We'd only been dating for 11 days when I blurted out: 'Will you marry me?'

Monday, 29 May 2017, 11:04:48 AM. I was 20 years old when I went into the Army. At the time, I was dating a neighborhood girl from my hometown in Detroit.  When I got out two years later, we

I was 20 years old when I went into the Army. At the time, I was dating a neighborhood girl from my hometown in Detroit.  When I got out two years later, we planned on getting married.

After being discharged, we decided to postpone our wedding until I graduated from a trade school in Los Angeles where my sister lived. I was there for 18 months studying radio and TV repair. I had one month to go before returning to Detroit. 

But then fate stepped in. 

The year was 1957. Thinking I could use some fun given my hectic schedule, my sister decided to fix me up with a blind date. My sister gave me the phone number of a young lady named Fern, and told me she lived in El Monte.

At the time, I was working part time at a bank in downtown L.A. at night while going to school during the day. During a break at school, I called Fern from a pay phone. I inserted my dime and dialed. 

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“Hi, my name is Benny Wasserman. I’d like to speak to Fern, please.” 

“This is her father. What is this regarding?”

“I received your daughter’s phone number from one of your daughter’s friends.” I began.

The next thing I heard was the operator saying, “Please deposit another dime.” Well, I didn’t have another dime, so I just hung up. 

Later, I would learn that her father told her, “Some jerk called to speak to you and then rudely hung up on me.”

The following day I made sure I had enough change in my pocket. When I got through, I asked her for a date. But before that day arrived, I called again to tell her that I couldn’t make it.

This time her mother answered the phone. 

“I’m calling to let your daughter know that I can’t make it this weekend,” I admitted, “because I don’t have enough money to take her to a nice place.” 

Without hesitating, she asked, ”Are you willing to come over for some fresh-made cookies and milk?”

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I arrived promptly at 8 p.m. I knew absolutely nothing about her when I arrived at her front door and saw her for the first time. Standing there in front of me was this petite young lady with hazel eyes, long brown hair, wearing a green skirt, high heels and a soft white sweater.

I was smitten. 

Fern introduced me to her parents, who were heading out for the evening. For the next two hours, we sat in separate chairs across the room from each other watching TV. She offered me cookies and milk. We made small talk.

Truth was, I was shy and inhibited. I had no idea what to say to this 19-year-old, who had just completed her first year in college and was working at the telephone company. 

No sooner had her parents arrived home did Fern suggest that we go for a ride. I was quite surprised by how she asserted herself. There was no way I could refuse. I didn’t know what to think. I guess she liked what she saw.

As she entered my 2-year-old 1956 Chevy, she slid over into the middle. Remember now, those were the days when we had those nice front seats which sat three people comfortably. (And there was no such thing as a seat belt.)

As we drove around El Monte, she pointed out different landmarks, including the grocery store her dad owned and where she worked part time. She suggested that we stop for pizza and Cokes. 

Remembering that I didn’t have any money, she offered to treat me. We must have sat there for at least an hour and just talked.

After, we parked in her driveway and continued to talk. It became obvious how comfortable we were becoming with each other. With great trepidation, I leaned over and kissed her.

She didn’t resist. 

We continued to kiss.

It was wonderful.  I could have asked her to marry me right then and there. 

The more we talked and kissed, the warmer it got inside the car. Being a cold winter’s night in January, the windows steamed up.

Finally, it was 2:30 a.m. and time to say goodnight.  After seeing her to the door, I kissed her and began walking back to my car.

Suddenly, she called out: “Wait a minute!” 

As I turned around, I saw her walking toward me. She lifted her hands to my face, pulled my head toward hers and softly said, “Please call,” and then gave me a final kiss.

For a week and a half, we talked to each other daily by phone.  

Five dates later, and eleven days after we first met, I visited her again at her home. After chatting for awhile, I had to head to work. As I got into my car to leave, she hopped in to give me one last kiss. 

As she got out, and with her back to me, I just blurted out: “Will you marry me?”

Where that came from I’ll never know. During those 11 days, I hadn’t thought about marriage. At that moment in time, I had no full-time job, and was living in a boarding house with seven other guys. 

She spun around and cried “Yes!”

I turned off the ignition, got out of the car and we continued to kiss and hug. Due to my own ignorance, I had no idea that I was supposed to give her an engagement ring.

I never made it to work that day.

We broke the news to her parents that evening. All her mother wanted was enough time to put on a nice wedding, and invite relatives and friends from as far away as Chicago. 

The following day, I wrote a “Dear Jane” letter to my former girlfriend letting her know that I was getting married.

Five months later, I was married.

To this day, even after 58 years of marriage, my wife and I celebrate three anniversaries: the day we met, the day I proposed, and the day we got married. 

Sometimes, you just get lucky.

Wasserman, 82, of La Palma, is the author of “Presidents Were Teenagers Too” and works as an Albert Einstein impersonator. 

L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. We pay $300 a column. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.

To read the article in Spanish, click here

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