Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Readers Chime In

Today’s brief interlude is devoted to a few readers out there. The first one is a gent named Barry who was VERY kind in sharing his story of Grad Nite 1965 with me. Barry & his date (students at Costa Mesa High School) are shown here, photographed inside the Frontierland Gates. Here’s his story of that magical nite: “I met Stephanie Shumate, the girl in the photo, after I was dumped by a girl who was too young to go to Grad Nite. I had wanted to talk to Stephanie all year long but never worked up the courage until I was left with no date and Grad Nite was a scant week away. We talked on the phone regularly until the time to go on graduation day.

“I always thought that Grad Nite was one of the most important dates for a senior in Southern California, if your high school happened to do this of course. Not all of them did as it was a bit expensive but I always felt sure it was worth it. The Prom may be as important to some, but I preferred Grad Nite. Grad Nite was from 10 PM until the next morning the, day you graduate or very soon after. Only about ten to fifteen high schools went each night so it was not crowded at all and the lines for rides were very short. I picked up Stephanie in my old 1956 Blue Pontiac Convertible (the best Drive-In Movie car ever built) and then went to get my mom and grandmother so they could have the car overnight. The school didn’t want a lot full of cars! Then we all packed onto a school bus. My buddy Rick and his date (and future first wife Janis Minke) were also there and sat in the seat in front of us.

“Stephanie was wearing a black knee length sheath dress and a light sweater. I had some suit of mine on since Grad Nite required ties and jackets for the boys. We did a few rides and talked all night, danced quite a few slow dances. For me it was the perfect night! We eventually went to get the photo taken of us as a couple in Frontierland. I was so pleased just to be with her but as the photographer told us to smile, she reached down and took my hand, which explains the deliriously insane grin I am wearing at the time. I am pretty sure we were not allowed on Tom Sawyer's Island at Grad Nite. Too many of us would have found our way into Injun Joe’s cave!

“By the time the skies were getting light, we were heading back to the bus but we had really gotten along just great and we did have a lot of fun there and ate a bit too early in the night. I fell for her totally but I had to leave soon after graduation for basic training at Fort Ord. I was sad that I would not get a chance to see her for over 6 months. But that night was magic and I still think it was the sweetest date I ever had for a myriad of reasons. When we returned from Grad Nite, mom was waiting in the parking lot and I drove her home so I could take the car to take Stephanie home in a little privacy. We drove up to her home and then I pulled into the driveway just as she asked, and she sat with me in the car as we talked about a few trivial things. She would look up at me on occasion smile and gently close her eyes and listen to me talk. I must have been boring her to tears! After a while she dreamily looked up, smiled, and asked if I wanted to kiss her (I think possibly as a way to get me to shut up!) Wow! I didn’t have to be asked more than once! It is still to this day one of the best kisses I have ever experienced in my life by far. It is emblazoned into my brain cells forever. I think a full half of my brain has been taken up with that memory. After that was over and my heart was beating somewhat normally she invited me in for breakfast.

“Not too much longer after this—3 weeks maybe—I left for basic training, but she had agreed to write to me while I was there. Letters were always nice in basic training since it was extremely lonely at times.” Courtesy of Tim at Vintage Disneyland Tickets we can see the Grad Nite Ticket for 1965.

Meanwhile, another reader has written in requesting some info. He has a 1970’s car that was most likely used at an amusement park; checking in with the experts out there to see if they think it might have been from Disneyland? Here are two photos:

See more vintage & current Disneyland photos at my regular website.


TokyoMagic! said...

So what happened to Barry and Stephanie? I'm assuming that they didn't get married. Did they ever see each other again? Did they ever go out on a second date? I'm going to guess that she fell in love with someone else while he was away.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nice Grad Nite story and photo! Barry remembers every moment of it, all these years later.

I don't believe that the car is from Disneyland, although I could be wrong. It's cool though!

gabrielle. said...

wait! i wanna know what happened with barry and stephanie! did she write him while he was away?! man!! what a great story!!

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

I want to know what happened with the happy couple too! Hey, here's the ticket they used "(link)"

Never seen that car before, looks neat!

Daveland said...

I've got an email into Barry - I want to know the rest of the story as much as you do! I don't have too many 1970’s photos, but of the few Autopia ones that I have, I'd have to agree with Major that it doesn't look like a Disneyland model.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Barry for sharing your story. What a Grad Nite! And what a date! I loved the ending of the story…the kiss…and then breakfast at Stephanie’s. Perfect.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I just saw this and I am impressed with what Dave has done with this! The rest of the story isn’t what I was hoping for. We wrote for a time but then I bet that having a boy friend in the army in the turbulent sixties wasn’t all that attractive and we just stopped writing. She of course never left my thoughts. When I got out in a couple years I looked for her and couldn’t find her (No internet then!) I married had children and the marriage ended in 1983. So then I began a search for Stephanie again. It was years and years of letter writing and then in 2005 I managed to locate her two sisters living in their original hometown of Danville, CA. It was pure luck that they were found but then one of them wrote to me to let me know that Stef had been killed in a hiking accident in the Trinity Alps of Northern California. She had slipped and fallen a great distance. She was hiking with friends so she had help as fast as it was possible but she had died at the scene. She will always be part of me.
Thank you all for asking.