Darby L

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Darby's Story > Chapters > The Relieving Years of Adolescence

"My First Date" 


Date Range: 10/23/1933 To 08/22/1934   Comments: 1   Views: 4,992
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Although I didn’t realise it, I now had my first date.


It was at an art show. This young man came over and started discussing the art on show. He then asked me if I would go to a Faraday exhibition with him. As we were doing Faraday at school it was just right and I said yes. He arranged to pick me up at six the next evening and I was quite happy. After seeing the exhibition, Bernie (that was his name), invited me back to supper at his home. A little confused and shy I nevertheless agreed. Reaching his home we were confronted by his much older sister. She looked at me and said “Are you the girl Bernie is talking about? But you are not Jewish. Bernie’s dad will not be pleased.” If I had been older and more self-assured I would have said how rude she was and left. As it was I was struck dumb and allowed Bernie to seat me to a full fish meal instead of tea and biscuits that I expected. He saw me home and I thought that was the last I would see of him but no. The next evening he knocked on the door and asked to walk and talk. The first thing he asked was if I went to church. I said not, having a puritan mother and a catholic father. They could never agree. Then he asked would I join the Jewish religion? I really disgraced myself by hooting with laughter and saying “Who me! You are joking. I could never be second to a man which was a rule of Jews”, and anyway I liked pork and couldn’t see the sense in their food rules. Bernie turned and, gentleman that he was, walked me home and explained that as he was a man in the family he was expected to carry on the traditions. Completely over my head and I just waved the nut goodbye. 

School went on relentlessly and the terrible day came when my Uncle said “I have entered you into a school for machines brought in from America. They are the latest thing and you will be one of the first to use them. They are adding and bookkeeping machines and will become all the go.” 

 It was a sad day when I left my school but still quite a thrill to be starting something new. Figures. My element. The training was for six months but after three I found myself teaching other people and being sent out to firms requiring books to be brought up-to-date or just a demonstration.
           One day the head of the organisation called me into his office. Being ready for something being wrong I was amazed when he asked me if I would like to go to America. Of course I jumped at the chance. He explained that I would go to all the big cities and demonstrate the machines. It was part of their sales campaign and I had proved quite good at sales and explaining how things worked. I was over the moon but as I was only sixteen he had to have my parents’ consent. Guess what! My mother said “No”, blathering about white slaves and kidnapping. Even when she was assured that I would have an older companion and live with a good family the answer remained “No”. The head said how sorry he was but assured me they would find me a good position.
           Now that I was travelling by train to the city each day I became one of a group using the same train at the same time each morning. Mostly there were young men but there was a sprinkle of girls. I soon became friends with Leslie. Such a nice boy. In insurance I believe. He didn’t last long because he would sing goodnight under my bedroom window. The neighbours complained and he had to go. How I met George I can’t remember. He just seemed to be there. Anyway we went to different things together, a concert and a film I wanted to see. Just normal things. Then out of the blue one of the girls introduced me to the boy she was engaged to and asked if I would make up a four as her brother wanted to accompany them to a dance. At the word dance I agreed. Dancing always got me in. I left the train and found George waiting for me. He said he would be around early and we could go to the cinema. I only said “I’m sorry. I’m going to a dance with Peter, Muriel’s brother”. Without waiting for an explanation he turned his back and walked away. Well, what a bad temper. The dance was great but Peter was hard to get on with. When not dancing, which he was good at, he sat in silence. What a bore.
    In the morning there was a knocking on the front door. I opened it to find George’s mother and sister looking at me. They both looked distressed and mother exclaimed “But you are only a child.” Of course I was not flattered at the child bit but asked what they wanted. Mother was upset because George had tried to commit suicide the night before. At hospital he kept saying he had lost me. As I pointed out he had no right to claim me. I wasn’t going to be claimed by anyone. Mother, very upset, agreed at my age I would not want to be tied down. She asked me to promise not to see George again and of course I did. I was really shaken to think George could be so silly.
          Jack stepped into the picture and being older I felt he would have some sense. How wrong I was. After a short time he started blathering on about meeting the one and only. Then he proposed to me. I laughed, which offended him and I had to explain that at my age I was only looking. Goodbye Jack.  
          What is the matter with these boys? Boys? Well young men. Anyway, John, my tennis partner every so often, told me a tale of woe. He was engaged to a girl who was the daughter of his parents’ best and long time friends. As he said he was more or less forced into the engagement as it was understood it was going to be from childhood. Those days were so different. Dad’s word was law. John was smarting from a lecture from his father about kissing this girl. He had to be a gentleman. Nothing was more guaranteed to make him kick over the traces. He asked me to go on a trip to the city. The city was a little out of my way but a fellow in need called and I went. We went down to So Ho. It was an area outside my knowledge but being quite a lot older than myself John knew his way around. We went to a tiny cafe where John walked through to a door at the back. After rapping on it a man opened it and greeted John. After some money was paid, I don’t know how much, we went through another door into a large room with tables and chairs and a small dance floor. Down the other side were gaming tables. As I didn’t drink, smoke or take drugs I felt right lost. John tried to get me to gamble but I wasn’t interested. My money was my money. We didn’t stay long and John ran me home.
          Later that week he told me his cousin was coming for the weekend and wanted to make a foursome. I agreed and John and his cousin, also called John brought a girl I didn’t know. She was quite nice but I didn’t know she was cousin John’s regular girlfriend that his wife didn’t know about. When I found out I gave John a good telling off.                   
           I only went out with him once more. The two Johns and we girls went to a sleazy bar in the city. John certainly knew his way around down there. There was a floor show part way through the evening. I decided to go to the ladies before the show started. Somehow I opened the wrong door and there were the girls waiting to go on for the show. One was calling for a safety pin and nobody had one. Ever helpful, I said that I had. The girl pinned up a shoulder strap and said “It isn’t my turn to fall out of my dress tonight.” When I gaped she explained that when they did the can-can finale one girl popped out of her dress showing her boobs and the audience loved it thinking it was an accident. I looked at her in disbelief. The dresses they were wearing were grubby and stained after nights of sweating and lack of care. The girl I gave the pin to was even grubby herself. I got out of there with a shudder and found the loo. Back at the table the two Johns were delighted when the girl in the middle of the line fell out of her dress in the can-can. I didn’t tell them what I knew but I wanted out of there. John was driving his father’s car and with his good load of whisky aboard the drive home was hair-raising. We laughed all the way playing “Catch the red”. We were lucky not to meet any police or to have an accident. Thank goodness I only drank soft drink. I only went out once more with John and that was to a dance given by a firm he worked for. 
           It was quite unexpected and I had to hurry and dress while he waited. Having been in such a hurry I needed to go to the loo when we reached the hotel where the dance was being held. That was fine, John waited outside the ladies. I came bubbling out and John swept me away onto the dance floor. Oh what a great time until a woman tapped me on the shoulder and said “My dear. Your dress is tucked in your knickers showing your bottom.” John being the gentleman he was carefully pulled my dress out and went on dancing. I was so embarrassed but John thought it hysterical. That was my last outing with John. We still played tennis but our adventures were too much for me.     
           In between times with John I had met a tall handsome Irish man. His name was Danny but because he always called dinner “tinner” I called him Tinner. He was six foot three and had a strong muscular body. A girl from the group whispered in my ear “He’s rough and won’t take no for an answer.” In my super ignorance I wanted to know what she had said no to. After a glare she just walked away. Anyway Tinner was always gentle and caring. We were just happy in each other’s company. Then he confided in me that he wanted to be an actor. He certainly had the looks, his blonde hair and blue eyes he inherited from his Swedish mother, although his father was Irish. I discussed his chances in England and then he disclosed that he had saved enough money to go to Hollywood to try his luck. I was shaken and said I would miss him. I never forgot his answer. “I will regret losing you. You are like an apple blossom floating in the breeze.” Real Irish blarney but then I was only small, six stone five pounds against his giant build. He always treated me like a doll and that suited me. He said goodbye a short time later assuring me I would see him on the big screen.
About three or four years later I was in the cinema when that face appeared. Only in a crowd but I called out, “That’s Tinner. Look at Tinner”. Loud shushing came and I was quiet but so excited at seeing Tinner. He had made it. I saw him in many more films. Not a well known name but quite near the top.
           Somehow I had picked up Len. He was good looking and danced like an angel. I can’t remember where he came from but I was quite happy with him until I went down with bronchitis. Being in bed I couldn’t meet him but he solved that. My bedroom was in the front of the flat facing the front garden. This clot brought his guitar and played and sang to me while sitting under my window. The first night was funny. The second night was irritating. The third night neighbours complained and my mother went out and told him to go and not come back. He didn't.                     
Somehow I met Percy. A very nice young man. He was quite smitten and after two visits asked if I could find a girl to go out with a friend of his. There wasn’t anyone free but I did talk my sister, who just didn’t date, to go with us for the evening. We went to a show in town and supper afterwards. Oh boy! Was his friend dumb. Percy said he was too shy to ask a girl out and he was like a block of wood. When it was time to go home we ran for a bus. The friend, Harry, and my sister caught it but Percy and I held back so that the other two would be on their own. We caught the next bus and arrived on my doorstep to find Harry and my sister leaning on the gate talking. Percy kissed me goodnight and Harry shook hands with my sister. Shook hands? Well I was amazed. As I went past him I said “For heaven’s sake. Kiss the girl and arrange another date.” He did and kept coming back. Percy lived so far away, right across town, that we just parted but Harry bought a motorbike and as I say was always visiting.
          So I met another Len at a club I had joined. Gee what an attractive man he was. Just back from Egypt where he was working, he was an engineer of some kind, on a dam construction. We went to a show in town and because I hadn’t eaten, my stomach made horrible gurgling noises. Just when everything was quiet and a sob scene was taking place everyone heard my stomach say “Brrrrrrm burrm” It was so loud. I could have sunk under the floor. Big, bronze and wealthy he might be but I felt humiliated and stupid so he had to go.
          I was now free to look around and kept well away from all the boys. I wanted to get myself back on track and sorted out. All this time I continued with the gym classes but had joined this social club on a Friday evening. I still played netball and tennis but dancing was my first love. 
          One evening at the club a young man asked me to dance. As he had been pointed out to me as a pro’ dancer I was quite flattered. We fitted so well and a few weeks later he asked me to take the place of his late partner. She had gone away and he was looking for a new one. Oh heaven be praised, what a chance. We practised two nights a week and then gave exhibition dancing at clubs, halls or other venues. His name was Fred. So ordinary but gee you can’t have everything. Fred explained that we were amateur and any offer of pay would be diverted to the local hospital. That was fine. I only wanted to dance. Fred was a masseur for a boxing club and I often went to matches with him. He always said what a stupid game these men played with their lives. He pointed out a very good-looking young man and stated his life was ruined. This man had been a boxer but too many blows to the head had left him a drooling vacant mess. This man was only capable of cleaning and easy jobs. I never forgot that pitiable wreck and stopped going to matches.
          Looking back over this writing I seemed to have only accounted for leisure times. I did work. A call came for me to bring an engineering firm’s books up to date. I did some extra work on some blue prints that came in. The boss was so pleased he asked me to stay permanently. Of course I said yes. The basic wage for a man at that time was three pounds. As rents were never above one pound and living was so cheap that was an accepted figure. I was being paid six pounds fifty pence after insurance etc. At times I felt almost guilty at my high wage. 
          I paid my mother two pounds, which was good money, put two pounds into my savings account and had two pounds to spend. I seldom spent the two pounds and with Uncle Fred’s training I saved all I could.
          I enjoyed the work because it was unusual. I had to take weights and measures off blue prints. This surprisingly made it necessary to contact embassies and people from foreign lands to get wind speeds, weight of snow or even top temperatures. These things all came to bear on bridge building and roads.
          I had my own office and phone and was treated with respect. Not as an office girl but a member of staff. 
          It was of great interest to me to see how the switch board was used. The girl at the board was friendly and at lunch times taught me how to handle it. One morning she collapsed in dire pain. She was rushed to hospital with peritonitis. Nobody could use the switch board and who came to the rescue? Little old me. I quite enjoyed playing with that but the following week a new girl took over. One should always be ready to learn something new. Lessons aren’t always enjoyable however, as I was about to discover.

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Member Since
Aug 2007
Susan Janneck said:
posted on Oct 06, 2010
First date

A delightful story. The feeling of those times shown through with your expert story telling. I will enjoy reading more.