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?"
"Me too, but isn't that better than the opposite? I'd rather be skinny than fat, at least we get to eat whatever we want to. Fat people always have to watch how much they eat." She laughed at that, and we continued to dance, me counting the steps, as we box stepped our way around the dance floor. When the band quit playing, I walked her back to the table. "I wish we could dance every dance together, you're very graceful and light on your feet, but Mr. Hoskins says we all have to mingle tonight because there aren't enough boys here. I hope we can dance again later. Thank you for the dance Mildred."
"Thank you, Jackie, I enjoyed it too." I turned, after nodding to her father, and went over to another table to ask another girl to dance. I had actually enjoyed the dance with Mildred and was thinking that the dance might turn out okay after all.
"Hello, may I have this dance?" This time I had chosen a heavy girl. She had light colored hair and wasn't pretty at all. Plain though, rather than homely, I thought. She stood up in acceptance and we walked out to dance. She was maybe five two, tops and I just towered over her. I did get to look down the front of her dress though and got a good look at her decolletage, which was formidable. She was probably forty pounds overweight, but she was a real good dancer. She carried all of her weight herself, and so we moved around the dance floor more smoothly than I had with Mildred. "My name is Jackie, what's yours?"
"Katrina. How old are you, Jackie?"
"I'm fifteen, Katrina, how about you?" Dale had already told me to not tell anybody that I was only thirteen years old.
"Sixteen." I was surprised at that, she looked younger, I had guessed either fourteen or maybe fifteen.
"That's good, Katrina, I like older women. They are more daring and adventurous than younger girls."
"Oh yeah? What kind of adventures were you thinking about?" She said it in a way that set off warning bells inside my head, so I decided to pull back to a safer position.
"Like fast dancing or swimming in the river, things like that. Younger girls are sometimes too timid, you know?"
"Oh, okay, I thought you might be getting cheeky. My mother told me not to let any of you boys get cheeky with me." The dance was over, and so I led her back to her table, thanking her for the dance.
I danced a few more dances with some other girls, and then I went back and danced three dances in a row with Mildred. I found out that she was only thirteen like me, and that her birthday was in December, so I was actually older than her. I told her how old I really was and told her not to tell anybody else or I'd get into trouble. We both agreed that growing so fast could be a real pain, and both of us said we hoped that we were all done with getting taller.
As I took her back to her table, after that third dance number, she told me that she'd decided to come to the pool party the next day, and hoped she'd see me there. I told her I'd look for her. One of the reasons why we'd stayed out on the dance floor for three dances was because Mildred had told me that her parents were tired, and they wanted to go back up to their room. We decided that we'd dance until they started giving us dirty looks. I thanked her for all of the dances, and wished her and her parents a good evening. Mildred and her parents then got up and left, but strangely, they left the other two girls sitting alone at their table.
I sat out a dance, sitting down to catch my breath, and having a look around to see if I could spot someone that I wanted to dance with. I was just starting to catch my breath when one of the girls from Mildred's table walked over and asked me to dance. I got up and took her hand and led her onto the dance floor. "I'm Jackie, you were sitting with Mildred, at the same table I mean."
"Right, I'm Carole. Pleased to meet you, Jackie. I was waiting for you to ask me, but when you didn't I thought I'd just come and ask you. I hope that wasn't too forward of me?"
"No, not at all, I'm flattered. I would have asked you earlier, but I thought you were just too pretty to want to dance with me." She was actually not all that pretty, but I figured she wouldn't bother to correct me about it, and I was right, she didn't. She did move in closer too me though, and press herself against my thigh. I found out that she was sixteen, and that her parents had driven over to New London earlier that day, to see some friends of theirs, and had asked Mildred's parents to take them to the dance and keep an eye on both she and her sister. Joyce, her sister, was the other girl sitting at the table. Carole said that she was glad that her chaperons had finally left so that maybe she could start having a good time at last. It was almost 11:00 by now and the dance was going to end at midnight. After we finished our first dance, Carole wanted to go outside for some air. There were several doors leading from the ballroom to an area with benches and a garden. I'd seen people heading out that way all evening, so I walked outside with her.
We were joined in a minute by her sister who came looking for her. Joyce was fifteen, a little prettier than her sister, but a lot quieter and she seemed more shy. I walked around the grounds with both girls for about fifteen minutes, showing them the path I sometimes used to get from the hotel to the golf course. I started worrying about being gone too long, so the three of us headed back inside. Mr. Hoskins actually gave me an approving smile when he saw me coming back inside with two girls in tow.
I danced another dance with Carole and then went over and danced a couple dances with Joyce. A slow number first, and then a jitterbug. While I was spinning her into me as we were doing the second dance, my hand accidentally touched her boob just before I started unwinding her out. I was afraid she might think it was done on purpose, and make a scene, but she just smiled and we continued on, as if nothing had happened. I took her back to her table after that dance and excused myself. I went to the bathroom and then sat down after to take another short rest. The orchestra leader announced the final number of the night, and I got up to go ask someone to dance. As soon as I was up, I saw both Carole and Joyce heading over towards me.
"Can you dance this last one with both of us Jackie?" Carole was smiling as she asked me and I just put an arm around each of them and we moved out on the dance floor. We were not really dancing so much as simply swaying to the music, but it was fun and both girls were pressing their hips into my legs. The song was only half over when Carole suggested that we go outside for another walk and to avoid the mass exodus that would start as soon as the last dance was over. I saw no harm in it, as the dance was pretty much over anyway, and no one had said anything about me having to check in anywhere after the dance was over. I was going to walk home after the dance anyway, as my Uncle Bill always went to sleep early and we had no other ride home arranged. Once we were back outside, Carole suggested I take them over for a walk on the path that led to the golf course.
"It's pretty dark out there at night, are you sure you girls won't get too scared?" I looked at the two of them, one on each side of me as we walked along.
"I know I won't get scared, the darker it is, the better I like it." This from Carole.
"Me too. I like walking in the dark." Joyce sounded pretty calm too. Neither one of them seemed the least bit concerned over the prospect of walking out into the dark with a person that they had met only an hour or two before. The three of us walked up the pathway until we came out over by the tee at the fifteenth hole. There was a wooden bench near the tee area, so the three of us sat down and looked at the stars while we talked.