'We're still here'

— Harry and Kay Leh­man of Ta­cony just cel­eb­rated 70 years of mar­riage. Their love story began on a dance floor.

Kay and Harry Leh­man cel­eb­rate their 70th wed­ding an­niversary, and re­call all the dif­fi­culties and tri­umphs they en­countered along the way, Wed­nes­day, June 27, 2012, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)


Harry Leh­man re­calls a night back in 1939 or ’40 that he spent at the old High Hat Cafe at Sixth and Dia­mond streets.

There, his friends in­tro­duced him to a young wo­man named Cath­er­ine “Kay” Por­ubovic. She hadn’t yet reached the leg­al drink­ing age of 21.

“They waived it back in those days,” Harry ex­plained.

Any­way, the couple had a good time.

“I was dan­cing with her, and then I said, ‘Sup­pose I take you home,’ ” he said.

As Harry, of Kens­ing­ton, drove Kay to her Fishtown home, they planned their of­fi­cial first date.

“We went to the Mid­way Theat­er. That used to be a very nice movie at one time. A lot of people went there on Sat­urday nights,” Harry said of the famed former theat­er at Kens­ing­ton and Al­legheny av­en­ues.

Even­tu­ally, Harry pro­posed to Kay.

“It was Christ­mas time. I gave her a big box. She opened it, and there was an­oth­er box and an­oth­er box and an­oth­er box un­til the ring,” he said.

Kay wanted to wait un­til she was 21 to get mar­ried. On June 20, 1942, they wed at St. Peter the Apostle Church, at Fifth Street and Gir­ard Av­en­ue.

“We’re still here,” Harry said.

Two weeks ago, Harry and Kay Leh­man, long­time Ta­cony res­id­ents, cel­eb­rated their 70th wed­ding an­niversary. The couple’s fam­ily — they have three chil­dren, nine grand­chil­dren (who call them Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop) and five great-grand­chil­dren (who call them Gigi and Poppy) mdash; took them to din­ner at Randi’s Res­taur­ant in Bustleton.

One of their prized gifts came from their grandkids, who gave them a bas­ket filled with 70 pen­nies, nick­els, dimes, quar­ters and dol­lar bills and a $70 gift card to Shop-Rite.

Look­ing back, Kay said she’s glad she went that night to the High Hat Cafe, where she met her fu­ture hus­band.

“I fell for his dan­cing. He was a good dan­cer,” she said.

After get­ting mar­ried, they hon­ey­mooned in New York.

“We took in the whole town,” aid Harry, not­ing that they vis­ited the Em­pire State Build­ing and saw box­er Jack De­mp­sey at his bar/res­taur­ant. 

The couple ren­ted a house for a few years, and Harry spent some time in the U.S. Navy.

The Lehmans moved to their cur­rent rowhome on the 6500 block of Cot­tage St. in 1952.

“We bought it brand new. It cost $9,590,” Harry said.

Harry, who at­ten­ded the old North­east High School at Eighth Street and Le­high Av­en­ue, drove a truck for 30 years. Later, he worked as a se­cur­ity guard at PSFS and West­ern Sav­ings Bank.

Kay at­ten­ded St. Peter the Apostle Gram­mar School, then en­rolled in a trade school, where she learned to make cloth­ing. She worked in dress factor­ies over the years.

The couple raised three chil­dren: Gary, Alan and Cathy, all of whom went to St. Timothy School. The boys went on to Fath­er Judge, while Cathy at­ten­ded St. Hubert.

They’re proud of the chil­dren. Harry and Kay nev­er missed a foot­ball game their boys played at St. Tim’s, Judge or Delaware Val­ley Col­lege. Today, their sons sell high school and col­lege gradu­ation memen­tos. Their daugh­ter, a Winchester Park res­id­ent and gradu­ate of Holy Fam­ily Uni­versity, is a teach­er at Our Lady of Port Rich­mond.

Harry is a healthy 93 and still drives.

“I just got a let­ter from the state say­ing I’m a good driver,” he said.

Harry re­calls be­ing told by a doc­tor about 15 years ago that he needed quad­ruple-by­pass heart sur­gery.

“I said, ‘Do it after Christ­mas,’ ” he re­mem­bers. “He said, ‘You won’t be here after Christ­mas.’ I said, ‘Do it to­mor­row.’ He did it to­mor­row. I said, ‘Do you work for All­state?. I want to know if I’m in good hands.’ ”

Kay, who is as old-fash­ioned as they come, takes count­less pills each day and has ur­vived double pneu­mo­nia, heart fail­ure, lupus and a car ac­ci­dent, but she is an act­ive 91.

“I can’t be­lieve our ages,” she said. “I can’t be­lieve I have a son who is 65. The man up­stairs doesn’t want us yet.”

The pair have done a lot of trav­el­ing over the years, go­ing on cruises and tour­ing the United States at beer can con­ven­tions. Harry has about 2,000 dif­fer­ent beer cans in his base­ment and gar­age.

“I think I’ve been to every state ex­cept Alaska,” he said.

Be­sides col­lect­ing beer cans, Harry used to like to fish.

“He got up at three o’clock in the morn­ing to go fish­ing, and I made him break­fast,” Kay said. “I wouldn’t do it today. He can go to Mc­Don­ald’s.”

“All my fish­ing bud­dies died. I’m the last one,” Harry said.

The Lehmans have been act­ive mem­bers of St. Timothy Par­ish. Harry, who con­ver­ted from Epis­co­pali­an to Cath­ol­ic, was an ush­er for 32 years.

Kay once came out of re­tire­ment after see­ing an ad in the weekly bul­let­in.

“I went to work when I was sev­enty,” she said.

Kay cared and cooked for a few people, in­clud­ing a man who had a stroke. He even­tu­ally went in­to a nurs­ing home.

“After he died, his wife asked me if I could still make filled pep­pers,” she said.

Harry, who does the laun­dry and gro­cery shop­ping, can at­test to his wife’s cook­ing skills.

“I’ll eat any­thing she makes,” he said. “She’s a good cook.”

The Lehmans stay busy.

“With nine grand­chil­dren, there’s al­ways something to do. And we’re wait­ing for our sixth great-grand­child,” Kay said.

Harry’s day in­cludes break­fast, fol­lowed by a nap, then lunch and a glass of scotch be­fore din­ner. Kay keeps a neat house and whips up tasty meals.

The two play their fa­vor­ite board game at the kit­chen table.

“We play Scrabble for pen­nies. When we hit five dol­lars, we pay each oth­er off,” Kay said.

Who usu­ally wins?

“She does. I’m a bad speller,” Harry ac­know­ledged.

The couple also get out of the house.

“We still go to the casi­nos,” Kay said, adding that a bus picks them up at nearby Roosevelt Play­ground and takes them to the Show­boat in At­lantic City.

Both play slots, with Kay hav­ing the bet­ter luck. She calls her hus­band a “donat­or.”

Kay said one secret to their suc­cess­ful mar­riage is that she “put a zip­per on my mouth and plugs in my ears.” She said her hus­band has al­ways been a hard work­er and a “go-get­ter.” She long ago stopped call­ing him Harry.

“I call him ‘Leh­man,’ ” she said. “Our one grand­daugh­ter gets a kick out of that.”

The Lehmans are still bask­ing in the glow of their latest mile­stone.

“Our kids gave us a party for our 50th, 60th and 70th an­niversar­ies,” Kay said. “We’ll nev­er make our 80th.”

“You nev­er can tell,” her hus­band said. ••


You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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