Today is the day folks. Bill and I, who met at the Westbury Bar on South 15th and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia on a rainy Saturday night July 3rd, 1964, celebrate 50 years together. Who would've thunk? Certainly not I. However, Bill has often told me that he knew I was "the one." I didn't at the time, I only went over to the other side of the bar to thank this dark haired, handsome older (his 35 to my 22 years) man who had been sending me drinks from across the bar for the past three months.
The first time I received a complimentary drink (gin and tonic, my Booze of Choice in those halcyon days) from Bill (Kelly) via way of Jerry the Bartender (who I later found out was a good friend of Bill's), I was with my two good friends Ron H. and Ed C. As my friends and I were chatting it up, Jerry the Bartender interrupted and proffered a glass of gin and tonic and motioned his head across the bar towards a smiling dark haired older man and said "Compliments of the gentleman across the bar." I nodded in acknowledgement and took the drink. Of course I took the drink because in those days my budget was limited to $5.00 a night and even in those pre-Stonewall days, $5.00 didn't buy one too many drinks.
My reaction to that dark haired gentleman who sent over the drink? I had seen him before and I knew he was a very popular guy in the bar. In fact, he was the kind of guy who could have anyone he wanted (as he is often fond of telling me now) and I had made up my mind I wasn't going to be the next notch on his holster of tricks. Oh no, not Ron. I was much more discerning that I assumed that he assumed. I wasn't EASY. Besides, handsome though he was, he wasn't really my type. I have a strange type but I won't go into that here.
|Me back in the day playing hard to get|
So over the next three months, whenever my friend Ron, Ed and I were in the Westbury and Mr. Gunslinger sent over a drinkie poo, we laughed. "Not I" I thought. Oh no, I.AM.NOT.EASY. Oh, the folly of youth.
Then came the night that I was by myself over the other side of the bar. Where my friend Ron H. and Ed C. were that night is lost in my memory but I do know that I was alone on that rainy night.
Leaning on the bar, listening to The Supremes sing "Stop! In the Name of Love!" on the juke box; I surveyed the scene of likely prospects in the Westbury that night. Was this the night I was to meet my Prince Charming?
Little did I know that it was.
By nature I am a kind and considerate person. I never felt quite comfortable mocking Bill every time he sent a drink over but I was with my friends and we were young and foolish as friends of that age often are. Now that I was by myself I wasn't in the mocking mood when Bill sent over yet another gin and tonic. As Jerry the Bartender placed the drink in front of me (by the way, I had more of an eye for Jerry than Bill but you know how those things go) he nodded towards a smiling Bill at the other side of the bar. I thought "Why not just go over and thank him?" Now mind you, I had NO INTENTION of going any further with him because he still wasn't my type. And, I still was of the mindset that I wasn't going to be yet another conquest for him, he who could get any one he wanted in that bar. No way, no how.
So I pick up my gin and tonic and saunter around the bar to where he is leaning on the bar. Our eyes met, he was smiling when I said "Thank you for the drink." Somewhat to my surprise this deep, masculine voice responded "You're very welcome."
And that's all I intended to do because now I expected the full court press to seduce me. I had been though this kabuki dance many times before. Remember, at that time I was quite the looker (to some anyway) and I wasn't a slut. I was and am more concerned with quality than quantity. I was looking for romance, not a quick one night stand. I was looking for Prince Charming and I was convinced that Bill wasn't it. But oh how my attitude changed once I started to talk to him.
I was pleasantly surprised that he wasn't aggressive with me. He was just "nice." Wow, what a concept. Mind you, physically he still wasn't my type but he was good-looking and VERY pleasant and VERY masculine. Oh how often have I seen a nice looking man across the bar and then once I meet him and he opens his mouth, a Queen comes out. I'm gay, I like MEN. I have gay friends but I am sexually and romantically attracted to MEN. I had assumed I was going to lead a life of only being attracted to straight men. Bill was different. He was gay of course but totally masculine. He still is. And that attracted me.
|Bill at his Pennsauken, New Jersey apartment - "Prince Charming"|
Anyway, to make a long story (fifty years) short, the rest is history. I went him with him that night. Spent the weekend and the next six months of weekends with him. In fact, Bill used to drive from his home in Pennsuaken, New Jersey to my two room efficiency apartment in Coatesville, Pennsuylvania and pick me up on Friday night to take me back to his apartment in Pennsauken. Then on Sunday we would drive me back to my apartment in Coatesville, PA from Pennsauken, NJ. That is a one hour drive one way (51 miles) through Philadelphia, PA. Now I ask you, who else would do that for me? No one, that's who.
I moved in with Bill the following February 1965 after I got a job at Girard Bank in Philadelphia. We've been together ever since.
Oh sure, there have been a few speed bumps in our Matrimonial Road if Wedded Bliss, but folks, we're still together and we will be together until one of us kicks the bucket.
Last year we made our "marriage" official by getting married at the Georgetown, Delaware courthouse. So today we are not only celebrating fifty years together but one year of a real marriage.
Happy anniversary Bill!