(How my parents met in June 1945. My mother had just graduated and was working as a waitress while she waited to start college that fall, when she met my father. From her memoirs I am currently writing.)
After I graduated, I looked forward to being a lawyer or a teacher for a few years before settling down with a doting husband, maybe a doctor or judge, in a nice little house in town with a flower-filled yard, and a couple of curly-haired children who stayed clean and out of sight until I needed to show them off. I’d spend my days taking the children to the library, dance lessons, and parks, my evenings at restaurants and concerts with my handsome husband. Till I started college, I’d keep my job as a waitress. Lo and behold, Bill came along and swept me off my feet with his charming repartee, “Hey, Shorty, how about a cup of coffee?” and an impressive tip.
The first time he came in, he stood around talking to me so long his buddy said, “Bill, you better marry that little gal. You’re fixin’ to get her fired.” I had no intention of going out with him when I first met him. He’d shown up in Clarksville with a construction crew during the time of the “Phantom Killer” when no girl wanted to go out with a new man. Gene had asked me if I’d like to go to the movies with him if he got back off his supply run early enough. He’d give me a call at the hotel desk if he did. I wasn’t worried about going out Gene, having known him for years, dated him off and on through high school, and best of all, he’d gotten back from service after the “Phantom Killer” started his murders. Gene was safe. I was dressed and waiting at seven, impatient for his call, though I had no reason to be. He’d warned me he might not get back in time. A tap on the door alerted me, “Miss Kathleen, you have a call at the desk.”
I flew down the stairs, two at a time, answering without even saying hello, “Well, thank goodness, you finally called. I’d just about given up on you! I’m dressed and ready to go! Just give me five minutes to grab my sweater.”
“Hold your horses, girl! If I’d known you wanted to go out with me that bad, I’d have called sooner!” I was mortified to hear Bill’s voice on the other end of the line, laughing furiously. I could barely get my explanation in.
“I was expecting someone else. I was waiting for a date.”
“Well, since you got stood up, you might as well go out with me, you poor thing!” This just got worse and worse.
“No, my date will be calling any minute. ” Bill managed to keep me on the phone till he had me hooked. Against my better judgment, I finally agreed to go to the movie with him, mostly because I was embarrassed and he was pushy, both bad reasons.
For the first and only times in our lives together, Bill rushed right over in a nice little coupe he and his brother owned. I later found out, he only owned it for that night. We went to the late movie in Paris. I felt comfortable in the movie but once we stepped out onto the deserted side street to walk to the car, the hairs on the back of my neck tingled. Bill opened my door, helped me in, and then slid in under the wheel, sitting there just a minute before turning to me. “What would you say if I told you I was the Phantom Killer?” My blood ran cold. I thought I would faint. I stared at him for a minute, reached for my purse, hoping he’d think I had a gun and answered in my bravest squeak, “Uhhhh……You’re not. You’re just saying that.”
He stared me straight in the eye, laughed, and said, “You’re right. I’m not. Now I better get you home.” The rest of the way home I worried, thinking he might pull over any time and slaughter me, but obviously he didn’t. Over the years, I’ve thought many times how crazy it was for me to go out with him again, but I was eighteen and foolish. Indeed, he was handsome, charming, and shared my vision of a better life. Not only that, his job moved him from town to town every few months. We would be carefree gypsies, seeing the world, and living the good life. We’d get a lovely little cottage in town whenever we got ready to settle down eventually welcome a precious little boy and girl. I was hooked, putting my career plans on hold. I could always go to college when Bill and I got through traveling.