We were nearing our third anniversary and the year was 1972. We were living in Hinton, Iowa, population-not much. Renting a small 2 bedroom with an oil burner stove which kept the dining room 105 degrees, but the rest of the house a cool 50 something. But no heat worries because it was summer.
We had some great neighbors, an older couple with a spitfire, ornery chihuahua named Ginger (who smoked), a newlywed couple with a long-haired dachshund named Kippen, and Keith and Patty behind us. Keith and Patty were a few years older than us. Keith worked nights like John. Patty and I became friends passing the evenings together after the kids went to bed. By kids, I mean her 2 hell raisers and our little angel. Curt was about 6, Glenda was 4, and our 18 month old, Shannon (the angel).
Our lot went as far back as the next street so Keith & Patty actually lived kitty-corner from us. We plowed up a big section of back yard and shared a garden with them one summer. Emphasis on the ONE. Patty pulled/ate everything before the veggies matured. You know how vegetable producers just take big carrots, clean and cut them to look like baby carrots and sell them that way in the store? Well Patty picked all of our carrots when they were babies, about 2-3 inches long. Never shared or explained her motives. We got some tomatoes that summer because the crop was too much for her. But besides hoarding our summer crop or their bratty kids, we liked them a lot.
Keith brought this hair-brained idea to John. Keith been approached/invited to attend a sales pitch/seminar to buy lake property (minus the lake, which was but a sparkle in their eyes so far), before any groundbreaking took place. Get in on the ground floor while the prices were cheap. If Keith brought along another prospective customer (sucker) as an incentive he would receive a cash gift. The extra guest (sucker) would also receive a very nice gift, but no money. John was skeptical, I was totally against the whole idea. We didn’t have 2 nickels to rub together and we knew it, K & P weren’t in much better shape-ok they might have been rubbing quarters. In simple terms, neither of us had an extra dime to be spending on speculative ‘Lake’ property. But Keith was motivated by those dollar signs.
Being gone an entire Saturday was appealing but what to do with Shannon was an issue. Driving her 60 miles to my parents would cost about as much as hiring a babysitter for the day. Plus we’d have to drive back to Rock Valley to get her on Sunday. Our local babysitter was a divorced school teacher who was in her 40’s. She was a great kid watcher but harped on us constantly about the dumbest things. She was obsessed with our few piddly antiques, trying to buy them from us for a pittance. (We started collecting antiques because we couldn’t afford the new white, particle board dresser for $49.99 from Sears when we were furnishing Shannon’s room. We found an old oak dresser at a yard sale for 5 bucks-more in tune with our budget of zilch). She could not be in our house for 5 minutes without offering to buy the little bit of furniture (antiques) we had accumulated.
This-soon-to-be-lake-property was near Des Moines, about 4 hours away. Since we were their guests, tagging along for a free lunch and gift to be revealed later, there was no way we were driving. We had a 1968 2-door Mustang which had a collapsible front passenger seat (unintentionally-a flaw which had not been recalled) and only started when the temperature was above 45 degrees. Keith was driving a big Chevy Impala which was much roomier. Not too long afterwards Keith would accidentally fire his 243 high powered rifle right next to the Hubs (trying to hand the gun to John in that car, through an open window, with his finger still on the trigger, rendering Hubs deaf for a week. Took out the car floor, bell housing, clutch plate and buried the bullet in the cement. Dumb ass).
With the lure of a free meal, (and Keith’s cash gift already burning a hole in his pocket) we got on the road early. No GPS or Siri steering us in the right direction, just an old, creased Iowa map. The itinerary stated the sales pitch would be the first part of business (so you couldn’t sneak out), lunch, then driving out to the housing addition site to see our future vacation home, visualizing where the lake would be. If we couldn’t afford to build right away, simply hang onto the lot until it’s worth a ton-o-money. Yeah right.
The sales pitch was a hard sell, frenzied speaker, high on everything but life. The pressure was enormous, but for these 2 broke kids-a walk in the park. We knew pressure. We had bill collectors calling. Lunch was a turkey or ham sandwich, a handful of potato chips, cookie and a glass of punch. As his sermon wound down, small boxes were handed to us. Oh goodness, what could it be?
Well, it was a chintzy set of dishes. Orange. Melmac. A set for 4. Kinda like plastic, kinda like rubber. Bendable, like undone bacon. The dinner plates were the size of saucers, the cups held 6 ounces. As poor as we were, we threw them away after we got home and bought our first set of Corelle Old Town Blue dishes.
I don’t remember the exact location outside of Des Moines-proper, where the future lake homes neighborhood would be. I had trouble visualizing the ‘big picture’ with nary a drop of water in sight. But there were some eager prospects looking to sign up for payments in hopes this would be a successful venture or their new home shortly. Hubs and I had no such vision that day, but I think Keith was sorely tempted. Patty was the practical half (and the hardworking half) in that marriage and after a couple of sharp elbows to his rib cage, he thought better of signing on the dotted line…