How my father met my mother

My father needed a date for the bowling banquet. He was getting a trophy for posting the highest score in a single game.

He invited a cute brunette he met recently at the office. He considered another girl, a blonde, but she lived in Brielle, too far away. It was was 1962. He was 35 years old.

The brunette lived at 94 Washington Street in Morristown. He got her address and phone from her boss, Ethel Lord. He called, explaining his all-male bowling league had an awards ceremony in March.

My father was chairman of the awards committee. He was tired of people selecting ugly trophies. He picked something “more practical,” a small figure with a clock embedded in the base.

A trophy my dad won for bowling in 1968

The banquet at Birchwood Manor in Parsippany wasn’t the most romantic, but it was memorable. The brunette later said she’d never danced with anyone like my father. “He was all over the dance floor.”

Their second date in the spring was equally unusually. Dad was a member of the Short Hills Ski Club and he asked her to accompany a group heading to Vermont for the weekend to buy a farmhouse they could use as a lodge.

The group stayed in Lower Granville. I don’t know what she expected but “it was all on the up and up,” dad said. “Boys on one side and girls on the other. No hankie panky.”

The Short Hills Ski Club in Vermont

My dad and the brunette drove up with Herman and Rosemary Schmidt. They found a house on Route 100. It was modest, but had a barn that could be renovated. The land extended to the White River.

They spent the afternoon climbing the overgrown ski trails of Sugar Bush. She had never been to Vermont or done much hiking. They didn’t have anything to drink and she got overheated. Drinking soda too quickly afterwards, she became ill and vomited.

The lift at Sugar Bush, Vermont

The third date was in the fall. Dad had procured two tickets to a Giants football game. When the day arrived it was raining and the woman asked, hesitatingly “Are we still going? It’s raining pretty hard.”

Dad explained that when you have Giants tickets you go. “Dress for the weather,” he said. The game was played in Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

It actually only rained for the first three quarters of the game. In the fourth quarter it began to snow.

Dad had thoughtfully provided his date with a poncho, which he claimed kept her dry. He was thrilled because the Giants were playing Cleveland and they got to see Jim Brown, a legend, play.

After the game they headed to midtown. Dad realized they were close to Madison Square Garden, which in those days was located at 50th and 8th Avenue. He noticed the Montreal Canadians were playing the New York Rangers that night. He suggested they get two tickets.

Before the game, they got hotdogs at a Nedick’s restaurant.

It’s hard to imagine a better date than a football game in the rain and snow followed by a hockey game with a hot dog dinner sandwiched in between.

Those three dates pretty much sealed the deal. Dad married my mother the next year.

He proposed at Washington’s Rock on Dec. 7, 1963. He said he picked Pearl Harbor Day so he could more easily remember their anniversary.

My mom at Washington’s Rock

When I ask her what was so appealing about those three dates my mother says simply that for a girl from a small town it seemed exciting.

At least she cannot claim she didn’t know what she was getting into.

My parents celebrated their 50th anniversary a few years ago.

Around that time we happened to be in Maplewood. We walked over to see the church where they were married. It was a surreal moment.

The church hadn’t changed. They were older, but otherwise the same. But I was there.

I took my dad bowling a few years ago along with all his grandkids. He hadn’t been to a bowling alley in years.

When he arrived he was carrying his old bowling bag. Inside was the monogrammed ball he used when he first invited my mom to the banquet.

I watched him approach the lane. He raised the ball in the way I remembered. The same approach and the same swing of the arm and the same kick of the leg back to the left.

The performance deserved a trophy.

**Published by Ted Merz Aug 10, 2016 **