Girl Number One

Today is a day of recollection. After posting this morning I reread an older post titled From Proms to Dear Johns.That little piece of history concerned my high school love affair. At the end of it I promised to write about Steve Star at some point in the future. Today is the future.

Version 4

Steve Star

My Grandpa Jim lived a solitary life on his little farm. To kill his loneliness and to make some extra beer money he took in a border named Steve Star, except his real name was Csillag Pista. Translated from Hungarian to English Csillag Pista becomes Steve Star. Steve worked doing labor in the pickle canning factory in Coloma near my Grand Father’s farm. Needless to say this is very seasonal work. Steve drove a very old Plymouth coupé, and drank cheap St Julian wine. He was a classic wino. I used his empty bottles piled high in the sand behind the barn for target practice with my 22 ca. rifle. He put them behind the barn to hide them from my mother who was anti-drinking on her watch. Steve was a drunk, stayed a drunk, and died a drunk. My mother had little effect on changing his habits.

After I got my Dear Joe letter in college I wallowed in a rut, and it showed. My friends began doing me favors by fixing me up with every girl that they could find. I resisted at first, but finally succumbed to my roommates tender of a string of dates from his fiance’s nursing school. It all began harmlessly as a series of letters to the girls suggested by friends that Steve Star take on a date. As a huge joke to myself I took the nom de guerre of Steve Star a hopeless cause. The letters became fodder for the school bulletin board, and unbeknownst to me, Steve Star became a mystery man who wrote stupid funny letters to the girls at Saint Anne’s. Eventually, Steve Star’s identity became known when I made a blind date with one of the girls during Christmas break.

It amused me when I sat in the parlor of Saint Anne’s waiting for my date to come down, and a nonchalant string of young nurses paraded through the room to look over Steve Star. The date went well, we had fun, and I got her back before curfew. I dated several more nursing students after that but not one rang Steve Star’s bell.

Later that year in July I had another blind date with a nurse who wanted to experience Steve Star. She was good-looking but not of model beauty. She stood about five-foot-four inches tall with short dark brown hair, and her waist was slightly thicker than the highly sought after women of the time. Her face was average, but she possessed uniquely sparkling dark brown eyes and a captivating smile. Her shapely ankles blended into calves formed like those of an athlete. She was off for the weekend so I picked her up at her home, and met her parents before she demurely descended the stairs.

Steve Star was a cheap skate and went on inexpensive dates, this time he enjoyed a Grant Park Concert on the lawn. The night was balmy, and the sounds of the cars passing by on the Outer Drive muted the precise sounds of the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra. We spent the night sitting on that blanket listening but mostly talking about school, and our families. Her father was dying of colon cancer, and she and her mother provided his care. She was the one who finally told me about the scene the Steve Star letters had on the nurses at Saint Anne’s. She had read all of them, as had most of the other girls in her class. A cool breeze drifted in from Lake Michigan as we folded our blanket to leave. I dropped her off and promised to call her at school.

DSCN2946

My luck held out, and I dated another girl named Sabrina. Sabrina had the model beauty men sought after. Slightly taller at five six she had long jet black hair, and big black eyes with heavy mascara and eyeliner above and below the lids. Wow! We went to the movies and a snack.  She confessed to reading Steve Star’s letters, and we kidded about his antics. I dropped her off on the front porch. I said goodnight and turned to leave, but she grabbed my arm and pulled me into the dark foyer for a goodnight kiss. The house was entirely dark and quiet. Steve’s mind shifted to more kissing, but she gently pushed him away and whispered “my parents and six brothers are asleep we don’t want to wake them.” I very quietly got the hell out of there.

Adult-Barb0024

Girl number one

In the meantime, Steve had called his first blind date (Girl number one) and was becoming very comfortable talking with her. She with him as well. We dated again, and the subject of Steve Star dating Sabrina came up. Steve sensed danger and dropped the subject quickly; he got the message.

Steve Star dated Barbara exclusively for the next two years until he married her. He remained faithful “until death do us part.”

Barb0027

October 14, 1961

Barb0036

circa August 17, 2003

Prince Albert

             Grampa Jim left a ladder up against the farmhouse. It was a homemade ladder, and was very heavy.  I was too small to be able to lift it or carry it, so finding the ladder in place presented an opportunity.  Before I climbed up, I made sure Mom was doing something, and would not catch me easily.  Up the ladder I started.  Lifting my short legs up to each rung felt like stretching to my shoulder.  The first few rungs were easy. About half way up, I began to feel the bounce of the ladder.  I was terrified, but kept on climbing.  Once I got on the porch roof I felt safe again, as long as I stayed away from the edges and didn’t look down

            The main house had a gable roof.  The porch roof was flat but sloped down.  At the end was a door to access the attic of the house.  The door was square and low, and locked with a hook. It was easy to open. 

            I unhooked the latch, and pushed the door open. The space was the dark, and hot air hit me in the face.  It took a while for my eyes to adjust to the darkness.  I stepped onto one of the several boards placed across the ceiling rafters.  There was no insulation and the ceiling showed between the rafters.  One slip and I would go crashing through.  I was still small enough that I did not have to duck low to clear the rafters as I walked on a plank. A few steps into the darkness, I began to see the outlines of some very large, very brown leaves laying flat on the boards.  What are these and why are they here?  I asked myself. Then I remembered that Grampa had a few tobacco plants on the farm.  The dry brown leaves looked just like the tobacco I saw growing.  The attic was less of an adventure after that day, and I did not go back until much later, but for a reason.

            Gramps had a boarder living with him.  The rent kept Grampa Jim in Camels and his daily bottle of beer.  His name was Cszilag, Pista, which translated from Hungarian read Star, Steve.  For some reason, old country people call or refer to someone by the Sur name first, then their given name.  Steve Star became a central character in my life later on.  At this time, I got a brainstorm to play a prank on Steve.   He was a lonely old man who worked in the pickle factory in Coloma.  All we knew about him was that he liked to get drunk on wine.  He boarded with Gramps for many years.  When we came to the farm, Mom set the rules and he had to live by them or hit the road.  One rule was “no drinking”.  He lived up to the charge. 

            After supper, Steve enjoyed a smoke on his corncob pipe.  He sat on the log chairs under the willow and packed his  pipe with tobacco from a can of Prince Albert. The tin can was always in his hip pocket.  The Prince Albert cans were unique in shape because the fit into a pocket very nicely.  The hinged lid insured the smoker would not lose it, and it snapped shut.  Empty cans littered the house and yard.   Steve had a habit of leaving them wherever they became empty.  Gramps used them to store nails and screws, although they made lousy storage for those types of things.

            One day I asked Gramps what the leaves were in the attic.  After interrogating me about how I knew about them and lecturing me on the hazard of climbing shaky ladders, he told me it was tobacco.  Gramps tried the tobacco and did not like it, but left the leaves in the attic.  They were several years old, and so dry that the slightest touch caused them to crumble.  I got the idea to test the tobacco, but not by smoking it myself.  I found a Prince Albert can that looked new.  The ladder was still against the porch.  I snuck into the attic and crumpled enough tobacco to fill a Prince Albert can.

            While Steve was at work, I sneakily placed the can on his dresser.  The remainder of my day felt like eternity while I waited for him to come home.  We ate supper and he finally went outside to smoke.  He pinched a wad of tobacco for his pipe, and noticed that it was dry.  Smoking tobacco, I learned, is moist, even though it is brown from age.  He continued to fill and lit up.  It only took one drag for him to be convinced that something was seriously wrong.  I could not contain myself any longer and started laughing hysterically.  He looked at me as he puffed out and began coughing uncontrollably.  When he finally stopped, a string of Hungarian words, which I had never heard before came from his mouth. I can only assume that these were words on Mom’s list of ‘forbidden’s’.  At the instant that I burst into laughter, and Steve started cussing, I broke into a run. I ran as fast as I could to get away.  Steve Star had finally put it all together and was emptying the contents of the Prince Albert can on the grass.  When Gramps heard the whole story, he smiled.  When Mom heard the story, she scolded me for being so mean.

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