My cousin Dale had gotten a job as a relief elevator operator over at the Griswold Hotel. He was also used to assist in the set up and tear down at the banquets, weddings and conventions that were held in the ballroom there. He still caddied with us every day, but, sometimes, he had to leave early, and only carried one loop per day. We got a lot of golfers from the hotel since it was somehow affiliated with Shennecossett Golf Club. All of the hotel guests had automatic playing privileges conferred during the period their stay. The hotel was a huge white building. It had it's own private beach on the Thames River, and a swimming pool that was the biggest one I'd ever seen. Every summer, hundreds of families came and spent a week or two at the Griswold Hotel, vacationing on Connecticut's southeast coast line. While the hotel had definitely seen better days, it was still a popular summer resort.
Dale and I had just completed our second round of carrying doubles on a Saturday afternoon. We had started at 8:00 that morning, caddying for a foursome of doctors and finished up around 5:00 that afternoon when we turned a loop with two married couples. I was tired and hot and wanting to head home and see what the neighborhood kids were doing. I was thirteen years old in the summer of 1955, a little over six feet tall, and just starting to put on some weight. I was probably up to 135 pounds around then, still skinny, but no longer skeletal, like I had been.
"Jackie, you have any interest in going to the swimming pool party over at the Griswold tomorrow?" My cousin Dale was always full of surprising things to say like that. Only guests could swim in that pool, and everybody knew it.
"Gee, Dale, I don't know. I was going to have some tea and crumpets with the Queen of England tomorrow. It would be rude of me to call and cancel at the last moment, don't you think?"
"I'm serious, Jackie. There's a big dance tonight in the ball room, and they need more guys to show up and dance with the female guests. They usually just use the summer male staff, but this year there aren't enough boys working to handle the number of females attending. Minnie says if I can round up a few of the nicer local boys for tonight to attend the dance, she'll let them participate in the big pool party tomorrow. The pool party has a buffet food set up, and all the drinks you want, Jackie."
Minnie was Dale's grandmother, his dad's mother, and she was a big wheel in the kitchen staff at the Hotel. She was in charge of most of the summer staff, including waiters, waitresses and kitchen help. She'd worked at the hotel since it first opened, around 1920 or something. If Minnie said it was OK, then nobody else would dare to contradict her.
"Would I have to dress up for this dance? And would I have to dance with the ugly girls too?"
"You can wear that new suit you wore to Butch and Pauly's funerals. And, yes, you have to dance with whatever girls need partners. These dances are a big reason why the hotel gets so many families that come down for the season. They want their daughters to dance and have a good time."
Two of my younger cousins had died a month or so earlier when they had suffocated in an abandoned refrigerator while they were playing hide and go seek. Those was the funerals Dale was talking about. The boys were five and six, and they were also cousins to each other. Our whole family was devastated when it happened.
"I don't think so Dale, I'd have to miss out on my chance to get a second loop tomorrow and I'm not that good of a dancer anyways."
"Minnie says she'll pay me up to $5.00 per head for each guy I can bring her tonight. I'd give you $3.00 of it Jackie, that's as good as getting $5.00 for carrying a set of doubles in that hot sun, since you won't have to do any work. Isn't it worth something to get a chance to swim in that nice big pool and lay around eating all afternoon?"
"Are you going to be at the pool party tomorrow?"
"No, employees can't use the pool, but Billy will be there and so will John Gracia. You'll know a few people at least." I thought it over for a minute and told him I'd do it. If John and my cousin Billy were at the dance, I knew I wouldn't be the worst dancer there at least. "Great, come over to my house at 7:00, my dad will drive us over to the hotel. Thanks Jackie."
I was dressed up and looking pretty good when I went over to my Uncle Bill's house a little before seven. I had long dark brown hair that was still kept neatly trimmed in the back and on the sides... I had a big pompadour in the front with a sharp part on the left side. The suit fit me nice, and I had on a boiled white dress shirt with one of my dad's black Navy ties with a submarine tie holder that he'd lent to me. When I walked into the house, Dale and Billy and John Gracia were already there and we hopped into Uncle Bill's old Buick to go fetch another friend of Dale's from his high school class. We picked him up, and then Uncle Bill drove us over and we were all let off in the back of the hotel, at the employee entrance just off of the kitchen. Dale took us into this small room off the kitchen and his grandmother came in, after a minute or two, and gave us all the once over, before telling Dale it was OK to take us over to the ballroom.
The ballroom was really big, maybe a hundred fifty feet by a hundred or so. There was a small raised area and a band or orchestra was busy getting set up to play. Dale took us over to the activities director, an older man named Hoskins, and he checked each of us out carefully. He looked inside our ears, checked all our fingernails, and smelled our breath before telling us to go sit down in chairs that were lined up against the wall. By the time they had opened up the ballroom to the actual guests, there must have been sixty boys and young men sitting by the wall, lined up, all in a row.
Off to one side of the room were two rows of tables, each row having about thirty round tables. Each table had six chairs. These tables are where the hotel guests sat. There was a bar set up over by these tables, but all us escorts had been told to only drink from the punch bowl, not to accept any drinks from the bar, even if the guests tried to insist. The band began playing as soon as the hotel guests started filing in. There were several of the older hotel employees that saw to the guest seating, and six or seven hotel girls who went from table to table taking drink orders.
I watched attentively as the hotel guests strolled in. There must have been a ratio of ten girls or women for every male hotel guest. Almost all of the males were older, obviously fathers to the girls or husbands to the women. In all, I bet there were easily more than a hundred young girls between say eleven years old and eighteen years old. There were a few that were pretty, but, overall, I'd have to say that the majority of them were on the plain side, with a few that were downright homely.
I was sitting next to my cousin Billy, and he and John Gracia were trading their running commentaries about different girls as they made their appearance into the room. I will say one thing for the girls though, every one of them was dressed up in a fancy dress and wearing jeweled necklaces or strands of pearls and earrings and other jewelry that showed me that they were all pretty rich. I began wondering whether I'd be comfortable trying to dance and make conversation with a bunch of rich girls. Of course, it was really too late for me to be having that particular concern.
The band started playing a slow dance number, and Mr. Hoskins started moving down in front of where we were seated, quietly urging all of us to get up and go find a girl to dance with. Half the boys got up right away and started hurrying over to ask the prettier girls to dance, the other half just stayed glued to their chairs, hoping I guess, that they'd be overlooked in the confusion, and not have to dance right away. Mr. Hoskins turned back, and this time he urged us to get up in a far more insistent voice. I got up then, as did most of the other boys still sitting, but there were about eight boys who just wouldn't budge from their seats. Mr. Hoskins began working these guys over individually, with 100% success.
I walked nervously over to a real tall thin girl who I'd noticed when she walked in. She looked less comfortable than most of the other girls, so I figured she might be easier to talk to then some of the others. She was sitting with her mother and father and two other, older girls who didn't look like they were related to her.
"Hello, may I have this dance?" I smiled at her the whole time I was approaching towards her, stopping and holding out my right hand just like my mother and aunt had taught me. She seemed surprised to be asked before a lot of other girls were, but she stood up and we walked out on the dance floor. "You look pretty tonight, my name is Jackie, and I'm glad that you are willing to dance with me."
"I'm Mildred, thank you for asking me." Well, we were both nervous and a little bit stilted. She was about five nine or so, very tall for a girl. She had short brown hair and her face was on the cute side I thought. Her boobs were tiny and her hips were no wider than my own. "Do you work here at the Griswold Jackie?"
"No, I wish I did, in the summer at least. I come over sometimes for the dances though. I'll be at the pool party tomorrow too, will you be there?"
"Maybe, I hadn't decided yet. My parents say I should, but I don't think I look very good in a bathing costume."
"Really? Why wouldn't you?"
"I'm a little skinny, don't you think?"
.... There is more of this story ...