In the last story (link) about the early relationship between me and my wife, (girlfriend at the time), I had suffered a setback and celebrated a success. I had to drop out of going to college full time and then accepted my first ‘real job’ which was to be an Assistant Manager at Taco Bell.
I had never even heard of Taco Bell before they began building the west side Hamilton store, (we called them stores), in 1976. Taco Bell back then was a big excitement. The seventies were expansionary times for fast food restaurants and Hamilton did not already have a Mexican restaurant yet so the combination of these two factors made the Taco Bell restaurants very popular. Our store opened in February or March of 1976 and it seemed like every kid in school was getting hired on there, everyone but me.
I didn’t get my call until April 5th, the day after my 18th birthday. Evidently, my application was at the bottom of the barrel in the pre-18 stack. I found out why when I finally got my interview. When I went in for the interview, the place was so busy that the assistant mgr couldn’t afford to take one of the tables so he and I made our way to the back where all the non refrigerated goods were stored. Bob, (the guy interviewing me), sat on one bucket of coconut oil and I sat on another.
The interview went very fast. Bob asked me a couple of generic questions and then asked what kind of grades I got in school. I replied A’s and B’s. And that’s when he looked at me with a very quizzical face and asked me why I dropped out? Huh, what are you talking about? Bob showed me my application and where it said last grade completed, I had plugged in 11th. Bob took that to mean that I dropped out after 11th grade. What did I know, it said “completed” and I hadn’t yet “completed” the 12th. I was still in it…duh! Bob just rolled his eyes and said, “you’re hired, when can you start?” And that’s why I hadn’t gotten a call – they thought they were getting ready to hire a dropout. That’s how busy, (desperate), they were for bodies.
Fast forward now to early winter, maybe late January ’77 when I had made my changes and accepted the ‘real job’ stuffing tacos. We knew so little of the world then, I see that now. Hell, I know not much of the world today, let alone knowing much as a pimply faced nineteen year old. But I was doing my best at the time. I was very efficient and a quick learner. In no time at all Sally, (the Store Mgr and my boss), was talking about getting me my own store soon.
We weren’t going to college so we’d need a different plan. Saying that we had a ‘plan’ would be totally inaccurate – we were winging it….at least I was. I decided that I was going to ask Kim to marry me. I didn’t really know what that fully meant or what that would even look like. I just felt that the right next step in our journey together was to commit to one another. I do remember a defining moment that helped lean me in that direction as a next step.
My dad had asked me to go with him somewhere, I don’t remember where or what for. I guess I was feeling out the waters when I told my dad that someone I knew had just gotten “pre-engaged”. (Yes, some kids got engaged before getting engaged back in my day. In hindsight, I see now that this was a scheme cooked up by the jewelers in order to sell more diamonds and gold). My dad’s response was so priceless that I never forgot it.
PRE-engaged? What the hell is pre-engaged Rob? (He said as he chuckled). You’re either engaged or your not. There’s no such thing as being pre-engaged. Is that just a way to say you’re not screwing other people? Jesus.
I told you it was priceless. But it made me think – maybe he was right. Kim and I were made for each other, what’s stopping us from making it official? We don’t have to set a date until we’re ready. And so I planned.
One day I drove down to the Tri-County Mall where there was a fancy-schmancy jeweler called Herschede’s. Herschede’s was, (I think), a local Cincinnati jeweler, no longer in business but had a corner shop in the mall. You know how it is when you’re a teenager, you think you know everything, that the fanciest jeweler had to be the best. I didn’t really know anything about jewelry, (still don’t), but that Herschede’s shop in the mall was bright and shiny – I just figured they were the right spot and so I went to see them.
I told them I could afford $1,000. A thousand dollars was really a lot of money to me but I didn’t really have any bills yet, (living with my parents), and I was making pretty decent money as an Assistant Mgr at Taco Bell and figured that I could make the payments. A thousand dollars bought a nice little quarter carat diamond ring, a quality cut (so I was told by the nice Herschede’s sales woman). I was proud of my purchase. Now to plan the evening.
I wanted to pop the question at a fancy place and the fanciest place I could think of was that restaurant across the Ohio River, up on top of that hotel; the restaurant that revolved. It’s still in operation atop the Radisson Hotel in Covington, Kentucky. It was touted as one of the most romantic hotels in the area due to its great view of the Cincinnati downtown nighttime skyline.
I still had my tank, my ’67 Bonneville. At about 13 miles per gallon, we made our way down to Covington. Making our way around to unfamiliar places was a lot more difficult then than it is today. Today we have GPS. Back then we didn’t even have cell phones. Trips had to be preplanned using multi-folded paper charts showing all of the streets and highways of various cities and states. They were called maps. Maps were very useful tools but they had one serious drawback – only men could refold them. So if there wasn’t a man around, the map got crinkled and smashed back into a glove box of a car, never to be used again.
But I digress. I still recall with great clarity, taking that first step onto the revolving restaurant. We had gone down there under the guise of celebrating a going steady anniversary. It was indeed pretty that night and the skyline could be seen from all tables, (until the restaurant turned towards Covington, Newport and Fort Mitchell. I was nervous, that was an understatement. I think the moment happened around dessert. I did the whole thing, got down on my knee and popped the question. The night went perfectly and we left the restaurant that night, officially engaged to be married.
And they lived happily ever after….I bet you think this is the end, the final chapter in the Kim Saga….HA! You know what happens when you assume….stay tuned Reader.