A Bit About Her Future Husband
I graduated from Central High School in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1938. War was looming in Europe and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had called upon the aircraft industry to produce 50,000 military aircraft a year. Special colleges were set up to train aeronautical engineers at an accelerated pace (four years of courses in two years). One of these colleges, located in Glendale, California, recruited me and I was off to college in September of 1938. Class time was five full days a week for two years including summers. Though it nearly killed me, I survived and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering on August 31,1940. I immediately got a job designing wood and composite parts for various military airplanes. We were given sub-contracts to build these parts from Vultee, North American, Boeing and other aircraft companies.
I lived in a boarding house in Glendale with several of my fellow engineers. Now that I was employed, I bought my first car, a new 1940 Ford convertible ($925, payments). Theoretically, I was an eligible bachelor, twenty years old. I didn’t have a girl friend, as college had utterly devoured all my time. Of course I was interested, but where to start? I wasn’t a Christian, didn’t go to church, had no idea where to meet girls. All my fellow engineers in the boarding house were in the same position, I thought. But unbeknownst to me, one of them was a Presbyterian and started to attend the Glendale Presbyterian Church, where he became interested in a young lady in the youth group there.
My Presbyterian friend asked me one day for a favor. The parents of the young lady he was interested in wouldn’t let her go out on a date with him unless it was a double date with one of her girl friends they knew. Their daughter had found a friend who was willing to go on a double date, but he needed someone to be a blind date for the second girl. Would I be the one?
I was not anxious to do it. I had always been very shy, and had never had much success dating girls (shy=boring). But he begged me, since his girl had gone to all that trouble, so I finally agreed. We would go in his car, since his girl’s parents didn’t know me.
We drove up to his girl’s house and he brought her back to the car. A nice looking girl, who directed him to the house on Burchett Street where I would meet my blind date. I walked up to the door with great trepidation and rang the bell. I felt like Elmer Blurp, the timid vacuum cleaner salesman on the radio program who said as he knocked on each door, “There’s nobody home, I hope I hope I hope!”
But there was somebody home, and the door opened to reveal Alva. Ah, one source of trepidation was gone. She was very pretty and petite! This could be very pleasant. We introduced ourselves and she led me in for the scrutiny of her parents. My shyness and quiet demeanor apparently satisfied them that I wasn’t some hot shot college grad out to demean their daughter. Her Dad seemed pleased that I had a good job (if something came of this he wouldn’t have to be supporting us). Anyway, after a few pleasantries we were released to go. I don’t remember where we went, but I remember how happy I was that for the first time in my life a date seemed to be glad to be with me and wasn’t anxious to get out of a boring situation. One shocker-both of the girls were fifteen! These California girls bloomed into young women much earlier than Iowa girls. Another shocker-both girls had two more years of high school left.
What if these girls turned out to be the ones we wanted to marry (and of course who wanted to marry us)? Even if they didn’t go to college, we would have to wait two years for them to graduate from high school! That could be bad. In my case, looking back, it was very good. It would take more than two years for me to mature emotionally and socially to Alva’s current state. The blind date (it was on a Friday night) was great, so I asked Alva if we could have a daytime date next day and drive up to the planetarium in nearby Griffith Park. I walked her to her door strictly on time, and she asked her parents if we could visit the planetarium on the morrow. Apparently I had made a good impression and they said yes. Hooray!
I drove up at the appointed time with my shiny new black convertible. I greeted Alva and chatted with her Mom for a few minutes. She was very warm and I was completely comfortable with her. After we left Alva told me her Mom had taken a shine to me from first sight. Wow, I was suddenly being accepted by two women-unbelievable!
I opened the car door for Alva, and she seated herself smack in the middle of her half of the seat, I got in and headed for Griffith Park. The seats on my car were leather and very slick, and the road up to the planetarium was steep and full of tight curves. I could barely keep from sliding back and forth even though I had some help from the steering wheel. I noticed that on a left curve Alva didn’t slide away from me, but on a right curve she slid towards me! My first reaction as an engineer was “how can she do that?” But since she was now snugly up against me, and stayed there, I just said “fooey to the engineering, I’m just glad she can do it!” I was getting the sense that something very important was happening in my life. I don’t remember much about the planetarium.
I asked Alva if just the two of us could begin dating. She was for it, but said she would have to ask her parents. The answer came back a conditional yes-as long as it was to church services or youth meetings. We could stop briefly for refreshments on the way home. I thought that was fair and reasonable, given that I was five years older than Alva and they didn’t know me well.
We settled into a getting to know each other pattern, morning service on Sunday, evening service on Sunday, occasional youth meetings.
It soon became evident to everyone that we really liked each other and that this was getting to be a serious relationship. One problem-I wasn’t a Christian, and I hadn’t responded to any altar call at the church services. Her parents were putting pressure on Alva to get me to “join the church,” their way of saying “become a Christian.” It was strictly taboo for a Christian (Alva) to be unequally yoked together with an unbeliever (me). I was blissfully unaware of the growing tension. Her parents still liked me, but they couldn’t let her get really serious about me without this deficiency being fixed.
One Sunday at the morning service we were sitting at our usual place, which was about half way between the platform and the rear exit, with me on the aisle seat. When the pastor gave the invitation, Alva leaned over and hissed into my ear, “Aren’t you ever going to go forward (lingo for walking to the front, getting saved, and joining the church)?” whereupon she gave me a vicious right elbow that ejected me onto the floor in the middle of the aisle (only slightly exaggerated)!!!
What could I do? I did what any husband or prospective husband would do, I dutifully got up, walked down the aisle, professed to receive Christ as my Savior, was instructed by the deacons as to what was expected of a church member, tithes and so forth, and was baptized at the next baptismal service. Whew!
Don’t knock it! It was amazing what a difference it made in the climate at the Sawyer’s home and on our dates! I was indeed now an eligible bachelor. Mom and Dad began to treat me like I was already a son-in-law. We had great times together. Mom was a hoot! A genuine comedian -without meaning to be. Dad was a gold mine of wisdom and knowledge. He was also a genuine comedian, but fully meaning to be. We all had a great time together. I loved being with them.
To be continued…