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Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Secret Formula Succeeds


Probably the best place to meet anyone on a blind date is in a beer tent at a beer fest in Germany especially if you are into your second mug of beer. The rules for engagement or in the case of most blind dates, disengagement are plentiful at a beer fest. The avenues for escape are immense and are arrayed in all directions via the endless lines of tables filled with people. The haze of smoke and bleary eyed witnesses is also advantageous to one seeking an exit earlier than anticipated. It is under these circumstances that Larry met Sally in August of 1980 in Augsburg, Germany (in those days it was West Germany rather than just Germany).

The Augsburger Plarrer beer fest bills itself as one of the largest in Scwabian area of Germany.  August of 1980 was no different. Sally and Larry who met at this fest were in Augsburg for not totally different reasons. Sally was teaching third grade for the Department of Defense Schools and Larry was also connected to the Department of Defense in that he was providing instruction for military personnel. Specifically he was teaching basic skills in reading, writing, and math. He was employed by Big Bend Community College from the state of Washington.
On this particular Sunday morning, Larry was killing time at his favorite hangout, the snack bar on Sheridan Kaserne. In those days, you could get a real breakfast and endless coffee. The coffee at the snack bar was not the fancy latté with swirls of this or dashes of that or frozen or whipped or anything else. No fancy mugs or names.  It was simply thick and black and got stronger by the minute.  The snack bar was the haunt of the Education Center people during the week, and it was Larry’s haunt on Sunday mornings. The venue was perfect as a point to read the Stars and Stripes newspaper and just simply watch a glorious collection of people.  A lot of GI’s would roll in on Sunday morning with their German girlfriends, so it was usually very entertaining. The cowboy GI’s would come in just a bit too loudly with big belts and blue jeans and faint hums of country western music coming from their lip in between four-letter words. The black GI’s and Hispanic GI’s would slip in with their cool clothes, better manners, and more recognizable music coming from their lips. In was in this Sunday morning brunch of humanity that the story of Larry and Sally began.
After working on the crossword puzzle for a while, Larry ventured to get another cup of the kind of coffee that standing in line when this voice went off in his ear, “You look like a civilian. Can you play softball?” Larry did look like a civilian with his very long and shaggy hair, but he had never had anyone combine the ideas of being a civilian and playing softball so her turned to stare at a guy with long hair standing right behind him.“Well, yes, I do play softball.”
“How about playing for the teacher’s team?” replied Harry Puzey.  Harry taught at the high school and he was part a softball team that played teams from the base as well as other civilian teams. The league was sort of cross between serious and no one knows what is going on type of thing. *We have a game starting soon, and we do not have enough players.” The lack of players was a probably combination of it being a Sunday morning and many people with better things to do.  So with nothing better to do, Larry joined the team that gorgeous German Sunday afternoon.  After the game the team retired to the Golf Shack, the “Club House” of the base golf course that was just outside the gate of Sheridan (and until today, even though it is long gone, might have produced the best hamburger in all of southern Germany). As is the norm with men after a couple of beers the talk shifted from sports to women. After finding out I was single, Harry, who had been joined by his wife Lois, promised to introduce me to some teachers when they all arrived back from summer vacation. Harry and Lois were still in Augsburg because she could not fly for the simple reason she was pregnant, very pregnant.
A couple of weeks went by. The end of August approached and the teachers began to arrive. The softball season was winding down, but the games remained fun and Larry’s only form of entertainment. After one of the games, Harry and Lois suggested that I meet “Sweet Sally.” Now when someone mentions “Sweet Sally,” all kinds of alarms sort of go off. The name sort of indicates a very nice woman who sews her own clothes and likes to cook. Nevertheless, Larry put his faith in Harry and Lois. How was he to know that Lois had a secret formula for matchmaking? Lois was an English teacher and saw the syllabic symmetry of the names Sally and Larry-initial consonant, followed by a single vowel followed by a double consonant followed by the letter “y.” 
Harry and Lois suggested to Sally that she come to their home for dinner and meet Larry. Sally, being the wisest of all three suggested we meet at the Augsburger Plarrer fest, which was beginning. What better way to duck out on a blind date as to get blind drunk and just disappear. In addition, she had just come back from Spain. She had also back without her car was which had broken down and was being shipped to Germany via the very reliable ADAC. As a result she hitchhiked to the fest and arrived looking every bit as sweet and beautiful as Harry and Lois had predicted. She was tall, blonde, elegant, and easy to talk with. Sally grew up in Oklahoma and wore a western style shirt and blue jeans.
After a beer or two and some fest chicken, the avenues for escape were no longer needed or considered. A couple of weekends later was Labor Day weekend and Larry and Sally went hiking with a group of people in the Alps near Obertsdorf (in the most miserable weather imaginable by  them).
Any relationship that could survive hiking for three days in sleet, rain, fog, and cold was destined to weather any future problems. The fest and hike were the beginning of a relationship that lasted thirty years (and many more fests and hikes).