Although I expected George to tell me just the story of the blue cast on his leg, he insisted on telling me his story from the beginning.
He was born right here, at Valley Hospital, in Ridgewood. When his mother went into labor in the obstetrics section of the hospital (which was much smaller in those days), his father paced nervously in the waiting room, smoking one cigarette after another, which is what men did in those days. After some time, the nurse appeared, congratulated him and told him that he had a son. He would be admitted to his wife’s room in a moment, but in the meantime, what name should she write on the birth certificate? My father was prepared for that, and told the nurse that the baby would be named George. About fifteen minutes later the nurse reappeared and congratulated him again. He was the father of another boy, and what should she enter as his name on his birth certificate? My father was not ready for this one, and not being a man of quick imagination, and thinking he could always change the name later, he told the nurse to make this second baby George B. The nurse was surprised, but did as she was told. When she came back a third time, she congratulated him again, and told him that he was the father of a set of triplets, all boys, and what should she enter as a name for this one, and again my father said, “George also. Make him George C .”
Having three boys named George was unusual, but for Valley Hospital–having delivered a set of triplets–was even more unusual, and they wanted the world to know. This was 1948, and triplets were highly unusual, although not unknown. The Dionne quintuplets had been born in 1934 to a national frenzy of publicity. Triplets weren’t quite in that league, but nevertheless, it was deemed newsworthy.
Harry S. Truman was in full campaign mode that 1948, and it wasn’t long until George and his family found themselves in the White House, being photographed with the president. There was even a photo of the three boys being held by the president in his lap. It was the photo of the whole group, with his mother, father, and the three boys with the President that was published in newspapers all over the country. That photo was still a valuable family heirloom. The years passed, and George and his two brothers grew up on Woodside Avenue rather conventionally, attending the local school and trying to make a little money doing various chores for neighbors. This was not to last, however, as his father changed jobs and moved the family to Corning, New York, to work as an engineer at the Corning Glassworks.
About two years before George told me this story, he and his brothers had met in New York City to celebrate their joint birthday after which they had boarded a train together, to visit their parents in upstate New York. It was while passing through Elmira that the accident had occurred. 187 people had died that bitter cold, winter night, among them, George’s two brothers. He had survived, but his right leg had been severed mid-thigh. When he awoke in the hospital, he now had only one leg and his two brothers were dead.
Naturally, I had to find out what happened after that, as obviously he now had two legs.