Sunday, June 24, 2012

1966: The Dating Game

My radio clicked on at 6:00 AM the next morning with the Lovin’ Spoonful song, “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind” playing.  It made my mind race over the differences between the two girls I was dating at the time, Debbie Bickerstaff and Vicki Matthews. 

Debbie Bickerstaff had come back to campus early from summer break and had called me immediately.  She had reneged on promises of inviting me up for a weekend in Dallas during the summer as she renewed relations with her old high school boyfriend who attended SMU.  But, apparently, they decided to call it quits at the end of July and Debbie was doing her best to reestablish herself with "Old Reliable"....namely me.  Little did she know, during her time of dalliance in Dallas, my heart had been arrested in Austin.

There was no competition. For the next several days I could barely think of anything else than my next meeting with the beautiful Vicki.  I had invited her to an apartment party being thrown by our hip apartment manager to celebrate the end of summer school classes.

On Saturday, I was supposed to work a double shift at the garage but I asked my boss, Mr. Johnson, to get off early at five o’clock.  He quizzed me as to why and I confessed I had a very important date.  He spread that news throughout the shop and I was the butt of the “Don’t do anathang I wouldn’t do” hoots as I walked to my car, an unspoken, single digit response trailing over my head.

I went home and showered, spending an extra ten minutes scrubbing under my fingernails with my toothbrush trying to get the grease to go away.  I splashed on English Leather cologne to hide the smell of gasoline that still clung to my skin and put on one of the few starched Creighton shirts I had left in the closet.  I drove out to south First Street and spent twenty minutes parked at the end of Clifford Drive, so I wouldn’t seem too anxious, as I counted down the minutes until seven o’clock.

I started toward her house but Vicki bounded out her door, down the steps from the porch and was smiling that radiant smile before I was half-way up the walk.  “Hi”, she called out.  I opened her door and she slid into the passenger seat.  My feet barely touched the ground as I rounded the car, jumped in and fired up my powerful steed. 

By the time we got to the party, it was well under way.  There were a couple of kegs of beer already tapped with another on reserve.  One keg was almost floating and a couple of people were already in the pool, fully clothed.  A not-so-bad band was playing a good rendition of “You Were On My Mind” originally recorded by the We Five.  I got Vicki and I a beer and we sat, talked, danced a little and watched the crazies kill the next keg. Vicki was not a big drinker but she was a great dancer.  We tripped the light. 

By 9:00 PM the manager was trying to get several fully clothed couples out of the pool before they drowned and the noise of the other partiers was getting really raucous.  My roommates were gone for the evening. “Why don’t we go up to my apartment and get away from some of this noise”, I ventured. 

To my surprise, Vicki said, “Sure” and locked her arm around mine.  

My apartment was on the second floor toward the front of the building away from the pool area.  We walked there hand-in-hand and once inside, I turned to her.  She was closer than I thought she would be, but Vicki didn’t back away.  Her eyes were glistening and alive and I lost myself in those sparkling hazel pools.  I reached down and cupped her face in my hands and, bending slowly, kissed her lightly on the mouth.  As I pulled away, she reached up, wrapping her arm around my neck and, pulling my head back down, she kissed me back.  My head was swimming and, believe it or not, I felt somewhat faint.  It wasn’t the beer.  I could hardly believe that I was in the arms of the girl who nearly got me blackballed from my fraternity.

Vicki is a great kisser and my qualifications to judge that were established that night. At about 11:00 PM she asked me what time it was and told me she needed to be home at midnight.  We made it with about 30 seconds to spare.  This time there was no handshake, our goodnight kiss offered no quarter and none was taken.

The next Saturday it was off to the drag races for our second official date.  I was up by sunrise fussing over my car.  I wanted it to shine like the sun and be clean for my date with the incomparable Vicki.  I picked her up around ten o’clock and we arrived in time for the first time trials for the AA Fuel dragsters.  “Those are strange looking cars”, Vicki said.  I explained to her that they really were not cars but vehicles made specifically for drag racing.  They were long and low with what looked almost like bicycle wheels on the front and huge 20” wide, “slick” tires on the rear.  Their engines, at that time, were still mounted in front of the driver and created over 1,500 horsepower.  From a standing start the fastest machines at the time could run the quarter mile in less than seven seconds at over 200 miles per hour.

When the engines fired up their un-muffled exhaust was really loud but nothing compared to when they came off the line.  As big as those tires were they broke loose as the dragsters smoked off the line, the engines screaming at 6,000 RPM.  The roar was deafening and your chest vibrated as they passed our position in the stands.  As the two “slingshots” crossed the finish line and shut down Vicki exclaimed, “Oh my!  That is unbelievable!”  I was so pleased she liked it.  

We talked between races and I got to know a little more about her.  She was the oldest of four children and had one sister seven years her junior and another who was only 8.  Her only brother, David, was 13 and the terror of the household.  She told me her father was a plasterer and her mother worked at a daycare center she had formed in their local church with her older sister.  Vicki was bright and fun and laughed at my corny jokes.

After the races, as we walked back to the car, I wanted to give her something to memorialize our day.  I couldn’t think of anything and I didn’t have any money so I gave her a burned intake valve I had in my glove box.  It was from the rebuild of my old 1954 Chevy and I kept it as a memento.  She thanked me just as if I had given her a diamond ring.  Thinking back, it was pretty lame, but for some strange reason, right from the start, I wanted to make this girl happy.  As I drove her home we made plans to go swimming the next weekend.

I could hardly wait for Saturday to come again.  I thought about Vicki all week and called her several times.  We would talk for an hour or more each time.  I picked her up around noon and we drove out of south Austin to a natural waterfall area called Hamilton’s Pool.  It was a wonderful, hot day with the Texas sky a dark blue.  Big, billowy white clouds drifted slowly overhead.  The air was heavy with humidity and you wore it like an extra set of clothes all over your body. That clear, cool water was going to feel good. 

Vicki wore a cover-up over her bathing suit but when we spread out our things on the bank and we got ready to go in for a dip she took it off.  I was quite literally speechless as I drank in this vision, this goddess in her yellow, two-piece bathing suit.  Vicki had an hour-glass figure that was stunning.  I was on a date with an angel and this had to be heaven.

We swam and splashed; frolicking in the water until we were both exhausted.  Then we lay down on our blanket and talked until the sun was behind the rock cliff and it became a little cooler.  Vicki started to put her cover-up back on but I stopped her.  “Not just yet”, I pleaded as I took her in my arms and we kissed for a long time under the spreading live oak and weeping willow trees, listening to the music of the water cascading over its thirty foot drop into the “pool”. 

On the way home Vicki told me she had to work the next Saturday night and my heart sunk.  But then she asked me if I would like to come over the next weekend for Sunday dinner.  I told her I would really love that.  As we kissed good-bye on her porch, she said, “See you around noon, then?”  I did a little happy dance on my way back to my car and thought, “Alright! This is good.”

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