Ohhh, but they were so serious way back then.
And, lest any of you are disconcerted about “how young kids are today” when they embark on that torturous journey of romantic education, it was a regular and normal occurrence to begin “dating” in the “latter” years of elementary school when I was growing up more than six decades ago.
A DATE at that age was meeting your girl at the “pitcher show” (movie theater to you big city modernists) at the Saturday matinee. You paid your way in, her mama paid her way in and the two of you met in a crescendo of music in the middle of the big center seating section and “down front” about eight rows from the screen. Talk about being in the spotlight.
Okay, okay, maybe you tiptoed in amidst giggles from all your friends who’d heard about the big first date and were watching all giggly, goggle-eyed and with bated breath. It was dramatic, and almost devastatingly traumatic. Those giggles sounded like a symphonic orchestra and were a crescendo to me.
I was in sixth grade at O.M. Roberts Elementary School in Teague. It’s no longer standing and hasn’t been for a few decades nor has the theater. Yeah, I know, I’m old.
My “first date” was with Judy Hardison (later “Judi”), who was in fourth grade. Although I was older (sixth grade), Judy had already had some “dates” so was “experienced.”
OF COURSE, as was the way of things then (and I suspect, to a large degree, are now) everyone knew about the “big first date.”
To say that I was nervous would be THE gross understatement of the first half of the 20th Century. I talked about it with a few of my friends who, of course, related it to their friends and so on.
We met at the packed Saturday matinee at Teague’s Star Theatre, out front in the ticket line where the giggles and pointing began. That was followed by a parade up and down each aisle in the theater so everyone could get a glimpse of “romance in bloom.” I don’t think anyone, save the really little kids, watched the movie. Why would they with this unfolding Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall romantic adventure in seats nine and 10 on row 11 of the middle section of the grand Star auditorium. They could watch that, giggle and point and even gurgle silly, teasing remarks at the “love bunnies” on row 11.
As previously confessed, I had absolutely no “experience” at 12 years of age. So, there I am sitting like a lump on a log, staring at the screen with an occasional glance at my “date.”
But, I had sought the advice of the sixth grade Romeo, Chelmer Satterwhite.
FINALLY, CHELMER appears in the aisle on my left (Judy was on my right) and says in a loud whisper, “Hold her hand.” So, I did.
In a bit, there’s Chelmer again: “Hold both hands.” So, I did.
It was danged uncomfortable. As a matter of fact, the whole episode was strangling the breath out of me.
Of course, I couldn’t kiss her. That constituted a “Leave the theater” order in those times. Besides, I’d never kissed anyone, not even my mother, so I didn’t know how.
But, between Judy, me, and Chelmer, we provided enough entertainment for all the Star Theater’s kiddie matinee attendees. And, it was the talk of O.M. Roberts Elementary, if not the town, for, oh, two hours.
And, that was my debut in the world of romance. t’s on a screen.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.