I grew up in a small, northwest Iowa town, a few miles from the South Dakota and Minnesota borders. We knew snow, ice, sleet, blizzards (snow storms with 20-40 mile an hour winds) and below zero temps for a couple months a year, plus enough hot, humid, rainy and gloriously sunny days the rest of the year so our farmers (not me, I was a townie and didn’t know what a stalk of corn looked like) could grow beef, hogs and the best crops (corn, wheat, oats, soybeans) to feed the world. We didn’t know any other way of life. This was Iowa. Weather was part of the deal. Just happened to be where we lived.
During our frigid winters it was commonplace to see multiple cars parked diagonally in our downtown (2 or 3 blocks long) area or the grocery store parking lot, completely void of humans, but every car was running while a few necessities were being bought or charged (no, not with a credit card, some families had a small line of credit for groceries and paid their bill every month). It took several minutes to warm up your car when it was 25 below zero and not worth turning the car off for a ten minute shopping spree. I don’t ever remember one car being stolen during this strange winter phenomenon.
When the Hubs and I started dating he had his driver’s license (I did not) but he wasn’t allowed to drive often. His oldest brother Jimmy (13 years older than John) GAVE him a 1958 4-door, green & black Ford Fairlane in 1964 but their dad made John give it back. He just didn’t want Johnny driving for some reason. It had nothing to do with extra expense like gas and insurance because John would have had to pay for all that.
When I was at his house for the evening and we were experiencing inclement weather, if it wasn’t too late (say 10ish) John’s dad would give me a ride home otherwise Johnny walked me home (about a mile), then walked back. When we weren’t with another couple those first couple years, we walked everywhere. There were definite advantages to knowing our way around town-on foot.
My parents were not big John supporters. They felt I could do better. He wasn’t part of the holy reformation in town. The First Reformed, Netherlands Reformed, Calvin Christian Reformed and Christian Reformed. I mean he could have picked any one of them and probably got their blessing. But no. Worse, he was a Methodist and they only went to church (gasp) once on Sunday. Our off and on again high school dating years was met with open hostility and mom and dad’s express disapproval. They tried grounding me which didn’t work. The more they fought me on something, the harder I fought back. True, I was a brat, but they weren’t being fair either.
Mom and dad were strict and I was not the best follower of rules in general. Many nights I ‘got out of the house’ under false pretenses, something I excelled at. Said I was going to Char’s, or a group of us were doing something together-completely innocent at someone’s house, but mom and dad always seemed to know when I was up to no-good. So I’d sneak to meet John at the Bowling Alley but we couldn’t stay there-right out in the open, we might be seen and my folks would find out where I was before the hour was up. I swear they had a whole network of ‘confidential informants’ tracking my whereabouts. Dang, they were good, but so were we. Still hope that cost them some coin.
Johnny Wayne and Neese had the means of hiding in plain sight around our little town, and nobody was the wiser. When darkness blanketed Rock Valley we moved about freely, you just had to know the right places. Certain blocks had more trees, darker coverage, families too busy to pay attention to a young couple copping ‘feels’ while freezing their watusi’s off walking past.
When mom and dad got ‘this feeling’ I was out & about, one of them would get in the car and start cruising the streets, fervently hoping to catch us walking along, holding hands (or worse). Fat chance! Often we would watch them back out of the driveway and snicker. “They’re at it again. How long before they come back to 15th street?” John would say, “Well, they have to go past The Cue, then the bowling alley at least twice to see if they can spot you through the windows. Then past my house before they come back this way. We got some time.”
We had an ingenious hiding spot half block from my house. This block was home to 3 buildings. A very large Catholic Church, a smaller building which had been a parochial school but now was a teen hangout called, Cloud 9. The only other building was the parsonage for the priest. Although there weren’t a lot of trees, this whole city block was quite dark. The back of the church faced north and had an indented ‘notch.’ The perfect fit for 2 sinfully, hormonal teens.
Most of these ‘hot dates’ took place when the weather was not. I knew what I was in for and dressed appropriately. Johnny invariably ‘forgot’ his gloves and begged to warm up his hands elsewhere on my anatomy. Hahaha. When we were lucky enough to beg, borrow or steal a set of wheels for the night we utilized other hiding places (parking spots) around town, namely fields out in the country. It’s where I finally familiarized myself on the difference between corn and boybeans, I mean soybeans that Iowa was famous for…