After a stint in the Dutch army in the 1920s, Carl Verkoy (1904-1988) worked as a bookseller in the quaint Dutch city of Haarlem. He always kept a photo of himself, as a soldier in uniform, atop the fireplace mantel. In his dry, laconic style, Carl would smile and proudly display the photo, as he announced, “This is a photo of me, when I was making the world safe for democracy.” And then he would bend over, point at his hind end and very soberly add, “Go ahead, you can kick me now!”

A confirmed bachelor who sensed war was imminent in the Netherlands in the late 1930s, Carl decided it was best to leave Holland and set sail for the United States. He immigrated to America in 1939 and took his first job, working the graveyard shift as a bellhop at the prestigious Drake Hotel in Chicago.

The hotel had a frequent guest, a man from a modest upbringing in the Pacific Northwest. This man was a very gregarious and lyrical sort, who always treated the employees like they were royalty, even as he would stagger, inebriated, into the hotel lobby, at 4 a.m. Carl would help him up to his room.

One evening before starting his shift, Carl was called into the manager’s office. He was told to close the door and sit down. The manager looked across his desk and sternly told Carl that he was not to tell anyone about the guest’s inebriated state, or he would be fired and perhaps face legal consequences.

Carl promised the manager he would tell no one. Carl had no idea who this guest was, anyway. Besides, it seemed to him that this gentleman’s state of intoxication was of a personal nature, not to be trumpeted.

Carl later learned that this gentleman, Bing Crosby, was a very popular chap in the United States — and a Catholic to boot.

***

Mildred, a petite 26-year-old from Montana, worked as a hostess at the Drake. She took Carl to a sheet music store in downtown Chicago, where he became familiar with the music of Bing Crosby. Carl was very fond of Crosby’s voice. He began purchasing as many Bing Crosby records as he could find.

Carl soon began dating Mildred. Many an evening after work at the hotel, Mildred would come up to Carl’s apartment to read his books and listen to his records. The two married in 1941, about the time Carl enlisted in the U.S. Army. Because of his relatively advanced age — 37 — the Army directed him instead to work in the shipyards in either Los Angele or Portland. Carl opted for Portland and the two moved to the West Coast. Mildred’s 10-year-old daughter, June, was in a children’s home in Chicago. After completing her fourth-grade year, June came out to Portland, alone, on a train. One of the workers on the train watched over the little girl to see that she was safe. It was a different time.

Van der Hout attends St. Pius X Church and Mount Angel Abbey Church.