Where the Boys Are
by Anne Hoiberg, President, La Jolla Pen Women, A Branch of the National League of American Pen Women
I’ve always liked boys. When I was five, I especially liked Bobby Burrows. I remember snuggling with Bobby under his Mom’s chrome-legged kitchen table where we shared his favorite food, “suggie samiches.”
1 slice white Wonderbread
1 tablespoon butter or margarine (less-desirable substitute)
2 tablespoons sugar, sprinkled over bread
Fold bread over and serve
After we finished the sandwich, Bobby leaned over and kissed me on the mouth. He tasted of sugar, my sweet boy friend. Alas, it was not meant to be. He and his family moved down Lord Avenue, and he shared his life with Gloria, the girl next door. I didn’t despair: there were other boys!
Even next door and one house down on Charles Street were two fairly good replacements: Sonny Puffpaff and Billy Jacobi. Sonny was such fun as he imitated the cartoon characters we loved. He was a great Bugs Bunny, but an even funnier Porky Pig. How we howled when Sonny’s Porky Pig stuttered his answers to Bugs Bunny or Elmer Fudd.
What was fun to me were the exploring activities Sonny and Billy promoted in that small town in Illinois. To join in, I would have to learn how to ride my sister’s hand-me-down, blue and white Schwinn bicycle. My Dad took on the teacher’s role and patiently guided me night after night down the sidewalk and around the block until I had mastered the balancing act of staying on a two-wheeler.
With a bicycle, my world exploded. My cherished dolls and all of the other Santa Claus-delivered items that accessorize dolls, e.g., a buggy, bed and blankets, clothes, and toy refrigerator and other furniture, were abandoned in the play room. The three of us were mobile! Off we went to investigate the world along the Fox River. We pushed our way into vacant summer cabins left unattended by fishermen during the off-fishing-season months; we considered using one cabin as a club house for meetings of the “Bike, Hike, and Climb Club.”
We commandeered Carpenter Park, inviting others to join us in competitive games. We also became trainers for less adventurous boys and taught them how to jump the creek, build dams, and climb trees. Astonishing to me was the fact that most of the girls in my class showed little interest in these outdoor activities. On a few occasions, Glenda Shartow joined us, but only when we played softball.
In the fourth grade, I zeroed in on Ronnie Martens and sent a special Valentine to him as we placed our Valentines in the large card box. I also included a Valentine for all of the other boys, which created quite a “stir” on that Valentine’s Day in school. Who was this mysterious sender who only signed with a heart? Ronnie knew, and by the time we were in the seventh grade, we had become Friday night movie goers. We always sat in the balcony, sometimes holding hands. Balcony friends Doug and Shirley experimented with more advanced affection, as evidenced one time by noticing Shirley’s angora sweater fur stuck to the front of Doug’s shirt.
During middle and early high school, classmates hosted parties in their parents’ converted basements where we played vinyl albums on the newly created stereo phonograph. While we were determined to become good dancers, we also played spin the bottle and other kissing games. We all wanted to master the fine art of kissing, too.
By the time we reached junior and senior grades in high school, serious relationships became the norm, and several friends wore their boyfriend’s high school ring on a necklace. Although I still liked boys, I seemed reluctant to enter a major involvement. Don Hicks invited me to the prom to be held at Chicago’s Lake Shore Hotel, but no romance blossomed from this traditional high school event.
University life in Illinois offered lots of opportunities to date boys, with invitations to fraternity parties flooding the dorm’s telephone line. During spring breaks, we ventured beyond Illinois; three of us rode in Pat’s car to Fort Lauderdale one year, and the next year Nancy and I flew to Acapulco where we even met John Wayne in the Acapulco Airport. Boys and men were everywhere!
Almost all of my women classmates were determined to be engaged to marry by the end of their senior year, at the very latest. Several of my high school and most of my university friends were married soon after graduation from either educational institution. I, too, considered accepting a marriage proposal, but somehow I just was not all consumingly in love with Steve, which is what I was supposed to feel, according to Carol and Nancy, two of my engaged classmates. I turned down Steve’s proposal.
Graduating with a teaching degree opened the doors to possibilities for meeting men in the school district in which I would accept a teaching position. The compelling question centered on where to go. Friend Joanie, also eager to explore any place to re-locate outside of Illinois, suggested California. We packed up her Chevie, bid our mothers good-bye, and began our journey across the plains and mountainous states to California. En route, we checked out the guys in Denver and even Winnimucca, Nevada, where two cowboys bought us a Coors beer in a local bar. We were only slightly tempted to stay.
Our destination was San Francisco where I hoped to meet guys from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road gang, the Beat Generation, or Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters. Being from Illinois, however, we felt ill-prepared for the possibility of being offered marijuana or some other drug, like LSD. We stayed clear of the Haight-Asbury District. Residents of the more sophisticated areas of San Francisco were less than welcoming as we ventured into the Top of the Mark to have our first cocktail in California.
We decided to press on to Los Angeles where Joanie’s aunt lived. We stayed with Aunt Caroline and her lesbian roommate. I had never met a lesbian couple, and was somewhat shocked. I could not imagine how that relationship worked; however, I have to admit that I was barely cognizant of how heterosexual relationships evolved. Aunt Caroline suggested that we consider La Jolla, a lovely part of San Diego, where we would meet lots of naval officers and engineers working at General Dynamics.
We left for La Jolla the next day. After checking into a motel and spending the afternoon at the beach, we decided to explore a bar in Bird Rock. In our University of Illinois sweatshirts and Bermuda shorts, we casually walked into Beer City where we ordered a beer. Almost immediately several surfer-type guys approached us and introduced themselves. One of the guys played a song on the jukebox that had my name in the title. We danced to that song, again and again. After a couple of hours, Joanie and I said good-night to our new friends and a thank you for the beers. As we drove off in Joanie’s car, we laughed and said, “This is the place. We’re home.”