Sixty-five years ago at approximately 10:30 p. m. on the Friday evening of December 16th, 1949, a sixteen year old girl waited in the deserted parking lot of Shorewood High School. She was waiting for a date with an eighteen year old gentleman whom she had seen many times but only spoken with once—and that was briefly on the telephone.
To back up, here is the scenario. Joe Been had graduated from Wauwatosa* High School in June of 1949. Margaret Longenecker was a junior at that school at the time of the Shorewood parking lot rendezvous. Earlier that week Joe had questioned a mutual friend as to whom he might ask to the Wauwatosa High Christmas Dance to be held on Saturday, December 17th—an evening of ballroom dancing to the music of the local Steve Swedish orchestra.
The mutual friend, Judy**, suggested that Joe ask Margaret who had recently broken up with a one-time steady. So Joe called, and Margaret said “Okay!” She knew Joe by reputation. He was liked by everyone, and loved by a number of females. Please don’t tell Joe that I said the following—but he was something of a star on both the high school tennis and football teams. Joe is very humble, and will tell you otherwise.
My parents were pleased with this dating plan, because Margaret’s Aunt Gladys was a friend of Joe Been’s mother. Aunt Gladys had commented before that the Been boys (Joe and his older brother, Paul) were fine young men and extremely polite. In those days, “polite” was a huge priority.
So arrangements were made for Joe and Margaret to meet the evening before the dance, to get acquainted. Joe (a student at what was then the UW Extension in Milwaukee) had a part time grocery store job, and would get off work at about the ending of the Wauwatosa High School vs. Shorewood High basketball game. Margaret and Joe would meet in the Shorewood parking lot after the game.
Switching to a first person account, if there ever was such a thing as butterflies in one’s stomach I (Margaret) had butterflies all week in anticipation of this rendezvous. I was terribly excited, and I didn’t really know why—so excited that I failed to pay attention to the basketball game and I normally enjoyed watching basketball.
After the game I went to the parking lot, and stood under a tall lamp post with a bright light. Cars drove in and out, picking people up. Cars of students who drove left the parking lot. The Shorewood team strode past me, clueless to who I was and why I was there. Then the Wauwatosa team passed by. I knew most of those guys, and several of them were concerned.
“Margaret, are you okay? Need a ride?”
“No, I’m fine thank you. I’m meeting someone.”
How astounding to recall that I never had even a shadow of fear, standing there in the vacant parking lot. I really was fine! At that time in history Milwaukee, Wisconsin was known to be one of the safest, most wholesome, most strongly family oriented big cities on the face of the planet. Fear simply never entered my simple mind!
Finally, there was Joe driving his family’s car. He was sorry that he’d been unavoidably detained at work. He took me to a soda fountain restaurant called DUTCH TREAT. Now Dutch Treat usually meant that everyone paid for their own, so I wondered if I would have to pay. “No,” was Joe’s answer.
I was traditionally conservative with money—my own and anyone else’s—but something snapped that night and I ordered an extravagant “treat”: a strawberry shortcake dessert which cost $.42—note that the forty-two is to the right of the decimal. Forty two cents. I knew I was falling in love right on the spot because, normally a voracious eater, I simply could not eat. I lost my appetite and, while gazing at Joe, I just stirred and stirred the strawberries, ice cream, and cake until it turned into soup.
Joe asked, “Aren’t you going to eat that?”
I answered that I couldn’t, and would he like it? Joe’s retort was classic—indicative of his charming, forthright personality to this day: “I would eat it if you hadn’t stirred it into mush!”
On the way home from this food fiasco, Joe mentioned that he and his brother had bought a set of dishes for their mother, for Christmas. Perhaps that clinched my gut instinct. I come from a dish family. My grandmothers loved their dishes. My own mother loved her dishes. Even my father loved our dishes.
And, odd child that I was, I’d loved*** dishes from little on. A guy who would buy dishes for his mom had to be very special. And special he is—even more so now, sixty-five years later! And guess what? He has bought me a lot of dishes!
A Lifetime Rendezvous!
Margaret L. Been, December 16th, 2014
*Only in Wisconsin might you find a name like “Wauwatosa”. We have lots of them, and many begin with “W”: Waukesha, Waukon, Waupaca, Wausau, Winnebago, Winneconne, etc. Well, on second thought Washington State has some names like that as well.
**Many years later, Joe and I named one of our daughters after that “Judy”.
***Obviously I’m using the word “love” very loosely. I know the difference between agape, philia, and eros—and what I am calling a “love” for dishes! I’m not even sure the Greeks have a word for the love of dishes to eat off of—or for their wonderful food dishes— baklava, spanakopita or whatever. But we English speakers could definitely use a few more words for the various kinds of love!!! :)