Unedited Draft

~ Move to Lynn, MA ~


1957-1964  Relationships and meeting Joe  

When Uncle George and Aunt Elsie took me home with them to Quincy, they sounded optimistic about my finding a job in the city. Later, I learn Ma wanted me to leave Canton, because she realized there was no opportunity for me to get a job there. She no doubt had asked my aunt and uncle if I could live with them. I was finally very happy to be leaving the farm and the dismal life I had lived there, the last few years. 

After settling in at Uncle George’s I went on several unsuccessful job interviews. I'm still seventeen, not quite a legal adult that summer and I spend a lot of time with my cousin Ray’s wife, Elaine nearby. I fall in love with her, she is so nice and friendly to me and I love helping her with her first baby, Bobby which she seemed to appreciate.

During my first few opportunities to watch television at Aunt Elsie's, since my Howdy Doody days as a kid, I marveled at people’s personalities, especially when singers would sing so passionately and look into each others eyes. They held a gaze which impressed me so intensely, I knew immediately deep down, I wanted to experience that kind of connection with people myself. Also in TV movies actors seemed so much like real people to me instead of actors, I didn’t bother to notice anyone’s real name, because I actually assumed they were real people interacting in real lives because the emotional intimacy seemed so genuine, as if in real life. 

I had never seen, nor experienced emotional connection like that with anyone in my life growing up and I am blown away with my strong emotional response to it. It aroused in me a very deep desire to become as emotionally intimate with others as these television people were. So deep in fact, it becomes a life long search to find out how to interact and be that connected with others. 

In August, Ray suggests I apply to the John Hancock Life Insurance company in Boston for a job which I do and am hired as a file clerk and typist. I am elated; my first full time job. The Hancock is a huge company that took up most or all of the twenty-six floors which occupied the tallest building in Boston in 1957 with a steeple on top that was lighted blue at night and you could see it from long distances. I earned eighty-six dollars bi-monthly.

I was very fortunate to become a part of a car pool of other Hancock employees. Until then I had taken the bus and subway from Quincy to Boston and back. However, I did not know how to socialize with my co-riders. I was shy because I had no socializing skills. I rode with others to and from work, hardly daring to sing along with the songs on the radio that I knew so well from hearing them over and over.

On the spur of the moment one day, I walked by a college and decided to enter and ask the receptionist what courses I would have to take if I enrolled. In high school I wasn’t considered “college material.” I knew nothing about college. I wondered if I could become a teacher or a nurse which was all girls aspired to growing up in the forties and fifties. The receptionist told me I would have to take general education courses for the first two years; all the stuff I just left in high school and hated, so I decided against college. 

“Okay” says I, I guess Ma was right, I should find a good man and get married, he would provide. Only problem was, I didn’t even know how to talk to a boy, let alone date. I was extremely shy, and emotionally afraid of communicating with people. Besides no social skills to speak of, I had no positive experiences with boys in high school.

One of the perks of being an employee of the John Hancock was an opportunity to attend a course called “Charm School” and I thought, hmmm, maybe I could learn how to be more "ladylike" and overcome my shyness. It was free and held during work hours so I enrolled. The only things I remember learning was how to sit like a lady and a re-affirmation of how to walk. I had always walked with a long stride like a man, which was so un-ladylike. It took some practice on the sitting. One had to barely sit on the edge of the chair first, then slide back before actually relaxing totally on the chair. I tried to master it unsuccessfully. 

I hated having to wear high heels, nylons, bras and skirts to work. They were very uncomfortable, especially the shoes and I certainly didn’t feel more womanly. I secretly envied men who could walk in regular shoes and had no uncomfortable restrictive clothing. My heals were so tight for my left foot because it was a bit wider than my right. Heals only came in medium width so my toes ended up being so pinched together in my left foot. Years later a neuroma developed which became quite painful, even after I began walking in low healed shoes. Eventually after two neuroma surgeries, the pain stopped.

What I love best at the Hancock are the girls bowling, softball and basketball teams. I joined them all, which allowed me to meet and socialize with lots of girls, including Mary Jane, who lived in a hotel-like building for girls in Boston, called ‘The Franklin Square House.’ I liked it so much, I convinced a friend of Ma’s who lived fairly close to Quincy to come and help me get moved into the Franklin House. 

Since I was not quite eighteen, I asked her to pretend to be my Aunt and say I was living with her and that she gave me permission to move there and be my own. 

By Fall I am moved and become really good friends with Mary Jane. She was also from Maine, just a few miles away from my parents farm. Her job was working in the computer department with a huge computer, inputing data which intrigued me. I tried unsuccessfully to get transferred to her department.

At the Franklin House we each have individual rooms and there are rules to follow, like not being out after midnight without a penalty. Also a big dining hall where meals were served and a laundry room to do laundry. I loved being there and being independent. Mary Jane usually dressed in men’s pants and shirts, which I thought was so great. When I asked her how she got away with not wearing heals, she said she could wear men’s shoes at work because she worked with computers. I was in more of an office type department where nylons and heals were required.

Mary Jane and I spend a lot of time together; eating meals and sometimes doing laundry together, plus going to basketball practice together. We loved sitting in the cafeteria just watching people. I developed a big crush on her. One day she had a tie on at breakfast and to me she looked just like a man. I was so impressed by that I innocently mentioned it to her parents when we visited them one time at her family’s vacation place on the coast of Maine. At the dinner table the subject turned to clothing and I couldn't help sharing how she looked ‘just like a man’ with a tie one morning at home. 

Her parents seemed shocked and Mary Jane was embarrassed. She had not told her parents she was Queer, but I didn't know she was Queer either at the time. The next day we go out in the ocean in a little boat that she rows with oars. She was strong and athletic and I admired her so much. The waters began to get rough and just as I am getting aftaid we might capsize and drown at any moment, she turned the boat around saying,

"We better head back to shore ‘cause it’s getting rough." 

With much relief, I heartedly agree. At some point on shore we were lying down in the boat and she has to roll practically on top of me to grab something. I got such a pleasant sexual rush when she was so closely touching on me and it felt good. It only serves to intensify the loving feelings I have for her. We sleep in twin beds and I am so wishing we could be sleeping together, however I am too afraid to say or do anything to indicate how I am feeling. The next week she invites me to go with her to a gathering of her friends' in one of their apartments. I was so straight and naivé that I didn’t even pick up on the fact that her friends were all gay. I don’t think they knew what to think of me and poked fun at my naiveté, I realized later. 

One evening after that event, I am visiting MaryJane in her room. It took her two hours for her to explain to this very naïve eighteen-year-old, that she was Queer. I never knew homosexuality even existed let alone what queer meant, but after some lengthy, around the bush explanations to me, I finally get it. Then in an instant I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am also queer. A great big relief washes over me with this new insight. 

I suddenly think of how I will never have to go on blind dates with boys again or ‘go parking’ and have to push them away because they want to be sexual. I no longer have to play the role of girl/woman, at least socially. I accept this new found label of queer because I was attracted to girls, so I assumed I must be queer. I feel extremely happy and comfortable with myself. For the first time in my young life I feel like I finally belong to a group I identify with.

Next MaryJane asks me, “Have you noticed on Thursday nights I am never here?”

“No I haven’t.”

“Well every Thursday I go to Lowell and spend the night with my “friend,” Sarah.”

I have such a big crush on MaryJane I’m disappointed she has a romantic “friend” that she visits regularly and spends the night with. In the late fifties Queer people used the word “friend” to indicate a romantic lover.

Mary Jane continues, "When we were visiting my parents in Maine, I was a bit upset that you told my parents that I looked like a man, wearing a tie. My parents don’t know I’m queer. They suspect it, but I don’t want them to know.” 

Gay people didn't dare to tell their parents they were gay because of the negative consequences they would usually endure. It was a dangerous thing to tell…anyone, but I was so new to this life, I hadn't understood that yet, plus I am not living with my parents so hadn't had to even decide to tell them or not.

I really loved basketball. I played Guard mostly on just half the court because girls were still not allowed to play full court. My hand eye coordination was so fast I could jump forward when the other team threw the ball to the girl I was guarding and hit the ball back to my team’s court just about every time.

Sometime during the sixties a few strong women prevailed and the girls' limited half court rules were changed to allow full court play like the boys. I had stopped playing basketball by then though.

I wanted to buy a car so I saved up a down payment, but discovered I needed good credit to buy on my own and I had no credit. Fortunately Mary Jane did and she co-signed for me to buy an orange and white 1952 two-door Chevy. I am so pleased and make each car payment on time until it is paid for. At our softball practice I meet Mary Jane’s friend Mabel. Mabel, who was “colored” was a really good first base player, she seems so natural at it. She was pleasant and quite friendly towards me. I admired and liked her a lot. I began socializing with her and MaryJane after practices and soon develop a loving crush on Mabel and it wasn't long before we become “friends,” (in a relationship)

One night Mabel drives me home to the Franklin House. It is before curfew so we spend time together in her car outside. I snuggle up to her sitting behind the wheel facing her, sort of in her lap and my head is resting on her breasts as she holds me lovingly. Her body is so like my Mother’s husky body and I unconsciously love it so much. Maybe it felt familiar, but I felt so wonderful, snuggling up close to her like that. Out of nowhere I suddenly comment, 

“You would make a great mother.”

She makes a little jump and holding me away from her a bit, said in a shocked voice, “Is that what you think of me?" 

I’m a surprised and reply, “No, of course not, it’s just that your breasts are so soft and comfortable to lie on.” She relaxes a bit and soon it is late, so we say good night and I go into the House.

Mabel and I are each others first love. I feel like she is my other half and together we make a whole. It is a strong attachment, however she is being seen as the “Butch” because she is heavy set and has short straight hair and looks "masculine" on the outside, but inside she has more "feminine" traits, characteristics and abilities than I do. 

I am very attracted to her loving, caring, honest, kind, attention she gives to me. I am being seen as the less respected “Fem” (feminine) because I am tall, skinny and shy outside, but with no "feminine" characteristics anywhere to speak of inside. This offends me a lot because I am not seen as the way I feel, even in the gay world. "Femininity" in general has never been much respected in our culture and being Queer of course, is totally rejected in most cultures, so it's a double negative whammy for shy, fearful Queer me. I still feel more like a boy in every way.

I soon move out of Boston to Mabel’s house, where she lives with her Aunt Mae north of Boston in Lynn. I pay twenty-one dollars rent each bi-monthly pay period to Aunt Mae. Now I have to drive into Boston to work, but we both ride together in my car, because I prefer to drive. My love of “progressive jazz” begins when I move into her house. Mabel has many thirty-three albums of Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, Errol Gardner, Stan Getz, Dave Brubeck and many more. Jazz gets into my blood as if I was raised with it. I greatly resonate with.

I buy many forty-five records of fifties music sung mostly by "colored" singers that I was not even aware of until May and her sister, Joanie pointed them out to me. Even then, I am not fully aware of just how many "colored" singers there were on forty-five records; not until public television, during fundraising periods, did I fully comprehend and appreciate the contribution of "colored" artists and singers. In the late fifties and early sixties, the label “Negro” is on its way out and “colored” becomes the term used to describe someone of African decent.

I love dancing slow with Mabel, she has a good rhythm and leads well. I love her sweet scent and how it feels to hug her while dancing together. When the “Twist” became popular I couldn't dance fast because I didn't have the rhythm or the ability to move my hips in a swaying motion. My mother instilled in me that dancing was sinful because it was suggestive of sex, so I didn't learn to dance fast.

We usually spend every weekend at Midtown in Boston and/or at someone’s house for a party. Sometimes we go to P-town (Provincetown) which was on Cape Cod. P-town was known for its gay crowd and a good place to party for a weekend. We were considered Bohemian and do things like dripping wax over specially shaped bottles and putting a candle on top…really hip for us. May's sister Joanie had become gay and joins us on our P-town trips.

We have gay woman friends who share with us how the courts take away their rights to their children and don’t even allow visiting privileges. Their children are given over totally to their ex-husband as soon as it is discovered that the children’s mothers are gay. This devastates our gay friends who are mothers.

We notice that many women find out they are gay only after an unhappy marriage and a breakup. This is probably due to never a word being spoken on radio or television about homosexuality so many, like myself never knew it was something valid. 

I feel so misperceived by co-workers at work by being assumed to be a single woman. I'm unable to mention even, that I'm in a live-in love relationship with a woman. I am neither single nor do I feel

like a woman, but I must live a secret life. I just keep all my frustration and anger inside, with nobody around to truly share my anguished living. This also reinforces the feeling I've always held, that I am somehow a flawed and defective human. The "great society" around me believed gayness was a sick way to be.

In June 1960, I quit the Hancock for a better paying position at the light bulb factory Champion Lamps, in Lynn, where May and I lived. I start at around $1.50 an hour. When I leave two and a half years later, I was earning $1.98 an hour. The greater earnings are because it is a factory which pays more than office work. I was excellent with figures and had my own bench where I counted and inspected the coils under a microscope, that went inside a light bulb. I used a white rule calculator with a clear plastic slide on it to manually check the coil calculations, among other things. Many times I can hardly keep my eyes open at my bench due to staying up too late the night before. I ate many tablets called no-doz to keep me from dozing off. 

One morning May had driven me in my car the short distance to work and parked. Before I got out, we are suddenly hit from behind by a woman who, after making a U-turn, stepped on the gas instead of the brake. She rammed my car from the rear pushing it into a lamp post on the sidewalk. Seat belts were not invented yet, so I fractured my nose on the steering wheel and am taken to the hospital. 

My nice Chevy was totaled because its value was less than the cost to repair it, my insurance company told me. I probably could have gotten money from the insurance company of the woman who hit me, but I didn’t know I could even do that. Nobody told me and I was only twenty with no previous experience with auto accidents or insurance companies.

 The plastic surgeon who operated on my nose, asked me after my nose had healed, "How would you like me to shave down the bump on your nose. The insurance company will pay for it and you'll get more boyfriends." 

Knowing I didn't want a boyfriend but realizing inside I'd have a less ugly profile, I immediately replied, 

"Yes, I'd like that a lot."

Since I was under twenty-one, he agreed to do the surgery because I was living on my own with a job. My dream since being a young teen and being made fun of for being freckled and ugly was to not be ashamed of the "English" hump on my nose. Total cost was $350.00 paid by the insurance company. I was overjoyed with immense joy of feeling comfortable being seen from the side. My profile is not ugly anymore as I had felt my whole life prior to this.

Shortly after my accident, May and I split up. I had been recognizing we weren't very compatible in the area of conversation. I liked intellectual conversions and May didn't seem interested in what I wanted to talk about. At the same time I am wanting a relationship with a Fem. meaning a small feminine looking female. We agree to separate and Mabel moves into Boston and I buy a brand new light grey Renault Dolphine. I begin a string of room rentals and I continue my friendship with Ursula who was now on my bowling team at the Hancock in Boston. I encourage her to apply at the Champion Lamps factory. She does and gets hired one floor up from where I work.

I want to rent my own apartment and I finally find one I like on the third floor of a house, but not in Lynn. I am very happy with it. I invite a few women for a party including Mabel and Ursula, who was straight. That night I slept in the middle of Mabel and Ursula in my bed. I am attracted to Ursula because she is slender and shorter than I and feminine looking. Soon, I begin massaging her on her lower back, in bed and she likes it. She ends up falling in love with me and becoming gay. We soon thereafter become “friends/lovers.” She is satisfying my desire to be seen as the “Butch.” She soon moves into my apartment, but it isn’t long before we decide to rent an apartment in Lynn, closer to our work.

 We find an apartment in Lynn and pack up the Renault and move our stuff little by little to our new apartment on another third floor. There happens to be a gay bar down the street from us, so we would go their to dance because it was so close, however it was often raided and we were afraid each time we went. I so enjoyed slow dancing with Ursula because she was smaller than I and I could wrap my arm around her whole waist. 

It was obvious to everyone that she was my little Fem and it felt really good inside because for the first time, I was being seen accurately as the "Butch" I was. One night we were at the bar and barely escaped a police raid. We left early and had just begun walking home when we saw the police car driving up to the club. We felt so lucky that night, but fear kept us from going there again. 

I had a strong desire to advance in some kind of a career where I could make more money, so I enroll in a home study architectural drafting course. I buy a drafting table and lamp and love making drawings. I get straight A's for several lessons which raised my self esteem somewhat. 

Two gay women move next door on the same floor as us. There is a door between our apartments that we manage to get unlocked and we go back and forth to visit. They also work where we do but in Ursula’s department. One night we all gather around the television because we got wind of a news broadcast on something to do with homosexuality. The first we ever heard on public radio or television. It was a report about sodomy no longer being illegal for gay guys.

Increasingly gay women develop a strong intolerance for being called by the negative label “queer” or the label “gay” which became used for the guys only. Gay women now want to be called Lesbians after the famous Lesbian named Sappho who wrote poetry about women who love women centuries ago. She lived on the Greek island called Lesbos where its inhabitants were called Lesbians. 

The people who lived on Lesbos did not like the idea of their Island name being used to refer to gay/queer women in this country. After losing a court battle trying to forbid it, they changed their island’s name to Lesvos and call themselves Lesvians, but Lesbians from all over the world have gone to Lesvos to celebrate being renamed from gay to Lesbians. 

My immaturity has led me to discontinue my and Ursula's relationship and blame her for it. I become very, very angry at Ursula for many things of which she was basically innocent. There is a mean streak in me and I resent Ursula for things about her she probably can't help. After we separate, she buys a new little sporty car for herself with a top that goes down. I am so jealous of her new car that I yell and scream at her unjustifiably. 

I am still very angry at society also because I can never talk with my co-workers or neighbors about my love relationships; the good experiences or the bad ones. It seems very unfair that straight people can talk about their love life and I can't. I hate having to hide my feelings about living together as a couple. I began to hate being gay and longed to become straight. I can see now how I took all my anger out on poor Ursula.

California and back

My straight friend Bonnie at work asked me if I wanted a boyfriend because her husband, who was in prison, had a good friend named Joe and together they thought he and I would make a good couple. So one day Bonnie asks me,

"Do you think you'd like a boyfriend? If you do, my husband has a friend in prison, with a kind personality who is really nice. He was a drug addict, but really wants to quit taking drugs."

I ask, "Sure, what is he in prison for?"

"He broke into a drug store to steal drugs, because he was addicted.

Do you think you’d like to write to him, he is due to get out in a couple of months?"

I respond immediately, “Sure I’d love to.”

“When you write the first time you have to pretend you already knew him from before he want to prison, because inmates can’t get mail from the outside if they don’t already know the person. The guards read all the mail that comes in and goes out and those are the rules.”

I’m thinking to myself this is great, an opportunity to get to know a man and become straight, without having to physically see and talk with him.

I'd been wanting to move to California because many of our gay friends who had been to California, speak of how great the weather is and that being gay was much more acceptable out there and there was less discrimination for “colored” people in California. May had just broken up with her “friend” and after some coaxing, I finally persuaded her to come to California with me. She agrees to go, but only as regular friends. 

It was November when we packed my small Renault Dolphine with our belongings. I planned to wait ‘till after I was in CA., before writing to Joe. I was so afraid he might ask me to come meet him in prison if I was still in MA. And I knew I’d be too afraid to do that. Not because of the prison, but because I'd not yet had a personal conversation with a man. I couldn't tell him I was not used to talking with men or that I was gay either.

May and I rent a third floor apartment in Lynn and she moves in so we could save money together. However we are soon evicted because the neighbors don’t want a “colored” person living near them. I get extremely angry at this unfairness and ignorance. We move back in with Mabel’s Aunt Mae. Soon we have enough saved and off we go with six hundred dollars, and gas being 26 cents a gallon. We head for the great land of California. We had two friends we knew who were already out in LA., but I wanted to live in Burbank, a bit north of LA.

We arrive in Burbank and rent a small house. I set up my drafting table, determined to finish my home study course in drafting. Soon, our two friends from LA come to visit us. Micky is “colored” and Debra is White. Soon after their visit the landlord informs us the neighbors are complaining about our “colored” friend visiting us and we get an eviction notice. I become so angry I want to leave the place in a mess with newspapers all over the floor, etc. 

May on the other hand, being more mature than I and knowing the history of Negroes being rejected over and over, suggested not doing that and said,

"We shouldn't leave a mess. That will give a poor impression of us."

"But why not? It isn't fair to kick us out just because they don't like "colored" people."

We move in with Micky and Debra. It is 1962 and the Civil Rights marches were happening, of which I was also ignorant of. 

My first letter to Joe says, “Hi, I’m in California and I heard you were in prison." In his letters he sounds like a nice person, just addicted to drugs. I knew nothing about drug addiction and I believed he wanted to quit. That sounded reasonable to me and I wanted to help him if I could.

He kept wanting me to come back to Massachusetts though and I kept delaying, wanting to know more about him and to make sure I could be straight. So letters were ‘safe’ for me and we continue writing.

I get a job working with figures in an auto parts store in Los Angeles, after failing several interviews at different places. I was quite good with the adding machine and calculations. May gets a job soldering on green boards and we soon move into our own little apartment. It was clean and neat, unlike the ones back in MA. I am wanting to get back into a "relationship" with May, but her sister Joanie, who is a social worker, told her that once you break up with someone it is not a good idea to go back with them, so she didn’t. Instead she finds another white woman and becomes "friends" with her and I am hurt and jealous. I lost all interest in drafting also.

Joe writes big fat letters and I begin looking forward to them each week. We exchange pictures and I like that he is really good looking. I am somewhat non-committal in my letters and Joe keeps trying to get closer to me. I'm still afraid to tell him I am gay, but want to be straight and I am still not sure how I would feel being intimate with a man. 

I love getting to know him from a distance, but he senses I am staying distant, in my letters. We have quite a bit in common and we continue to write for a year or so, when he tells me he may have to stop writing because he got someone pregnant. She later decides to have an abortion and Joe begins writing again. He tells me he is back on drugs, but wants very much to quit. I am very immature and just believe him. 

Finally, I feel ready to tell him I would like to come back to MA and have a relationship with him. He is noticeably happy and sends me money to help with the cost of the trip back.

 In April 1964, I quit the auto parts store, pack up and begin driving back to Lynn with my puppy Koko and whatever belongings I can fit in my Renault. I arrive in Lynn, ten days later at 2 am. Immature me can’t wait ‘till morning to call Joe, so I pick up the phone and wake him up to tell him, “I’m here!” I was at Aunt Mae's in Lynn.