Evelyn Ryan was a woman married to an alcoholic with a bad temper. More often than not, a large portion of his paycheck was spent on booze before he even got it home. The Ryans had ten children, a large number even for the 1950s. What was a woman to do?
Evelyn’s options were limited, as their church didn’t permit divorce, and abusiveness was acceptable in those times. She did have a flair for writing, and she used it to enter contests for product jingles. Over the years, she won an astonishing amount of cash and prizes, which she used to feed the family and help pay the bills. This biographical tale, written by one of her daughters, is nothing short of amazing.
The story of the Ryan family was made into a movie in 2005. It was very well-done, and did not deviate from the book, although obviously there was much more detail in the book.
By the age of five, I had grown used to seeing Mom, pencil behind her right ear, spend hours each day at the ironing board. She often said that she did her best work while ironing, her hands working on one chore, her head on another. On the squared end of the board, where the iron stood upright, Mom kept an open notebook of current contest jingles and entries in various stages of completion…
Each evening after the last supper dish had been washed and put away – never an easy task since we used every plate in the house – Mom would grab her notebook and sit down at the end of the couch to produce more entries. Inevitably she fell asleep after a few minutes, notebook on her lap, postage stamps and other effluvia on contesting slipping out of the pages and onto the floor. Each new year, Mom started a new notebook to fill with entries that might go nowhere or all the way to the top.