Friday, November 20, 2009

Vintage Photo Friday--Sucker for a man in uniform

Today's (OMG, this is long) post comes with a tale of innocence and chivalry. It was October 1980. Jimmy Carter was barely holding on in the White House. Fifty-three Americans were still being held hostage in Iran. And I was but an innocent girl of 15 (going on 16) who still believed in white knights and Prince Charming, and who apparently thought hair in my face was sexy. My parents had been officially divorced for about a year and my sister's class had just gone off to college. A family friend, Billy, had been accepted at West Point Military Academy and that October his parents invited my mom, sister and me to join them for Parents Weekend. Billy's sisters, Suzi and Debbie, were friends of mine as well, so it was a fun little getaway.

We arrived on Saturday and Billy was scheduled to take watch that night. While the parents and Debbie, who was a bit younger, stayed back at Cullum Hall, Billy, Kate, Suzi and I headed over to Eisenhower Hall (aka Ike Hall) to find someone to cover Billy's shift for the evening. There was a cafe/ bar at Ike Hall where the cadets congregated. While Billy was busy finding a replacement, Suzi and I were in teenage girl heaven gawking at the fine young specimens of manhood. Suddenly, the lights flickered off and on. Billy told us this was a signal that meant closing time. It was early in the evening, so the cadets were confused, but obediently began making their way to the exits. As we were leaving, two young men ran up to Billy and said, "Excuse me, sir. We couldn't help noticing that you seem to have too many ladies to escort. We would be happy to assist you by escorting these two (indicating Suzi and me)." There was a dance that evening and they asked if we would like to join them. We looked at Billy with what I'm sure were pleading eyes, who replied, "We'll have to ask the folks."
So we did and, naturally, they said yes. Who wouldn't allow their daughter to be escorted by a fine upstanding member of the Corps of Cadets, with their strict rules about public displays of affection and their tradition of gentlemanly behavior? *cough cough*
The two plebes were handsome, to be sure, and Suzi and I had noticed them earlier. Suzi had a fondness for the blond, while I found the brown-eyed gent perfectly dreamy. Too bad they didn't see it our way. Oh well. Their choices were made obvious as they took our hands, neatly tucked them into the crook of the elbow, and led us off to the dance--which was a bust. The academy had invited ladies from a nearby women's college* so there were lots of single women and lots of chaperones (not the least of which was my sister who was doing her best to bring the Holy Spirit between me and my date). We headed back to Ike Hall, which hadn't closed early after all. Turns out the cadets just wanted to meet us, knew the guy in charge and asked him to flip the lights so they could have an excuse to escort us somewhere. Awwwww. I know, it got me all kinds of giddy.
My date, one Phillip Eric Anderson, was from Oklahoma and as sweet as they come. His friends back home called him Sweet Pea because of his initials. Suzi's date, his last name was Wolf, looked like the kind of boy who was up to no good. Public displays are forbidden and cadets are supposed to escort their dates in the traditional crooked arm pose (think wedding cake topper). Punishment for PDAs included marching around the large quad area, called "walking the yard." This did not stop the menfolk from getting a little frisky in the shadows. As we walked across campus, any shady area was an excuse to drop the arm into hand-holding position or to sneak a smooch. My very first real kiss was with my handsome cadet behind a statue of some famous general. Many more followed.
Curfew came too soon and the cadets brought us back to our parents, who were happily playing cards all night long. Mrs. Kuchinski (Billy's mom) invited the men to join us the next day for a picnic by the river. Suzi's date had to work, but Phil readily agreed. Um....I was kind of hoping he wouldn't. You see, he was cute and all, but even at 15 I had commitment issues and would have been happy to just leave it at that one night. Oh well, it's just an afternoon.
So, after mass and a champagne breakfast (woo hoo! guess who got a little tipsy?), we drove down to a picnic area by the Hudson River. Phil showed up right on time and he was perfectly adorable. What I really enjoyed about West Point was the respect commanded by just wearing the uniform and the respectful way the cadets treated others. Phil, Debbie and I took a walk up the river and around the campus and everywhere we went, picnickers and hikers said hello; some even invited us to join them. Phil and I held hands whenever we could, which wasn't often but still often enough. At lunch, Phil held my hand under the table, which had my mother in a fit of giggles. Also, he was telling a story about his apartment back home and how he had a "huge 36 inch (pause to swallow) oak table." The pause was too much; I got stuck on the "huge 36 inch" part and giggled, which made my mother kick me under the table. After lunch, we all toured the museum and the library on campus before it was time to say goodbye.

Dusk was beginning to fall, casting long shadows across the yard. Just before climbing into the car to leave, I leaned in and planted a lingering kiss on Phil's lips in plain view of several officers. I think I was worth a few trips around the quad.

Epilogue: Phil and I corresponded for a short time until I received a letter from him that was just filled with declarations of true love. Really? You knew me for two days, pal. I wrote back that I was not really looking for that kind of relationship and never heard from him again. Poor Sweet Pea. I broke his heart.

*Women had only been admitted to West Point for four years at this time and their numbers were still very few, so they still had to import them.


Anonymous said...

I love your memory!!! All I remember is missing Paul and trying to make the moves on Billy! You are the best!! btw...3 more days! xo

Ellen Bloom said...

Awww...what a sweet story! You and Sweet Pea looked so cute together!!!

woolanthropy said...

Sweet pea...awwwww damnit. You broke his heart.

BTW Love your platform shoes.

MonkeyGurrrrrl said...

*so* jealous. I was always wishing something like that would happen to me (growing up on base and all). I bow to your far superior hottiness.

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