Monday, May 2, 2022

My Grade School Boyfriend and the Old Lady Schoolteachers

Rock Island, Fall 1984

You're probably wondering about my "boyfriend" Nick who saved me from The Killer one summer (I'm guessing the summer after 3rd grade, when I was eight years old).

The muscular, redheaded law student with freckles on his chest who took me out for an ice cream soda afterwards.

I don't have many more details, no long-ago smiles or glimpses of his shame.  He visited a few more times, that summer and the next -- once he took me and Bill for a ride in his convertible with the top down.

Then he vanished without explanation (or maybe he just happened to visit when I wasn't around.  I was busy every summer with Nazarene Bible camp and vacation and summer enrichment classes).

He left me with one connection: his grandmother.

Her name was really Mrs. Lindquist, and her companion was Miss Deverr or Devere, but everyone called them the Old Lady Schoolteachers because they had taught at Denkmann Elementary School for many years, beginning when it first opened in 1934.

I never knew their first names.

When I was growing up, Mom knew them from the PTA or the Safe House Program or something (Safe Houses had brown stars in the window, signifying that you could run there if a stranger tried to abduct you).  She used to go over and visit them -- maybe they reminded her of her own mother, who died in 1965.  Occasionally they sent banana bread or cookies back with her.

They always made popcorn balls for Halloween.

Sometimes my brother and I went over to shovel their sidewalks or mow their lawns.  We were supposed to do it for free, but they always tipped us a quarter each anyway.  They invited us inside once, while they fumbled about in their purses.  I remember dark, ponderous furniture, General Hospital on tv, and dozens of framed pictures of relatives. Nick was smiling in a graduation gown.

Miss Devere died when I was in high school, leaving Mrs. Lindquist alone in the house.

I brought my first boyfriend, Fred, over to meet her.  She gave us Swedish cookies and asked what we were studying in school.

Mrs. Lindquist died in 1984, during my year in Hell-fer-Sartain, Texas.  Since I was 1000 miles away, I didn't go to the funeral, but Mom and Dad were there.  They talked to Nick briefly: he was a lawyer, living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with a wife and two kids. No doubt he was still buffed, with freckles on his chest.

The obituary they sent filled in the details in the life of Mrs. Lindquist: born in Galesburg in 1896, graduated from Augustana College, married Axel Lindquist, had two children.  She taught at several Rock Island schools, and at Denkmann from 1934 to 1961, when she retired. Her husband and her son Jonah preceded her in death.  She had four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Miss Devere was not mentioned.

At the time I didn't think that they might be a lesbian couple.   After all, they lived on the next block!  They made banana bread!

But now I wonder: were they just heterosexual roommates, sharing the bills, describing the penises of their male lovers, on Friday nights gazing lustfully at aging sleuth Barnaby Jones on tv?

Or were they "together"?  Back in the 1930s, did they wear cravats and smoke cigarettes and read to each other from The Well of Loneliness?  Did they teach together, and then stroll across the grassy field to their house, a lesbian couple living freely and openly during the 1940s and police-state 1950s?

I might be able to find Nick on the internet, reunite with him, and ask for more details.  But I'm not sure I want to.  Living in Cedar Rapids, he's probably conservative, and might not amenable to the suggestion that his grandmother may have been a lesbian.

Besides, he's about 70 now.  I would rather remember the muscular redheaded teenager with freckles on his chest who rescued me on that hot summer day a thousand years ago.

See also: The Face of Pure Evil

1 comment:

  1. Lesbians were less suspect for several reasons. You could seriously suggest nearly two in three guys had received a blowjob from another guy at least once (Masturbating together wasn't seen as a gay sex act in the 50s. Oral was the wobbler, with academics declaring anal a sine qua non, even as gay culture favored oral.), but women were seen as more pure, even the idea of women desiring men was scandalous.

    As the late 60s rolled in, you really see the rise of modern heterosexism. This is the era of more frank (hetero)sexuality. Sex, again only between men and women, is seen as an essential part of life, but not much thought is given to consent, and failure to adequately desire the opposite sex is seen as a defect.

    So, two women could live together and no one bats an eye. Two men live together and everyone just loses their minds.



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