It was September 1958. I was on the battalion soccer team while I was stationed with the 237th Engineer Battalion in Heilbronn Germany. It was part of an American/German relationship building program.
Our Battalion Commander was the kind of leader that had to win no matter what the event was. However, in this case, we had a little problem. Only a quarter of the team had ever played soccer before. So, he hired an English pro to teach us. He made us train every day from eight o’clock in the morning, until five in the evening.
Well, we won the group championship. Mind you, not because of skill, but rather because of physical fitness. We ran our opponents to death. That achievement had to be celebrated. We rented the banquet hall at the stadium, a German band to provide some music, and a budget caterer to provide the food, and the stadium bar served the beer.
On the day of the event, dressed in class “A” uniform, (My civvies had not yet caught up with me) I left the garrison to walk down to the stadium. In front of the gate stood Heinz, a team mate. I said, “Hey, Heinz, are you ready to go down to the stadium?”
“Yeah,” he answered.
“Common, let’s go,” said I.
“Well,” he said, humming and hawing, “I want to pick up Rosemarie to go with me as my date.”
“Oh, okay! I’ll see you at the party.”
“No…no…wait…how about coming with me?”
“Why? Do you need someone to hold your hand?”
Heinz was not known to be a shy guy. If anything, he was a wheeler dealer. He said, “No, that’s not it. I got a little problem. I stood her up last week…”
“Oh, no my friend! You’ll have to wash your dirty laundry without me. I’ll see you down there. Good luck!”
But Heinz did not give up that easily. He was a good talker. He told me that she had a girlfriend. Maybe she could get her to come along as my date. To make a long story short, he talked me into coming. When we arrived at Rosemarie’s home, her parents welcomed us in. They were personable people, and it didn’t appear as if Rosemarie held a grudge. While she went to dress for the occasion, we had to have a glass of wine with her father. Her parents wanted to know what the US was all about, and what it was like to be an immigrant.
When Rosemarie was dressed, we walked to a butcher shop where her girlfriend worked and also lived. I was apprehensive. Rosemarie was not who I would have picked for a date. So, what would her girlfriend look like? I was sure that Heinz must have picked the better looking one of the two.
Rosemarie went inside, and after a while came out and told us that, her friend would come along. After a long wait, she came out with her girlfriend. But, lo and behold, her girlfriend was beautiful. I was smitten. It was love at first sight, at least for me. Rosemarie introduced me to Heide, her girlfriend, and off we marched to the party. We had a terrific time. We danced every dance. The bratwurst was tasty, and the beer was superb. As the evening went on, I fell deeper and deeper in love. But, as everything in life, the party ended. Like the gentleman I was, I escorted her home.
We talked about this and that, and all along, I tried to muster the courage to ask her for a date for the upcoming weekend.
When we arrived at her place, I had mustered enough courage to ask her for another date. The answer was, “I don’t know.” I was befuddled. We said good night and I left to go back to the garrison.
Her answer was a puzzle to me. “I…don’t…know?” What kind of answer was that? I had heard no and yes before. But, I don’t know? I didn’t know how to handle that. As I walked back to the garrison, my puzzlement turned to anger. All I could think of, was, “I’ll never see her again. She can’t make up her mind to say yes or no.” The “love at first sight” had turned sour.
However, a week is a long time when a pretty girl smites you. Saturday came, and who walked back and forth in front of the butcher shop? Yours truly, little old me. Of course, Heide didn’t come out. It took me a while to muster the courage to ring the doorbell. When the door opened, a little boy looked at me. I asked him whether Heide was there. He nodded his head and ran inside. I heard him yell, “Heide, there is a man on the door that wants to see you,” of course, not in English. It took a minute or two before Heide came to the door. When she saw me, she was stunned. Just to get rid of me, she said, “Go to my friend! I’ll meet you there,” and closed the door in my face.
I looked at the closed door and thought, “Jeez, do I look that frightening?” When I walked away to her friend’s house, it dawned on me. She was afraid of what her employer would think. A nice German girl, dating a GI? That, was frowned upon.
When I got to her friend’s place, her father brought out another bottle of wine. The questions about life in America continued.
After Heide had finished her work, she arrived at Rosemarie’s home. That was the beginning of the happy ending.
Here, is the timeline; figure it out.
We met in September 1958, we got engaged on Christmas 1958, and we got married on June 6th 1959 despite a cumbersome, lengthy, process to get permission from the Army to marry a foreigner. We are now happily married for 53 years. We have two sons and one daughter, and two granddaughters and one grandson.
P.S. To be fair, I have to quote Heide’s explanation of, “I don’t know.” She says, “I had said no on other occasions, and regretted it. And on others, I had said yes, and regretted it. That night I was very tired and didn’t want to give an answer I would regret the next day.”
Makes sense to me.
Join us on Rebel Ink Press and see all the First Date Disasters
TEY FOLLOWED THE CALL
THE OLD LADY AND THE RIVER