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BEGINNINGS.

Young love is fraught with obstacles. Steve had to jump through a few hoops to get a toehold with M'Lissa.


Photo Credit: Steve Howen
Photo Credit: Steve Howen

San Antonio, Texas. Late summer of 1978. I had not accomplished much since school let out.  A part-time job and lots of poker nights had left me with some money to burn.  By the way, are you ever as rich as when you have your own source of income but your parents still buy the groceries?  Anyway, without much to do I could not get the thought of a certain brunette baton twirler out of my head.  So after a week of working up the requisite nerve, I asked M’Lissa Bradford out for the next Friday night.  She said yes, which I had been told would happen, but still it was always a relief.  Crossed signals in that regard could lead to social disaster.  A no would have probably quashed my spirit for another six months.

A couple of days later M’Lissa springs it on me.  Her long lost cousins were coming to visit. Her mom says she cannot leave the cousins home for the night.  Sort of bewildering for a rookie fairly new to the game.  Is this some elaborate dodge? An early test of my affection?  The real complicating factor here is band camp. M’Lissa will be off to Kerville for a week with her bandmates soon.   The band directors are musicians at heart and night time supervision is rumored to be lax.  I am not sure I want to wait while some saxophonist swoops in.  So I bite the bullet. “Well, would the cousins like to come too?”


A 1972 Olds Vista Cruiser. Photo credit Autofocus.
A 1972 Olds Vista Cruiser. Photo credit Autofocus.

Neither M’Lissa nor her mother saw this gambit coming.  My chivalry should have earned me many points with Mrs. Bradford but if it did, somehow those chips were cashed almost immediately. Still that Friday night I treated M’Lissa, her cousins Bill, Chris and Dee and her girlfriends Lori and Jan (only too happy to accompany the slightly older Bill) to Mama’s Diner, Cool Crest Miniature Golf and the Burt Reynolds’ classic “Hooper.”  I had a pretty sweet ’67 Mustang but seven folks was a little out of line for that. Instead my mom’s Vista Cruiser station wagon, complete with moon roof, served as our chariot.

Cool Crest was not your run of the mill miniature golf course.  Lush plants, new AstroTurf, lots of water hazards and mostly par 3’s, in contrast to the sun-baked and threadbare layout on San Pedro that Aurelio Ramirez regularly covered in less than 30 strokes.  Heck, one hole even required a chip shot.  Many a summer romance bloomed there and ours was no exception.    By the fourteenth hole, I was a goner.

As time passed by, Cool Crest fell into disrepair and closed, a victim of changing demographics. But two years ago, a revitalized Cool Crest reopened its doors. Maybe this August, 36 years after our first date, M’Lissa and I can play another round. Without the entourage and still on the lookout for unsavory saxophonists.

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