|Bill and Ron - 48 years today|
Forty-eight years ago today, on a rainy Friday night at the Westbury Bar, a gay bar at the corner of 15th and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania I decided to go over to the other side of the bar and thank the man who had been sending me drinks for the past two months every time he saw me in the bar.
|Bill Kelly - 1963 - the man who kept sending me drinks from the other side of the bar|
I wasn't particularly attracted to this man even though he was very handsome. He wasn't "my type." Even though he had been trying to get my attention that he was interested in meeting me by sending me drinks via his friend Jerry the bartender, I was more interested in Jerry than I was him. I especially wasn't interested in meeting this man because he was very popular in the Westbury and it was quite obvious that I was "next on his list." I had no intention of just being another notch on his bed post.
|Me, with cigarette in hand, at my efficiency apartment in Coatesville, just prior to going out to the Westbury bar with my friends Ron and Ed who came by to pick me up|
Usually when I went to the bar I was with my friends Ron and Ed. However, this night for some reason I can't remember I was by myself. I remember the first time that Jerry the bartender sat a drink in front of me and said to me "This is from the gentleman over there" which he indicated with a nod of his head. I looked over and I saw this handsome man with a wide grin on his face and my first thought was "Oh no, I'm not that easy." My friends and I had a chuckle over the whole situation because they too knew me and knew this situation was all wrong for me. They knew I wasn't looking for an older man (he was 35 to my 22) and I definitely wasn't a pickup for a drink.
As the months went by, my erstwhile suitor would invariably send a drink my way, sometimes two a night. He was unrelenting as we were by making fun of him behind his back. Of course I took the drinks (I'm no fool and besides I had little money) but I had no plans to go any further than that.
Then, on this rainy Saturday night, July 3rd, 1964 my suitor sent me another drink. My friends weren't with me and I did feel a bit guilty for never having thanked him for the many drinks he had sent over for the past few months. I could at least be polite, that's the way my Mother raised me. Believe me, I had no other intention than of just thanking him and moving back to my regular spot and looking for Mr. Right.
So I move from my "spot" (we gay guys all have our "spot" when cruising in gay bars) to the other side of the bar near the Skeet Ball machine which was his "spot." He sees me coming towards him. A small (knowing smile) creases his face. I stop in front of him and say "Thanks for the drink."
Now, I don't remember exactly what he said but what I do remember was he wasn't at all like I thought he would be, arrogant and pushy. In fact he was pretty damn nice. And he was even better looking in person. Uh huh. Well, well. His name was Bill Kelly. I decided to stay a while and chat. He was interesting.
|Me with a staged shot changing a flat (I don't know how to change a flat, are you kidding?) on our first road trip Skyline Drive, Virginia - 1964|
Yes, I succumbed to his charms and did go him with him that night. He lived in a garden apartment in Pennsauken, New Jersey. I lived a furnished efficiency apartment in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, 52 miles and an hour away from Pennsauken.
I stayed with him that weekend. Bill drove me home to my apartment in Coatesville, Pennsylvania on Sunday. I had no car. I had depended on my friends Ron and Ed for transportation to the Westbury Bar for my weekend outings looking for Mr. Right. That summer weekend my life changed forever.
For the next seven months Bill would make the one hundred mile round trip and pick me up at my apartment in Coatesville, PA on Friday to spend the weekend with him at his apartment in Pennsauken, NJ. On Sunday he would make another one hundred mile round trip to return me to my apartment in Coatesville, PA. Who else would do that for me? No one. Absolutely no one in this whole wide world. I do believe I met my Prince Charming who treated me like a prince. Every gay boy's dream come true. Mine just came true. And has been true ever since, except for maybe a few little "bumps" here and there, for the past forty-eight years.
|Me at our first house in Philadelphia - 1969 - our fifth anniversary|
|Bill in the living room of our house in Philadelphia - 1969|
So what have the past forty-eight years been like? Well, to quote the first president Bush after he left office and he was asked about his presidency he said "It's been quite a ride." And indeed it has folks.
Bill Kelly, my friend/lover/partner/spouse of the past forty-eight years has literally been the best thing that has ever happened in my life.
Today, the anniversary of our meeting forty-eight years ago, finds us to both way past our prime. In fact, we're both OLD MEN now. But you know what? We have a love that is undying. I know I am one of the lucky few in this world to have been granted the blessing of meeting and sharing my live with someone who truly cares for me and someone I care for very much. And to me friends, that is what life is all about. Love.
|Bill, my Prince Charming - Bamberg, Germany - 1951|
Bill was 23 years old and in the Army
|Me - third grade East Ward Elementary School, Downingtown, PA - 1951 - 10 years old|