Friday, April 8, 2011
During the time I was going to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Sara was attending college in Raleigh at Hardbarger Business College. Dating was always a challenge because neither of us had a car. But, where there is love you find a way.
On a few occasions Sara would take the bus to Chapel Hill and we would spend the day walking around the campus. In the late afternoon we would go to the bus station so she could catch the bus back to Raleigh. She didn’t do this often because when she got back to Raleigh she had to take a cab to Mrs. Murray’s where she lived while going to college.
Other times one of the other girls that lived at Mrs. Murray’s would drive her to Chapel Hill if I would “fix them up” with one of my friends. My friend Lonnie who roomed across the hall in my dorm was always ready, willing and able. The four of us would have a great time especially since we had a car and could go somewhere.
Usually I would go to Raleigh on the weekends to see Sara. My favorite, by necessity, means of transportation was to hitchhike. During this time in the early 1970’s I thought nothing of hitchhiking anywhere I needed to go. A friend and I hitchhiked from Chapel Hill to Myrtle Beach, SC and back one weekend and slept on someone’s floor we met at a club. That was one wild weekend and I only have hazy memories of it. Enough said.
When I was going to Raleigh I would wake up early Saturday morning and get out on the road. The key to a quick ride was to dress nice and smile. Just like today you had to “dress for success.” Using this technique and with my handy dandy sign that read “RAL” on one side and “UNC” on the other it rarely took long to catch a ride.
Usually it was the “hippies” that would stop and give me a ride. I like that because they would often take me all the way to downtown Raleigh even if it was out of their way. I have caught a lot of rides in VW mini vans with peace signs painted on the side. Often the lingering smell of a certain burnt plant would fill the van and the glazed look in their eyes confirmed what it was.
I remember once being picked up by an older gentleman in a big white Cadillac. He was short, overweight and wore a white suit. He talked my ears off all the way to Raleigh. He had gone to Carolina in the 1950’s and now owned several tobacco warehouses/markets. I had forgotten about him until the other night when I saw a rerun of the old TV show “Dukes of Hazzard.” This man looked just like Boss Hogg.
The goal of leaving early on Saturday morning was to get to the downtown Belk’s store on Fayetteville Street before noon. Sara worked at the Belk’s store on Saturdays but got off at lunch time. I would meet her at the store and we would spend the afternoon together.
A typical day was spent at the various parks downtown, at the museums, or around the Capitol. We were glad to be together and the fact that we could not go anywhere did not seem to matter. With little or no money, simple things were what brought us fun.
After she got off work we would get something to eat. If we were really hungry we would eat at the lunch counter at Eckerds or Grants. You could always get a filling meal for a very inexpensive price. Other times we went to a great pizzeria off one of the side streets from Fayetteville Street that had the best homemade pizza.
We spent a lot of time on the grounds of the old Capitol building walking and talking. When we got tired, there were plenty of benches to sit on. I remember once we were sitting on a bench in a secluded spot and kissing when all of a sudden one of the Capitol police walked up, cleared his throat and said, “Don’t get to carried away kids.”
We would also spend hours “window shopping” at various department stores in the downtown area daydreaming about the future. Sara worked in the little boys department of Belk. She would tell me that while she was folding the pants and shirts she would image she was folding her children’s clothes. It is kind of funny that several years later she was still folding little boys’ clothes, only these were for our boys.
When the weather was bad we would go to the movie theater on Salisbury Street. We would sit through the same movie two or three times in a row. When the original movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” came out we saw it at least three times that day. I knew the Umpa Lumpa song better than most of the popular songs of that day. This still is one of my favorite movies of all times and occasionally I find myself singing, “Oompa Loompa Doompadee Do, I’ve Got A Perfect Puzzle For You.”
Before it got too late in the evening I would ride the local bus with Sara and take her home to Mrs. Murray’s because there was an early curfew for the girls that lived there. Then it was either hurry back to the bus station to catch the last bus to Chapel Hill or find some place to sleep. More often than not I missed the last bus.
If I was lucky and had a few dollars in my pocket I could walk to the YMCA on Hillsborough Street and get a room for the night. On a couple of occasions I was able to get in contact with some of my friends who went to NC State and I would sleep on their dorm room floor. Both of these two options were good and I got a good night sleep.
There were several occasions when either I did not have money for a room or could not get in touch with my friends. On these occasions I had to make do. If the weather was real cold I would sleep in the bus station under the guise that I was waiting to catch the morning bus back to Chapel Hill. There were several times when the weather was warmer I slept outside, once in a baseball dugout on the NC State campus and twice under park benches. Life is an adventure and a lot of fun.
They say love is blind and it must be true. We had some great times during that period in Chapel Hill and Raleigh. Looking back I cannot remember it being cold or raining but only that we were together. The amazing fact is I asked Sara to marry me during that time and she said YES. As of this writing it has almost been 39 years and we are still having a great adventure and a lot of fun together.
This too was part of growing up in Aurora NC.