Next week on the 16th of June, Cath and I will celebrate our 43d wedding anniversary. In an interesting twist, the 15th of June is the 49th anniversary of our first date in 1972. Cathy was all of 16 years old, and I was the older man at 17. To tell the whole story though, you need to go a couple months before then, when I turned her down for a Sadie Hawkins dance at our high school.
Every year in the spring, Ottawa Township High School (OTHS) held a Spring Formal which was also a Sadie Hawkins Dance. That is, the girl asks the boy to the event. (Do they still have those? Maybe it doesn’t matter anymore. For that matter, does anyone remember Li’l Abner or Dogpatch, where Sadie Hawkins Day* originated? ). In 1972, I was a junior and Cathy Snow was a sophomore. We knew each other a bit from Student Council. Well, one evening in March, I received a call at home. The young Miss Snow was on the line, and after a bit of small talk, asked me if I would go to the Spring Formal with her. Alas, I had to turn her down, as two days before, I’d been asked by a girl in my class named Gail. The call ended pretty quickly after that.
Fast forward two months. My friend Howard and I were at Pitsticks, a local swimming place with a beach, and ran into Cathy and our mutual friend, Lori Lyle. We made small talk back and forth and at some point Cathy asked if I wanted to swim out to the diving platform and off we went. Of course I had to exhibit my prowess as a swimmer and did a one and a half off the high dive. (I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity to try and impress a prospective date.) Cathy played her part and said to me “Great Dive! You looked like a knife going through soft butter when you entered the water!” My strategy appeared to be working… ;-). In later conversations, she mentioned she and Lori might be out and about riding their bikes that night. I answered back that I’d thought about going for a bike ride that night as well, and maybe I’d run into them. With that, we said our goodbyes and went back to our respective spots on the beach.
That evening after dinner, I grabbed my bike and started riding around the south side of town looking for Cathy and Lori, but didn’t see them anywhere. Eventually I stopped at a store and went inside to buy a pop. While inside, Cathy and Lori rode by, saw my bike outside the store, stopped and came inside.
Everyone seemed pretty happy to connect. We talked a bit and then went back outside and the three of us rode around town together. Eventually, we ended up back at Cathy’s house at 305 Houston Street and had some ice tea on the back porch.
Unbeknownst to me, Cath and Lori weren’t sure which of the two of them I might be interested in. Cath had asked me to the dance, however, Lori and I had known each other from church for quite a while. They had a plan. After a bit of time, Lori would say she had to head home. They figured if I said I had to leave as well and rode off with Lori, I was interested in her. If I stayed there when she left, I was interested in Cathy.
Dusk arrived and Lori said she was going to ride home. I wished her a good night and stayed at Cathy’s… 😉
As it grew dark, we talked, and then talked some more. Finally, around 1030PM or so, I said I ought to go home. We walked to the steps leading off the porch, and while I was trying to work up the courage to kiss her goodnight, proceeded to talk another half hour or so. Suddenly, about 11PM, her mom, Faye, appeared at the inside door to the porch in a black nightgown and said “Ina Catherine, I think it’s time to come to bed.” Family history reports I was on my bike and riding away before she finished the sentence (in retrospect, we should have found a more private place to say our goodbyes. Her parent’s bedroom was directly above the porch.)
Two nights later, on June 15th, we had our first official date. I picked Cath up with my folk’s car and we went to the Perky Putt golf course (miniature golf) on the north side of town. While I have no clear recollection of the results, Cathy remembers soundly beating me. Afterwards, we went to a small drive-in restaurant on the Illinois River called the Sanicula Marina. We both ordered Black Cows and proceeded to walk along the river. I did kiss her goodnight that evening, but it was on the front porch, not the side porch under her parent’s windows…
As they say, the rest is history. We dated all summer, and then into the school year. And the next spring when she asked me to the Sadie Hawkins dance again? I quickly said yes that time around.
We have almost five decades together as a couple now, and it’s definitely true – Time flies when you’re having fun.
- * From Wikipedia – “Sadie Hawkins Day is an American folk event and pseudo-holiday originated by Al Capp’s classic hillbilly comic strip Li’l Abner (1934–1978). This inspired real-world Sadie Hawkins events, the premise of which is that women ask men for a date or dancing. “Sadie Hawkins Day” was introduced in the comic strip on November 15, 1937.”
- Thanks to my lovely wife, Cathy for her contributions to this blog. In particular, her memories of the day at Pitsticks are more specific than mine, including the comment that my dive “looked like a knife cutting through soft butter”.
- Thanks to Debi Hillyer for the photo of Sanicula and Curtis Wasilewski for the picture of the Perky Putt score card. A special thanks to Mike Peabody for the photo of Cathy’s old home at 305 Houston Street. In a strange twist of fate, Cathy babysat Mike and his sister Michelle when they were young children living across the street. Mike moved out of Illinois for years and only recently returned to Ottawa. When the home became available, he and his wife bought it.