My Bittersweet Summer


Photo credit: bloodybee

In the bittersweet summer of 1979, Chuck Hager became my best friend. We worked together at Gateway, an independently owned grocery store in Delaware, Ohio. We were stock boys.

When things were slow, Chuck and I would sit in the back room on wooden crates of bottled soda, and we’d talk.

Eventually, we started doing things after work. We’d swing by Pizza Villa for a large pepperoni, or catch a scary movie like When A Stranger Calls, and it wasn’t long before Chuck and I came up with The Plan.

We’d pick a Saturday in August, and we’d go to Cedar Point, an amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio, and we’d each ask a girl to go with us.

We made a deal with each other: If one of the girls couldn’t go, then neither of the girls would go, and Chuck and I would go stag.

Chuck knew exactly who he wanted to ask: Susan Dillman. Susan reminded Chuck of Melissa Gilbert, the actress who played Laura Ingalls Wilder in the TV series Little House on the Prairie.

Chuck thought Melissa Gilbert was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen and, thus, so too was Susan Dillman.

I had my eye on a different girl, a raven-haired beauty with sharp blue eyes by the name of Amy Huckabee.

Chuck and I worked it out with Gateway’s manager for the same Saturday off, and then all that was left to do was ask the two girls.

In 1979, in the Koren household, if you wanted to call someone, you didn’t use a cell phone. You used the wall phone in the kitchen. It had a long, curled cord, and you dialed each number, one after another, with  your index finger.

If you made a mistake while you were dialing — say, your finger was trembling because you were terrified — then you would dial that number again and again, until you got it right.

I did manage, finally, and Amy came on the line. I asked if she’d be willing to go to Cedar Point with me, and to my everlasting amazement, she said yes.

The magnitude of that yes was threefold.

Firstly, like Chuck and Susan, Amy had graduated from high school the month before, whereas I still had my senior year to go. So Amy was an older woman.

That alone was enough to make me sweat.

But that wasn’t all.

To be continued . . .





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