“Don’t touch anything, even if I ask you to!” The very old man seated next to me who was also flying the plane, said with a grin.
“No danger, sir.” I said, looking at my formerly well-creased uniform. Summer of 1969 and I was on leave from the Army and had just flown from Baltimore’s Friendship Airport to Boston for eleven dollars military fare. Uniforms had to be worn and papers shown. Now I was shoe-horned into Will’s Air’s only (I assume) plane, a four seater, and the involuntary co-pilot.
“Let me know if you see the bridge, OK?” The old pilot had a good sense of humor I hoped.
We landed at Hyannis and I was met planeside by an older couple, since the girl who said she’d be there was “too busy” to drive over to get me. Bert and Gert Ryder were there in her place.
“Have you got your shaats?” Gert asked.
“Shots, yes Ma’am, got em all, supposed to be headed out to Vietnam, so got the whole load.”
“No, your shaats, the shaat pants for the heat. Can’t be wearing those uniforms round here with all this humidity.”
My introduction to the Cape was now nearly complete. I cringed as Bert rocketed down the mid-Cape highway, mostly on his side of the road, flicking ashes from his cigarette at passing cars. We got to their little house on Old Harbor Road and Gert busied herself in the kitchen. Bert needed a drink, so I went with him to buy a Nip at the Epicure.
The girl that I’d come to see had casually invited me to visit her on the Cape. We’d met on a blind date in Washington DC in 1967, one that was so unsuccessful that we never saw each other for another year or so. My March through June 1969 stint at the Army’s Infantry School in Fort Benning GA gave me plenty of time (about an hour a day) to write folks back home, including this girl. I got a letter or two back but it was clear that she was seeing someone else, that it was serious, and that she had her life to live.
During my short stay on the Cape, we did eventually get to see each other. She had to excuse the other guy from seeing her while I was there. She lent me her powder blue 1966 Plymouth Valiant to drive back and forth to the room that I was renting in Harwich. I think she did take me back to the Hyannis airport after my short stay.
We saw each other a few more times that summer, I even helped her roommates move from one house to another in DC while she stayed at the Cape. We watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, and read about Chappaquiddick the same weekend. Slowly, we got to know each other a little better.
Maybe it was the uncertainty of my life that made me anxious, I don’t know. She was a teacher in a middle school. We’d come from different backgrounds and had very little in common—I was a public college graduate and she had gone to a private one. She was from Ohio and I was a Pennsylvania kid. The list of differences was long.
Chatham and the Cape worked its magic. I can’t put my finger on when I realized that she was the one or that she did, but that’s another story for another time. We not only fell in love but got married a year later.
We’re celebrating our 40th Wedding Anniversary on Sunday, July 18th. The first song played at our reception at the Bolling Officer’s Club in DC was “Old Cape Cod.” The band will play it again at our party. Many of the folks in our wedding will be there. But I will not be wearing my “shaats” unless it’s really hot.
I agree with The Professor, great story!
Only people who lived thru this period will ever understand what life was like for couples and people in the 60's. Most of us where like your wife and you, working, getting started on marriage and enjoying the challenges.
These people who report that it was all "Sex, drugs and rock and roll" didn't get it from the world most of us lived in.
Thanks for the "Memories"!