|Jim cooking Swiss Steak in my Coatesville, PA apartment - 1963|
"Before Bill", what does that mean you ask. Well, as regular followers of my blog know "My Bill" is my life partner, spouse, husband, or whatever the current term is for a long term same sex couple. Back when we first set up house together we were known as "lovers." Remember that pre-Stonewall term for same sex partners? Quaint isn't it? Sort of paints a picture of two hotties swinging from the chandeliers nude doesn't it? Well, not quite. At least after the first wave of lust wore off (if you know what I mean).
"Before Bill", I had a lover. His name was Jim Groh. Oh yes, I was "married" before. Even though Bill and I have been together 48 years now, I was briefly "married" to another man. That's Jim in the photo at the top of this page.
I met Jim at a gay bar in Philadelphia (same place I met Bill about a year later). The year was 1963 and I was 21 years old to Jim's 24 years old. Bill was 35 years old to my 22 years, an "older man". Jim and I were about the same age.
Of course I liked Jim (what's not to like? He's a hottie, check the pic). And Jim liked me. At the time I met him neither one of us had a car.
|My Coatesville apartment rear (tan) wall - 2005|
I lived in a small, furnished efficiency apartment ($65 a month) in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, 42 miles west of Philadelphia. Jim lived with his parents in Philadelphia.
|The front entrance (tan wall - ground level) to my Coatesville apartment - 2005 - not quite "The Ritz"|
Jim worked as a manager at Sears Roebuck. I worked as an accounts payable clerk at Lipsett Steel Products, Inc. in Coatesville.
Jim took the SEPTA bus to work. I walked the two miles to where I worked.
After Jim and I met and hit it off, he would take a train from Philadelphia to Coatesville, to spend most weekends with me.
We would cook for each other. Both of us like to cook. Swiss steak was our favorite dish. The picture above is of Jim at the stove in my apartment cooking up a batch of Swiss Steak.
Jim usually came out Saturday morning and left Sunday afternoon. We would stay in the apartment all weekend; either cooking or playing board games. Of course we engaged in "other activities" but not ALL THE TIME. As I said, I'm not a swinging from the chandeliers kind of guy.
One habit we got into was buying a pie from the neighborhood bakery and devouring that whole pie while we played board games. As you can see from the picture below where we were horse playing (I am a "horse playing" kind of guy, Bill and I still do it now even though we're Old Men, some things never change). I think I weighed about 175 in that picture. My ideal weight is 160 (which is about what I weigh now and have since I graduated from high school).
|Jim and me horsing around - 1963|
Jim and I kept this routine up for about three months until Ron Got Restless. I wanted to go OUT. Yes, I wanted to go to the bars. Jim didn't. He was quite happy to keep me at home.
Well, finally one weekend I talked him into going to the bar where we met. That turned out to be a disaster. I discovered that Jim was very jealous. And I mean JEALOUS. He had me boxed in a corner of the bar and wouldn't let me out. Of course the Tipton Temper flared and we had a big fight. That was the beginning of the end folks. I could never have a serious relationship with anyone that possessive and jealous. It would be like smothering me. That kind of attitude just doesn't work with me.
I sent Jim a "Dear Jim" letter. I never saw him again until about a year later. By that time I had met Bill and moved in with him and was working at Girard Bank in Philadelphia.
Jim sent me a letter to my old address that was forwarded to me. He asked if I could return two water color pictures that he had left on the walls of my bedroom at my Coatesville apartment. Of course I agreed. There were his pictures and he should have them back.
|Over my left shoulder one of Jim's two water color pictures that I eventually returned to him - 1963|
We made arrangements to meet at lunch time on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, right outside the bank building where I worked.
At the appointed hour I saw Jim walking down the street towards me. He had a sad look on his face. I felt bad.
He approached me and said "How are you?" I said "I'm fine, how are you?" I had his two framed paintings in a shopping bag and handed them to him. He asked me "Where are you living now?" I told him "Pennsauken, New Jersey. I met a man named Bill Kelly. We're lovers and we live together now." I think I saw the sadness in his eyes deepen. Maybe he was hoping for a reconciliation. I felt bad. He took hold of the shopping bag handle and with a resigned smile said "I hope you're very happy." I said to him "Are you living with anybody?" He said "No, I'm still living at home but I'm doing fine." There was an awkward pause for what seemed like a long time as he slowly looked down at the bag I had handed to him, but was probably only ten seconds and then he said "Well, I have to catch a bus and get back to work." I said "You take it easy Jim." I watched him turn around and walk through the lunchtime crowd of people on Chestnut Street towards Broad Street to catch the SEPTA bus to take him back to where he worked in Northeast Philadelphia at Sears. Sadly I watched until the crowd swallowed him, wondering how much different our life would have been if I hadn't broken off the relationship.
That sunny April day in 1965 on a crowded center city Philadelphia street was the last time I saw Jim. In the years since then (1965), I had been to the bars many times but never once saw Jim. Not once. I never heard anything about him either. A few years ago I tried to look him up on the Social Security Death Index to see if he died. I only found one "James Groh" but he was born in 1904, a different Jim Groh. Jim had disappeared as if he never existed.
A few weeks ago I was going through some old black and white negatives and found these two pictures that I had of Jim. They are the only two I have of him. I took them to Walmart and had prints made. Looking at them now brings warm memories of that time long in the past when we were both innocent, naive and happy in our new found love.
I've often wondered what happened to Jim. I hope he had a happy life. He was a good man.