Boys, now men, of a certain age remember when we carried a handkerchief in our back pocket. This was part of our dress code. Our mothers made sure we had — along with socks and underwear — a fresh one. Most were white cotton, but over the years we accumulated linen ones with the initial of our last name on them. For certain friends and relatives who felt an obligation to acknowledge Christmas, birthdays and graduations with a gift these handkerchiefs were a fast, cheap, easy way to satisfy this commitment. All clothing stores sold them.
Wiesner's had a "U" shaped counter in the middle of the store facing the front. They kept theirs on the north side of the counter so you could remember to buy one as you checked out.
Speaking of Wiesner's — it was truly a department store - one of the best and largest between Denver and Kansas City. A.A. (Anthony Aloysis) was the monarch. A.A. sat at the head of the U shaped counter and observed all activity. I'm not aware he did anything else. His son Tony (Junior) ran the basement store. I became aware of Tony at a young age because the toys were in the basement and he admonished me to keep my hands off. Tony was very stern. Other sons ran different departments. The grocery store was next door.
The sons decided the store front needed a facelift and presented their idea to A.A. Their proposition was summarily dismissed. "Well, you can't take it with you." "Well, I'm not going anywhere." Well - he did - and they did — the new front. They replaced the black glass with the turquoise metal facade, which was removed in the last several years.
I got side tracked — back to the story. Handkerchiefs appear later.
This was the fall of 1953. I was at K.U. and a member of a fraternity. I was freshly out of a girlfriend and was shopping for a replacement. Fraternities and sororities have social chairmen. They plan major parties, but also periodically contact their counterpart at sororities to schedule "hour dances." They occur on Wednesday evenings; purpose being an excuse to meet, greet — and shop.
We had one scheduled with the sorority of my roommate's girlfriend. They thought it would be nice if I found one there also — and they even offered a definite recommendation. Since I was shopping I of course agreed to go.
I later reported the only one with possibilities was the piano player. I hadn't met her and didn't know her name, but felt we should meet and greet. I called for a "Coke date" and convinced her I was a fine, upstanding young man. "Were you the one leaning on the end of the piano?" She agreed to meet me at the library the next afternoon, 4:30. The usual trysting place for these encounters was the "Hawks Nest" in the Student Union.
I could tell she was fairly tall, but I didn't know how tall. I never saw her stand up. To be on the safe side I folded up a couple of those hankies, the ones with my initial on them, stuck them under my heals and prepared to meet and greet.
This idea didn't work as planned. I should have tried it first. Did you ever attempt to walk normally with about an inch of folded hankies migrated to the middle of your foot? It doesn't go well. As I retrieved the hankies I heard a snicker.
In spite of this awkward beginning, things did improve. I have no idea what we talked about, but it was 7:30 and dark when we finally left. We had a long conversation that afternoon, but actually it continued for almost the next 60 years.
Bud Dalton, Hays, is a frequent contributor to The Hays Daily News.