Monday, July 12, 2010

Chapter 3, Part 6 - MY FINAL DAYS IN SPOKANE

During the ninth grade two incidents in particular stand out in my memories. Living next door to my siblings’ apartment, was a girl whose father was a photographer for the “Spokesman Review”, the main newspaper in Spokane. Her name was Cathy Lewis. At the time, I was MADLY in love with Elvis Presley. Her father was assigned to photograph back-stage pictures of Elvis for the newspaper when he came to Spokane for a concert. It was held in a football stadium outside because that was the only place large enough to accommodate all of those wanting tickets. I told Cathy about my undying love for Elvis and she talked to her father. They promised me that I would meet Elvis and have my picture taken with him! I was in seventh Heaven!

I got very dressed up, and painstakingly did my hair and make-up. My sister let me wear one of her nicest most expensive dresses. My father’s boss’s wife, Wanda, had purchased about 15 dresses for Beverly in Chicago...dresses that she got to choose out of Vogue and Bazaar Magazines! Wanda did this for Bev when she started College. We didn’t have many clothes because we always wore uniforms.

Finally, the night came. I had a ticket to attend the concert. Cathy told me to go to my seat and her dad was going to take the pictures during a half-time break. I waited. I watched the entire concert (in ecstasy) waiting for her to come and get me. The concert ended and she never came! I had driven with them to the concert so we found each other after the show.

She told me that they couldn’t find me!!! The photo session occurred before the show rather than at half time and I was not in my seat! I was heart broken. It turned out that I was seated in seat # 4-G-5 and I was supposed to be in seat # 5-G-4! I just knew, that if Elvis had met me, I would have been the love of his life!

After he developed the film, I saw several pictures of Cathy with Elvis. Years later, I would (once again) just a hair...meeting Elvis; which I will talk about later in my story. That night her father had taken pictures of me prior to leaving for the concert. I had some of the best pictures of me that I had ever taken at the time


The second incident was when I was listening to the radio at school and they had a contest. I decided to enter. The radio station was one located in Seattle. The contest was “Win a Date with Jimmy Bowen”. Jimmy Bowen was a partner with Buddy Knox and together they had a hit record. Knox had one side of the 45 called “Party Doll”, and Bowen had the flip side called “I’m Sticking With You”. Both songs were hits and both of them were very popular in 1957 when I heard about the contest.

All you had to do to enter was send in a photograph of yourself with a brief description (age etc). I sent one of the pictures Cathy’s father had taken of me on the night I went to see Elvis. To my utter amazement, I WON the contest!! As excited as I was, my father would not let me go on the “date” unless he went along (much to my embarrassment and dismay).

I waited months for this “date” to happen. Then, I was notified by the radio station that Jimmy Bowen could not go on the date. He had recently married Keely Smith (who had been married to Louis Prima (they were a singing duo). I later learned that Bowen had also quit the business as an entertainer and got into the production end. He also became the President of several Record Companies. He is still a Magnate in the music industry, especially Country.

So, the radio station (I believe it was KGY) told me I could choose, out of a list, a different singer for the date. The difference was, it wouldn’t be a “date” but someone I could meet backstage and be photographed with. I can’t remember all of the choices that were given to me but I do remember there was either one of the Everly Brothers, Paul Anka or Ricky Nelson. I chose Ricky Nelson. Many years later, I would regret not choosing Paul Anka.

When the day finally came, my father took me to Seattle and we (both) went backstage after the show. I had my picture taken with Ricky Nelson, which I still have. The entire procedure took about five minutes, or less. I remember being SO embarrassed when my father told Ricky Nelson that he was a huge fan of the TV series “Ollie and Harriet” (it was actually Ozzie and Harriet).


My sister took extra classes so she could graduate from college early. She was getting married in February because her husband-to-be was in ROTC and was scheduled to be stationed in Fort Lee, Virginia as a First Lieutenant in the Army.

My whole family was all part of the wedding. We even flew our mother from Seattle to Spokane and bought her a new dress so she could attend too. This was the second and last time all of us were photographed together. My brothers were ushers and I was a bridesmaid. Her colors were red and white and I had a beautiful red dress. I wore it when I met Ricky Nelson. The wedding and reception were fabulous. It was held in the Ridpath Hotel which was the newest and most modern hotel in Spokane. An interesting side note is that the two people that were in charge of arranging weddings and large banquets were Mr. Cheatum and Mrs. Swindle!

Lots of alcohol was served and my brothers and my mother all got plastered! My father yelled at my mother and berated her in front of everyone. He made her cry. None of us ever forgave him for that. We had the misfortune of having a father who was a complete asshole. He was cruel, self-centered, selfish, inconsiderate, detestable, vulgar and just an all out horrible human being. I don’t know how he could even stand being himself. Every one of us hated him. We always did from as far back as I can remember, up to the day he died. Bill and I hated him the most.

The last time I saw my mother was at my sister’s wedding. I was fifteen. The wedding was in February, 1958 and my mother died in June, 1959. Like I had explained earlier, she never recovered from the stroke she had when I was five. She had learned to walk but had to drag her right leg and it was very difficult for her. Her right arm was bent and immobile and her hand was in a permanently closed fist, which she couldn’t open. She could talk but it was a huge struggle. She could only speak enough words to enable her to convey things to us. Only those who were close to her could really understand her (after getting used to it over time). Somehow, she managed to say four-letter cuss words as clear as a bell though! We all really loved her with all of our hearts.

My time in Spokane had finally come to an end. My father was transferred by his Company to work permanently in the Chicago area. Up until then his “territory” as a salesman was the thirteen Western States. While in Chicago he would only cover Illinois and four surrounding states. So, I was off to attend my final boarding school in Evanston, Illinois.

Chapter 3, Part 6 - NINTH GRADE

The ninth grade turned out not to be as bad as I was anticipating, in fact it was one of the best years I ever had while in school.

The ninth graders had to sleep in the same dormitory as the grade school, but other than that, we mostly mingled with the other high school girls. I no longer had to report to Sister Bernard Marie after school hours. I shared the recreation room with the high school boarders, not the grade school that BM was in charge of. The nun that was in charge of the high school boarders was far nicer and more lenient. I don’t remember her name.

She even let us listen to the radio and watch some television. The high school girls were also allowed to dance with each other. This was the era when American Bandstand had just begun and Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando were the heartthrobs of the day. The popular dance was the “Bop”. We learned our dance moves by watching them dance on American Bandstand.

One thing that always surprised me was in all of the twelve years of boarding school, I was never taught how to cook or sew which is something you would think would be a priority in all-girl schools. The kitchen was off limits to the boarders in all three of the schools I attended, so I never even got to watch how food was prepared. We never did laundry either but did lots and lots of ironing. We even ironed our sheets.

After school, we were also allowed to leave the campus and go to nearby shops and soda fountains, which were quite popular then. We were only to leave the grounds in groups, however. This is when I first started experimenting with smoking cigarettes, which was considered a very cool thing to do, but daring and risqué for us. Something that I can’t imagine what the punishment would have been from Sister Bernard Marie!

My two brothers shared a small apartment together for quite some time while attending Gonzaga, but rarely would I spend week-ends with them. They both worked nights in an elite bakery located in the Davenport Hotel, which was the most exclusive hotel in Spokane.

Their job was to clean the bakery at night after all of the pastry chefs left. The Hotel served exquisite French Pastries and each one had to be perfect on the inside and on the outside. Jim and Bill were supposed to throw out all the fancy pastries that weren’t perfect. Of course, they didn’t throw them away but instead they brought them back to their apartment.

They had lots of parties too. Both of them gained so much weight that they each weighed close to 400 pounds! They each had severe problems with their weight and were both considered “morbidly obese” their entire lives. Bill’s weight was part of the cause of his many problems in Military School where self-discipline was highly stressed.

In her senior year my sister Beverly moved in with Jim and Bill into a larger apartment together about a mile from Holy Names. I was allowed to spend the majority of week-ends with them. My new found freedom was exhilarating for me. Prior to that year, I rarely stayed with any of them. My sister was living on campus in a building called Madonna Hall. She would occasionally let me stay with her but only when her roommate went somewhere else and her bed was available.

When I spent week-ends with the three of them while in the ninth grade I was given lots of freedom to do pretty much anything I wanted. My father was never made aware of it or he never would have allowed it….and he would have been furious. It was our secret.

A very strange coincidence happened with that apartment. Many years after they graduated from Gonzaga, my sister’s daughter, Jennifer also attended that same University. She lived on campus her first couple of years and then decided to rent an apartment. Without knowing anything about it, she ended up renting the SAME apartment that they had lived in! My sister was shocked the first time she visited her and recognized it was the same exact place. What are the odds of that!?

Our father never allowed my sister or me to go on dates or attend dances unless we were chaperoned. He would have to meet the boy’s parents before we could even attend a dance or prom. Our dances were with boys from nearby all-boy Catholic schools. My brother Jim was actually Beverly’s date for her senior prom and my father chaperoned! He also chaperoned the one dance he ever let me attend and it was my senior prom in the twelfth grade.