Here it is, almost Valentine’s Day so I guess it’s appropriate to post a blog about the first date Marge and I had. Falling in love and all that. In the late ’50s there was a rather cheesy song “Why do Fools Fall in Love?” The simple answer is obviously rampant teen hormones (at that time) and evolutionary biology… Surely more than that.
So last time we left, if you can visualize a movie shot, it is a long shot following a ’48 Plymouth Driving down Crouse Avenue at night. It certainly wasn’t love at first sight, because we both had other relational interests at the time. And it wasn’t rebound a short while after, as I, and I think Marge, knew those former relationships were not going anywhere.
Obviously, one really big thing was that we were both attending Syracuse University at the same time. And, we were both attending on full competitive merit based academic scholarships. I had an SAT score of 1250 and I later learned that Marge’s was 1260 or so, and we were quite well matched on being smart people, but not genius material.
We both came from New York State. I was born way upstate in Plattsburg, Clinton County, about 35 miles from Canada. Marge was born actually in New York harbor. Her father was a regular US Army officer, West Point 1927 as I recall and there was a military post on Governor’s island in the Harbor where she was born. It is now a park of some kind, don’t know if it is Federal or local, and I think it is part of the borough of Manhattan.
I lived my entire young life in Clinton County and my fondest desire was to get out and live in an urban environment. My father was a NY civil servant and he worked in a maximum security prison in a town with the name of Dannemora. The composite image above gives you an idea of its beauty. The census listed a population of about 4000, but of these about 2000 were murderers, and other serious criminal types. Another 1000 or so were imprisoned in a smaller facility named something like the Center for Criminally Insane. Informally the “Bug House.” The remaining citizens either worked at one or the other of these institutions, or had support businesses such as stores, pharmacy, etc. In many ways, like a mill town; if you ever saw the movie “October Sky” you will get an idea.
Marge, being an “Army brat” had a more cosmopolitan upbringing. During peacetime, her father served in many parts of the world and when possible, the family was part of this. Following WWII, her father was part of the Army of Occupation in Japan and Marge was about 6 then. She really had fond memories of that time and has many Japanese artifacts, that I have built an alcove to house. As a young girl and teen, she lived in a house in Cornwall on Hudson, quite near to the USMA at West Point. A really pleasant village, at least then, now I guess a bedroom community for NY City.
We both went to small public schools with class sizes of about 35 or so. Gone now, merged into larger school districts. New York was, and still is, our home state.
Physically, we were similar. Marge was about 5’10” had a well proportioned figure and weight, and was quite attractive. I was a wee short of 6’2″ and weighed about 185. Pretty much the same today, though age and arthritis have shaved about .5 inches off. Modesty prevents any thoughts concerning my own appearance.
We both liked classical music. Marge had an excellent alto voice and loved to sing in the University chapel choir. I admit I never darkened its sacred portals. We both liked to attend pipe organ performances held at the Music School Holtkamp 3 manual organ facility.
So, we had a lot in common already, and after about two coffee dates, I decided the time was right to go on a real date. At that time, Maybe early February 1958, the latest attraction was Cinerama. This was an early version of 3D movies and was housed in the Eckel theater at 214 E. Fayette St. Syracuse. It utilized 3 individual 35 mm projectors, and as I recall, did not require the colored glasses for the 3D Effect. Maybe similar to Imax today. The movie premiered on January 8, 1958 and ran for 17 weeks. It had acquired quite a buzz in a month, so it was the latest and greatest in new entertainment. The show title I believe was “THIS IS CINERAMA” which was a travelogue of sorts showing off the dramatic effects this technology could provide. The following is a verbatim quote from that time via my memory and Google searches:
“Here’s the only entertainment that’s really ALL NEW..not just a big picture with scope but sensationally ALL NEW in camera, projector, screen, sound..even in a specially equipped theatre. At Cinerama, you’re lifted out of your theatre chair, moving breathlessly with the picture, surrounded by adventure, spectacle and grandeur such as you have never before experienced. Cannot and will not be shown in any other theatre in central New York state and will never be shown on TV!”
So, we got dressed up, Marge looked great, I wore my blue pin stripe suit and my camel colored overcoat with a brown hat. All men wore hats then, that was before Kennedy. We had a nice dinner somewhere downtown and then over to the new and wonderful Cinerama.
It was a great evening so far and the Cinerama was certainly different from anything we had viewed before. And the scenes were impressive until….until…, they had shots from St. Mark’s Basilica square which had millions of pigeons. Well, certainly a humungous flock at least. I said before how I viewed pigeons as flying rats, and were my hated enemy. Now they had to come and spoil this big evening.
I don’t remember the rest of the cinema, but the show, though with no plot, was amazing technology for 1958. We left the theater when the show finished and were driving back to Marge’s dorm. I COULD NOT let my disgust with pigeons rest. Worse than that, I had to expound at length on the drive back to her about these flying demons from Hell, etc. etc. Did I tell Marge how beautiful she looked, did I say I had the greatest time of my life with her, etc.? The answer of course, NO. In a little bit, I realized how stupid I was behaving and had ruined my chances with this amazing woman I had just met. If I hadn’t been driving I was fit to hit myself broadside my head with a 2X4 for my stupidity.
We got back to the dorm, parked the car, I walked her to the door and we had a polite good night kiss. I groaned all the way back to my room about how I had BLOWN IT!!
Time passes, a week at least,maybe more, and I am so ashamed of the way I handled things, I could not bring myself to call Marge inasmuch as I figured she would not answer, or if she did would hang up on me. For good reason.
Then, what should appear to my wondering eyes but a thick large manilla envelope addressed to me at the Infirmary. What could it be? (tension mounting) so with wonder in my mind, and with trembling fingers, I opened the envelope.
At this point, a slight digression. Marge always was a voracious reader. She had neatly typed up a 10-12 page monograph authored by one Mr. Robert Benchley. Benchley was a humorist of the 1930-1940 era. One of his pieces was an article entitled…”Down With Pigeons” We had that in common, but Benchley was much more clever than I in expressing his disgust. To top it off, Marge had written a cover letter in the starchy business style of bygone decades. The cover letter had her dorm return address on it and the content of the letter was something like this:
Dear Mr. Frantzen:
It has come to our attention that you may be interested in the enclosed article so brilliantly expressed by the author, our founder, Mr. Robert Benchley. If, after reading, you should wish to join us in this great endeavor, please contact me at the above address.
Director, Association for the Elimination of Pigeons
The original letter was a bit longer and more elegantly expressed, but in many moves I have lost it. I burst out laughing and thought THIS IS IT!! My gauche comments have been turned into a witty literary joke and, more than that, she wants to see me again. Of course I immediately called and tried to sort of respond verbally in kind, but we both broke out laughing. A SECOND CHANCE!!!! I was not going to let this woman get away from me.
See you in 5 minutes I said. So I did. We truly were meant for each other. Then, now, and forever.
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