It’s Spring Break week at Wingate and accordingly I’ve taken a little break from the blog, but we’ll try to have more as the week goes on. It’s time for full-blown basketball addiction to set in and I’ll be putting up some college hoops material in the next several days.
But today was a day for nostalgia, in which basketball played a role, but romance turned out to be the star. Twenty-five years ago today, my wife Jayne and I went on our first date.
A little background first. If you’re reading this and you are in the news media or have ever been, you know how difficult having a social life can be in that line of work. The hours you work are strange and so are your days off and, especially when you’re young — and especially when you work in sports, I found — you’re often working when your non-journalist friends are playing.
So you end up hanging out with fellow reporters and — sometimes — your sources. That’s how Jayne and I met. I was working with Laurens County School District 56 in my hometown of Clinton, S.C., as their PR guy. Jayne moved from her hometown of Winston-Salem to nearby Laurens at the end of 1983 to start a new career as a reporter for the Laurens County Advertiser.
We met at a school board meeting in the Clinton High School band room on Jan. 23, 1984 — we’re always been glad we never had to say we met in a bar — and we consider that we’ve been together ever since.
But we didn’t actually go out until March 3. (I’ve never been a fast worker at anything…) At another school board meeting I asked her if she wanted to go with me to a Clemson basketball game and she made me the happiest man in Laurens County by saying yes.
But the enterprise got off to a rocky start on that Saturday morning when my car, the legendary 1983 Oldsmobile Omega (a swinging bachelor car if there ever was one) wouldn’t start, despite my best efforts. I called Jayne and told her this news.
A pause on the other end of the line. “What does this mean?” she said.
“It means that if you still want to go, you’re going to have to drive,” I said. Jayne’s car was a manual transmission, which I’ve never learned to handle. Smooth, right? Jayne said later she thought I was trying to get out of the date.
Remarkably, she said that was OK with her and we headed on time for Clemson’s game with Campbell, their last home game of the season at Littlejohn Coliseum. (We were talking earlier today about this. Back at this time, Clemson, like most schools did for the still-nascent custom of Senior Day, scheduled a highly-beatable opponent, rather than incorporating it into its conference schedule, as is the custom today. So Jayne got to see the mighty Camels of Buies Creek, N.C., instead of, say, Duke or Virginia. We would actually see Campbell play basketball again, this time as man and wife, in the 1992 NCAA first-round games in Greensboro, in their David-vs.-Goliath matchup against Duke.
I really don’t recall much about the game itself, except that I enjoyed Jayne’s company and conversation during it. (A little research reveals that the Tigers won the game, 62-52.)
And following the game we headed back to Laurens County, and for reasons that are lost to history but that may have had something to do with the odd noon start and 2 p.m. finish of the game, we didn’t stop for dinner. I’ve never lived that one down, although let the record show that I redeemed myself on the next date — driving my own car — with a nice dinner at Greenville’s best Italian restaurant at the time. But, to paraphrase the recently departed Paul Harvey, that gives away the rest of the story. Incredibly, I got another chance.
I helped my cause with something I did on that return trip as we traveled through the town of Mauldin on U.S. 276, a notorious speed trap at the time. We were so engrossed in conversation with each other that Jayne lost track of the speed limit and was pulled over by local law enforcement. The officer asked Jayne to step out of her car and I noticed in the rear view mirror that he was an old friend of mine from high school and church.
So I got out and greeted him (Jayne said she was totally humiliated and didn’t want to be arrested in front of me.) We chatted for a minute and I said, “Steve, you aren’t going to give this young lady a ticket, are you?” And he didn’t. We have that warning citation somewhere in a scrapbook.
We re-lived all this earlier this evening as we celebrated with dinner at one of our favorite Charlotte restaurants, the wonderfully retro Ranch House out on Wilkinson Boulevard. I guess we’re proof that sometimes great things happen from inauspicious beginnings. So all I can say is thanks for the ride, Honey. It’s all been great.