Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Courtship of Jim & Elaine 2 - The First Date

When I left you last I had gone to work for Ford, Bacon and Davis in St. Joe. I spent most of my time in the field in my 1946 Jeep (making a profit at 8 cents per mile) trying to get farmers to sign right-of-way agreements authorizing the construction of a pipeline across their land. Not an easy task. Every time I went to the office above the Dime Store I would climb those stairs, always tipping my hat (felt fedora) to Elaine who invariably would smile in recognition and maybe give me a "Hi".
From January to June 1949 I repeated that routine (though not every day since I spent a lot of time in Illinois). I made no attempt to ask her out since: 1)  At first I thought she was married,  2) I was naturally shy around good looking women, and 3) I was still somewhat wounded by her long ago rejection of me when I was a vulnerable teenager (I am sure you are thinking, "poor baby").
Well, there was this right-of-way agent by the name of Roy (he drove a Cadillac thus did not make out very well at 8 cents per mile) who decided to become the matchmaker between the two of us. He took me aside and told me that he had investigated and learned that: a) Elaine was not married, b) She had no steady boy friend thus presumably was available, and c) She would not refuse me if I asked for a date.
So this one June day while we were down for coffee Roy told me that the Chamber of Commerce was passing out free tickets for a cruise on Lake Michigan that next Saturday night. I decided that I should quit procastinating and use the free tickets as an excuse to ask for a date. Thus I headed up the stairs with a plan to proposition Fair Elaine.
I inquired and Elaine confirmed that there were indeed free tickets and would I like one? I said I would take two if she would go with me (smooth, eh?) To which she responded that would be nice but she had already invited a girlfriend (a "dog" who shall go nameless) and she couldn't disappoint her (to myself: "Oh crap! Not again!) so if she agreed to go with me could the girlfriend go along too?. Well, that wasn't my idea of a great first date but having gone this far I didn't want to back out so I agreed. What would you call it, a date and a half? Or half a date?
On the appointed evening (June 23 1949) I picked up Elaine in my freshly washed and shined 1949 Kaiser Traveler * and then picked up the girlfriend and off to the docks we go.
         * Newly purchased from Uncle Bob Thayer
I don't remember much about what went on aboard th SS Roosevelt but Elaine said I ran off at the mouth a lot about driving my Jeep to Alaska (not so smooth). It was a lovely night as the boat took us out on Lake Michigan and eventually back to the dock. We never did shake the girlfriend.
Subsequently I asked her for a second date, and she agreed, which led to a year-and-a-half long courtship, mostly Saturday nights hopping from bar-to-bar drinking "7 & 7" (Seagram's 7 Crown whiskey in 7up) and listening to the Juke Box a lot. Our favorites were Vaughn Monroe singing "Lucky Old Sun" and Frankie Lane with "Mule Train".
 Elaine has said that she didn't expect anything to come of our dating because I would soon be off to Alaska. Actually it was 34 years before I got there, then it was with Elaine to visit son Jim.

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