By Pam Munson Steadman b. 1945
She walked into the college cafeteria avoiding his glance. He was cleaning off neighboring tables and she pretended she didn’t see him. He knew better though.
The Duke was playing “Sophisticated Lady” on the radio in the background and this tall, skinny, basketball jock thought it appropriate indeed. He had always liked brunettes. This one reminded him of his favorite actress, Jane Russell. She had an edge to her and he wanted to find out more. She liked to present herself as not being interested.
Things were about to change, he thought to himself, as she pushed her long hair to the side while feigning a quick peek his way.
“Can I get you anything at all, sweetheart” he asked with a boyish grin and a wink.
“Nope. I’m just fine, thank you,” she retorted, thinking him extremely forward, even though a little bit of her sort of enjoyed his arrogant mannerisms.
A few months later, she, who had not an athletic bone in her body, would show up each day at the campus tennis court with borrowed racquet in hand. Sometimes, he would be out there furiously slamming the ball, and at other times, he would be talking to Sally, the chunky blonde at the end of her dorm hall. “See ya doll,” he would shout to this Sally, knowing full well that the brunette was watching and hearing his every word and moves.
His roommate came back to the men’s dorm one afternoon with news about the jock’s brunette interest. “Hey, Mel. Your brunette is going out with me tonight.”
“You might have a date with her, pal, but I’m the guy she’s going to marry,” the jock told him forthright.
The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and lives in the nation and world suddenly changed forever.
The college jock did manage to have a couple of dates with the interesting brunette, and his roommate’s chances were nothing more than history.
The plan was to get up to Pittsburgh and sign up for the Army.
All of his buddies, who usually joined him in following The Big Bands on weekends, were heading back to their home states and becoming the start of The Greatest Generation.
While in a line forming for Army recruitment, the jock was somehow redirected into the line signing up for The US Marines. He shrugged, and a proud Marine he became.
The brunette told her friends…and in later years, her extended family…that the real reason she had gone to college was to “be where the boys were, of course!” So, this brunette followed the jock. He was assigned to Quantico, VA, and she was given nurses’ training at Bethesda Naval Hospital as a Wave in the Navy. The two of them often met on leave in DC, pounding the pavement and enjoying one another’s company.
The jock called the brunette suddenly one afternoon and informed her that she had only one chance to answer his question. He was “shoving off” for The Pacific and he wanted her to marry him. She never gave it a second thought…although years later, she often told folks that maybe she just might have been a wee bit hasty in her decision. But the war was on and the likes of The Dorsey Brothers, Glenn Miller, and other romantic bands, tore away at many a heartstring.
They eloped, found a seedy little hotel (the only kind they could afford at that time), sent telegrams to their parents, and brought in a bag of “White Castle” hamburgers to munch on for their wedding night. Oooops! The jock promised he would be right with her. First of all, he needed to hear Johnny Boyer on the radio with the sports announcements of the day.
And so it was……the jock was injured in a jeep accident in Okinawa and missed the first six months of his daughter’s life.
Their marriage lasted for more than sixty years and produced four children, seven grandchildren, and 6 great grandchildren.
Both Mom and Dad have passed, but their memories linger…
Dad was always his happiest singing Sinatra tunes and reminiscing about Big Bands and sharp brunettes on college campuses.