An Unexpected Romance

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Back in the early 1960s, I used to sing at the piano bar of fine restaurants. One was the Tally Ho in Lakewood.

Sheila played the organ there. My girlfriend Norma and I would go there to hear her play and I would sing.

Norma and I were both single mothers. One night, Sheila told Norma that she knew a nice man who was a widower. His name was Russ and he owned two Rexall drug stores.

Russ came to the restaurant every Saturday night and he sat at the end of the circular piano bar. Sheila thought that Russ would make a good husband for Norma -- if she could snag him.

That very next Saturday night, Norma was there at the piano bar, ready to meet Russ and turn her charms on him. I was there with her as a back-up, in case she didn’t like him.

Sheila introduced the two of us to Russ, and he sat between us. He was a very handsome man, and quite classy. Norma was a very talkative woman and kept up such a conversation with Russ that I hardly had the chance to say a word to him. That was ok with me, because after all, he was supposed to be for Norma, not me.

During her break, Sheila asked Russ if he would like to buy two tickets to hear Kola Pandit, the famous pianist, at the Long Beach Convention Center. Likely she was thinking that this would be a nice affair for Russ to take Norma to. Russ said yes and paid for the two tickets and put them in his jacket pocket without saying anything to Norma about them.

Finally Norma stopped talking long enough to excuse herself to go to the ladies' room. While she was gone, Russ shocked me by asking if I wanted to go with him to the Kola Pandit concert.

I said yes. He asked for my phone number and said he would call me.

Sure enough, Russ called me the very next day He took me to a romantic dinner at an elegant restaurant the night of the concert. We had a wonderful evening.

He asked if he could see me again. I said yes, for I was falling in love with him already, despite our 23-year age difference.

Ours was a whirlwind courtship. We were married six weeks later. Russ bought me a beautiful home in the Lakewood Country Club Estates.

Needless to say, my friend Norma was shocked by all of these developments. Soon after my marriage, she came to visit in my new home.

She looked around at all the beautiful furnishings and said, “Just think, Helen, all of this could have been mine!”

Helen Hampton is a member of the writing class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. It is held off-campus at the Norwalk Senior Center.

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