It is hard to capture the memories sometimes. They seems to get “dusty” from the years of assimilation. The “you” of today is a sum total of all of those moments in time and I marvel at just how different I am now than when I first met my husband for the first time.
In 1969, I was 16 years old. I was busy with school and I worked at my father’s company to pick up spending money.
It was the year that I got contact lenses and happily bid “farewell” to wearing my glasses. I remember begging my dad for those contacts. He wasn’t going to be persuaded because he had just bought new glasses for me and that was “good enough”. But, I was a determined sort. I asked if I could have them if I paid for them. My dad agreed thinking that I would never save that large amount of money… I was paid $1.50/hour.
In those days, contact lenses were made from a hard plastic substance and I was told that I would have to build up callouses on my eye lids before I could take them home.
Everyday after school, I would walk the few blocks to the optometrist’s office, he would put them in my eyes. For the next 30 minutes, my eyes would tear so badly that I couldn’t see a thing. I could barely open my eyes.
After the first week, the optometrist suggested that I may be one of the few that could not wear contact lenses. I told him that I had to work and save $300 ( a lot of money in those days) because my father refused to buy the lenses.
I had scrubbed and cleaned the office of the sawmill that my dad owned. I had given up my tutoring position at the elementary school so that I could work more than weekends. I had gotten pneumonia because I had used ammonia to cut the grease that was tracked in on the guys’ boots. I learned how do payroll and general office work and I hated it.
I paid more than money for those contacts and I was not leaving without them. I told him, “Stick them in. I am going to wear contacts!”
By the second week, the tears were not as plentiful and I could put the lenses in and take them out (which wasn’t easy) of my eyes. At that point, I was allowed to take them home with a schedule to build up my wearing time. I was told that if I didn’t follow the schedule exactly, I would ulcerate the corneas of my eyes and that would be most painful. It was.
Being free from those glasses was the first time in my life that I felt pretty. That fact alone made it worth all that I did to be able to get rid of those glasses.
I was a “sheltered” kind of kid. I didn’t know or understand the things that were happening in the world in 1969. I just went to church, to school, did my homework, sang in choir, clean the offices at my father’s company; that was my life in 1969… Oh, I forgot to mention, I also got my driver’s liscense and I had a new 1969 red and black Ford Fairlane to drive so my parents didn’t have to take me anywhere. It was the closest thing to freedom that I had ever experienced and I liked it.
So, let it be said that I was the that “good girl” that songs were written about at that time. I came from a “good” family and I was expected to get good grades because I was college bound and to do nothing that would change or “blemish” the family name. (Like steal, cheat or lie…or get pregnant.) It was a different time than today and I also had older parents. There were of the WWII generation and they held those traditions.
I was allowed to date at 16 years old, but I didn’t date because no one asked me. I was surrounded by boy cousins and I was not “boy” crazy like a lot of my girlfriends. I was busy and I was not “fascinated” by boys. My cousins stripped any mystery about boys for me. I was one of the “guys” when I was around them, so I didn’t see what the big deal was all about to have a boyfriend.
Besides, most of the boys I knew that weren’t in school or at church worked for my father and being the “Boss’ Daughter” keep many guys from asking me out. It was a “hedge of protection” that was more like the Berlin Wall.
But, at 17, I decided that I needed to find out what all of the excitement was about and I started to date. I began dating a guy who was in Advanced Choir with me which meant that he was also in the musicals that we put on every year. He was a year younger than me and he had the “guts” to ask me out. It wasn’t long before we were going “steady”.
All that going steady meant was I didn’t date anyone else and he didn’t either. My how things have changed from then to now!
There was nothing all that physical expected and besides, I would have hurt him if he tried anything other than a kiss. Remember, I was raised with boy cousins and I didn’t mind planting a “hay-maker” on a guy if they tried anything out of line. Besides, I had boy cousins that would finish whatever I started. I was very secure.
This boyfriend and I spent a lot of time together. I would help him with his homework. He wasn’t old enough to drive or have a job, so if we went anywhere, it was in my car and I paid for it.
That didn’t happen often because my parents were “old fashioned” and quite strict. They frowned on me being the one that did all of the “dating”. I wasn’t allowed to talk on the phone for more than 5 minutes. My mother set the timer on the stove. When it went off, I had to get off of the phone. No exceptions, no arguments…just get off of the phone! If I didn’t, then I didn’t get to go anywhere or do anything.
I noticed the new boy, the preacher’s son, at church. He had been here a year but I was going steady and that meant that I wasn’t suppose to talk to him or pay him any attention. I didn’t.
I was busy with school work, leads in musicals, tutoring at the elementary school and going to work. No time to think too much about anything else…oh, yes, there was the standard date on Friday or Saturday night. I was never allowed to go out both nights and of course, there was church… my schedule was full.
In late October/November of 1970, my sister in law told me that the preacher’s son was working at my dad’s company and he told her that he wanted to ask me out, but I was going steady…he wanted to date me…
Funny, I never thought about any other boy wanting to date me especially anyone that was as good looking as the preacher’s son. The idea caught my attention and I remember thinking that I must not be all that bad looking if someone as handsome as this guy wanted to take me out…I told her that I would think about it. The more I thought, the more I liked the idea. My boyfriend was a little boring anyway. I was more like a tutor than a “girlfriend”.
The problem was that I was “going steady” and I would have to “break up” with the present boyfriend. Good girls didn’t “cheat” on their boyfriends.
I remember going to school and meeting my boyfriend in the gym after lunch, as usual. I told him that I thought that we needed to date other people and that things weren’t going toward anything “serious” for me.
It was the first time that I ever made a boy cry. I cried too. I cried because he cried and I was the reason why. I cried through the rest of my classes that day…everyone thought that he dumped me. Imagine their surprise to learn it was me who dumped him.
A few days later, the choir director called me into the choir room. We were in rehearsals and he wanted to talk to me about something. I thought that it was something relating to my part in the musical. We were 3 weeks out from the performance and I knew that the director was worried. Things were not going all that well in rehearsals.
Sports wasn’t the only thing that this Cornfield County Indiana community got excited about. The years between 1969 and 1971 were the “glory” years for my high school in basketball, football and in Advanced Choir.
Our productions were as close to “professional” as a small school could get. The back drops and costumes were ordered from New York City. The talent of voices during those years was of a caliber that afforded us to perform shows that most high schools could not do.
Each year, the choir department put on at least two musical productions, a Christmas program that included operettas, choral presentations that included the Master i.e. Handel, Vivaldi, Mozart and Lenard Burnstein and choral festivals that included all the surrounding larger schools. Plus, I was in the small ensemble that performed for private affairs in the community. The local reviews likened our productions to Broadway and the choir director had a reputation to protect.
The choir department had a tradition to uphold in this small town. When we put on a show, the town turned out and filled the auditorium to standing room only. Not only parents came, but everyone who was anyone in this small town was there. But this time, it looked like this production would not be up to that standard…and the director was worried.
I was so surprised by what the he said to me. He had heard that I broke up with my boyfriend and he asked me to “go back” with him. At least, until after the performance.
My boyfriend also had a lead part in the production and the director said that he was not remembering his lines or words to the songs. The director said that he didn’t care if we broke up, but he needed me to “fix” this because it was going to mean the show. The production was “The King and I” and my boyfriend played the lead part that requried a good tenor. There was no one else in the choir that could sing those high notes and pull off the acting parts. This was a major deal…
It didn’t matter that I didn’t want to go “steady” anymore. I just had to hope that the preacher’s son would wait for me…The only thing that mattered, at that moment, was that the “… The show must go on”…