This is part two in my mother’s story (written in her own words) of how she and my dad met. Part one is here.
Ruthe Continues: Next morning I put my plan into action. After bringing her two coffees as well as a pack of cigarettes (I knew she wouldn’t turn down some smokes from someone else’s coupon book), I worked up the nerve to ask: Was she planning to go to the dance at Ft. Dix? “No,” she responded. I told her: “I sure wish I could but I can’t.” Then she asked me: “Why not?” (perfect opening!) and I had my explanation ready.
I told her my story and asked if I could go using her name. Initially, she didn’t understand what I proposed, but when the light began to dawn she let out a whoop and started to laugh loudly causing everyone to turn and stare and wonder what was going on. She said she’d see me at lunch and let me know her decision, so I went to my desk to work, all the while wondering what I’d do if she said no, where would I go next? Worse yet, what if she blabbed to someone else about it? I could be in big trouble again.
At lunch she told me: “I’ll let you do it, but lady, you’d better be on your best behavior or you’ll be sorry.” Whatever that meant, and who cared anyway?! I WAS GOING TO THE VALENTINE’S DANCE! I immediately ran down to the administration office to sign my (her) name to the list before she changed her mind.
Mother wanted to know what brought about the change in my attitude when I came home that evening, all smiles. She quickly got caught up in my excitement when I told her (but of course NOT about going incognito). We spent the evening going through my sparse collection of 3 gowns. My elation drained away, seeing that the gowns were so babyish, more suitable for a junior high dance than for an army base and a grownup occasion like this.
Katherine (who lived with us) came to the rescue! She brought out two gowns for me to look at. There it was: a pink chiffon, 3/4 sleeves, flowing skirt and square neck. PERFECT! This I would borrow and feel like I had just stepped out of Seventeen.
Finally the big evening arrived. We dressed at the office. Though I felt glamorous on the outside, my insides were roiling. I had to remember: My name is Bobbie Pringle. Thank God it was winter time. Coats, gloves and head scarves would help hide me. (Fortunately we didn’t have to wear our photo id’s.)
Everyone was full of excitement as we stood in line to board the bus. I stood there, a bundle of nerves. Only three girls to go. Pulling my scarf closer to my face, when it was my turn to board, the chaperone asked, “Name?” Looking down at the step, I answered, “Bobbie Pringle.” With that, I ran to the back of the bus to find a seat away from the overhead light. Now I could relax and forget about everything until it was time to come home.
When we arrived the band was playing, the hall was decorated with red hearts and streamers hanging from the rafters and the glitter ball was casting iridescent hues on everything in sight. Shedding our coats and giving a quick comb-through and a fresh dab of lipstick, we walked out to the dance floor where we were greeted with: “Let’s dance!” We rushed to the floor.
There were no wallflowers that night, only partner after partner cutting in. The only people not dancing were the soldiers standing behind the railing watching the show.
Much too quickly, the sounds of “Good Night, Ladies” could faintly be heard and the lights came up. There was no mistaking that it was time to go. Not being in a special hurry to leave but not wanting to be late again, I was gradually making my way to the coatroom when a soldier squeezed from the crowd around him and asked if he could walk me to the bus.
I couldn’t remember dancing with him and I’m sure I’d have remembered his blue eyes, blond hair and broad smile. The essence of our conversation was to exchange contact information: his name, where he was from, how long he’d been in the service, stuff like that. All was going along fine until he asked, “And what’s your name?”
How do I handle this? I thought. ‘Fess up or what? I decided to explain that for tonight I had two names, because I wasn’t supposed to be here. I warned him not to call me Ruthe when we got to the bus door. Needless to say he thought this was very funny! Before I boarded the bus, he asked me if he could take me to church sometime.
I’d never heard that line before and thought, what a weirdo! But I gave him my address and phone number for the heck of it.
Once I had boarded the bus (after answering my name as “Bobbie” once again), I heaved a huge sigh of relief that it was over. I walked to the first window seat I could find while my new friend walked along outside. While I got settled in, Mr. Blue Eyes struck up a flirty chat with the gal sitting in the seat behind mine!
So much for thinking you’ll ever hear from this guy! I thought, and as the doors closed and lights were turned off, I snuggled down into my coat, closed my eyes and thought about the good time I’d had. What a strange fellow that soldier was! Church?
Oh, well, it was fun and I didn’t expect to hear from him anyway, so I took a nap.
One week later, the young soldier phoned, requesting “Bobbie Pringle” and as my Mother had never been told the story, she almost hung up the phone before I grabbed it … assuring her I’d explain everything later. As usual my future husband was being his old funny self! After that, every weekend he was able to get a pass, he was at my door, knowing that he’d be shipped overseas before long. It was on one of those weekends he asked me to marry him when the war was over.
I’d say that in spite of my lie, MUCH good came out of that Valentine’s Day Dance. Wouldn’t you?