Saturday, July 12, 2014


One exception to the rule!
        I mentioned in an earlier post (see How We Got Started) that the Princeton Nassoons’ rehearsals in the fall of 1946 were strictly private. Because we were starting from scratch, so to speak, and because we wanted to meet the standard of excellence established by our predecessors prior to the World War II hiatus, and because the expectations of the University community for the new Nassoons were very high, we did not want to be heard by anyone until we were ready to make our formal public debut, which was scheduled for Friday night of the big Princeton-Dartmouth weekend.
        There was one exception to that rule, however, and her name was Margie, nee Margaret Frances Childs, daughter of Harwood L. Childs, Professor of Political Science at Princeton. This is how it came about. Margie and I had dated regularly when I was attending the Midshipmen-Officers Course at the Naval Supply Corps School at Harvard and she was a student at Wellesley.
        At the end of WWII, shortly after our ship had arrived at the Philadelphia Naval Base in the late spring of 1946, I made an appointment to see the Dean of Admissions about returning to Princeton the following fall to complete my undergraduate education. As I was sitting on a bench
outside the Dean’s office on the second floor of Nassau Hall, with my face buried in some literature I had picked up, I was startled out of my total absorption by a soft female voice: “May I say hello to you?”
        I looked up and there was Margie, looking as beautiful as ever! She had just started working in the Dean’s office for the summer! We had a lovely time catching up with each other over a lunch table at the Nassau Inn. We weren’t able to get together that summer, but we kept in touch and continued to correspond after she returned to Wellesley for her senior year and I to Princeton.
        On October 2 I wrote to Margie telling her all about the Nassoons and about our hotly debated decision to link with the Triangle Club rather than the Glee Club (see A Hard Decision). That decision meant that in addition to our regular practice hours, we also had to find time to practice for the Triangle Show (see Clear the Track). Our hard work was paying off, however. We were gelling as a group, so much so that I said in my letter, “. . . we feel that in time we’ll be at least as good as the ‘42 Nassoons.” With that as an inducement, I invited Margie to come down as my date for the Dartmouth weekend, November 22-24.
        To my chagrin she had to decline, because she had already accepted an invitation to attend the Harvard-Yale game in New Haven that same weekend! She also told me she had a date for the forthcoming Cornell weekend in Princeton, but she didn’t mention the name of her lucky escort. That provoked some anxiety on my part, compounded by my deep regret that we did not connect that weekend. We continued to correspond, nevertheless, and we finally did see each other when she came home for Thanksgiving.
        So, too, during her long winter vacation. Since the Nassoons had to remain on campus to rehearse for the Triangle Show, we were able to spend some quality time together. We both sensed that our feeling for each other was growing stronger, especially when we came out of the Playhouse Theater on Palmer Square, having just seen Jimmy Stewart in It’s A Wonderful Life, to find it snowing! The stroll home was memorably romantic. We were “walking in a winter wonderland” hand in hand, tasting the snowflakes and harmonizing as they softly fluttered down through the trees.
        Because Margie had missed our debut and had never heard us sing, and because she had arranged for us to sing at the Wellesley Senior Prom the following Spring, I asked my fellow “Soons” if they would be willing to bend our rule of privacy to allow Margie to sit in one of our rehearsals. Their response was immediate and spontaneous. “Of course!” There was no discussion.
        So the next afternoon Margie came with me to our rehearsal room on the second floor of First Presbyterian Church, and the Nassoons had an audience of one to sing to. Margie was thrilled, and her facial expressions reflected the emotions that each song evoked. Her genuine appreciation charmed the hearts of my singing colleagues, and at the end they insisted she come back again, as often as possible. “You have an open invitation,” said Og Tanner, our President.
        From then on Margie attended whenever her visits home coincided with our rehearsal schedule. She loved all of our songs, but she had her special favorites, and she loved it, when Don Finnie, our Music Director, would say to her, “This next one is for you, Margie,” knowing it was one of “her” songs.
        I don’t recall who said it or the exact setting, but I think it was at the end of one of our rehearsals, as the “Soons” were exchanging farewell hugs with Margie, who was returning to Wellesley the next day, someone said to her, “You are the “Sweetheart of the Nassoons!” Others made confirming comments, and from then on, when she appeared or when her name was mentioned, that expression would often be heard.
Margie loved the Nassoons and they loved her.
        Margie was not only referred to but she was also treated as the Sweetheart of the Nassoons. Margie loved the Nassoons, and the Nassoons loved Margie, and that made me all the more proud of her. They knew she was my girl, of course, but they all claimed her as their Nassoons’ girl, and would give her a round of hugs whenever she appeared. A few of my buddies would tell her in my presence that they were available, if she ever got tired of me. Margie always had the perfect reply. She played her role in the repartee in a most delightful way, and captivated them all with her beauty, wit, and grace. We sang better when she was there. She brought the best out of each of us and all of us.
        In the meantime something else was happening. Margie and I were falling more and more in love, and the Nassoons had a featured role in our romance.
        To be continued. . . .

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