Sunday, June 22, 2008


Shortly after we moved to Chicago in 1960, Carroll's cousin, Maurice, stopped by in his shiny blue '57 Chevrolet and introduced us to his girlfriend.

Glenda was sixteen and very shy; during their first visit, she sat close to Maurice, face tucked behind his shoulder, saying nary a word. I was shy back then, too, so we sat quietly as our husbands discussed cars: the installation of fuel pumps, the rebuilding of engines, tune-ups.

Although they were married by then, their next couple of visits were much the same.  That is, until an emergency occurred.  The engine of Maurice's Chevrolet had developed a strange "knocking" sound, and needed to be dealt with. Immediately

After they loped down the stairs and slammed the door behind them, I jumped up. "I'm sick to death of cars!" I said.

"And silly knocking sounds!" said Glenda.

We couldn't stop laughing.

After that, we were off and running. Glenda was spontaneous, bright, fun-loving, with a sense of humor just about as quirky as mine. We were always joking, making puns, and laughing, always laughing. We found humor in just about everything; the more absurd, the funnier it was to us.

The four of us spent many Saturday nights in our little two-room attic apartment in Brookfield, Carroll and Maurice sprawled on our sagging pinstripe sofa, watching wrestling on TV, Glenda and I in the kitchen, singing along with the radio, jitterbugging, doing the twist and stirring up good things to eat, the wrestlers' voices drifting from the living room:

"I'm the best!" yells Gorgeous George.

"No, I'M the best!" yells Haystacks Calhoun.

We went to the movies, followed by burgers at Frisch's Big Boy or pizza at Home Run Inn. We joined other friends at Riverview Amusement Park, where we rode the Fireball roller coaster and the Pair-O-Chutes, spent hours at the science and history museums in downtown Chicago, and ate dust at Santa Fe Speedway in Willow Springs as the boys cheered and stomped the bleachers for their favorite stock-car drivers.

Other times, we visited Glenda's brother and sister-in-law, Don and Joyce, and one Sunday, we drove all the way to Starved Rock State Park, where we picnicked and hiked, Glenda and I serenading the group all day long with a silly little song that was popular at the time: Alley Oop.

"I'm sick of that song," says Maurice, "Can't you two sing anything else?"

"Hey! I've got an idea," Glenda says, "Let's sing Alley Oop!"

We often traveled together to visit the boys’ families in Southern Illinois, they up front, we in back, eating popcorn, swigging RC's, singing, joking. And irritating our husbands each time we requested another rest-room stop.

Everything was not fun and games, though. One foggy Sunday night, on our way back to Chicago, we came upon a semi turning left from the right-hand lane. The fog was so thick we couldn't see it, so we plowed under the semi, totaling Maurice's Chevrolet. He, Carroll and I came out of the wreck with only bruises, but Glenda sustained an eye injury. Thankfully, she recovered, but it affected her sight and she had to wear glasses after that.

On the last trip we made together, Glenda and I sat in the back seat, having a good time, as usual. But we fell asleep early on.

Late that night, I was pulled from sleep by Del Shannon's Runaway on the radio. It was our favorite, and we always sang along. But Glenda was still asleep, so I dropped my head back on the seat, acutely aware of everything around me: Runaway playing softly on the radio; the mumble of Carroll's and Maurice's voices up front, the humming of the tires as we whizzed down the dark, silent highway.

As I lay suspended in that surreal cocoon of half-sleep, half-awake, I suddenly realized this would be the last trip we would make together. Carroll and I would soon be relocating with our company to Bloomington, Illinois; Maurice had been drafted and was leaving for basic training. And Glenda would be moving to Southern Illinois to live with his parents while he was away.

I drifted back to sleep knowing I would remember that moment always.  And I have.  To this day, when I hear Runaway, I am back in that time and place.

Shortly thereafter, Carroll and I moved to Bloomington, and a couple of years later built a home in LeRoy. Later that year, Suzanne was born. Maurice was discharged from the army, and he and Glenda bought a farm in Southern Illinois and had two children, Beverly and Dale. We still got together from time to time, but our lives went in different directions, visits further and further apart.

By the late seventies, Maurice and Glenda had parted ways, as had Carroll and I.

I never saw her again.

I have thought of Glenda through the years, wondering what she is doing now, where she lives. I checked with Carroll and other friends, and no one seems to know.  But wherever she might be, I hope she is well and happy and entertaining friends and family with her fun-loving ways, her quirky sense of humor. And laughing. Always laughing.

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All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley