The teenage boys, including me, were all on one side of the living room. The teenage girls were all grouped on the other side of the room, giggling and pointing at the shy guys. Music was playing but no one was dancing.
We were all sophomores at South High School. The year was 1965 it was my first high school house party.
I was stunned that Carol, the first in a long line of my high school crushes, invited me to her party.
The only obstacle to me going was getting permission from my dad.
I practiced my “the parents will be there, no booze or stimulants are allowed and the only 45s allowed were your favorite vinyl records” speech. Unbelievably, my dad said “yes” to me going — alone. I didn’t have to take my older brother Willie or older sister Rachel. I could actually go alone, unchaperoned for the very first time in my life to a party.
So I began practicing my “Bond, James Bond” look in the mirror and rehearsing a request for a medium-dry Pepsi, with a lemon peel, shaken not stirred. I was determined to be the coolest guy at the party.
It all came crashing down when my Dad said he would have to drive me to the party in our blue family station wagon. And my retired Marine Corps Korean War veteran Dad gave me strict orders when he dropped me off. He would be back to pick me up at exactly 2300 hours. If I wasn’t standing on the curb at 11 p.m., he would honk until everyone came out of the party, or he would come in and get me.
The clock was ticking. All throughout the party, I kept looking at my watch to make sure the nightmare of my Dad busting through the front door at 11:01 wouldn’t happen.
It was getting close to 11 and, still, no one was dancing, except for the girls with each other.
Why do I remember with such clarity? Because my “Bond, James Bond” persona had disappeared and I had retreated back to the shy young kid from southeast Bakersfield that I was.
It was almost 11 and “Under the Boardwalk,” by the Drifters, was on the record player. I scanned the room and there was Carol, looking at me. I swear she glowed, and a fan was gentling blowing her long, beautiful hair. This was it … my moment … do or die.
The clock was ticking.
I walked across the room and asked her to dance. She said yes, and my life could have ended right there in her living room. My young life was now complete.
Tick tock. My watch read exactly 10:59 and the Drifters were singing “Under the boardwalk, down by the sea.” I knew where I wanted to be, but I also knew where I had to be — outside standing on the curb. In the middle of the song, I gave Carol a hug, and without even saying good-bye or offering an explanation, I left her alone in the middle of her living room with “on a blanket with my baby” singing in the background.
And, yes, my Dad was sitting in the blue family station wagon waiting for me.
What is bringing back this memory?
It’s South High School’s class of 1968 50th reunion Oct. 13. The reunion committee has done a great job of getting the word out and organizing the event. They developed a great website with updates on who is going, past and present, pictures of those of us remaining, and a listing of those who have sadly passed.
And yes, Carol is going. She is happily married now, as I was for 40 years. At the reunion, I will ask the DJ to play “Under the Boardwalk” and, yes, I will ask Carol to dance.
If she says “yes,” I will dance with her until the song is finished. And during the dance, I will explain to her how much her friendship influenced me in high school and helped who I would eventually become.
Under the Boardwalk, down by the sea … on the dance floor with Carol, that’s where I will be.
Email contributing columnist Steve Flores at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work normally appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are his own.