eternal optimist, seemed to know a little bit about everything, and made everyone she met feel lucky just to be around her.  When everyone else had gone out or gone to bed, we would sneak into the kitchen and grab some midnight ice cream or something good and chocolatey.  She made me promise not to tattle on our “clandestine” activities.  When I was about 20 and all grown up (or so I thought), I made the mistake (once) of calling her Doris.  She let me know that I could call her Mrs. Vetter.

When my husband Tom and I bought a vacation home in Naples, I was thrilled to be able to visit Mr. and Mrs. Vetter and Arlene and her family when we spent time in Naples.  I could always count on a good old-fashioned bear hug and an embarrassing question from Mr. Vetter.  It was usually something like, “Hey! How’s that first husband of yours?” asked right in front of Tom (who thankfully grinned and took it good-naturedly).   And of course I could count on the familiar laugh and hospitality of Mrs. Vetter.

Thanks for being a part of my life and a good buddy to my dad.  He loved you.  God bless you, Mr. Vetter.

This page updated

Jan 20, 2010