So off to college I went to turn over a new leaf, start off with a clean slate. In high school it was not cool to dance. I vowed it would be different in college. Went to the freshmen mixer, got my courage up and asked Jenny Sturgis to dance. About half way through I panicked and thought to myself, “She thinks I’m a terrible dancer.” I know it sounds unbelievable, but I literally left her in mid-dance, ran off the floor, and started running back to Chicago to never return. Only came to my senses when I got to the old Bridgman’s ice cream shop on University Avenue, one/two-hundredth of the way.
Things did improve from there, but freshman year consisted entirely of a bunch of dates without any good night kisses. In fact I invented such a good first date, that’s all I did was first dates. I’d ask, “Do you want to go to the horse races?” (This was before Minnesota legalized horse racing.) We’d walk to Snelling & University. I’d explain the Midway Shopping Center sign* and we’d catch the bus to the Capitol. After gazing up at the Rotunda and a quick tour of the Rotunda’s exhibits, I’d say, “OK, it’s off to the races,” and we’d walk downtown to the Saint Paul Hotel, a majestic, brick, old world European-style hotel, with a glass mail slot next to the elevators. We’d go to the top floor, find a maid’s closet with a couple sheets of paper in it, and I’d say, “OK, tear your paper into the figure of a horse.” Then we’d push the button and, when the elevator arrived, drop our horses into the mail slot and race to the second floor to see our horses come floating by. If no one else got on at an intervening floor, we’d win. Otherwise I’d explain what it was all about and we’d go try again.
Then off to Mickey’s Diner for a bite to eat, but I’d chicken-out when it came time for a good night kiss – - – and so on to another first date. It was only years later that I first heard from Barb, one of my many first and only dates, that some of these first dates actually talked to each other, and learned they were not the one and only one to have such a wonderful, seemingly spontaneous, “go the races” first date with Andy, and wonder why I never asked for a second date (because, I told Barb, I was afraid of kissing). As to poor Jenny Sturgis, who I left on the dance floor, we never talked until we saw each other at a Hamline reunion party thirty years later where I learned, to my chagrin, that for all these years she thought it was because she was such a terrible dancer that I ran off, poor thing.
As a P.S., I am happy to report that right away sophomore year in college I met Wendy who not only knew how to kiss, but also go all the way – and very willing to demonstrate. My sophomore year roommate had a cabin on Green Lake and together we went on a double date overnight to his cabin. The rest is history.
*That was a wonderful sign, the Midway Shopping Center sign, now torn down and, I’m afraid, discarded except for the memory:
It looked like a rooster and was pretty much undecipherable (no lettering) except to the initiated. There were two perpendicular semi-thick black lines that intersected in the middle of the sign – that would be Snelling & University Avenues. Then a gold rectangle at the east of the horizontal black line and another at the west – the two downtowns. There was a wide, curvy, blue line that started at the gold rectangle on the east, then went way up to the top of the sign, and then headed diagonally to the west rectangle – the Mississippi River. Just to the upper left of the intersection, a red flashing dot – Midway Shopping Center.