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Be Cool and No One Gets Hurt

Marlborough High School was interesting, challenging but not really “me”.  My sophomore year in 1971-72 was more or less uneventful, except for my first boyfriend, Bob. 

I was working at a neighborhood fast food place, Burger Chef, when we first laid eyes on each other. He was tall, dark and handsome with wavy black hair and big brown eyes.  He flipped burgers while I took the cash. One day Bob asked if he could walk me home from work. Of course I said yes. I still remember the butterflies filling my tummy. Fortunately, we lived just four blocks apart. This became a ritual on days when we worked the same shift. And then it happened. One slow afternoon at work, Bob asked me to follow him back to the storage room. My back to the wall, he gently leaned in to kiss me. Fireworks. I was "in love”. About two months later, we both lost our virginity on the sofa at a neighbors house that I was babysitting for!

Bob attended "Daniel Murphy”(DMHS), a Catholic boys High School. In fact, Immaculate Heart and DMHS were brother-sister schools. He was a junior and a football jock. I was the dedicated girlfriend who attended all his games. Unfortunately, this did not go over well at Marlborough. You see Bob was half-black and I was not. The early 70’s were still a racially charged time. But I was oblivious to this. I was raised in a home where everyone was created equal. Or so I thought. One afternoon, after Bob walked me home I invited him in to meet Mama. She liked him right away as did my grandmother.  My step dad Mike was at work and didn’t meet him for some time. Meanwhile, Mama and Bob’s mother, Hilda, become friends. Unbeknownst to me they would talk about how Bob and I would be in for some hard times should we continue as a couple. 

At Marlborough, some faculty and students started to snub me. I heard girls whisper behind my back. They called me names I would never repeat. I finished the year with a C average. Bob was the only thing that made me happy that year. 

The summer before my Junior year, I told Mama that I wanted out of Marlborough. After careful negotiation, she agreed to my request. The Fall of 1972 I enrolled at Immaculate Heart High School. I garnished a straight A report card during my first semester without much effort.

Bob and I were still going strong. Cheerleading tryouts for Daniel Murphy were coming. I was determined to make the squad. I practiced day and night to  perfect my routine. Tryouts would not be easy as the competition was stiff. Forty of us were competing for six spots on the squad. The day came. I entered the gym and performed for a large audience of judges. And then we waited. Each of us anxious to know if we made it. About two hours later, the cheerleading coach came out and called the names. Mine was the second name called. I was elated! 

Everyone on the squad got along well, although there was always competition to be the best. All the girls had boyfriends on the football team. After each game we girls would run up to our boyfriends and give them a congratulatory hug. In my case, there were repercussions. 

The following week, while in class, I was asked to report to the principal. She told me that Father Lopez, the headmaster at DMHS wanted to see me in his office. I was baffled. What had I done? After school I jumped in my car and headed over to DMHS. My boyfriend Bob was already waiting outside Father Lopez’s office. We shrugged our shoulders and went inside. Father Lopez told us that many parents had complained about our public display of affection, (a quick hug at the most). I immediately chimed in saying that all the other girls hugged their boyfriends too. Father told us that we weren’t like “all the others”. I still did not fully understand. He continued by saying that parents were appalled to see a white girl hug a black boy in public, and that if it didn’t stop they would remove their children from the school. I was furious. So was Bob.

That was my first experience with social injustice. Sadly, we had to follow the rules for the remainder of the school year. 

Homecoming was upon us, and I ran for Homecoming Queen. Votes were cast, but because Bob and I were not the typical teenage couple, I was awarded Homecoming Princess.  We wrapped up the year at the Prom where, in spite of the bigotry, we had fun dancing the night away. 

The school year ended and we were still going strong. On a warm summer night in July, Bob and I and his friend Kevin drove up to the Mulholland Tennis Club to hang out. It was getting late and I had to be home by midnight. We drove back down the hill and parked in front of my house to sit and talk and smoke a joint before I went in. 

We were laughing and carrying on when I noticed a man walk by the car. A minute later he walked by again. I found it odd at 11:45 pm. Before we knew it, we were surrounded by three men with guns attempting to rob us. I clearly know the feeling of trying to scream and not being able to utter a sound. The men kept saying, “Be cool and no one gets hurt.” I was frozen. The man on my side of the car took the barrel of his gun and ripped open my blouse. I was praying he wouldn’t rape me. Bob was fuming, but with a gun pointed at his head, he couldn’t move. Fortunately, the leader yelled, “We gotta get outa here, man. There’s no time for fooling around.” They grabbed my bag, my jewelry, the guys’ wallets and fled the scene.  

I ran inside my house to get Mama and call the police. It was well after 2am before the cops showed up. My interrogation of what happened that night was almost worse than the robbery. Finally, at 4 am we called it a night. The guys went home. And I curled up in a fetal position until morning. It took me nearly a year before I felt safe to go anywhere by myself. 

By the end of summer, Bob and I had started to drift apart. I learned of another girl he had been seeing…and it broke my heart. It was time to move on. Senior year was upon me and Bob would be going off to college.

Until next time....

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