My first New Year’s Eve Away From LaFollette

As a young girl who had just graduated from LHS, I made my move to Dayton, OH where my sister and her family lived. There I would make my “fortune” or die trying. Those first couple of months, I spent the days trying to find a job and the nights “crying” because I was so homesick. And of course, my parents wanted me to return home. But eventually, I found a job, had some girlfriends from LHS join me, and later found a boyfriend who became a husband and then after 13 years, ex-husband.

We lived in the University of Dayton neighborhood close to Belmont. My sister and her husband rented out their upstairs to upper classmen from UD. However, that didn’t last too long after me and my friends arrived in the home. These boys were from rich Catholic families from New York and New Jersey . You can imagine what they thought when three “country chicks or hicks…” made their way into the home.

First of all, they thought we were ignorant (but I ended up doing a couple of their term papers); second, they thought we were “easy” (which we weren’t…and a couple of good pranks on them and their girlfriends stopped that belief; third, they thought my sister and her husband needed the money too bad to kick them out (they were such snobs). My brother-in-law worked at NCR and my sister drove a bus….so you can see they didn’t really need the money. After one semester, they were gone….and we girls got their rooms.

My first New Year’s Eve, I had a boyfriend (not the one who became my husband) whose family was pretty well off (they lived in Oakwood for those who are familiar with the area). Now you know being from LaF, we had no restaurants other than diners and especially restaurants like the “King Cole” in downtown Dayton. That first New Year’s Eve in Dayton, the boyfriend’s parents and siblings wanted to spend the night wining and dining at the King Cole. So I asked my sister what to wear and all that stuff. I never thought about anything else except how I looked.

My boyfriend picked me up in his “vette” and we went cruising down Wayne Avenue to Fourth Street to King Cole. And naturally, I’m so busy gabbing about anything/everything to ask him what to expect. I mean, we’re just going out to eat!!! So we get there, and the first thing they want is my coat. So I whispered to my boyfriend, “what do you think they want my coat for?” And so he told me, it was a coat check and that way I didn’t have to worry about dragging my coat all over. After I saw all the place settings, I thought it more likely they didn’t want their china or silverware stolen.

Well, they asked what we would like for hors d'oeuvres and me being so smart…I said “now just where is that on the menu?” It sure wasn’t spelled like it was pronounced. Since I was only 18, the boyfriend’s parents had to order me something other than a coke to drink. I think I started with whatever wine they were drinking and then switched to something they called “screwdriver”. Looked like orange juice to me.

The dinner was served on fine china plates with pewter butter dishes and bread plates and about 15 forks, knives and spoons. And of course, our drinks were served in pretty crystal glasses. And the dinner napkins were all swirled about and so pretty. I thought they were for decorations but then I saw everyone begin to unfold them and place them in their laps.

When it came time to place our dinner order, I’m at a loss. I don’t know what to order. Being a quick thinker, I asked my boyfriend to order for me while I went to the bathroom. Any kind of fish would do…with potatoes, soup, and salad. So he ordered.

Well, the soup looked like “pee” it was so clear, the potatoes were some funny kind of name that I couldn’t even pronounce much less eat, the salad was plain but being brilliant, I asked for some “mayonnaise” for my salad. That’s all we ever had at home…how was I to know any different. It's a wonder I didn't ask if they had any cornbread!!!

Here comes dinner with the fish all done up…and a lemon with some “netting” over it. I had never seen anything like it and I had been to Knoxville and a couple county fairs. I leaned over and asked my boyfriend…what in the world is that “net” over the lemon? Are they afraid it’s going to start flying around or what!!!! He explained it was like cheesecloth and when you squeezed the “lemon” onto your fish, it was to keep the lemon from squirting into anyone else’s face or eyes. Well, you could have knocked me over with that. I’d never had lemon with catfish or crappies….and I certainly had never heard of lemon with a net around it. But being wise, I said I didn’t really want any lemon with my fish. And that fish smelled like they had just fished it out of the “Great Miami River” which flowed a couple of blocks from that restaurant. And it looked all shiny and sort of purply to me. They hadn’t even breaded it…can you believe that.

I pushed that food all over the dishes but the bread and butter was good so I made a meal on it. In the meantime, the drinks kept coming and there was some “classical dinner music” being played by a string quartet and I didn’t know any of the music. Dinner reservations had been for 8:30 p.m. and by the time dinner was over it was getting close to midnight and I was snookered. The little band kept going around to the tables asking if anyone wanted to hear something special…and they had done this several times to our table. By this time, I had figured out that my boyfriend’s parents thought I was a mindless backwood’s hillbilly who didn’t know a thing about nothing…and this was their way of showing him that I really wasn’t his type. My Mama didn’t raise no fool. So I began to really turn it on. By the time that band got back around to my table I was ready for them. This time when they asked “can we play a special tune for your table, I proudly stood up and said, “Ya’ll rekkin’ that fiddle player can play “Orange Blossom Special”? My boyfriend and his sisters/brothers howled with laughter...the parents got choked up and I had to use the heel of my hand to unblock the mother's airway.

That was the end of New Year’s Eve and the end of my boyfriend…and that was in 1965. I never did find out what kind of fish and potatoes I had and I‘ve even forgotten that boy‘s name. However, I was a “quick study” and the next time I dined at King Cole, I was prepared.