Reminiscences of the courtship rituals of the American kid
The first time I ever impressed a girl took place when I was fourteen years old. I was helping my Uncle Bill add a back room to the poolhall in a little oil field town down home. Tinsley wasn't much of a town; it was more of a place where they had blacktopped
the road through the trees on each side of the Illinois Central Railroad crossing. Along the sides of the road they had put up some eighty to a hundred buildings to house the oil boom that came in back in 'thirty-nine. And like the town, it [quoteright]wasn't much of an oil boom either. If you searched through the hills and hollows you'd find some eighty to a hundred oil wells that had brought a flurry of excitement and prosperity to cur part of the country.
The front of the poolhall was level with the road, but since the hillside fell away fairly fast, the back end where we were working was some sixteen feet up in the air.
We had almost finished the flooring when we both ran out of nails at the same time, and since I was the junior member of the firm, I made the trip to the nail keg. After loading both pockets of my nail pouch, I dug out a heaping double-handful of nails for Bill and started beck to where he was waiting for me -- at the edge of a sixteen foot drop.
It was a well-known fact that Suzie Lee Ivers was the Belle of the Ball, Queen of the countryside. And Suzie Lee was a blonde, blue-eyed, with one slightly droopy eyelid, and she was two years older than I was. Also, I think she didn't know I even existed.
I heard tires on the gravel and looked over to see Suzie Lee's mother drive up to the grocery store next door, which was about fifty feet away from where I was walking along with my heaping double-handful of nails.
Suzie Lee's mother stopped the car, hopped out and headed for the grocery store, leaving Suzie Lee sitting in the car, and staring in my general direction. Our eyes net. I was locked in, lost in, and floating in, a blue sky of eye contact. So it was from a great, and unimportant distance that I heard my Uncle Bill's rising voice, "Son, look out where you're walkin'!" Then I stepped off into thin air and disappeared over the edge.
The nails were lost, my body was bruised, and Suzie Lee was far away by the time Bill carried me up the hillside to the road. But there was no doubt in my mind that I had made a definite impression on that young lady.
The second time I impressed a girl took place when I was seventeen. Jim and I were decked out in cur dress blues, white-striped collars and cuffs, reverse creases and bell-bottom. The U.S. Navy missed a bet in not taking our picture for a recruiting poster.
As they sauntered toward us in high heels, short skirts, low-cut blouses, and a heavy coat of mascara, I determined to make a move because I had heard the big boys say that after wining and dining would come park bench sitting, and hugging, and kissing. And then, who knows what-all. Jim and I intended to sip from the cup of life.
"Hi there," I ventured, as they cane alongside.
"Well, hi there yourself," was the heartening response from the one closest to me, the tall, darkhaired, dark-eyed one that wore her shoulder-strap purse like an arm sling.
The little brown-eyed blonde, whose toe nails matched her red sandals and purse, looked at Jim and exclaimed, "Hey... you're kinda cute, sailor boy!"
All three of us watched a blush come out of Jim's collar and run up his face like a quick-release window shade.
"You ain't so bad yourself," was his snappy comeback while he was fumble-fingering a cigarette out of a pack of Lucky Strikes.
At the proper point, as the chit-chat continued, I asked, "Have you ladies had anything to eat yet?"
"Why no, we haven't. What have you got on your mind?"
"Well, just step right in here and be our guests." I could see that park bench getting a lot closer as we walked into the restaurant that Jim and I had been standing in front of. I didn't have any trouble in choosing a place to eat because I had already noticed the sandwich sign in one window. The other window's sign advertised beer.
After we paired off in the booth and were given a menu by a male waiter with tattooed arms and five-o'clock shadow, the girls ordered hot roast beef sandwiches and cokes.
As a result of sane quick thinking and adding and subtracting, I announced, "Jim and I already ate in the mess hall, so we're just gonna have coffee."
After the wining and dining, and more get-acquainted talk, we were back on the sidewalk and I was just getting around to mentioning parks and benches, when everything fell apart.
The blonde stood straighter, her eyes brightened. I turned to where she was looking and saw two sailors walking toward us. One of them, a second class Boiler Tender wearing a handle-bar mustache, walked right into the extended arms of my dark-haired beauty.
"Hiya honeybabe. Long time no see. How are ya?"
"Sweetheart! Where you been? We've been waitin' for you."
"Aw, I was in the third liberty party and then the damn boat...'
Jim and I stood there watching our capital investment walk down the street in someone else's arms, and knew we didn't have bus fare back to the Naval Base. We were going to have to hitchhike. I also knew I was going to have to work on my impression making.
He hails from Yazoo City, Mississippi, the state that also produced Faulkner and Tennessee Williams, as well as a handful of Misses America.
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