Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The EHHS Social Order – 11.2 – Early Cowtown Society - Part 4

If the upshot of the railroad coming to town was the ready availability of outbound transportation for Fort Worthians—all 500 of them at the time—it was also the gateway for thousands of people living north and east of us who had been reading of the “Wild West” in their local newspapers of the day.  Within 10-years, our population jumped to 6600 and after 20-years, in 1890, it was 23.000.  Our little town was booming and the railroad made it possible.  As the sequential maps above reflect, our entire country had been largely “wired-up” by 1890.

Essentially none of Fort Worth’s Cattle Barons were born to wealth and when they started moving to town after working their ranches for about 25-years, they had the task of having to learn how to live to their levels of accomplishment.  And what better way to start effectively living up to their stations than to build a grand house in Fort Worth's very first "upscale" neighborhood, Quality Hill?"  A section of land located just southwest of downtown and today, other than for a couple of surviving relics such as Waggoner's Thistle Hill, covered by Ft. Worth's "hospital district" the area is difficult to find on casual inspection.  The 1891 "birds-eye" drawing below pretty well illustrates the area (outlined in red) at the time.

The very first cattleman to build a home on Quality Hill was R.D. Hunter, a Scotsman via Missouri who had come to America in 1843.  After having been a gold miner during the California gold rush period, Hunter saw promise in the post-Civil War free-range cattle business and stopped off at Texas to give the business a try.  Success and fortune followed and Hunter, like many others of his day decided to make the newly developing Fort Worth his later-life home.  Ultimately Hunter, with the aid of the T&P railroad, founded a coal mine about 60-miles west of Fort Worth at Thurber and a side business of making brick with the residue coal not taken by the railroad.  His Thurber bricks were the ones we recall driving on as they covered our downtown streets and on some of the early brick highways that were still paved with their original brick surfaces…Highway 80 to Weatherford, for example.  His grand home was built in 1897 at the corner of Summit and El Paso.


Monday, September 21, 2015

The EHHS Social Order – 11.2.3 – Early Cowtown Society - Part 3

It’s difficult to find early pictures of Ft. Worth taken during its formative years following the 1876 arrival of the T&P Railroad.  For one thing a small, dusty village of just a few hundred frontier stockmen was of little interest to photographers having the requisite “modern” photo equipment…the gear was bulky and difficult to transport over long distances.  Thankfully, there are number of miscellaneous images in circulation that do provide random snapshots of the small town that help describe how the town was developing from 1876-1895.  Taken from a Penn Street home in 1885, shown above is the earliest known photograph of what was the developing skyline.

Thankfully, the early Ft. Worth builders did manage to establish one City view that has remained substantially unchanged for over 130-years; that being, Main Street either north to the Courthouse or south to the rail yards with some occasional off-axis views to fill-in the texture detail.  Countless photographers, both professional and amateur, have taken those pictures from various vantage points along Main Street such that a collection of them really does a good job of illustrating the growth and changes over that period of time.

With the coming of the T&P railroad, Fort Worth became the cattle shipping center for all those Texas free range cattle that had been driven up the Chisolm and other trails to the Kansas railheads.  In addition, the rail line provided much easier access to the country’s newest frontier lands from the much larger population centers of Chicago and New York.

A young (27) Frederick Remington’s amusing letter home to his girl friend suggests one young man’s feel for the place, circa 1888.

Sunday July 1, 1888

My dear girl,

Here I am at last—leave in the morning by stage for Fort. Sill—spent a day in Fort Worth with Hough—had a devil of a time—the mosquitoes like to eaten me up—there is not a square inch on my body that is not bitten—and oh oh oh how hot it is here—I have sweat and sweat my clothes full—I can fairly smell myself—I am dirty and look like the devil and feel worse and there is no help for me.

Well you can bet I am going to make the dust fly and get through as soon as I can—This is a miserable little frontier town with a little hen coop of a hotel—I am nearly starved to death—This Texas grub is something frightful—and my room—I wish you could see it.  You would smile—I fully agree with Phil Sheridan “If I owned Texas and hell, I would rent Texas and live in Hell.”—

Well all this is very discouraging but it’s an artist’s life.  I have no idea how long this thing will take for these Indians are scattered all over the earth but I “touch and go” and you can bet I won’t spend the evening with them—still I came to do the wild tribes and I do it.

Love Missie
Your Old Boy,

Now, while Remington and Russell were venturing out into the Indian Territories to record what they saw and create their artwork, a young Amon Carter about age 10, who would become perhaps the most important influence on what Fort Worth would become, was growing up in Crafton, about 60-miles northwest of town.  Carter, together with his future friend, oilman Sid Richardson, were too young to have known Remington and Russell during their prime years, but would later enthusiastically embrace and collect their art.  Those collections reside in Fort Worth museums today and form perhaps the greatest accumulation American Western Frontier Art in the world.  More on them later.

Frontier cattlemen started building “city” homes in Fort Worth during the 1890s that dwarfed all residences that had been built during the previous 30-years of settlement.  The earliest large homes went up a little north of the Courthouse on Samuels Ave. and since they were built of wood, nearly all of them have either burned or rotted away.  Only the Garvey house remains today as a reflection of what once was.  Moving to Fort Worth made sense for the regional Cattle Barons.  Their herds had been shipped out from there since the T&P came to town in 1876.  Setting prices and making the deals was done right there in town at the Exchange and the money flowed through Van Zandt’s bank, among others.

With a rapidly growing population, Ft. Worth was quickly developing some of the more refined creature comforts the large cities back East had been enjoying for about a generation by the 1890s.  Waggoner and Burnett both had private rail cars they used for travel.  There were probably others…an interesting research project to find some pictures might be in the oft.  But, for most folks, it was the large homes they built in Quality Hill that left the lasting impressions.

...and, Van Zandt had managed to help cure the lack of any saloons in 1886, there were 68 recorded in the City Directory., Quality Hill residents and details...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The EHHS Social Order – 11.2.2 – Early Cowtown Society - Part 2

1865-1880s.   At the end of the Civil War when millions of (Spanish) longhorn cattle were left on the plains of Texas without a market, the Union Pacific was building west across Kansas. Joseph McCoy, an Illinois stockman, believed these cattle could be herded north for shipment by rail. He built yards at Abilene, Kansas and sent agents to notify the Texas cattlemen. In 1867 the first cattle drives came up the Chisholm Trail and during the next five years, more than a million head were received at McCoy’s Abilene rail head.

Settling near Dan Waggoner’s ranches on the North Texas open range was Samuel Burk Burnett, a 19-year old young man closer in age to Dan’s son William Thomas, than to Dan himself.  During the ensuing 25, or so years, the Waggoners and the Burnetts built their herds and their fortunes driving tens of thousands of cattle to market each spring.  Their cattle drives and those of many other open range ranchers caught the imagination of the generations to follow as being the last days of our western frontier and of the American cowboy.  Burnett’s ranches, located just west of Waggoner’s, grew in several parcels to total about 350,000 acres at their peak.

It would be the next generations of Waggoners and Burnetts, along with a number of other open-range ranchers who, as they aged and prospered from their cattle businesses, would move to early day Ft. Worth to build their spacious city homes during the waning days of the 19th century.  But before anyone in Ft. Worth could start dancing a minuet out on a lawn, a city would have to be built first.

The Chisolm Trail passed right through Fort Worth which offered transient cowboys a convenient waypoint while driving their South Texas herds through on their way to McCoy's Abilene, Kansas rail headFt. Worth provided them an opportunity  to reprovision, rest their stock, and blow off some steam.  The constant stream of cattle and cowboys contributed to at least two very early civic improvements toward the establishment of Fort Worth as a city of the future.  First, Van Zandt’s note of there not being a single saloon in the town was soon rectified and next, a permanent settlement of sorts began its existence on the south end of what would some day be downtown….Hell’s Half Acre (HHA).  Remnants of Hell's Half Acre were still standing in the southern part of downtown when we were kids....and the area is now largely covered by the Tarrant County Convention Center.

1876.  New York financier, Jay Gould, was the ramrod behind pushing the rail line south from Kansas into Texas.  First, the line came into Marshall, then Dallas by 1873, and after the bank panic of 1873 had passed…into Ft. Worth by 1876.  The arrival of the railroad was the first significant link to a larger world than Ft. Worth had ever seen.  Our population then was about 500-600 people.

Of course, all of us learned of the Golden Spike joining the very first Transcontinental railroad in 1869 at Promontory Point in Utah but, understanding the significance of the arrival of rail lines into the country’s hinterlands was probably lost on most of us.  Think of it this way, after the Civil War, New York City was the center of most United States commerce…it was like the stout tree stretching toward the sky, it’s root system hidden out of sight below the surface.  As the map below shows, the railroads acted very much like that tree’s root system by connecting the rest of the country and its products to the trunk…NYC ! 

And once we had more efficient transportation leading to the big city than horse-drawn stage coaches, the possibility of some of us learning the minuet was substantially improved but, we weren't there yet.

Next -  Quality Hill

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The EHHS Social Order – 11.2.1 – Early Cowtown Society - Part 1

One might wonder how we 10-11 year old Texans, growing up in mid-20th century Ft. Worth, managed to find ourselves out on the front lawn of the East Side’s  Meadowbrook Elementary School one evening wearing bright white sports jackets, dancing the minuet with pretty little girls wearing, delicate light lace and tulle party dresses with ruffle sweetheart busts, nipped waists, lace overlay and super full cupcake poof circle skirts, made up of one lace layer with attached tulle cascading ruffles, one layer of tulle and fully lined with taffeta material.”
Scarcely 50-years before that evening on the Meadowbrook lawn, our hometown had just gotten its first paved downtown street and the Wrights had just begun their ventures skyward in a Wright Flyer.  To imagine there was a deep tradition of high society soirées for which we were preparing, was wrong.  Until only a few decades before our time, most of our ancestors made their living from tough jobs and working the land.  Fancy soirées, such as those in which we began to participate in the early 1960s had not been a multi-generational tradition.  I think they may have actually gotten their start sometime in the late 1930s, perhaps in conjunction with the 1936 Texas Centennial celebration.  There was certainly a large pavilion hosting frequent dances at Casino Beach on Lake Worth by this time.

Ft. Worth’s social history isn’t very deep and is probably best explained by a cursory look at the principal contributors to the city’s growth; a few people and their occupations.  As youngsters, we probably got a brief look at the last days of the parochial nature in which a lot of small to medium-size cities conducted their variously unique, yet significantly similar “social orders” after WWII, after which things got a lot larger and our options expanded.

The term, Cattle Barons, is a general nod to the area’s more industrious, earliest Texas settlers that flowed into the new Republic after it gained its independence from Mexico.  Since this early Texas history is varied and largely unrelated to my EHHS “social order” exploration, I'll mention a few of our earliest settlers only in the context of noting their contributions to the development of Ft. Worth itself.  Their contributions started the process of setting down the initial premises for our notions of  “polite society” almost a century later.

The 1833 Map - This is the earliest map I’ve found showing good detail of Texas just before Independence--have a look, it's a large map.  Just 3-years before this map was published, some of my early ancestors put down stakes in Arkansas, just across Red River where they opened a couple of taverns to serve the flow of newly arriving Texas pioneers bound for Austin’s Colony.  Their location is marked on the map, as are the approximate locations of (future) Ft. Worth and an arrow marking the point where the famous cattle drives would cross Red River about 30-years later.  Note that the crossing shows a then known trail leading to it from the northwest....most likely an ancient Indian crossing.

1850s - Dan Waggoner (1828-1903) was one of the first settlers in our area of North Texas and his arrival was described by another writer thusly….

“In the 1850s, he moved from Hopkins County to Wise County, Texas with his son, an African slave, six horses and 242 Longhorn cattle.  They settled on Catlett Creek, near Decatur.  The land was 'open range' when they first arrived.

In 1856, he purchased 320 acres of land near Cactus Hill, and moved his family there.  He later purchased more land on Denton Creek, seven miles east of Decatur.  Each time, the whole family moved with him.  Over the next three decades, he purchased more land in Wise County as well as Clay County, Wichita County, Wilbarger County, Foard County, Baylor County, Archer County, and Knox County.

Waggoner's landholdings became known as the (535.000 acre) 'Waggoner Ranch.'  With his son Tom, he also owned five banks, three cottonseed oil mills, and a coal company.

In 1883, he built the Waggoner Mansion, also known as 'El Castile', in Decatur, where he resided with his family.” 

“El Castile” is still standing but has been uninhabited for years.  As time passed, his son Tom Waggoner and his offspring would make a lasting impact on early Fort Worth by constructing several large homes in Quality Hill and River Crest…more about him later.
 ***  ***  ***

Khleber M. Van Zandt (1836 – 1930) arrived in Fort Worth in August 1865 and found "a sad and gloomy picture," as the town had a population of only 250 people and lacked "even a saloon." 

He began a dry-goods business that succeeded and allowed him to participate in other business endeavors. In 1875 he organized the Tarrant County Construction Company, which built the Texas and Pacific roadbed from Dallas to Fort Worth. In 1874, with John Peter Smith, James Jones Jarvis, and Thomas A. Tidball, Van Zandt organized Tidball, Van Zandt and Company, forerunner of the Fort Worth National Bank.  According to his biographer, he was a typical Texan, "one of the quiet men who built homes, . . . engaged in business, promoted towns, . . . opened schools, and enforced law and order."  (The page at left is from a c.1914 special publication entitled "Makers of Fort Worth" showing a contemporary bio - good read)

Van Zandt built several homes over the span of his long life, one of which was a small farm plot on which the Ft. Worth Cultural District stands today.  His last residence was a fine, large home befitting his later life stature as the prosperous banker.  It sat on the land just east of and straddling the West 7th Street bridge, as you approach the city’s 7th St business district…right where I got pulled over for my first ($10) speeding ticket as we motored briskly over the bridge after a date on the west side.

...more in Part 2

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The EHHS Social Order – 11.1 – Dating May be a Contact Sport – Part 2

Having wheels available and the charter to get on with dating was only a preliminary hurdle we had to overcome.  Now what?  Where the heck do we go and what are we going to do?  Of course, there were school sponsored dances and individual club sponsored gatherings, but they were infrequent and always seemed like an office party to me.  Why socialize with people you spend so much of your daily life with, a significant percentage of whom you scarcely know and a few that you flat don’t like? 

The house parties seem to have quickly faded as the rush to find some boy/girl friends ramped up; their function as mixers no longer serving their purpose once pairings increasingly emerged and solidified.  The time was at hand to start fogging up some car windows.

Along with the realization that we were going to need some money for expenses, came the realization that in order to make a date somewhat interesting, we were going to need to tap into some creativity.  Our 1961 East Side really lacked much variety for entertainment…a couple of drive-in movie theaters and hamburger stands.   The Gateway Theater was there but, we had been going to the Gateway movies since we were kids…these early dates needed to be something more special than the old Gateway. 

There were a couple of drive-in movie theaters but, by the time we got our hands on the steering wheels, they were showing “B” films and some of them perhaps passing for raunchy in those days.  Bowling was always there but, it wasn’t very conducive to quiet conversation and maybe some snuggling.  We weren’t yet sophisticated nor well-heeled enough to try dinner dates, although the wonderful Italian Inn stood ready on East Lancaster, should we need it.  The Italian Inn was started by Janis Smith’s (EH ‘64, if she hadn’t moved to Highland Park HS) dad, Sid and his partner, Armand Jones.  It had a terrific atmosphere for our early romantic ambitions…private booths with doors on them!  But, we weren’t yet old enough to order the Chianti. 

Now, these early dates really called for some quick o.j.t. …you know the kind, which way to tilt your head on the approach to avoid bumping noses, how to keep from clicking your teeth together…stuff like that.  Then there was the arm around her shoulders ordeal that called for struggling with some serious muscle fatigue while holding it still so as not to risk screwing something up …etc.  Of course, these were minor adjustments that once mastered, faded into fond memory. 

Since young boys/men are naturally curious creatures, once their curiosities are satisfied, their focus and inquisitiveness tends to quickly wander on.  If our girls had only known, it might have behooved them to simply accept the curious attention, secure in the knowledge that his mind would very soon shift to something else.  But no, we were all treated to that amusing female affliction…the twitching shoulder often accompanied by the forearm deflection or swat.  It was actually kind of fun to make a feint just to see her reflexive defenses deploy….sort of a Pavlovian thing.

As a bashful lad, unsure of how his own properties and features were seen by our lovely girls, my approach to the wonderful opportunity was a measured one.  Close observation of Gay and her pals at MJH had shown that when “the girls” liked someone, they tended to act like playful puppies…lots of laughs, playful punches, and in Gay’s case, an insufferable infatuation with that damned Roby.  Glenn Brandon and Charlie Rigby were favorites; so was Paul Tate and Bobby Dillard…their common threads were outgoing personalities and they were smart.  I had the smart part down pretty well but, an outgoing personality wasn’t my thing.  Recently, Girl #3 described me as an ironic wit, thoughtful, and intelligent…sounds good to me….I’ll  take it.  She also described our dates as, “egghead dates” which, well for heaven’s sake…I thought of them as sophisticated.  Hmm…they probably were sophisticated and on reflection, despite appearances to the contrary, she wasn’t…not yet. 

As Carl (’64) brilliantly observed in his Teen Canteen piece, seeing our distaff counterparts mature into increasingly serious potential romantic interests was something that snuck up on us.  Gone were the “sugar and spice and everything nice” days…and here was, well, we weren’t too sure what but, we knew we needed to find out.  The Harry Potter cast shown below as they made their same transition in public view is very illustrative of the phenomena.  Wow!

Very soon we started having to face the sad fact that a lot of our girls were going steady or otherwise engaged with someone that we may not have known or even noticed.  Not only had the ’61 and ’62 class “gulls” swooped in during our Sophomore year of wheelless purgatory, gulls from other schools had been picking them off, too!  What a miserable situation!  But, I’m told by several former classmates that taking themselves out of the game too early came back to bite them later, when they were Seniors, the older gulls had moved on, and us ’63 boys had become otherwise involved.

A light review of our CLAN mug shots from those years suggest a few things; one, our girls were probably right in looking to the gulls when they could…our ’63 crop of boys was seriously deficient in budding Redford or O’Neal prototypes and, our ’63 beauties were numerous, outnumbering the few of us devilishly handsome types by perhaps 6:1.  Doubt me?  Compare a picture of Dianne Hardin or Carolyn Almond or Cheryl Reeder as CLAN Sophomores and with most of the dozens of Sophomore boys in our class and you'll see what I mean.

Asking a girl out on a date was another psychological hurdle to overcome.  There was the direct approach, perhaps over a lunch table or in the hallway but, those were fraught with potential problems…the potential for embarrassment, having an audience for what was fundamentally an ad hoc private matter, and the risk of screwing things up with her nearby girlfriend if she were your fall-back position.  Of course, there was always that infernal telephone.

I don’t recall how I made my approaches to Girls #1 & 2 but, Girl #3 remains clear in memory…a simple, painfully brief, “ya wanna” was probably the extent of it since I didn’t have much expectation of success; she, still being the reigning goddess of the old MJH lunchroom table that had reconvened at EHHS.  But, I had a wonderful advantage…she was pinned to a table in the hallway tending to some club fund-raising activity and had nowhere to escape.  Flustered and unable to run away, she quickly looked one-way, then the other and said, “can I get back to you?”

“Sure,” I said….heck, it wasn’t a “no,” now was it?  And, she had bought herself a few moments to think it over.  This being a nothing ventured, nothing gained situation, I was neither anxious nor complacent since there was nothing to be lost in the venture!

An hour or two later came the Western Union response shown above, and Gus had effectively ended his sampling of our abundance of beautiful EHHS girls, sent Steve Means into a deep funk, and judging from some of their sporadic wistful hallway glances over the next couple of years, may have even tuned up the “Meadowbrook Ladies” a bit,.  The telephone was never again a menace…she kept saying, “Yes, I’d love to.”

Now, having bagged our 8th grade MJH lunchroom table’s unanimous choice as it’s foremost goddess, quickly came the quandary of what to do with her.  This was certainly uncharted waters and young Gus was but a pollywog in them.  Fortunately, Dad had a couple of nice, fairly new cars that he readily made available to me for the cost of the gas to run them so, I wasn’t faced with having to make do with a jalopy.  One of my recent correspondents mentioned that his banger was so rough that his sister refused to ride in it…and by extension, etc.  What other lads had to contend with, I really don’t know since we had essentially stopped sharing social intelligence with one another….this was yet another competition between us and a serious one, at that.

Finding interesting things to do on the early 1960s East Side was a challenge…there wasn’t much.  Oh sure, you had the periodic dances at school or one of the rec centers but, never having had the time to pay much attention to learning how to look cool whilst dancing, I never took time to learn or, with the sports, never really had the time…I think she was the same way as she kept her plate full with lots of extracurricular activities.  You could double-date to one of the hamburger stands, then to a drive-in movie, and grub through the movie but, I had judged the reigning goddess of the MJH/EHHS lunch table gang to be classier than that.  Although double-dates could be a great aid in keeping conversation lively, Girl #3 and I never needed any assistance with that, at least none that I recall.  

Our time in history was within an interesting period of transition in the music industry.  We were evolving from “swing” which we sort of morphed into “rock n’ roll” with “bop, bunny hops, hokey pokies, strolls,” and when Motown entered the scene, it seemed that a “new” dance was invented just to go with each new song release.  There was no way in hell I was going to keep up with all that stuff; but, close dancing remained a consistent and pleasant just got a little closer as you got a little older.

Be that as it may, a happy transformation occurred in the boys’ favor about the same time we started exercising those new drivers' licenses…we got a new supply of girls as the ‘64s came aboard for their Sophomore year.  Just by the numbers, the situation was obvious…where we had had about 150 of our ’63 girls available, the arriving ‘64s roughly doubled that number to 300!!  Once again, things were looking up.

Movies were an old standby that had been serving most communities around the country since they were invented in the early part of the century.  Since I had judged the Gateway as not “uptown” enough for Girl #3, that left the downtown Ft. Worth theaters that had been around essentially unchanged, since the very early days of downtown and for something more modern, we had the newer Ridglea theater on the West Side that usually screened first-run films.  Dallas had its own well established “theater row” on Elm St. but, I don’t recall our going that far to see a movie.  And all of those theaters were much fancier than our old East Side Gateway.
A job in the local neighborhood threw off enough to cover expenses and even enough to bump our dates a bit more "uptown"…the live stage musicals at Casa Mañana and occasionally, the Dallas State Fair Music Hall....the Egghead dates.
But, there was something else afoot during these years…the thing that most likely set in my head the notion of EHHS being an odd social culture.  Ever since starting this blog and canvassing others about their recollections, I’ve been impressed and amused by the responses from some of our top former classmates.

“An in-crowd?  Yes, definitely.”

“I was a good girl.”  (ed. note: yes, I'm sure you were.)

“I dated a lot and never paid attention to it but, yes it was there.”

“I sort of regret it.”

“Snobs”  “Snobby”

“I was a goody two-shoes.”

“I wasn’t near the level of that crowd to have any knowledge of it.”

“I left there after graduation and never looked back.”

“The Meadowbrook Ladies.”

…and a number of others responding along those lines.  Interesting that their thoughts and recollections fairly closely matched my own, which I had for nearly a half-century put off to Bible Belt religions, parochialism, and a fairly common adolescent thoughtlessness.  But, there was more to it than that.

If Carole Stallcup hadn’t erupted in the hall all those years ago, it’s very likely that I wouldn’t have had any knowledge of them…Thaelis, that is.  And it wasn’t until making some inquires in the past few years that I even knew Delphi existed.  Both of them, I think actually skewed our EH social life to some degree and I’ll tell their story after a couple of introductory pieces that must be inserted here, to better explain them.

Until then, 

Next, The Cattle and Oil Barons

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The EHHS Social Order – 11.0 – Dating May be a Contact Sport - Part 1

Ending our Sophomore social isolation about the end of that year, presented us with not only our first opportunities to ask some real girls out on dates but, with our first encounters with rejection.  Pimples aside, ol’ Gus, being a devilishly handsome and charmingly witty lad didn’t experience much rejection but, neither did he date many girls before settling on one special one. 

Probably similar to many others, I was nervous about how to best go about this dating stuff.  Perhaps I should have kept going to those sock-hops, even without a date…surely something would have come of that effort; if nothing else, I might have learned to dance and be more comfortable in close proximity to our lovely ’63 – ’64 girls.  Well, that slow dancing was pretty easy and to my way of thinking, much more pleasant, too.

My first solo date was to have been a date to the year-end picnic out at Burger’s Lake.  Got all spiffed up in brand-new matching Jantzen shorts and shirt…very dashing.  She broke the date at the last minute so, that one really didn't count.  However, right out of the gate it introduced the notion that this game was going to have two players, not always having similar motivations nor, perhaps even in possession of equal social schooling. 

Girl #1, my second date, the very first solo date as driver-in-command was a little too young but, a lovely ’64 nonetheless.  As she matured, she would later come into her own and be elected to one of the several Queen honors…one of those getting a full-page picture in the CLAN.  Hmm, I might have moved on too soon...well, that would be a lesson to be learned later.

After Carole Stallcup once again gushed in the hallway about her upcoming Pink Cotillion, to which I was not invited, I gave up on our Meadowbrook clique girls (the "Meadowbrook Ladies" to some) and looked to one of our lovely new ’63 Handley classmates for the next date.  Everything was great about Girl #2 and she, too would become one of our sports Queens a year or so later with her own big picture in the CLAN.  In retrospect, Gus had developed a good beginners' eye, was gaining confidence, and hadn’t yet bent-up the car…things were looking up!

It always appeared that our girls had everything locked down, which must have certainly included fielding a steady stream of date invitations.  It was easy to infer that all girls were highly experienced telephone conversationalists but, several ladies have informed me that most of their phone traffic was with their girlfriends.  And, the waiting for one of those special boy calls was nerve-wracking and sometimes heart-breaking.   

Anyway, for me and for any boy with adolescent confidence challenges, that damned telephone was a menace.  Before gathering courage to make the call, he went through maybe several hours of mental preparation…when to call, don’t want to interrupt anything at her house, don’t call too early, don’t call too late, don’t call in the middle of the TV shows, do call at the commercials, and what in the heck am I going to say? 

O.K., prerequisites met, make the call…the line’s busy, she washing her hair, or worse, she’s not home.  Well, that was actually a relief because it provided more time to ponder and anguish.  Of course in nature’s way, those uncertainties melted away instantly when she answered, a pleasant conversation ensued, and most importantly, she replied, “I would love to.”

For me, that special EH girl was Girl #3…the one that drove Steve Means into a deep funk when he learned we were dating.  He had stolen a kiss from her back in grade school and had been a key member of that notorious Meadowbrook lunch table that spent its time evaluating MJH girls around the lunchroom.  From my very first few days as a new 8th grade transfer to MJH, I had never forgotten that they had unanimously picked Girl #3 as a budding stunner.  She was not a member of the MJH-EHHS in-crowd (the clique)…she was a GDI.  And,by that time, partly due to Carole Stallcup's hallway gushes, Sharron Ballem's indifference, and that neither Gay Burton nor Celia Beall were yet showing me any love, so was I. 

The latter months of that Sophomore year and the first few weeks of the Junior year were the seminal ones that for some, determined the rest of their domestic lives.  Quite a number of EH romances that started then are now approaching their 50th Anniversaries.  Yes, some of them managed to land in my “knocked up” folder but, at ease folks…that folder is locked!  I know that some have been dreading this point in the story.

I'll dog this off as Part 1 of the "Contact Sport" story and take it up in Part 2.  For now, keep in mind that not all of our social challenges were visually obvious.

Continued in Part 2...