The year was 1963, springtime. The place was an after hours gay club in center city Philadelphia, Pennsylvania called the Pennrose Club.
I was in town for a Saturday night out of bar hopping with my friends Ron and Ed. We decided to go to the Pennrose Club for some dancing. This was back in the day when you actually danced with your partner, not gyrate.
I had recently moved from Pittsburgh where I experienced the thrill of dancing with another man for the first time in my life. That experience will be the subject of another posting. I had always liked to dance but it wasn’t until I slow danced with another man that I discovered why dancing was so popular and erotic. Oh is it ever.
My friends and I had just arrived at the club (whose name escapes me) and were watching the guys dancing on the small dance floor. I immediately noticed one slightly built, clean cut guy dancing. I’ve always been attracted to small framed, clean cut men. He was very handsome in his light gray suit. This was also back in the day when one dressed up to go out.
It wasn’t too long until he saw me watching him dance. Since I am by nature shy (at least I was back then) I turned around and started to talk to my friends. Then I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and was greeted with a beautiful smile on this handsome man’s face. He said to me “Would you like to dance?” Would I like to dance? My knees went weak. I stumbled out something like “Yeah.”
He took my hand and we entered the crowded dance floor. He immediately took the lead. He pulled me in close to his body. Wow. Again I was reminded why dancing is so popular and how much I missed during my Senior Prom with my date Jeanette. She was a nice girl but this was a whole different other experience.
My leg kept bumping into something as he held me close to him. I’m thinking “Does he have a ruler in his pocket?” Actually, we both had “rulers” in our pocket. As the lights swirled over the dance floor, we continued to dance one dance after another. We were oblivious to all the other people on the dance floor. We were in our own world.
When it came time to leave, he asked if he could see me sometime. I told him that I lived in Coatesville and was in town with friends. I wanted to see him again but I was very nervous. Although I was gay (and still am), I had never engaged in intimate contact with another man. I thought being gay was just hugging and kissing. How little did I know.
I knew I was “different” since I was four years old. It wasn’t until I was in the Army that I discovered that I wasn’t the only gay guy (back then they called it homosexual) in the world. I grew up in the Fifties where homosexual was said in the same sentence as pervert. I knew I wasn’t a pervert, one of those guys who hung out in bathrooms. I didn’t know what I was but I did know that men sexually excited me. It was a very confusing time for me.
He told me he was 29 years old. It’s funny now, but at that time I thought he was an “older man” because of his age. I was 21 at that time and I thought he was really OLD at 29 years of age. Ah, the arrogance of youth indeed.
Well, he did visit me that following weekend. Of course it wasn’t too long before he was trying to get me into bed. I resisted. He would visit me almost every Saturday morning. We would kiss and spend time together but that would be as far as our physical contact went. After all, I wasn’t one of those “perverts.”
My resistance finally fell after about a month. Without going into detail (this is a family blog after all), he “talked me into going to bed with him.” I thought sure as the sun rises in the morning a lightening bolt would come down from the ceiling and turn us both into stone like those poor souls who turned to look back at Sodom after they were warned not too and were turned into pillars of salt. But guess what happened? No lightening bolt came down from my bedroom ceiling. We didn’t turn into pillars of salt. In fact I had just experienced the most glorious feeling of my life up to that point. Even more amazing to me was that it all felt so natural. As I’ve often told the story since, the whole experience was just like riding a bike. It comes back to you naturally. That’s when I knew I was alright. I no longer had shame that I was a “pervert.” In fact, I felt an immense sense of freedom.
I continued to see him for another few months but I was a young guy and wanted to go out and experience everything. I also didn’t feel right being a “mistress.” You see the man who was my first lover was a married man with two children (daughters.) As much as I liked him I would never be more than a sexual partner. We could never have a relationship.
So one day I decided to end the relationship. I called him on the phone and told him not to visit me anymore. I told him I wanted to go out and meet other people. He said he understood. I never heard from him again. This was in May of 1963.
Last year while I was researching my family tree on Ancestry.com and checking the Social Security Death Index, I checked his name to see if he was still alive. He wasn’t. The record read:
Bob was 56 years old when he died. He died in Oregon, near his home state of Washington. When I met him he worked at Boeing Vertol in Chester, PA. The above newspaper clipping is the only picture I have of him. He was very proud of the award he presented to then Mayor James H. J. Tate of Philadelphia.
A pang of sadness hit me. I liked Bob. He was so very kind to me and oh he was sexy.
I’ve often wondered what would have happened if he was single. Would we have made a life together? What kind of life would it have been?
One thing is for sure, I will never forget that first night that I met him and that first dance. Dancing with him was like I was transported to heaven. I had never experienced such happiness before. All the buttons on my console were flashing.
Everybody has a First Time. Bob was my First Time. And it could not have been better.
I hope you had a happy life Bob.
Rest in peace my friend Bob. Perhaps we will meet again someday in a perfect place.