It was fate. We were thrown together for a whole year in 6th grade as “hall monitors” at John Hay Elementary. Twyla Holznagle and me. She was the smartest girl in my class and I was, well, pretty smart. But she acted interested in me. I don’t remember any of our conversations during that year. I think we were both pretty shy. But I remember the feeling sitting in those hall monitor school desks, of just enjoying being close to her. She had long wavy hair and smelled good to boot.
It took me the whole school year to get up the courage, but in the spring, just before summer vacation I popped the question: “D’you wanna to go to a movie Saturday?” “Sounds good?” Did she say yes? She did! She said yes!
It was only Monday and by Saturday I was a nervous wreck. What theatre? What movie? Do I have enough money? Am I supposed to pay for both of us or do we go Dutch? By Thursday it was all decided, during hall monitor period. We would meet at Plymouth and Penn Avenue, take the streetcar downtown to the Orpheum and go to Bridgeman’s for ice cream sundaes after the movie. Fortunately my dad handed me a ten dollar bill on Friday, so I was now flush enough to treat for the whole date. My first date, her first date. Our first date!
The date went off great, except for holding hands with sweaty palms in the theatre. I have no idea what movie was playing, but I am sure it wasn’t the usual “Hopalong Cassidy” flick we often got at the Homewood. Bridgeman’s was the place to go for ice cream sundaes or sodas so I know that impressed Twyla.
We finished the school year, went into summer vacation, and for some reason, did not keep in touch all summer or through the rest of junior high and high school. Perhaps it was partly due to my moving four times before high school graduation with two of the moves being to a different city and then to Iowa for two years. But it was more likely that we were just too young to know how to handle feelings. I know I was. And that didn’t change through high school. I had many friends who were girls but no girl friends. Also, I found most of my friends in the downtown church I became active in for high school and college years.
Twyla remained one of the smartest girls in her class and was senior class Salutatorian, which means her GPA just missed Tom Morehouse’s, the Valedictorian. She did not go to college, she told me at our 40th high school reunion, because of finances. But she did continue being smart, a self-educated woman who served a couple of terms in the Minnesota State Senate. And she married a very nice man who she started dating in high school. At our 50th reunion he greeted me at the entrance with “Twyla’s been looking for you” and made sure we were seated at the same dinner table. At the 40th reunion she gave me a big hug and kiss while telling my wife, Linda, that she would just have to live with my being her first love. It is great having a woman pump up your ego and having a wife who keeps it from over-inflating.
Can you be both pumped and humble?