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Pickled golf balls?

In 1938, when she was 19, my Mom had a job pickling golf balls.

She often told a vivid story of fishing the balls from a tub of boiling brine with a big mesh ladle like the ones fry cooks used. She described being burned by splashing liquid when a new batch of balls was dumped into the vat. She described days of unspeakable heat, heat so great that walking home in the July evenings was a relief.

I also have a copy of her Record of Earnings from the New York State Unemployment Insurance Service, the sort of artifact that always seems to survive while other, more valuable records disappear. Mom was paid a total of $294.27 over three quarters of the year by an employer named “Golf Ball Development, Incorporated.” This qualified her for a weekly unemployment benefit of seven bucks.

Curious about pickled golf balls, I queried the World Golf Hall of Fame and Museum, and got a prompt response. “Your mom likely was saying ‘golf ball picker’, not pickler. A golf ball picker’s job was to pick up all the golf balls that had been hit on the driving range so they could be re-used.”

An acceptable answer if we assume that Brooklyn in 1938 abounded in driving ranges, that Golf Ball Development, Incorporated ran one of these ranges, and that this was just where an orphaned Irish girl would find a job at the height of the Depression.

Otherwise, just a gap. Just one of those unfillable gaps in our past, the gaps in which most of life took place.

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