Bill's Story Part 4: A Real-Life Love Story
I saw Kathy for the first time when I was in college. She and I were both attending Jacksonville University. Some friends of mine were hanging out with a group of girls at one of the girls’ apartments. We were all sitting around talking, and I kept looking at one of the girls. She had these little tiny feet, and she was wearing these little moccasins. She was this cute little tiny thing, really pretty, with big blue eyes, and I found out that her name was Kathy. I was attracted to her right away.
The next time I saw Kathy was at a party. I talked to her and we danced a little. She said later that I wouldn’t leave her alone. I kept chasing her around the room.
I had already been drinking a lot by that time of the night but she didn’t drink much herself. The night went on and on, getting later and later, and people started falling asleep on the floor, including myself. All of a sudden I woke up, and she was gone. Apparently she had had to leave, and she walked home by herself to her apartment.
It was quite a walk, and when I saw her the next day I told her, “Why didn’t you wake me up? I would have taken you home.”
She said, “No, its ok.”
“Well, don’t do that,” I said. “Let me walk you home next time.”
Eventually there were other parties, and we saw each other around. And when it got late, I’d always walk her home.
She and her friends would often come down to watch my team and I practice baseball. Then we’d all go out to eat afterwards. On one occasion, we went to Pizza Hut with a bunch of friends, and at the end of the night one of the guys on the baseball team was trying to hit on her.
Our team captain told the guy, “Hey, knock it off. That’s Schlegel’s girl.”
So the guy apologized and backed off.
Then all of a sudden, during that semester, I went from seeing Kathy every once in a while to seeing her all over the place. I’d be walking from the mailroom or going to the cafeteria, and out of the blue she’d pop up and say, “Oh, how are you?” She used to hide behind the trees and wait for me, but I didn’t know that until later.
After a couple of twists and turns in our relationship, we spent more and more time together, and by the end of 1968, we were very serious. I went home to Jersey City for Christmas that year, and I saw my cousin Lillian. She and I were close, and we hung out a lot during that Christmas holiday, going to plays in New York City and stuff like that.
I told Lillian all about what was going on with Kathy. She took one look at me and said, “You’re not coming back.”
I said, “What do you mean I’m not coming back? How do you know?”
Lillian knew I was hooked, and it turned out that she was right.
By January of 1969, Kathy and I were in love, and by February, we had decided we wanted to get married. I worked all that summer at the telephone company, and Kathy went back to live with her parents. I’d work during the week, and then I’d drive up to her parents’ house in Glenn Cove on Friday evening. I had just bought a new 1969 Volkswagen and the car had no air-conditioning, so it was a hot commute. But every Friday night, Kathy would be waiting for me at the door with a gin and tonic. I’d stay there for the weekend, and we’d spend the time talking and planning our life. Then on Monday morning I was back down inside the manholes in Jacksonville.
We got married August 16, 1969 on Glenn Cove Naval Air Station at the Chapel of the Pines. It was a nice place. My brother Joe gave me an old Kodak camera, and some friends took pictures of the ceremony from upstairs. A lot of naval officers and rich people came to the wedding. My dad and mom came, as well as my brothers Joe and Charlie, my sister Barbara, and her daughter Robin.
I had a white jacket and black pants. It was summer time, so back then you had to wear white. Kathy’s mom had her dress made for her. Joe was my best man, and we had some friends come up from Jacksonville to be a part of it. Kathy’s sister, Sherri, was the maid of honor.
I stood at the front on the altar with my brother Joe, and as the ceremony started, I was saying to myself, Man, I’m calm. I’ve got this down.
Then I saw Kathy start to walk down the aisle, but she was alone. This seemed strange, and I thought to myself, Where’s her dad?
Well, apparently the woman was actually her sister. I thought Sherri was Kathy, because they look a lot alike. The bridesmaids had these white dresses with a light green sash, and I didn’t even think about that. It took me a second to figure it out, and then Kathy came in with her dad, who was wearing his military dress uniform.
Oh yeah, I said to myself, Sure you’re alright. You’re not nervous at all.
Despite my nerves, however, everything went well and at the reception, everyone kept telling me the food was great, including my dad. I had one chicken leg the whole night and nothing else. At weddings, everyone wants to talk to you all night. You got to take pictures, you got to do this, and you got to do that. They had shrimp and all this good food, but I never got to taste any of it.
We went to St. Augustine, Florida after the wedding for our honeymoon. It’s right down the road from Brunswick. A bunch of people had tied cans on the back of our Volkswagen, but we got in and we were off. I didn’t know that I needed to make reservations, so we didn’t have any. We got a motel as close to the beach as we could find, and ended up in this one motel that wasn’t that close. It had a little balcony, and we could at least see the beach. It was hot and humid, because it was August in Florida, but it was a nice time.
We stayed there a couple of days for our honeymoon, and then we settled back in Jacksonville. Kathy had to teach and I was going to go back to school to finish my degree.
And so started our new life together.