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A Summer Place
By: Wayne Brown
(Writer’s Note: I was inspired to write this story by a comment made on my poem “Kids Of Summer” by LaLeSu. She spoke of being broken hearted when, as a young girl, she discovered that Roy Rogers was already married to Dale Evans. That helped me to remember a pre-teen crush of mine that probably needs to be shared before I become famous and the paparazzi gets their hands on the information. So….this one is for you Laura!).
It was the summer of 1959. I was twelve years old and probably headed into the puberty phase of life although I probably had no idea of that fact. My family lived in a small central Mississippi town of about 3000 people. Our house was located on one of the main streets and was about a half-mile from the local town square. It was an easy walk to town to the movie theater which was located on the town square. We seldom knew what was playing when we headed to the theater on those hot summer afternoons. It really didn’t matter, we were “going to the show” and we’d just watch whatever was playing although we always got more excited when it was a western shoot ‘em up.
On this particular day, I had gone to the movies alone although there were plenty of kids there that I knew so it really was not like being alone. I just walked there and back by myself. The move was “A Summer Place”. Big deal! I had no idea what that was about but I knew I was soon going to find out.
The kids liked to sit down front. We lugged our drinks, popcorn, and a salty dill pickle down to those first few rows and made ourselves comfortable. The theater was dark; the big screen glowed white, and the air conditioning was superb. One could easily freeze to death in the span of a movie. This was truly heaven on a hot day.
Now, I don’t know if you have ever seen the movie, “A Summer Place” but if you have not, you should because I personally recommend it. It starred Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue in the lead roles. The storyline circulates around two families who were old friends, one with a daughter, one with a son, who decide to meet in this rather secluded vacation hotel to share a few days together. Both the boy and girl, played by Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee are teenagers with those sexual curiosities beginning to flow. They are attracted to each other almost from first sight and the story develops around their parents trying to keep them from getting at the “hubba-hubba” during the term of the vacation. Of course, there are conflicting opinions to keep the plot juicy. The music for the soundtrack was written and performed by Max Steiner and his orchestra.
Well, I had just started chewing on my dill pickle which was an excellent addition to my salty popcorn when Sandra Dee first appeared on the screen. I almost passed out. In that singular moment as I sat there with my mouth wide open and full of dill pickles and popcorn, at that moment, I was in love. It was like a messenger from God swooped down out of that screen and whispered in my ear, “Wayne, this girl is for you…now go get her”! Wow! This dreamy music was playing in the background. Sandra had her cute dimples on with that blonde hair and I was mesmerized. I knew that I never wanted this movie to end. I knew this girl was meant for me. I knew that somewhere on this beauty’s body was tattooed the phrase “never touched by human hands”. I resolved at that moment to see that mark first-hand.
The entire time I was watching this movie, I was developing an intense dislike for this guy, Troy Donahue. Oh, he was your teenage heart-throb, California looking, beach surfing type dude with the peroxide streaks throughout his hair. And he was tall and he was good looking and he was a movie star that made girls swoon. But he didn’t have nothin’on me. Not when it came to Sandra Dee. He might be there with her on the big screen right now but I could tell them way Sandra was acting that she really did not want to be with him. She knew there was someone else out there somewhere in the world that was better suited for her. She could hear my heart beating for her right up there on the big screen. Every once in a while, as I watched the movie, I was pretty sure she smiled at me. I’d lay down my dill pickle and smile right back too! This was my big chance and I was not going to blow it. When the movie ended, I was sad that it was over but elated that one could walk out pretty sure that things did not work out with Troy and Sandy. I know I was sure of it. I skipped all the way home humming the “Theme From A Summer Place”. It was now my favorite song.
Now keep in mind, it was 1959 and news traveled slow. We did not have your MTV where you could get your money for nothing and your chicks for free. We did have American Bandstand with Dick Clark and I would always hope that Sandra Dee was going to be on that show. Otherwise, I had to depend on word of mouth to find out the latest on the whereabouts of Sandra Dee and what she was doing next. I was pretty sure that she was out there somewhere in Hollywood just waiting for me to call. If I did call her, my mom was going to be madder than hell because it was going to be long-distance and that was expensive. It was a “no-no” around our house even if you were in love.
I am sure when the bad news arrived on my doorsteps. It was probably a matter of months or so. I had been so glad to not hear anything about Sandra Dee having any more to do with Troy Donahue. I knew that as long as that was the case, I had a chance. I just needed a ride out to Hollywood so I could get in touch with her. I couldn’t call her, it was long-distance, remember? And besides, I didn’t have her number. But I digress…back to the bad news. Somehow word got to me that Sandra Dee had married that lounge-lizard singer, Bobby Darin. To say that I felt like a mule had kicked me in the guts would have been an understatement. Darin sang a song titled “Eighteen Yellow Roses” and I now knew that he had recorded that for my benefit. It was his way of thumbing his nose at me after he had stolen Sandy from grasp. How could she? She deserved better than some lounge lizard singer. This was not the way that I had planned it and now I was having remorse for not making that long-distance call.
Time past but not as happily as it once had. My world was not the same. There was now a large void and hope was lost for me. I had made big plans for Sandra and I to meet for a short vacation at that “summer place” that she had visited with Troy. I wanted to recreated that boathouse scene with her and show her that I was like not Johnny (Troy’s character in the movie). No I was not like him as I had not yet been bad with the girls. But I knew Johnny had and Molly was so disappointed. I would never break her heart like that. But all that was lost now. There would be no boathouse scene. Sandra had married Bobby Darin leaving me in limbo with my unrequited love.
Over the years, I have watched that movie more that a few times. I have grown up a bit too and realized that maybe Sandra Dee didn’t even know that I was alive when she married Bobby Darin. At the same time, I like to think that if she had known of me, she would have sent Bobby packing just like she did Troy. I would have been the man on her arm. The man who finally saw that tattoo that read, “never touched by human hands.” I cannot here Percy Faith perform the song without having those thoughts. I have kept this buried inside for all these years and now I feel much better that I have shared it. As silly as it might sound, it sure was fun to be in love with Sandra Dee. I always remember the line delivered by Sandra’s character, Molly Jorgenson, “Are you a bad boy Johnny? Have you done bad things with other girls?” In that instance, the meaning of the word ‘envy’ became quite clear in my mind.
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