Key West…Living and Playing in Paradise
My immediate family comes from McComb, Mississippi and Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana. Dad, John Kramer Austin, was roguishly handsome and Mom, Dean Sandifer, looked like Clara Bow (the greatest silent film actress known as the “It” girl) with big, large, doe-like, brown eyes. They were high school sweethearts and were married in 1929, the year of the big stock market crash; Mom was 18 and Dad was 19. After a few years in Mississippi and Charleston, South Carolina, they packed up my older brother, Paul Eugene Austin, born in 1934, and moved to Key West, Florida in 1938. I was born in 1942 in Key West.
(Pictures could not be uploaded)
Dean Sandifer Austin John Kramer Austin
Dad worked for Navy civil service and was asked to go to the Key West Naval Station to help work on and plan work for the submarines and submarine-tenders stationed there. I remember Mom telling me much later how deeply scared she was when they were traveling down the Florida Keys for the first time on U.S. Highway 1. All of the bridges’ superstructures connecting the Keys at that time were very narrow two lane structures that were built over the old railroad bridge trusses that Henry Morrison Flagler had built between 1905 and 1912. A cut-away section of the old Seven Mile Bridge showing the old railroad track truss and the concrete road deck superimposed later. Paint striping, although faded, still remains on the road.
Little short side railings, built out of the old original railroad track, lined the edges of the bridges and were all that separated you and your car from the ocean! So, you can just imagine someone out three and a half miles on the Seven Mile Bridge with nothing but water, water everywhere and mini side railings!!
Old Seven Mile Bridge with section missing showing old railroad trackingused as the short side railing. Also shows narrowness of bridge roadway built over old railroad track.
Mom later embraced and fell in love with the tropical ambiance of the Florida Keys and the surrounding Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico oceans; so she and Dad remained in Key West and became an integral part of the Conch community for the next thirty years.
Billy Ramon came from one of the wealthiest families in Key West and he and his family lived in the expansive mansion known as the Southernmost House. It was so called because it was located right on the southernmost city block in the continental United States at the intersection of Duval and South Streets right on the Gulf of Mexico and next to the famous and historical Southernmost Point marker.
The Southernmost House
‘The Southernmost House was built in 1896 at a cost of $250,000 (approximately $6 million today) by Judge J. Vining Harris, who married into the prominent Curry family. In 1939 the Ramon family purchased the property, which had been converted into a Cuban nightclub called Café Cayo Hueso (Bone Island Café), for $49,000.’ 1
In 1954 it was converted back into a residence and was such at the time of this story.
The old Southernmost Point marker behind the Southernmost House
The newer Southernmost Point marker behind the Southernmost House
Billy and I became close friends back in grade school when we attended Saint Joseph’s School, a parochial all boys’ school. After we graduated from the eighth grade Billy went on to the public school, Key West High School, and I went to the rather newly created Mary Immaculate High School (MIHS) to continue my education under the tutelage of the Nuns. My parents believed that the Nuns were better teachers and I think time has proven them absolutely correct. Billy and I, however, remained good friends and saw each other often.
Saint Joseph’s School built in 1869
MIHS had previously been an all girls’ elementary and middle school (Saint Joseph’s school’s female counterpart) but the Nuns and the Jesuit Priests expanded the school to include a co-ed high school in 1952 and named it The Convent of Mary Immaculate High School…later re-named to Mary Immaculate High School.
A little history of MIHS: ‘In 1868 five Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary arrived from Montreal, Canada, and established the first Catholic school in South Florida. The Convent of Mary Immaculate, the oldest educational institution in South Florida, had its humble beginnings in a framed government building, which was an abandoned Civil War barracks being used by locals as a goat shed. The school for girls was opened on November 9th with twenty-six young women enrolled. In I869 Saint Joseph’s School was established, a parochial school for white boys. It was followed the next year with St. Francis Xavier’s School for black children. The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary also opened a school for Cuban girls. It was dedicated to St. Theresa.
[It’s amazing how they segregated everyone back in the nineteenth century!]
On January 14, 1875 the Sisters began the construction of the Convent of Mary Immaculate, a building of native coral rock, the main part of which cost around $35,000. To save their money for building costs, the sisters would work on the grounds themselves during their “leisure hours”. The architect for the convent was an Irishman by the name of William Kerr. He had been brought to Key West to design and build the different forts around the Island. He also was to later build the county courthouse, city hall and the customs house. Resembling a building Kerr had known in France, the convent walls were constructed of native coral stone quarried from government property on the island. It was built on about eight and a half acres of property facing Rocky Road. (Rocky Road was later renamed Division Street and then finally Truman Avenue.) The land was sold to the Sisters by the heirs of John P. Baldwin, for $1,000, an amount agreed upon to cover the cost of attorney fees and probate. Construction on the convent started on January 14, 1875 and was finally completed in 1876 and at that time had 300 students.
Mary Immaculate High School Graduation exercises for the class of 1898 of the Convent of Mary Immaculate were being held in the San Carlos Opera House on the night of February 15, 1898, when word was received about the sinking of the Battleship Maine in Havana harbor, Cuba. This event ignited the Spanish American War, which was to last less than four months and bring an end to the Spanish rule in Cuba. For the next two weeks many of the Maine’s victims, the injured and the dead, were being returned to Key West. They filled the antiquated Navy Marine Hospital and the Barracks Hospital at the Army Post. Mother Mary Florentine, the Superior of the convent, approached Commander James M. Forsyth, and placed the Convent of Mary Immaculate, two school buildings and the Sisters’ personal services as nurses, at the disposition of the naval authorities. In 1904, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary enlarged the convent of Mary Immaculate to nearly twice its original size. The decorative steeple was erected on the addition to bring a balance in design between the old and the new. Considered the handsomest educational building in the State of Florida, it was truly a monument to the devotion and heroism of the good women who founded and maintained it.
A stone grotto built just east of the convent and containing the statues of Our Lady of Lourdes and Bernadette was dedicated on a bright sunny day on May 25, 1922, the feast of the Ascension and the 25th anniversary of Sister Louis Gabriel’s entrance into the religious profession of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. Sister Louis designed this artistic structure, made of natural coral rock gathered on school grounds. Contributions that came from her many friends in the community made the construction possible.
Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes
Sister Gabriel had survived three major storms since her arrival in Key West on August 25, 1897: October 1909, October 1910 and finally a September 1919 storm. Because of the devastation and heartache she had witnessed as a result of these terrible storms, she had a deep desire to keep Key West and its residents safe from future storms; thus her passion to build the grotto to seek protection from Our Blessed Mother Mary. Tradition tells us that Sister Gabriel is said to have remarked that day “that as long as the grotto stood, Key West would never experience the full brunt of a hurricane.” And as all residents can attest, there has not been a severe storm on the island since the erection of the grotto in 1922. She died peacefully on September 13, 1948 and was buried in the Nun’s cemetery on the convent grounds.
After 115 years, the services of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in Key West ended in 1983 with the departure of the last nun, Sister Dolores Wehle. With regrets to the community of Key West, Sister Virginia Dunn, the Provincial Director, announced that due to staffing problems, the Sisters of the Holy Names, would not be able to continue their mission on the island.’ 2
But enough about all that! Back in the 1950’s the Nuns take in female boarders from South America (Venezuela, Columbia, Argentina, Brazil, etc.), teach them English and when they are reasonably conversant, place them into age appropriate classes. These girls all come from very wealthy South American families and are lodged in a large dormitory on the floor above the new school auditorium. Sister Rose Mary, a firm, steely-eyed, jowly-jawed Nun is in charge of the boarders and watch over them like a mother hen.
The boarders are allowed to attend the monthly chaperoned Saturday school dance to enhance their social skills and to go to approved, chaperoned Sunday matinees at one of the two downtown movie theatres: the Strand Theatre or the San Carlos Theatre (formerly the San Carlos Opera House). There is a third downtown movie theatre…but it shows xxx movies and is naturally off limits!
Then, of course, there is the Islander Drive-In Theatre, affectionately known as the passion pit, on Stock Island, the adjacent Key to Key West…but, the good Sisters never allow the boarders to go to the drive-in!
Billy Ramon and I get to know the South American boarders and begin dating two of them.
I’ll never forget when Billy and I first meet the boarders. It is at the first Saturday school dance that the boarders attend. Most of the girls could not even speak English at the time. Billy and I are sitting at a table with several other classmates of mine: Joseph Richards, the Coach’s son; Donald Antonio, a Navy dependent in our class and Jimmy Steward, a boy born without hands…but was able to write and do absolutely anything else the rest of us could…and better…including dribbling and shooting a basketball!
We are talking and joking around when the boarders enter the dance hall for the first time…Well, our jaws drop to our shoes and our salivating glands go into overdrive when we see them!
The Latina girls enter in a straight line, look around and finally sit down at a long table directly across the rather large dance floor from where we are sitting. Each of the girls have on very plush, rich-looking, bright-colored, knee-length party dresses made with chiffon and Chantilly lace with crinkly petticoats. Thinking back, I don’t believe I ever saw the boarders wear the same dress twice! And these were very dressy party gowns that any American girl would die for!
The band starts playing and several couples from our school begin drifting onto the dance floor. After several dances no one has approached the boarders to ask them to dance. Too awestruck and dumbfounded, I suppose. I can see they were quietly conversing with each other and looking around a little apprehensively…but their feet are tapping to the musical beat under the table.
“Hey, Guys, I’m going over and ask one of them to dance,” I finally say. “I hate to see a group being ignored like that, even if they are new.”
Billy and I are really among the best dancers since my Mom had put me in a dancing class run by one of her friends a few years earlier, when I was about ten years old. I mean she had to pull me kicking and screaming to that class. I talked Billy into coming with me. Anyway we learned to foxtrot, jitterbug, mambo, rumba and tango! I didn’t realize it at the time but the dance lessons came in very handy later on. For instance, I was asked to go to the junior-senior prom as a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior because the older boarders knew I could dance well! The talent greatly contributed to my popularity and reputation as a stud.
The band starts playing Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White, a favorite song of mine and one with a Latin mambo-type beat. Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White by Perez Prado (a Cuban born artist) was the number one hit in 1955 and stayed number one on the charts for ten whole weeks! It was finally bumped out of number one by Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets, the song that officially started the rock and roll era.
I get up and start walking across the dance floor toward the boarders’ table. As I approach I can see the nervousness mixed with anticipation in their faces.
I had spotted this one girl when the boarders first entered the hall. She was a blonde with a fairer but still tanned-like complexion, like coffee with extra cream. And she had the biggest green eyes! I always thought at this young time in my life that all Latinas were brunettes with black or dark brown eyes…little did I know! Venezuela and other South American countries produce natural blondes with green and blue eyes too!
As I approach closer to their table I can see my chosen girl’s eyes are indeed green and very large. I extend my hand to her and ask:
“Would you care to dance?”
The green-eyed blonde freezes! After some seconds she thaws and looks around nervously to one of the older girls at the table and speaks something in Spanish. The older girl, most probably a chaperon, nods affirmatively with a small smile tugging at her lips.
Green eyes looks back at me, smiles, nods yes and extends her hand to mine. We move onto the dance floor. I encircle her waist with my arm and glide her into a smooth, hip swinging, up and back mambo step. She moves effortlessly to my steps and sways and bumps her hips as if they were double-jointed! Beware! Petticoats swinging wide!
“What’s your name?” I ask as we move to the mambo beat. She looks at me with a questioning expression and I realize that she speaks very little English at this point.
“¿Cómo te llamas?” I try again in my really limited Spanish.
“Irene Pena,” she answers in a really husky, sensual voice…extremely reminiscent of the Italian actress Claudia Cardinale. But Irene’s English pronunciation sounds like Itrrrenni Pinya.
The first time I hear her voice and accent, I just melt!
Billy, in the meantime, has asked another boarder to dance…a slim cute brunette Argentinean named Lela Fuentes.
Irene, in contrast to Lela, is built more plush; voluptuous even. At 15 years of age she is already sporting what appears to be a 36C chest! Her ankles are a perfect size flowing out of her peach-colored, high-heeled shoes (that matches her dress color) and swelling so smoothly into curvy calves that go up to the hem of her dress and petticoats just at knee level. You just knew from the size and shape of her calves that the upper leg thighs flared nicely upward forming the perfect set of legs for short shorts. Irene is solid.
Billie and I dance the night away with Irene and Lela! We are invited to join them at their table by Nola Nunez; the older, senior class boarder acting as one of the chaperons. Nola was a dark brown-haired girl with piercing hazel eyes from Brazil and a senior at MIHS. She spoke English well but with a strong accent.
Irene’s broken and limited English is totally charming and disarming. Lela speaks English a tad better but just barely. She, too, is completely charming with almond shaped black eyes and a pecan tanned complexion.
After several hours of sign language, drawing pictures on napkins and “pig Latin,” I learn that Irene’s father is a medical doctor in Caracas, Venezuela and her mother is a teacher. Lela’s
mother and father are plantation owners in Argentina and grow grapes and make wine.
After the dance, Billy and I walk the boarders back to their dormitory at school which is about 10 blocks from the U.S.O. hall where our school dances were held. I hold hands with Irene during our walk back and get a strange tingling feeling all over. Although I had crushes and so-called girlfriends since I was ten years old, nothing felt quite like this…could this be first adolescent love?
After Sunday Mass, Billy and I saw each other outside of the church and swooned about the night before and Irene and Lela.
“Billy, we have to ask Sister Rose Mary if we can take Irene and Lela to the Sunday matinee today. I understand the boarders go to a Sunday matinee downtown.
“That’s right!” says Billy. Let’s go over to her office right now!”
Saint Mary Star of the Sea Catholic church is located on property adjacent and just East of the Sisters’ convent and MIHS. A sidewalk leads from the church’s West side wrought iron fence into the convent and school grounds.
Billy and I go scurrying down the sidewalk pass the old stone grotto built by the Nuns in 1922, through the convent and school grounds and arrive at the school auditorium and boarders’ dormitory on the far West end of the MIHS property. Sister Rose Mary’s office is located upstairs on the second floor at the rear of the auditorium. An outside metal staircase leads up to her office and reception area to the boarders’ dormitory upstairs.
We knock on the outer metal door and ring the door bell.
“Hello, may I help you?” asks the student receptionist on duty after opening the door. The receptionist is a younger boarder named Carmen from Columbia. I knew her from the library where she also worked at times.
“We are here to see Sister Rose Mary. Is she in?”
“Si, I mean yes, she eez. Come in por favor and be seated. I veel tell her you here.”
Billy and I enter into a front foyer, waiting room area and sit down on the single beige colored couch. The walls of the foyer are decorated with colorful afghans…from South American countries no doubt. There are also two large stuffed chairs in the room and pictures of Jesus and Mary on the wall opposite the couch.
Momentarily Sister Rose Mary enters the room from her office down the hall and says:
“What can I do for you boys?”
“Sister, Billy and I came to ask if we could take Irene and Lela to the movie matinee this afternoon.”
“Oh, I see,” she says. “Well, let me see now. Do Irene and Lela want to go with you two? And is there an approved movie playing?”
“Oh, si, Seester!” blurts Carmen, “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness with Ingrid Bergman is playing at the San Carlos theatre and Irene and Lela told everyone they hoped John and Billy would ask them.”
An unexpected ally!
“OK, Carmen,” says Sister, “go tell Irene and Lela I want to see them.”
“Usted desea ver nosotros, Seester Rose Mary? (You wish to see us, Sister Rose Mary?)” Says Irene as she and Lela enter the room.
“Try to speak English as much as you can, Girls. Yes, I want to see you. John and Billy want you to accompany them to the matinee this afternoon. Is this OK with you?”
“Oh, si, Sister!” Blurt out Irene and Lela simultaneously.
“Very well, then. John, you and Billy be here to meet the girls at 2pm sharp.”
We are ecstatic!
Little did Billy and I realize it then, but escorting the girls to the matinee meant escorting all the boarders to the matinee…When we arrive at 2pm to pick up our dates, all the boarders going to the matinee, including the older chaperons (12th graders), were standing around with them!
“Oh well,” I say to Billy, “at least we can sit with Irene and Lela and hold hands…I hope!”
As it turns out we could sit next to each other and hold hands and that turned out to be just fine. It seems just holding hands could emote a lot of emotion and feeling at that time in our lives.
Soon after our first date, Irene and Lela learn to speak English well enough to be placed in class. And Billy and Lela and Irene and I become an item at school…going steady you might say.
On the school grounds the Sisters’ kitchen and dining room are located directly across a gravel parking plaza from the boarders’ dormitory. And whenever the Sisters saw me picking up Irene for a matinee they would sing out through the large, screened dining room windows: Goodnight, Irene, goodnight, Irene, I’ll see you in my dreams! And laugh and giggle a little.
“Hi, Mom and Dad, I’m home and I’m glad this Mondays over!” I say as I open the front door. “I stayed after school today to help Mike Huge with some math problems we have for homework.”
“Hi, Honey, come into the kitchen and I’ll show you where I put your dinner in the fridge. Dad and I are going over to the Deland’s this evening to play bridge.”
“Ok,” I answer. “Where is the Key West Citizen? I want to check the movie schedule.”
“The newspaper is in the front bathroom,” says Dad walking into the dining room. “Your Mother and I are going over to Frances and Eleanor’s for some bridge in a few minutes. If you do go out tonight, leave us a note and be home by 11pm.”
“Ok, Dad, have a good time.”
Our home at the time is located on the east end of Flagler Avenue and is a three bedroom, two bath rancher constructed with slab-on-grade, insulated cinder block walls, stucco exterior siding, drywall interior walls and terrazzo flooring; a common construction style for Key West at the time.
I grab a green apple, get the paper out of the bathroom, plop down on the couch and open the Citizen to the movie schedule page.
My eyes peruse the paper slowly and I’m suddenly shocked! As if hit by a bolt of lightning! I do a double take at the movie page, rub my eyes to make sure they are clear and look again at what is playing at the Islander Drive-In theatre.
I can hardly contain my excitement as I quickly dial Billy Ramon’s phone number.
“Hello,” answers Billy.
“Billy, did you see what’s playing at the Islander Drive-In theatre this week-end!?”
“No I haven’t. What is it? Why are you so excited, John?”
“It’s The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston for Christ’s sake! Sister Rose Mary and the Nuns can’t say no to us taking Irene and Lela to see The Ten Commandments at the drive-in, can they?”
“Hell no they can’t! That would almost be sacrilege!” stammers Billy.
“Billy, we just have to ask Sister Rose Mary tomorrow if we can take the girls to see The Ten Commandments this coming weekend. This is our chance! Let’s work on our approach tonight; you know, what we’re going to say to Sister Rose Mary. You want to come over to my house?”
“I’ve got a better idea, John. Come over to my house…my older sister’s having a slumber party with some of her friends and maybe we can sneak a peak of something in their lingerie!”
“You betcha! Good idea.”
Billy’s sister, I think her name is Maria, likes to wear low-cut tops and has an ample pecan-colored Cuban bosom that jiggles a lot when she moves…and even when she doesn’t move.
I take a quick shower, jump into some Levi’s and a white tee shirt and make a beeline to Billy’s mansion in my island clunker: a 1949 Chrysler De Soto two door coupe. You remember the one with “fluid drive.” It was like a semi-automatic transmission with a clutch and two gears but you didn’t have to shift as often.
1949 De Soto Business Coupe
I am proud of my newly acquired wheels, my first car. I bought the coupe for $75, with my father’s help, from a sailor who was about to ship out. The car was riddled with rust spots from the salt sea air and burned oil. Mr. Fox and his family lived next door to us and he was very mechanically inclined. He helped me sand down the entire car and fill in the rust holes with good ole “Bondo” and then re-sand the car. He next did a ring job on the pistons in the slant six cylinder engine to correct the oil burning. I then took the car down to an auto paint shop and got the best cheapo paint job in bright Cuban Blue. You should have seen this masterpiece! I was so proud!
I swing in front of Billy’s house, jump out of the car, sprint up the front courtyard steps, zip around the large fountain and duck into the front door alcove. The door bell rings out under my touch. Billy opens the door, grabs my hand and pulls me through the front foyer, up the big split staircase and down the south wing hallway.
“Shuuush! Whispers Billy as we approach a room with sounds of girl’s laughter. We enter an adjacent room where Billy cracks open a door in the adjoining wall.
“Look, the girls are to the right and down from the door,” says Billy.
I peak in and see about seven girls in see through Baby Doll pajamas and they are having a pillow fight! One girl’s down on all fours and her jello-quavering ass is facing us as she pummels another girl with a pillow knocking the other girl’s top to the side and exposing a plump, firm titty with a large brownish-auburn colored nipple. The auburn coloring around her thick nipple must be three inches in diameter! And puffs out from the contour of her breast! It looks HOT…like a volcano erupting! I learn much later that this coloring around the nipple is called the areola. The girl adjusts her top and the rest of the girls finally settle down after a few minutes to reading and listening to music.
After watching the girls for another thirty minutes or so and not getting anymore peeks, Billy and I leave and go to his room in the north wing of the house.
“Damn! That one girl had the biggest nipples!” exclaims Billy.
“Must have been as thick and long as the first digit of my thumb!,” I blurt, pointing to my thumb. “Anyway, Billy, how are we going to ask Sister Rose Mary to let us take Irene and Lela to see The Ten Commandments at the passion pit?”
“I don’t really know,” says Billy. “Sister Rose Mary has turned us down every time we have tried to take the girls to the drive-in in the past. The only thing we have going for us this time is the fact that the movie is The Ten Commandments.”
“Exactly! So, I think we should say that it must be God’s will if He is letting the movie play at the drive-in and stress what a really worthwhile movie it is,” I say.
“Hey, that’s pretty good, John.”
“Ok then, meet me after school tomorrow at the MIHS basketball court and we will walk over to the girl’s dormitory and ask Sister Rose Mary.”
Throughout the next day I just go through the motions of everyday school functions; eagerly waiting for the last class to end so Billy and I can finally present our best case for taking the girls to the drive-in. I go over and over again in my mind what I am going to say to Sister Rose Mary until the words start running together into a large monolithic mental blah!
The last class bell finally rings and I am off like a shot to meet Billy at the basketball court in the rear of the school grounds.
“Hey, John, over here!” yells Billy as I round the locker room facility and approach the court.
“How did you get here so fast, Billy?”
“I skipped my last class at Key West High.”
“Alright! Let’s go.”
Billy and I reach the dormitory and begin to ascend the outside staircase to Sister Rose Mary’s office. It feels like we are climbing Mount Everest with the weight of the whole world on our backs!
“Oh, hi Juan, hi Billy!” Greets Nola Nunez after answering the door. “Come een and be seat, please. I veel let Seester Rose Mary know you are here.”
Billy and I look at each other nervously while sitting on the now familiar couch.
“John and Billy! Come on down to my office,” shouts Sister Rose Mary from down the hall.
Billy and I walk down the short hall to Sister’s office and tentatively look in through the open door.
“Come on in, boys. What can I do for you today?”
“Well, Sister, Billy and I…uh…would…uh…I mean the Ten Commandments are…oh, shoot, I’m getting all balled up!”
“Do you want to talk about the Commandments?” says Sister.
“No! …well, yes in a way,” I stammer. “You see, Sister, the big production of the Ten Commandments is playing at the Islander Drive-In this weekend and we know the girls are not allowed to go to the drive-in, BUT, since this is such a worthwhile movie and since it is playing at the drive-in, we figure it must be God’s will,” I blabber. “Anyway, Billy and I thought you might make an exception this one time and let Irene and Lela go to the drive-in to see The Ten Commandments. Billy and I will be on our very best behavior. You can trust us.”
“Yes, you can really trust us!” echoes Billy.
“Ummmm, you boys will have to let me think about this,” says Sister Rose Mary. “Let’s see, today’s Tuesday, so come back on Thursday and I will give you my answer then. Now, get out of here, I have a lot of work to do!”
“Thank you, Sister!”
Billy and I turn abruptly and make a quick-walk beeline for the exit door, pass hurriedly through the door and run down the stairs. At ground level we stop to catch our breath. Both of us are bent over with our hands on our knees, breathing a little hard.
“What do you think?” I ask Billy.
“I don’t know! At least she didn’t come right out and say no.”
“That’s right!” I blurt. “We have a fifty-fifty chance.”
All day Wednesday I daydream in all my classes as Sister Claude and the other class teachers drum on about this and that. My mind keeps wandering to the Islander Drive-In Theatre.
I could feel and visualize soft, tanned, creamy breast in my hands; smooth, silky, thigh under my fingers and…
“John! Are you with us today?” interrupts Sister Claude’s elevated voice.
“Yes, Sister, I’m here.”
“Well, pay attention and stay focused! Now, answer the question.”
“I’m sorry, Sister, I didn’t catch the question.”
“I didn’t think so…Who is the current Secretary of State?”
“John Foster Dulles,” I answer.
“Right, John. Now, I want the whole class to do a 500 word paper on Mr. Dulles and his position on Cuba and the Caribbean for homework.”
The school day finally comes to an end. Tomorrow is Thursday and Billy and I will finally find out if we can take Irene and Lela to the drive-in.
Thursday is a repeat of Wednesday with daydreaming in class. Sister Claude calls me aside after third class, just before lunch, and informs me that Sister Rose Mary would like to see me after the last class that day.
Ah ha, I think, she has made her decision!
Billy and I had already agreed to meet by the girl’s dormitory after classes that day and Billy is waiting there promptly at 3:30 pm when I arrive.
“Hi, Billy, you ready to get the verdict?”
“Yessiree, let’s do it!”
Billy and I trudge up the stairwell to Sister Rose Mary’s office once again and ring the doorbell.
“Hola, Juan and Beely!” says Carmen, who is doing reception duty this day, “go right to Seester Rose Mary’s office; she eez expecting you.”
“Enter and be seated,” says Sister Rose Mary when we appear in her doorway.
“Now, what was I supposed to see you about today?”
She is playing with us!
“Aw, Sister, you know…The Ten Commandments movie.”
“Oh, that’s right!” she quips. “The Sisters discussed your request at our evening meeting and concluded that since this was a special movie with a worthwhile theme that we would make an exception this time…on one condition: you also take Nola Nunez with you as a chaperone.”
Billy and I looked at each other, our hearts sinking a little…but just a little.
“Ok, Sister, that will be fine,” I say.
“Good. Then you and Billy can pick up the girls at six pm tomorrow evening.
Billy and I leave Sister Rose Mary’s office and, once outside, breathe a sigh of relief on a long fought victory. We are ecstatic!
“John, what are we going to do with Nola? What can we do with her in the car?”
“We’ll just have to play it by ear. For one thing we’ll put Nola in the front seat and we will get in the back. We’ll tell her it’s the seat of honor or something. Anyway, when the movie starts she will get interested and it will be hard to keep turning around to see us in the back.”
“Yea, yea, that’s right! Damn, John, you sure do think fast!”
“It must be the adrenalin.”
Saturday morning I set about cleaning out the inside of the old 1949 De Soto coupe; Vacuuming, dusting, polishing. I then wash and wax the exterior of the old island clunker and it is absolutely beautiful! Ready for action!
I pick Billy up at 5:30 pm and we head for the girls’ dormitory. We park, walk down the long sidewalk to the outside staircase, walk up to the entrance door and ring the doorbell. The door swings open and low and behold there stands Irene, Lela and Nola themselves!
“Hello, Juan,” says Nola, “we are ready.”
The girls look gorgeous! Irene’s hair is golden and hanging down thick and loose to her shoulder blades in the back. Her hair is tied back in front with a turquoise-colored scarf that matches her sandals. She is wearing a light green or chartreuse full dress that is modest and has big white buttons down the front (and buttons can be unbuttoned!). Lela is dressed in a slim, black skirt with a beige button-up top and black slip on shoes. Her hair is swept back on one side and hangs down loose to her shoulders. Nola Nunez has on a wide-neck, silver blouse with puffy short sleeves, dark brown slacks and brown pumps.
Billy and I wipe the drool from our lips and sputter out something like:
“You all look so beautiful!”
We escort the girls to the island clunker and open the doors for them to enter. Irene sits up front with me and Billy, Lela and Nola pile in back.
There is quite a line of cars backed up from the pay gate entrance to the drive-in. We pull up to the last car in line and immediately ten cars appear in my rear view.
“Wow, a lot of people are out here tonight!” I say.
“It’s a good thing we got here a little early or we might not find a parking place inside; may even be turned away,” Billy chimes in.
We do get in, however, and once inside we drive to the foremost row that has a vacant slot and pull in. It’s back a little from the big screen but closer to the concession stand.
“Nola, as driver of this enchanted carriage, I am going to let you sit up front and give you the entire front seat as guest of honor!”
“Gracias,” says Nola, “I accept!”
That went well.
Billy and I go to the snack bar and load up with popcorn, coke and candy bars.
After another twenty minutes of snacking, chatting and getting comfortable in the back seat, the drive-in lights shut off, throwing us in almost total darkness; then the big outdoor movie screen lights up and previews, news (remember movie news reels?) and cartoons begin.
“Oh, it’s pretty dark,” says Nola, “now you guys don’t do anything bad back there,” she sort of giggles.
Nola turns out to be a good egg and an understanding cohort.
Irene and I draw closer and I begin kissing her neck and ears; her breathing becomes heavier and finally our lips meet in a soft lingering, tasting crescendo; then part as our tongues begin their erotic duel!
“Oh, Johnny, I feel soooo gooood!” she whispers in her husky, sensual voice.
My left hand cups and feels her heaving breast through her dress…her points harden…she moans and our lips meet again in the passionate kiss of first-time awakening eroticism. We look into each other’s eyes with our breath hot and moist in the air, in our nostrils and on our faces…like an erotic steam bath. Our looks were questioning and searching for an answer to this newfound and overwhelming feeling.
My hand feels her inner thigh and works its way up to that steaming hot junction. Surprise! Pantyhose! (Probably the Nuns’ idea). The pure heat, even through the pantyhose, is enchanting, intoxicating…and wet!
I place Irene’s hand on my pants and she moans again as she feels my stiff member through my pants. Extreme euphoria and pheromone rush!
Irene and I had to settle down and relax a bit. We leaned back against the seat and took a deep breath and drifted a little into the movie playing on the screen.
‘Out past the cornfields where the woods got heavy
Out in the back seat of my 60 Chevy
Workin on mysteries without any clues
Workin on our night moves
Tryin to make some front page drive-in news
Workin on our night moves
In the summertime
In the sweet summertime’ 3
I look around and see Billy and Lela kissing and the car rear windows are completely fogged over! In the front seat Nola was looking straight ahead and was engrossed in the movie…at least I think she was.
I tap Billy on the shoulder and whisper:
“Billy, crack your window a little to let some of this steam out and clear the windows!”
The rest of the evening is spent in this delicious, discovering, in-between-state of touching-through-clothing intimacy but not actually feeling or seeing naked flesh. What could we do with Nola in the car? But, the whole experience was a beautiful, soft awakening in erotic feeling and intimacy.
‘We skinned our hearts and skinned our knees
Learned of love and A B C’s
We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun…’ 4
3 Night Moves by Bob Seger
4 Modified from Seasons in the Sun sung by Terry Jacks and written by Jacques Brel
Causes John Austin Supports
Sierra Club (clean environment), The Sunlight Foundation (government transparency) , PETA (ethical treatment of animals)