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I was thirteen and a half in the spring of 1966. Barely into my adolescence and easily mortified by how uncool I could be in social situations. This uncoolness would only intensify in the presence of Boys. Curiously, being mortified didn’t keep me from wanting to be around them.

My girlfriend and I – let’s just call her Desiree – had gotten wind of an in-state basketball tournament that was going to take place in Columbia, Missouri. A team was going from our church, as well as teams from Kansas City and Springfield. We knew we just had to get there, because this was Boys’ basketball. We bummed a ride from Earl and Jenny and a little over two hours after they picked us up, we were in the presence of Boys. Lots of Boys.

Desiree was much more mature than me, being, in the spring of 1966, months beyond her fourteenth birthday. I might add that she was also quite attractive: exotic features, long dark hair, and a figure that belied her age. I had overheard boys describe her, on occasion – you know, va va voom, and all that.

I was ambivalent about having such a gorgeous friend. The flood of attention she got from warm blooded young males could be pretty demoralizing – I could become invisible in an instant This dynamic no doubt contributed to my sense of uncoolness. But then, every once in a while…

One of the guys in the swarm would do the math. Realizing his buddy was racking up points with Desiree like a pinball stuck on a hot button, he would size up his chances of ever making headway with her. This occasionally worked in my favor. The down-on-his-luck fellow would decide to cut bait and turn his attention elsewhere, at which point he might finally notice me, Stick-Girl-Standing-Next-to-Curvy-Desiree. The fact that I was being settled upon rather than chosen didn’t matter – it was just nice not to be invisible. A not-so-cool girl like me could feast on the crumbs that fell from Desiree’s table.

But I digress. The basketball tournament…

I wasn’t generally into watching basketball, preferring to be on the court rather than in the bleachers. But on this day I was content to watch endless fast breaks, free throws, and full court presses because… the games would be interspersed with trips to the concession stand, ladies room, and water fountain. And it was in the crowded corridors that one would possibly – nay, hopefully – bump into uniform-clad Boys from far away cities. My, that popcorn was goooood!

It had already been a fine day when things took an unexpected turn for the better. At the conclusion of the tournament, all the games having been played and the locker rooms clearing out, Desiree and I stepped outside the gymnasium into the balmy late afternoon air. We loitered near the entrance, cleverly positioning ourselves in the path of the basketball players who would soon come streaming out the door in their street clothes carrying duffle bags. Most of them had already exited when a rather animated cluster, in customary fashion, approached us with eyes fixed on Desiree. It just so happened that she had met all four of them at a prior event, and, like the good and generous friend that she was, she proceeded to introduce me.

At that moment I was simultaneously thrilled and freaked out. These were very cool basketball players from Kansas City, wearing letter jackets. [Translation: older, much older – high school juniors, in fact.] I can’t imagine how anyone could ever feel more awkward or more uncool than I felt at that moment. And yet, I was also jittery with anticipation.

I quickly faked a semblance of composure and managed to get through the first three introductions without incident.

“Linda, I’d like you to meet Warren.”

Handshake, hello. Nice to meet you.

“And this is Britton, …and Pat.”

Another handshake, another hello.

Then a third, increasingly moist handshake.

Hey, I’m not doing too bad, all things considered. Holding up okay under the pressure. What luck! Meeting four very cool Boys at once!

Relieved by how things were turning out, I felt more confident, and ready for the final introduction.

Or so I thought…

[CONTINUE TO PART II.]

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* This took place at the Armory Sports and Recreation Center, on the northeast corner of 7th and Ash streets in Columbia, Missouri.

tournament-of-roses-logo-300x286I attended a small liberal arts college in Pasadena that was bordered on one side by Orange Grove Boulevard, right along the Rose Bowl Parade route. Each fall, the student leadership would gear up to capitalize on the good fortune of our prime location: they’d plan the annual fund raising blitz that involved selling parade programs, concessions, seats in bleachers erected next to the boulevard, and premium parking on campus. It was a major undertaking — I didn’t imagine preparations for the Normandy invasion being much more elaborate.

Because proceeds went to fund several annual trips for the entire student body, everyone was expected to pitch in. I don’t actually remember the duties assigned me that first year, although I do recall being excited about the prospect of working through the night that New Year’s Eve, then heading to the bleacher seats reserved for us — only a block from where the parade turns the corner onto Colorado Boulevard. I was going to get to watch the Rose Parade in person!

Some were assigned to cook (mainly hot dogs, I think) in the student center kitchen, others to shuttle food to the concession stands. Some were to hustle programs to the throngs camped out on the parade route overnight; others to deliver addition programs from the main distribution point to the sellers. There were parking crews with neon orange vests and flashlights, ticket sellers, and money runners. Whatever my lackluster assignment, I understood my role: a tiny cog in a big machine.

Until about three A.M.

When this fellow band member — an upperclassman with a walkie talkie — bumped into me and asked me what I was up to. He was assigned to assist the study body officer overseeing the entire food delivery operation. Apparently he didn’t think what I reported doing was all that important: he asked my supervisor if he could “borrow” me. This meant I could ride shotgun as he tooled up and down sidewalks and driveways in a golf cart, answering his walkie talkie, then racing to extinguish the “brush fires” of the concession business. It didn’t take long to see that this guy had everything under control and didn’t really need my help. I felt a little guilty about ditching my crew, but not too much. I was having a blast.

We kept it up until 7 or 8 a.m., when parade goers’ attention shifted to the commencement of the parade and our work was done. When we returned for the last time to the kitchen and parked the cart in its designated spot, the mood among the students we encountered was high — our collective efforts had raked in some hefty proceeds, according to preliminary reports. I was pleased to have been one of the troops who had proverbially “stormed the beaches” and pulled off a successful fundraiser.

Then I made a big mistake.

I sat down on a student center sofa. And died. All interest in grabbing a parade program from one of boxes of leftovers and heading up the hill to watch those floats vanished instantly. At that point my sole focus was making a beeline to the dorm, wherein was my bed. I had my first and last opportunity to view the iconic Rose Parade first hand — and I slept right through it!

I just checked on those 1970 parade programs: still available online, for a mere $8.00, plus shipping. Despite missing out on the main media event that day, though, I didn’t miss out on a couple of other valuable objectives:

  • I experienced being part of a large, successful campaign and felt the satisfaction of knowing I was a contributor (at least until I hopped on the golf cart..)
  • I demonstrated to that guy I could provide good companionship (a more worthwhile endeavor than you might suspect, at first glance…)

He and I ended up riding off into the sunset together on the Grand Golf Cart of Life.