Paula Jean was my smallest baby, and she was my ugliest baby, too. I carried her funny, and so for about the first three weeks of her life Paula’s jaw was bent way over so it looked like she almost might have had half of a face. Plus she had these bitty flesh warts growing out of her cheeks. When my mother first saw her, she said to me, “Oh honey, she’s awfully sweet.” Bless her little heart. Then after about three or four weeks Paula turned into a chubby, beautiful little girl.
When they were little, I dressed my girls alike. Lynn got the pink and blue and Paula got the yellow and the mint green, which were the colors at the time. Stiff cotton dresses with the embroidery on the front and the big skirts that puffed out at the hips.
Paula always had something gone wrong with her. She walked very early, at ten months, but somehow she threw her leg out, and so we took her to the doctor and they slit the soles of her shoes and put a little thing in there and then that straightened her right out, no problem. Then she went through a spell where she didn’t talk very plain. The school was upset about it, and so Jim and I got together with the speech therapist and he told us she had what they called a “lazy tongue.” She grew out of that, too, but she was always kind of shy anyway.
Lynn Marie was the leader, and Paula was the follower, but they were inseparable. They were only thirteen months apart. They looked alike. They had long hair way down to their waists, and it was hell to have to comb it out every morning. Then my mother discovered cream rinse and the girls were so happy because they had all these masses of blond curls that got tangled up all the time. They both cried to have their hair combed, but every place I took them people just oohed and ahhed over them, because they were such pretty little things, with all those long blond curls.
Paula was a happy little girl, but she was very quiet, and she was very artistic, too. When she grew older, she loved beautiful lingerie, and she loved lovely linens—pretty sheets and pretty towels—and she loved lotions and powders, too. She was a girlie-girl.
When the girls were growing up, Lynn was the toughie. She was the one that could take a blouse or a towel or something and smack at her sister to get her to give up and cower in the corner. And Paula, she would never do anything to defend herself. She would just look at you. But then when she got older that changed. She could stand her ground if somebody were to try to hurt her. If she was able to, that is.
If I had to say, I’d have to admit that I was always closer to Lynn than I was to Paula. Lynn was a daddy’s girl in her heart. She worshipped that man. She would crawl up into his lap whenever she could, and she’d take his shirt to bed with her to curl up into while she was sleeping, and she traveled the roads with him now and then, too. She was a little bitty girl, and she would go with him when he sold insurance. He said she was his lucky charm.
But Jimmer wasn’t much of a dad to her nevertheless. Not to any of them. He had his good points, but he was not any “Father Knows Best” by any means. And he wasn’t much of a husband to me, either. He was a handsome rogue. He was a philanderer, a tall and slim and very handsome man. Very charismatic, too. He could sell ice cubes to the Eskimos, as they say. But he was not good family material. Not at all.
Everything was always really easy for Jimmer. The women just loved him, and he couldn’t say no. But it was the booze that got him in the end. The booze and the bars and the women. I got to where I just couldn’t live with him anymore.
If one of his friends came to him and said, “Jim, I’m really in trouble, my kids don’t have food,” and Jim had ten dollars in his pocket, he would give it to the guy, no questions asked.
There was one time when he was selling insurance, and he was making really good money. I was so tickled, and I was stashing it away, counting it out, watching it grow. By the end of the year I’d built up a little savings account of fifteen hundred dollars in the bank. Then one day Jim comes home—this was around Christmastime—and he says, “Carol, I was just down at 16th Avenue, and there’s a bunch of my friends down there. They don’t have any money for Christmas.” Well, you know, he wiped me out. He took all that money that I’d been stashing away, and he gave it to all his friends, so they could have Christmas. No good bums hanging around playing pool, and he bought Christmas for all of them and wiped me out in the process. That was Jimmer to a tee. He’d take bread from my mouth and put it in yours.
There was one bar that he used to go to over on the west side. Something about a duck it was. The Duck Inn. And at that time they had these universal checks, where you took a check and you wrote the name of your bank and you filled it out. Jim would go into that Duck Inn and I would be paying the bills and then all of a sudden the electric bill would bounce and I’d say, “What’s going on?”Well, he was down there writing those universal checks at this Duck Inn. And of course, those barkeeps, they’re not stupid. Every two or three hours they’d gather up all the checks and take them down to the bank, to make sure they went through. So those checks would go through, but my electric bill would bounce. So what was I supposed to do?
He went to the Duck Inn. He went to the Starlite Room. He went to Bulicheks, and D.J.’s. Those are just the ones I knew about, but there were others that he went to with his girlfriends that I had never heard of, I’m sure.
When she was five years old, Paula was hit by a car. We were living with Jim’s mom at the time, in her house across the street from St. Matthew’s church, and I had a girlfriend that worked up the way, who would come down to visit with me at lunchtime every day. Paula went to afternoon kindergarten then, and Lynn was in the full-day first grade. It was wintertime, and I got Paula all bundled up in her coat and her boots and of course the traffic guy was out there punching the light for the kids who had to cross, so I left her there with him. This friend and I were just sitting down to eat our lunch when all of a sudden we heard a screech. We went running outside, and here the crossing guard guy was just going frantic and there was little Paula Jean lying in the street. Some guy hit her and flew her up in the air and her little snow boot came off and lit down underneath the mailbox. I called Jim down to Killian’s—he was shoe buyer for them at the time—and he came home and we took her to the hospital, but all she had was just a bump on the head. Nothing to it. She was fine.
Then another time I went downtown to pick up Jim at the bar, and I had Lynn and Paula with me. Of course this was before seatbelts and everything. I was driving and I moved over when Jim got in the car, so the kids climbed over and got into the back. We turned the corner and the girls started screaming. The door flew open and there was little Paula, lying out in the street again. We got out and got her back in the car and came home. She didn’t even have a scratch or bruise or anything that time either. She just fell out of the car and was sitting there crying in the street.
Later we would look back and think, it was almost like she was doomed.
I was on welfare for a while before the divorce went through. My attorney wouldn’t file the papers for me, because he didn’t want me to lose the house. He said, “When you go down and sign up for welfare and show me that you can keep your home with your children, then I’ll file the case.” So, I had no choice. I went downtown and I talked to them. My mother went with me, bless her heart. It was a horrible thing for me to have to do, just horrible. To go on welfare like that and to have to use food stamps to buy my groceries at the store. But I could feed the kids. And I kept them all together, too. It was a hard time, but we were all right.
I got $385 a month, and with that I paid the utilities and I bought the food stamps. Everything else was extra, because on welfare you could buy Pepsi Cola but you couldn’t buy toilet paper. It was crazy like that. But it didn’t hurt any of us, it didn’t. The only thing about it that bothered the kids was the free lunches at school. They hated that. Dumb kids didn’t realize we were poor, but I knew because I was the one that had to worry where the next pair of shoes was coming from.
There was one time when I ran out of fuel oil, and so I told the kids, I said, “We’re gonna play that we’re pioneers. “ I had a big old bed and the house was colder than heck and I had no money and no fuel oil. So I got them all in there, I piled on blankets and coats, and we all slept together like that all night. The next morning my mother came over and she called the fuel company and bought me some fuel oil.
I had to supplement the income doing what I could. I cleaned a health salon out at the shopping center. It was called Slenderama. I went in there every day first thing in the morning at about six o’clock and cleaned it and then had to vacuum my way out the door so that there ‘d be no marks on the rug. On my way home, I’d see Tim and Todd walking to school. And then the neighbors were all really good, too. I did their hair. They paid me for that. And I took in laundry. And I did ironings. And I cleaned a tavern. I even bartended for a while, too, at a place down on Sixteenth Avenue, for a couple friends who had bought a bar there. The wife was scared to be in the place by herself at night, so I told her I’d work for a dollar an hour. It was called D.J.’s, and it was next to the bandstand over there.
The day of our divorce, Jim, bless his heart, he came over to the house, and we got the kids together and we all sat down under this gorgeous big weeping willow tree that we had out in our back yard. He was crying. He just couldn’t believe that I actually went through with it, and he said, “Carol, just promise me one thing.” And I said, “If I can, Jimmer, I will.” And he said, “Promise me if you ever marry again, it’ll be to me.” And I said, “Well, that’s easy, honey. I promise.” Because I knew I was never going to get married again. And I never did. He did. He married one of his old girlfriends. But, no, not me. I never did. Never wanted to and never did.
For quite a while Paula went over to the Jackson School on Saturdays, to help the kids there that were slow learners. She was teaching them how to read. She devoted time to that. She was generous that way.
And then it was about 11th or 12th grade that she kind of blossomed, and here this beautiful creature emerged. I had a very close friend named Tom McDonald, and we grew up together, and he always said that Paula looked like she belonged to the “horsey set.” What he meant was, she looked like she had a million dollars.
My daughters always had a lot of friends, but Paula was really popular because she was so beautiful. They both had a large wardrobe, because they wore each other’s clothes. They shared them, but they fought a lot over them, too.
Paula was baptized and confirmed at St. Matthews, but she was not an especially religious person. She was a little daredevil. She tried a few things now and then. She wasn’t afraid of anything.
One time somebody gave me an ugly old black fur coat, and I said, “Well, what the heck am I gonna do with this?”Paula fell in love with it. She had me alter it for her. I had never worked with fur before, and it was just a godawful job, but I cut it all down, and it looked really sharp on her. She knew just what to put with it, but it was one ugly coat.
Then my old friend Tom McDonald, who I grew up with in Oklahoma, he went to California and he brought me back this big old ugly purse called a squaw bag. It was dark brown and it was suede, but not the nice soft suede. This was a rough cowhide kind of suede, and it was all cut and fringed, and oh it was ugly. I hated it, but I didn’t want to hurt Tom’s feelings, so I didn’t say anything and she kept the bag. When Paula saw it, she fell in love with that thing, so I gave it to her.
I used to sew a lot, and the girls wanted some fancy outfits one year. Paula’s was taupe velvet with a Beatles tunic jacket and a billowy satin blouse. It had a vest and those big elephant leg pants that were fitted at the knee. Lynn’s was very sedate, nice material and everything, but Paula’s was taupe velvet with creamy satin. She wore it with boots. She knew how to dress. She had a style. She was glamorous like that.
Paula liked her twenty-two inch waist, too. She was proud of it, and she worked hard to keep it. She had one of those little wheelie things that you get down on your knees and you roll forward, and she had one of those little squeezy bust exerciser things that you can send away for, too. Didn’t ever do her much good.
She also had these really interesting eyebrows. Brooke Shields eyebrows. I always thought they just made her face, because here she had all this blond hair and these very startling eyes, and then these heavy dark brows. It did kind of take you back, the first time you saw her. But just before she died, she plucked them really really thin. I was just heartbroken. Who knows who it was that talked her into that, but I hated it. I cried and cried , and I said, “Paula! You’ve destroyed your face!”
I never met Robert in person. Never wanted to. Never wanted to even look at him. Nope. I just had an absolute closed mind. I wanted nothing to do with it. I didn’t like it one bit. Not one bit. I was born in Oklahoma, and in Oklahoma, when those people approached you, they got in the street so that you could walk on the sidewalk. It was a whole different world for me, when I came up to Cedar Rapids to live. I didn’t believe in the interracial marriage. I just didn’t then, and I still don’t now. Maybe for some other people, but not for me and not for mine. It’s just that I don’t want it for my family, and I didn’t want it for my Paula. That’s all.
I heard stories that Paula let him drive my car, and that broke my heart, too. That Paula would let him do that, when she knew full well how I felt about him, that she would let him drive my car. So, there was some estrangement there all right. She and I weren’t close then, because I just already felt like I had lost her.
Sometimes in my heart of hearts, I can’t help but feel that little Paula Jean thought maybe she was a disappointment to her family and to me. It was the Robert thing that did it, but bless her little heart, you cannot pick and choose who you fall in love with or I would have never have fallen in love with my husband.
One night I was fixing dinner, and Paula comes in and she says, “Mom I need to talk to you.” And I said, “Okay.” And Paula said, “Mama, I’m going get my own place.” Well, of course my heart just sank, and I said, “Why are you doing that?”And Paula says, “Because I think I need to be on my own.” And I said, “Does it have anything to do with Mr. Basketball?”And Paula looked me right in the eye and she said, “No, Mom.” Just like that, “No, Mom.”
But she lied to me. Because it was to be with Robert Williams. That pretty much broke my heart, and I kind of lost faith a little bit then, because Paula fibbed to me. So I guess I’d have to say that didn’t ever feel that I was ever really all that close to my daughter Paula. We were not bosom buddies. She was just going her merry way and that was that.
Paula and I were only thirteen months apart, and as children we were always very close. At first Paula was the chubby one and I was real thin, but then somewhere along the way we switched sides, and it was Paula who grew up to be very tall and slim.
She was also the quiet one. She wouldn’t speak up for herself. Our dad used to call her Spook, because she was just always so very quiet.
There was this one time when we were fighting. Dad never ever disciplined us. This was in the day where there was spanking, and so we got spanked if we were bad, but it was always Mom who had to be the one that was in charge of that part of the parenting. Dad, he’d roll up a newspaper and make some noise about how he was going to use it on us, but he never would really do it, and of course we knew that. So there was this one time Paula and I were fighting, and he took us upstairs and he said, “You want to fight so much, you can just discipline each other.” Paula got to spank me first, and she went tap, tap, tap, tap. And then it was my turn, and I got to do Paula, and I was not shy so I just let her have it with the newspaper, on the rear end. Not the bare rear end, but still. And dad goes, “Well, that’s not quite fair. Paula, you can do it again.” And same thing. She was just tap tap tap tap, tap tap tap.
She was very soft-spoken. She was a sweet little girl. Sweet and shy. Paula was very smart, too. Very very smart. Smarter than me. She would make the high honor roll, and I would make the low honor roll. Very artistic, too. She knew how to draw. Horses and cats, things like that.
When she would write to someone, her letters would have those funny bubble letters, with spots and stripes and such. She was just a very artistic person. Quiet and artistic. But that also changed as she got older.
We lived over on G Avenue on the northeast side of Cedar Rapids. Our street was right down the hill from Regis, the Catholic high school. There was Prairie Drive and Franklin Avenue and our street, and it was a very nice neighborhood. Every house had a kid.
We were outdoors, playing, all the time. We played jacks, we played four-square, we had bicycle races. In the summer we would go up to Regis and drown the ground squirrels out of their holes. We’d slide down the hill in the wintertime. It was just tons of kids all over the place, on every single block.
Dad was a salesman, and always with him it was either feast or famine. We had the first color television on G Avenue, and it was also the first television to be repossessed. Because if he wanted to work, then it was always really big and we were just fine, but if he didn’t, well then we weren’t. That’s just how it was. Wonderful man, but if he had a bill he had to pay, he’d go out and sell something and that was his way of making ends meet.
We had two grandmothers and a step-grandfather, too. My mom’s father passed away when she was a child, and Dad’s dad died when we were little, too, but we had both our grandmothers for many years. Grandma Vera was Dad’s mom. She lived in the big white house on First Avenue, right across the street from St. Matthews Church. She and my mom didn’t ever get along really well.
Vera worked at Siegel’s Jewelry for fifty years. She was a big-shot over at the church, and she always thought she was Miss Hoity-Toity about town, too. Our other grandmother, though, my mother’s mother, she was the baking cookies and babysitting kind of grandmother. That is, the two grandmothers were both good people and they both loved us a lot, but one was the lady about town and then the other one was the one that would fix you the ice cream sundaes and take you shopping and buy you a pair of shoes and so on.
Paula and I went downtown on Saturdays and we always went to visit Vera because she would give us a dollar so we could go over to Woolworth’s and get a plate of fries and a Coke for thirty-five cents.
Paula and I were more than sisters, we were best friends. We did everything together. We went to the Catholic schools: St. Matthew’s grade school first, and then on to Regis after that, for Paula one year and for me it was two.
Then came the summer when we started going over to the other side of First Avenue and hanging out at Bever Park, because that’s where everybody was at that time. We decided we liked the people that we met there and this new group of friends we had, and so that fall we switched over to the public school. This would have been 1967, and we had to beg to do it. My dad was not for it, not at all, because to his mind, we had to have that Catholic education. My mother didn’t care. She wanted us to be happy and popular. She just wanted us to enjoy ourselves the same as she had when she was in school. She’d been crowned Homecoming Queen in 1945, and she was proud of that accomplishment. Dad said if our grades went down we were going right back, but my grades got better, and Paula had always had good grades.
So we just switched over to Washington High School, and we loved it. No uniforms, no nuns, no chapel or catechism. Plus, we just liked the people. The boys were better there. They were better looking, and they knew how to have more fun.
Our arrival at Washington caused something of a stir at first, but that was just because we were new and we were tall and we had the long blond hair. We were something different for everybody to see, and in the morning before classes started the students all got together in an open area that we called the Arcade. At first there was a lot of talk, with everybody looking and whispering but that died down after a while. It went away. It really wasn’t much.
I’d always thought that Paula was kind of shy, but then it started to be that I would see her out at parties or at dances, and I wouldn’t recognize her. I’d be thinking, “That’s my sister?”And again it was like we’d sort of switched places, because then I turned out to be the quiet one. I was the good girl. Not that Paula was bad, but she could be naughty in ways that I didn’t know how to be.
Or maybe it’s just that I wasn’t brave enough to do those things, maybe that was it. We’d have girlfriends spend the night, and everybody would be sneaking out the bedroom window to go run around the neighborhood after the mom and dad were in bed, and I would be sitting there in my pajamas and my curlers, thinking, “I’m not doing that!”
I never wanted any trouble, but Paula was fearless that way. She just didn’t care. And so I would stay in and I’d be thinking, “I can’t believe she’s sneaking out the window!”
Paula was always running around being goofy at the free drive-ins that they had on Sunday nights in the summertime, too. She would just kind of bounce from car to car, talking to people, and here I’d always thought she was shy. She came out of her shell at some point, it seems.
Maybe it was high school that did it. She had a lot of boyfriends there, but never all at once. One at a time, one after the other. She wasn’t one for casual dating. She dated Jack Schneider pretty good; she went to the prom with him.
And she dated Steve Scheib, too. She really liked him. This was before I started going out with Randy. Paula was dating Steve, and I was seeing Jim Lideigh who was Steve’s friend. They were seniors at Washington then, that first year Paula and I were there.
So we were still very close until I started going out with Randy. Then I started doing more things with him, and so Paula and I kind of drifted apart.
My sister had a sense of humor. She could be funny, in a way. She would joke around. One time we were at my grandmother’s house and Paula was sitting on the couch next to Randy, and she put her arm around him and she said to me, “You know, if I wanted him I could really have him.” And he was kind of looking at her, and I just looked, and I said, “Yeah, you think so?”Paula goes, “Yeah, I could just do that.” Then she smiles. “But I’m not going to.” Everybody laughed and she just kind of winked, and it was just a part of her being funny, because it was so not her character. She would never do that to anybody. Especially she wouldn’t do it to me. But just the fact that she could say something like that, that was what was funny.
Paula maybe could have been a model, but she had no ambition for it, not really. That Thermo-Jac thing came about as a fluke down at Seifert’s.
We always had to pay for our own clothes and we never had enough money, so we had to put them on layaway. So we were down there one day and there was a contest, a modeling contest, where if you bought your outfit you could enter it and maybe win some free clothes and a trip to St. Louis to have your picture taken for the magazine. Paula didn’t even want to do it, but the guy there, the photographer, he saw something, and he said to both of us, “You really really should do this.” And so we did, and it turned out, Paula won.
She worked at Arlan’s for a while. That was one of her first jobs. And at Younkers, too. They used to have this bridal show there, and Mom and my grandmother and I went out to watch Paula in it. She walked down the runway, modeling the wedding gowns.
She was good. She did that a couple of times. Dad sold shoes, and Paula sold clothing. She always had good taste in clothes. She always looked good in them, too.
When Mom and I went over there to move her out of that house where she was living when she disappeared, there were swimsuits and shoes, all kinds of things that still had tags on them. Of course she got a discount out at Younkers, where she worked, so probably that was why. She did love her clothes.
The thing with Robert Williams started during Paula’s second year at Washington. She didn’t tell me right away, I guess because she knew I wouldn’t agree with it. That was just not the way it could be, as far as I was concerned, but what happened is that Debby Kellogg liked Rick Williams and so then that’s how Paula came to be with Robert.
I was with Randy already by that time. We met in June of 1968 just when he was graduating. Then in 1969 we got married. I got pregnant and he enlisted in the Navy.
There were a few girls who were dating black guys around then. There was Robert Williams and Rick Williams. Everybody always thought they were related, but they weren’t. And there was James Hillsman, too. One time after Randy had moved back home with his parents in Illinois—he had a car accident and he owed a bunch of money so he moved back to save up to pay it back—there was Debby Kellogg and Paula and me with nothing to do on a Saturday night. We went to a party somewhere down in Oak Hill. There was dancing and I was thinking to myself, “What am I doing here?”And then James Hillsman asked me to dance, and I told him, “Oh, no, I can’t do that.” I didn’t want to have anything to do with that.
Those black girls did not like us white girls whatsoever. Not one bit. Not over there and not at school either. I got kicked. I got the books knocked out of my arms. Until one day I just went to Mrs. Ridenauer’s office and I said, “I’m leaving and I’m not coming back until you make it safe for me to come back.” They were the same, maybe even worse, with Paula. Mom had to come to the school and we had to have a meeting with Mr. Nau, the principal, and Mrs. Ridenauer.
And there was one girl, her name was Wendy Howard, and, she says, “Well, you’re not only white, you’re really white. With your blond hair.” And she said, “And you’re taking all our men away.” I told her, “I’m not doing anything to you.” Mom said to us, “If you’d have stayed at Regis, you wouldn’t have to deal with any of this.” But by then of course it was too late.
Mom knew that Paula talked to a boy on the phone a lot, and she knew that she liked this boy, but she had no idea who it was. This was 1969, the year that Washington went to the state basketball tournament. Robert and Rick Williams were both on the team, and they were calling Robert Mr. Basketball. Mom had asked Paula, “Well, who are you dating. Who are you seeing?”And she told her, “Oh, Mom, he’s really good. He’s a basketball player. They call him Mr. Basketball.” So one night we’re all together in the living room watching the state tournament on TV and somebody says, “Oh, there’s Mr. Basketball.” And here’s this black guy, and Mom starts going crazy. “That’s him?! That’s him?! Oh my God, that’s him?!” Paula was busted. Mom was just furious. This is how those two first started to have some differences between them, I think.
Paula and I dated in high school for about a year. One of my friends was dating her sister Lynn, and I met Paula. She was two or three years younger than me. I was a senior then.
She was a real gangly girl. She was like a young stork that had not yet matured into adulthood. She was exuberant and really idealistic. I think she was trying to find her way because her older sister kind of called the shots.
When I met her she’d just gotten back from some modeling tryout she’d gone to. I didn’t really know much about it, but she had done pretty well, and so there were some prospects for her to maybe do some modeling somewhere. Beyond that, I don’t really know if she went any farther with it or not, because in the roughly nine months, ten months to a year that I knew Paula and dated her nothing really more happened with that.
She was not real certain of her future, what she wanted to do. Really didn’t have a clue. Her mom and dad were both going through some issues in their marriage, and I think that that had a little bit of an impact on her. She didn’t talk a lot about it, but when she did it really hurt her. She couldn’t figure out why her dad didn’t love her mother anymore.
I don’t think that she was a dunce by any means, but you know, if there was a characteristic for a dumb blond, sometimes Paula got kind of lumped into that. Because she was really naïve at times. You could share a joke—she wouldn’t get it.
But she was really caring. I broke my leg the last day of school. I’d just graduated and I was on a motorcycle in the parking lot at Wash. I was showing off for people. Flipped it over backwards. I was in a cast for six months, from my toes all the way up to my hip. I had a hard time getting around and Paula was just all the time wanting to help. She’d come pick me up and take me places.
I stayed in Cedar Rapids for a year then, after I graduated. I went to Area Ten Community College and took an automotives mechanics course. I thought I wanted to be a racecar mechanic, and I took the course—it was like nine months—and I worked that summer at one of the car dealerships for three months. Then two of my friends were going to Northeastern Junior College out in Sterling, Coloradom that fall, and I went with them. What irony. They were taking automotive mechanics, and they wanted to be racecar mechanics and drivers also. But I just took liberal arts for two years.
So, by that fall then—1969 it was—when I left for school, I’d pretty much lost contact with Paula, and I didn’t see her much after that. Even that year I went to Area Ten, I don’t know if I saw her a lot. I mean, I don’t know that our relationship was like a passionate one. It was short term, and we got along great, and there was a lot of mutual respect. But I was raised in a church, so I had a little bit of a different set of values than maybe I exhibited all the time. I was a Puritan at heart. Closet. I mean, I didn’t always share that with people.
I maybe had a reputation as a wild guy, but that wasn’t true for the people that really knew me. For one thing, I worked all the time—forty, forty-five hours a week in high school. And then on Friday night we’d go out and everybody’d start drinking beer. Two beers, I’d be asleep on the back seat. I’d wake up at one o’clock in the morning and go, “Where’s the party?”But I’d have to work the next morning, so that was about it for me.
One time we were over at Paula’s house for something—Christmas or the holidays—and I’d worked all day and I had a couple of beers. I fell asleep on the couch in the living room, and I don’t know what time it was. One, two o’clock in the morning. They had a family room in the basement, and they all came up and tried to wake me up but it was like trying to wake a sleeping bear.
I ran around with guys that were kind of crazy. When I first moved to Cedar Rapids in my sophomore year, I just didn’t quite fit in. There were some guys I hung around with and I really liked them, but I had broken my jaw, in football. So my jaw was wired, and one night we were out walking on the Southeast side, and we were drinking beer, and this one guy wanted to fight me. And, you know, here my jaw’s broken and wired. But I was the new kid in town. I quit running around with those guys then, because I just thought they were jerks.
I’d kinda gotten into cars a little bit when I was in Des Moines, and so I just started working in a gas station in C.R. I was just crazy about cars. Anything with chrome wheels and a dual exhaust. So then I ran around with guys that were into cars and working gas stations. I work-work-worked to support my car. I was more interested in that than I was in anything else.
My step-grandfather owned a bar on 16th and E Avenue, and it was called Chyba’s. He was my step-grandfather. My dad’s real father died when he was like fourteen, and my grandmother remarried. Just before my dad went into the service. And his name was Chuck Chyba, and he had a tavern there for like forty years.
Once while I was dating Paula, early on, we were at a Christmas party for the Phillips 66 station. I had opened that morning and we’d worked all day, and then the owner had this Christmas party that night. Paula and I went and I had a couple of beers and we ate and I was so tired, and we were going to go out to Arrowhead Archery Lanes. But I was just so beat, and I remember we left the party, it was at a house over on Soutter, southeast side, and while we were on our way down Bever Avenue, we were taking all back roads. It was snowing, kind of sleeting, and I remember we got out on Blairs Ferry and Center Point Road, and that was kinda out in the country then. We got about a block down the street, and the police lights came on behind us. And it was Jim Steinbeck. He came up to the window, and I was driving. Paula couldn’t drive that car.
Jim used to hang out at George’s Gourmet. He was the cop down there.
He took my keys and he gave Paula and me a ride to Arrowhead Archery Lanes, and he said, “I know you’ve been drinking.” They didn’t do tests then and I doubt if I would have really scored very high, because I didn’t have that much to drink, but I was tired from working all day, and so he took us to Arrowhead Archery Lanes. And then later that night we went down to George’s Gourmet and he gave me the keys back to my car. Now, how many policemen would do that today? Just think what that would do, an OMVI on somebody’s record.
Paula and I didn’t have a sexual relationship. We fooled around, but we never did it. We kind of tried one time, when I had my cast, but it didn’t work. So we didn’t. We never did. I really respected her. I really liked her. But, I was naïve too, and I think people paint people into a corner and think that, you know, this guy’s crazy or this person’s nuts or this person does that and so there’s a lot of hype. And sometimes it’s not deserved, but, you know, when you’re that age it’s like, “Yep, that’s me.” But honestly, I was kind of old school. And I saw Paula, initially, when we first started dating, as somebody that could be a long term thing. Because she was great. I mean, she was just so sweet-hearted. But then as we dated, maybe three or four months into the relationship, I realized that intellectually, Paula was a space cadet.
She was beautiful, all right, but sometimes brains are more important than beauty, and sometimes we put our focus on the physical, and it’s really hard. That’s where our society is. I can remember the two or three different proms I went to, and you know how your buddies would pat you on the back and say, “Boy, Scheib, she’d good-looking.” It wasn’t, “Boy, Scheib, she’s really smart.” Or, “Boy, Scheib, she’s gonna really make something of herself.” It was always, “Boy, she’s good-looking.” But that’s the way kids are when they’re teenagers.
I’d heard that Paula was dating Robert Williams, and that really bothered me. I think it was probably racial at that time for me. Really a lot.
See, I didn’t really know that that trend of black guys dating white girls had started here in Cedar Rapids. I really didn’t. Because when I was in high school, that just wasn’t going on. And even a year out, it wasn’t going on, but it was probably starting.
As for Paula, I don’t think it was combative for her at home, because her dad was gone by then, but she was looking for acceptance somewhere for something. I don’t know if it was lack of esteem at home or what, but I remember hearing about her dating Robert. He wasn’t the guy I suspected. I always figured it was somebody else.
I grew up in Cedar Rapids. Went to Tyler and McKinley and Washington. When we first came to Cedar Rapids I was just a little guy and we lived up on Oak Hill. The Oak Hill-Jackson area. Later we moved down towards McKinley off Mt. Vernon Road and stayed there throughout my high school days. And then when I went to college, my family moved to the west side of town.
My stepfather worked at a service station downtown. He worked out of there as a service man, and my mother worked at Quaker Oats.
I don’t know where the Jackson came from, but there was plenty of oaks on that hill up there and it’s an elevated area. That’s where I’ll bet ninety percent of the African Americans back at that time lived. It was a great neighborhood. Everybody up there and everybody knows you and that type of atmosphere.
We played in the streets all the time, and the Jane Boyd Community Center was right there on the top of the hill. That was our meeting place, that’s where we did our recreational activities. Once in a while we’d venture over to Ellis Park or out to Bever for a little bit. Van Vechten Park was a very popular place, too, not only for us, but for everyone on the Southeast side of Cedar Rapids. That’s where we had our Little League baseball, and there was a lot of that going on.
Sure, there was crime, too, but that was limited. You know as a little kid you’re not always tuned into that kind of stuff as you’re hanging around and playing. All’s I was doing was playing ball and chasing the girls, and everything was good for me then. So I didn’t pay much attention to a lot of things. It was just an ideal, ideal situation, up there on Oak Hill. It was a great place to come up and live.
To many of us African Americans in Cedar Rapids and in Iowa, we were really not affected by the Civil Rights Movement. That was pretty much a large urban city type of scenario. The thing that had the most impact on me at that time was the Viet Nam War. That probably was the greatest motivation I had to study a little bit more and to get into college. But the Civil Rights Movement—it was there and I was aware of it and paid attention to it, but although we had problems here in Cedar Rapids, they were minor. We didn’t have any riots or things like that here.
There was discrimination, though, and there was some degree of segregation. At that time the African Americans stayed in a particular part of Cedar Rapids and that was it. It was from about the river up to about 19th Street and Mt. Vernon Road. And so it was pretty segregated. At the same time there wasn’t a lot of African Americans in professional positions around Cedar Rapids, so you were pretty much limited, financially, to live in the Oak Hill-Jackson area.
Sports were a good element to foster relationships, black and white relationships, especially. Sometimes there was some difficulty, of course, but that was maybe our paranoia as African American boys. Our coaches weren’t always fair. Wally Sheets and Don King and Pinky Primrose and those guys. They weren’t the fairest of guys, in the sense that that old cliché about if some parents were giving money to the athletic department, then their sons at that time were going to probably have more playing time in the sports they were involved in.
I was a very fortunate athlete, and very blessed, but I quit my junior year because I thought I should have been playing a little bit more. It kind of upset me quite a bit, so I quit. And I was a pretty good baseball player, too. Matter of fact, baseball was my game. But I had broken my ankle at the end of the basketball season my sophomore year, so I couldn’t play baseball because baseball was after basketball season, in the spring. Then I went to go out my junior year and had a conversation with Mr. Primrose, who was the baseball coach and social studies teacher at the time. He asked me to pitch and I said, “I don’t want to pitch, I’m a shortstop.” And he said, “I have a shortstop.”
I was really angry, and I became more angry as I got older, wishing I’d had the opportunity to play baseball in high school.
I think I was a first offender of the rule that if you were an athlete and you were caught drinking, then you had to sit out a portion of your season, and since basketball was the only sport I did, that was it. This was the summer going into my senior year, so this was the summer of 68. And I got so drunk. I mean I damn near caused a riot in Cedar Rapids.
It was down on 10th Avenue and 9th Street. There was a little store—the Stop and Shop. We had a little party about a half a block up, and we were drinking Gordon’s gin, and after a while I don’t think I was even mixing it with anything. But we had taken a couple guys home already, who’d already passed out and threw up and all that kind of stuff, and I went back and like a dummy I kept drinking. I remember Carl saying, “Hey, we’re going down to the Y. There’s a dance down at the Y.” So we got up and we started walking and that fresh air hit me and I just, whoa. I said, “God dang it, I’m not going down to the Y.” “Oh yes you are. We’re going down to the Y.” “I don’t know anybody down there, godammit!”
The next thing I knew I picked up a rock and threw it at a picture window of that store. The police were called and they came and kind of roughed me up a little bit. The cops were all white., and the community, they just wanted to know what was going on. Everybody wants to see something like that. Some of the people who came out to see that didn’t like it, and they threatened the police, so more police came and then finally my mother came down. She said, “Get your ass in that car. You’re going to jail and I’m whooping your ass when you get out.” She was a powerful woman.
Another time we had a very unfortunate situation that involved a good friend of mine named Al Carr. He was in the class of 63, and he was dating a white girl and these guys said something derogatory to him and her, so he went to fight them and was hospitalized because two or three of them jumped on him. I’m not sure exactly what started it, but talk at the time was it was because he was with a white girl. And those white guys were pretty jealous about him.
But guys that were ahead of us dated interracially quite a bit. And it continued even through our era. I don’t know why. Maybe because there were few African American girls, and those that were there were almost like family to us. So it’s kind of strange when you go to school with the same girls you know from kindergarten and you know their families and they’re more like sisters than girlfriends. So, I don’t know. It just doggone happened. I don’t know what the white girls’ excuses were for dating us, but I’m sure they were infatuated a little bit.
My first wife Kathy had turmoil with her family, so she lived with the Oberbroecklings through our senior year and she and Paula were best friends. They had a big houseful of people on G Avenue, and I was over there a lot, too, visiting. That’s how I became friends with the Oberbroecklings so well. I was a friend of Paula’s all through high school. Graduated in 1970 with her.
Paula was absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful, wonderful person. Personality that glowed. Somebody you looked up to as a person. Just had a phenomenal attitude about everything. She was just a phenomenal person. I mean, you couldn’t make a girl that pretty. Model gorgeous, she was.
And as a person, Paula was just awesome, too. She was everybody’s friend. She was not critical of anybody. Not judgmental of anybody. I remember one time my wife and I were having a little spat—we weren’t married then, we were just going together—and she told Kathy to just go away for the night. She said, “You go do your thing. You just want to run wild, you go. I’ll stay with George, and him and I’ll have a few cocktails.” We drank sloe gin and she pretty much babysat me the whole night. Wouldn’t let anybody around me. “You just leave him alone, he’s doing fine.” And, “You guys run away.” So it was just her and I for the whole night. That’s how special she was. She took care of me. She took care of everybody she could. Anybody will tell you, she had a heart bigger than the world and it went right along with her personality and her looks. Her demeanor was huge. She was just a huge person. She had a lot to give to this world.
Turns out she had some deep dark secrets that even I didn’t know until later.
I was born on Oak Hill, which is predominately a black neighborhood. The only black neighborhood in Cedar Rapids, basically. Born, raised there. Went to Tyler school, went to McKinley school, and then on to Washington. It wasn’t dangerous or threatening. Not at all. Not in this town. You may have went to Mississippi or Alabama and had some threatening things happen to you, but not in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Here, it was all good.
The relationship with myself and blacks was not a problem, but there was tension. I mean, there was the black and there was the white, and in high school, even in 1969-70, it was still that way. The blacks wanted equal rights in the Student Council. My suggestion to them was, “Run for Student Council, I’m sure you can get elected.” So the tension was there, but yet I never felt it because I was an exception to the rule. Robert Williams was a friend of mine. Strayhorns, Hillsmans, Lipscombes, the Wallers. I drove them to school. They were all friends of mine. Every one of them. So the color barrier to me was nothing. It meant nothing to me. I mean, he was a man and I was a man. Or a boy. He was a boy.
I suppose I was looked at sometimes as a—whatever you want to call it—a “black-lover,” I guess. But I was a tough enough young guy then that it was like, “No, they’re my friends whether you like it or not. If you want to be my friend, that’s fine, too.”
My wife Kathy and Paula, they were like that as well. All the people I hung around were like that. We had a group of people, a core of people, and we had no problems with blacks at all. But that’s not to say that the racial situation wasn’t still there. I mean, if you were black you hung with blacks. If you were white you hung with whites.
Most of my friends I knew from the seventh grade on, because in elementary from K through 6th grade, we went to Tyler, which was predominately black. I’d say 60-40. 60 black, 40 white in that area. And then once you went to McKinley, obviously McKinley and Franklin the white gender was pushed in there so it became predominately white, and now all of a sudden all my black friends were the minority going to McKinley. Whereas they were the majority at Tyler. Well that was a big culture difference. It worked out, though. I didn’t see a lot of racial problems.
We had our boundaries though. I was very fortunate that I was pretty much perceived and liked by most. Whether they be rich or poor. I was kind of in the middle there where you could be the poorest guy in Cedar Rapids and still be my buddy or you could be the richest one and live over there. But there were boundaries. I would say 19th Street and Mt. Vernon Road was a boundary. If you lived above that, then you were perceived as having money, even if you didn’t have any. If you lived below that you were perceived as the lower class. That probably all started in junior high when I went to McKinley. And I played basketball with Stan Castner and Tim Raymond. Larry Ingels was a wrestler and he lived on 20th Street and he was perceived as rich, and I just lived down twelve blocks and I was perceived as poor. Was he? Did he act like that? No, I didn’t think so. Stan Castner never acted like that. Tim Raymond and I would walk to 15th Street and he’d go that way and I’d go that way and this was after basketball practice. I’d go down to my end of town and he’d go to his end of town. Maybe those people were kind of perceived as snobs, but I never thought it. Not once.
As for the West side, that was forbidden. You didn’t go to the West side. You cross the river, you’re looking for trouble. We stayed on our side of town, my group. We rarely went to the West side. Rarely. We may venture out to the Northeast side or into Marion a little bit, but the West side was just not somewhere we went.
Then Kennedy was developed in 1968 over on the Northeast side. So then that became the snob group and CR Washington took in all the ethnic groups. I mean, you name it—black, white, yellow, pink—we had them all. Jefferson, on the West side, was always the lowest class as far as we were concerned, and we were second, then Kennedy was upper echelon. The farmers, they all went to Linn-Mar. Marion and Linn-Mar. And that was a totally different area altogether.
Debby Kellogg was my first girlfriend. She was a sweet, innocent, pretty little girl, and I bought her a five cent ring at the grocery store. We were going steady. I was in fifth grade and she was in sixth grade. That’s at Tyler school. Way back. She lived not two blocks from me. She was just a sweet little blond girl. I never knew her other than that. Then come to find out that drugs overtook her and she became quite the rampant woman. Wild woman. I had no idea she was so involved in this, or that she was Paula’s roommate at the time. In fact, I thought Paula was still living on G Avenue, when Kathy and I got married. I guess because it was a big household, and Lynn and Randy were married, and they were living there. I was just in my own little world then, obviously, getting married at seventeen.
I lived at 1107 8th Street. One white house, the only white house sitting there. Straight kitty-corner is where Robert was born and raised. He was a tremendous athlete, in high school. Played for the State Championship team. Just a tremendous athlete, and yet once high school got over, Robert went backwards. And I think that all transpired with what corresponded with us back then, with what happened to Paula in 1970, the summer after we graduated. We were seniors and he was already out of school. So that would probably explain why I didn’t gather what was going on so much. She was always with us socially, but then of course she’d go away and do her own thing. And I never thought twice about it.
So I didn’t find it out about Paula dating Robert until much later in my senior year. She kept it pretty much a secret and that relationship had been going on for a while, which, as much as I hung around her, I really still didn’t know it. Because he didn’t hang around much. I lived two houses from him. He lived kitty-corner from me, and yet I didn’t know this relationship was going on for as long as it was.
She hid that because back then it was a racial thing. You did not date a black. You were white, you were white. You were black, you were black. Even though color meant nothing to me in 1970, because I grew up with black people. They were some of my best friends.
Ours was a close-knit high school class. There was a section of it called Distributive Education of America or DECA, where you went to school for a half day and then you went out into the work field for a half day. And Paula, myself, Kathy, and all our friends, including blacks, we all were part of that program. There was probably seventy-five to a hundred of us, taken away from the normal population of the school. There was a little auditorium that was on the other side of the school, and that’s where we were congregated. We had to go back into the main building for social studies or math or whatever it might be, but we originated there in that auditorium every morning at like seven o’clock or seven-thirty. We went to school until 11:30 and then we went out into the work field. And that’s how Paula worked at Younker’s or Penny’s or wherever the hell she worked. And I worked at Lucky Foods. Eagles. Kathy worked at a jewelry store. You know, we all had jobs somewhere.
I think I would have been shocked if I’d known she was dating Robert. I think I would have been okay with it, but at the same time I would have been apprehensive—based on how gorgeous this woman was, and how brilliant she was—about the fact that this was going on. And then come to find out in later years that supposedly they were the love of each other’s life. That blew me away.
Paula couldn’t have married Robert, though. Not at all. That would not even be in the realm of reasoning. Not in 1970. You didn’t marry a black guy. And if you did, you were an outcast. Now if it had been a few years later, in the late 70s say, maybe even the early 80s, then it would have had to have been more acceptable. It was that long before you’d see a differential in the white and black marriages and relationships between white and black people. I mean we were just coming out of the 50s and 60s, where black people had the right to vote and black people had the right to ride on the same bus with a white person.
Unfortunately for Paula, she was an outcast in her own way already, because of the way things were going, and she didn’t know how to get back into the caste.
I started going out with Paula about a month or two after we met, in the cafeteria, when I was a senior at Washington and she was still a junior. She was trying to buy a Coke from the machine, but somebody had ripped off her money, and I saw that she was crying. So I gave her two dollars. I already knew who she was. I’d seen her around—you couldn’t miss her; she was beautiful—but that was the first I ever spoke to her, that day when she was crying. And then the first time I asked her out, I saw her again in the Arcade and we were talking and I asked her if she wanted to go to a movie with me sometime. And Paula said, sure she’d like to do that, so we made a plan to meet at the Iowa Theater the next Sunday afternoon. We sat in the back, away from everybody, and we shared popcorn and drinks and candy bars and all. And then I kissed her, and that was nice.
After the movie was over, she went home, and I went home, and then I called her later that night and we talked about the movie and all kinds of other things. We did that quite a few times, real quiet little meetings, out of the way, where nobody could bother us. We liked each other right off the bat, and over time we got to know each other better, but I always felt we’d do best to just lay low, keep it easy, play it cool. I was aware of how people felt, and even though Paula said she didn’t care, still I knew we had to go slow, let people get used to the idea of the two of us together.
There was nothing racial going on between us, though. It wasn’t like that. Me dating a white girl, or her dating a black boy. We weren’t thinking about that. We just didn’t have that kind of understanding or feeling. It was a positive feeling that we had. There was nothing ever negative at all for the two of us, ever. Paula was just someone that I got to know, and I got to know her well, and I got to understand her and she got to understand me, too. She was someone that I cared about, very deeply, and we grew closer and closer and closer as time went on. And eventually, I guess you could say we fell in love.
We liked a lot of the same things. Everything I liked to do, she liked to do and everything she liked to do, I liked to do. So it was real easy to get along with her, to get to know her. Because she was such a sweet beautiful person. She was very smart, too, and she had a heart big as a car. I mean, she just loved everybody, she was so sweet. There was not anything there not to like about her. Like I say, she was beautiful, and she was always helpful, and all those good positive things, but there was lots more. Lots more.
She was tall. She had a beautiful smile. When she looked at you her eyes just kind of got to you. I mean you just woke up, looking at her. Because she just beamed with radiance, and if you were around her for twenty minutes, whatever might be bothering you would just go away. If you were negative, well, you just couldn’t be around her and be negative. She wouldn’t let that happen because she was very positive and she had a very very heavy karma of being a beautiful person.
At first her mother and her sister did not know that we were dating. I think she kept it basically pretty quiet to herself, until I think someone told her mom or told Lynn at school or something like that. Because I think Lynn did see us talking in the hall a few times and I think she did correspond with Paula on the issue of, like, “What are you doing talking to Robert?”
So then Lynn was on my ass, too, in the classroom. The two of us were both seniors, and she had to sit near me in some classes. She was always giving me these looks, glaring at me, and she just did everything she could to make me feel uncomfortable, all the time.
So, Lynn and I, we never did get along. I think she probably would have wanted me to date her, and maybe that was why. Because we were in some classes together and she was always right there. And I’d smile and say hi, but then I got to know Paula, and she said, “By the way, I do have a sister in your class,” but I just backed way off from that. I didn’t say anything to Lynn anymore after that. Not a thing. And then when she found out about us, I told Paula, I said, “Ah, now we really gotta keep it cool.”
But it was too late for that, because Lynn came right up to me and she said, “What the fuck are you doing looking at my sister and talking to my sister?”I had nothing to say to that. I just sat there. And then I raised my hand and asked for a pass to go to study hall.
Finally, after a while, it all calmed down though. She backed off me a little bit then, but I know she was still harping on Paula all the time, whenever she got a chance. And her mom was already getting on Paula’s ass about all kinds of things, but then when she found out about me, then it reached a boiling point. Then was all about her dating me.
Mrs. Oberbroeckling didn’t believe in interracial dating. I don’t know anything about the woman, but Paula did say that. She said, “I think my mom is really mad at me.” And I said, “What do you think we need to do about it?”She said, “I don’t want to lose you as a friend and I really like you.” And I said, “I really like you, too.” So we just left it at that.
My mother, on the other hand, she adored Paula. She just loved her. She really did. I mean, when she found out, my mother said, “Well you know her mom probably won’t like this.” Blah blah blah, whatever. But my mother and father never had any problem with it at all.
My mother wasn’t even black. She was Caucasian Indian, and she was very beautiful. She was light, what you might say was cream-colored, and she had beautiful red hair. Her father was totally Caucasian. He had plantations down south, in the Memphis area.
My dad, he was from the West Indies. His family, and all the rest of that side of the family down south, they were from Africa.
So that’s how it was, and I grew up being around all kinds of people and I really felt good about being who I was. I had no problem with it at all. All through school, grade school, and at Washington, too. Race to me, it just wasn’t a problem. It was not a big deal to me or to anybody in my family. That’s just how we were.
My mother, she just loved Paula. And my sister did, too. The three of us, we went shopping together sometimes, downtown, and it was fun. We’d meet downtown, and they’d go walking around—you know how ladies go shopping in stores and stuff. They’d do that. We’d shop a little bit and then stop and have some lunch, in the coffee shop down in the basement of Armstrong’s. Real Americana. Hamburgers and milkshakes and French fries. Paula liked some chocolate ice cream, too. With nuts. It was wonderful.
I might even say that Paula was even closer to my mom than she was to her own. Because she could talk to my mother. Her own mother didn’t want to hear anything. Paula couldn’t tell her anything. She didn’t want to discuss it. She didn’t want to have anything to do with it. Not one thing at all.
Probably ninety per cent of the city probably felt there was something racial to it. I feel that it was a factor, myself. My color and her color. The two of us.
We got robbed. That’s all there is to it. All those people, her family and her friends, they robbed us of a relationship and a deep love for each other of wanting to grow together and be together, and I suppose that will always be in the back of my mind. And always in my heart, too. We were robbed by whomever or whatever it was that took her away. It was a bad, bad situation.
She was around the wrong people, and I never wanted that for her. I mean, I was very protective of her, in a positive manner. I never wanted her to be around that stuff. But when I went away to college, I wasn’t around anymore and there was nothing I could do to stop her from being with those other people. So, I think they really basically overwhelmed her. And then it all just began to steamroll. Her being overwhelmed and not thinking clearly and being around the wrong people—that’s what put her in that position.
That Christmas I got to see her, we were still together then. I’d been away at school, but we were writing back and forth, and I’d call her on the phone when I could, I’d speak with her, and we’d talk a little bit and whatever, this and that, and then she told me that her father was working at the shoe store out at the mall. And so I went out there, because that’s where I would go and get shoes. I never got to meet her mother, but I met her father then.
I don’t know how he found it out that we were dating. Maybe she told him. I have no idea. But he seemed to be okay with it. It was just that her father and mother were going through a divorce at that time, and then when her and her mother got into it, and this and that, when her mother found out about me, well that pushed Paula away from being at home. And that’s how she got to be living with Debby Kellogg. After that everything went to hell in a hand basket.
I thought sometimes that Lynn was jealous of Paula herself, because she always got a lot of attention. And rightly so. A lot of people liked her. Her personality was a whole lot better than Lynn’s, and so a lot of people liked her, and I think Lynn basically was jealous of her. Because sometimes Lynn might say, “Paula’s cuter than me,” or blah blah blah or this or that, but Paula didn’t really say that to her. She never said, “I’m cuter than you,” or like that. “She’s my sister, and I love her.” That’s all I ever got from our conversations. Paula wasn’t like that. I mean, she was beautiful, but she wouldn’t have thought of herself as being better than someone else. Not in any way whatsoever.
We were lovers. I mean as much as you can be at that age. We were having sex. The police asked me about that, and I couldn’t tell them how many times. But, we loved each other, and we had safe sex, mostly. I can’t be sure every time, but, I’d use protection. Condoms. She might have been using birth control, too, I don’t know. We didn’t talk about that. We never talked about that. That was a thing that would have been quietly between you and that individual, which it’s supposed to be. Because a lot of times back in high school, people would talk. And somebody would say something like, “Oh, he’s nailing her,” and blah, blah, blah. And a lot of people didn’t want everyone knowing that they were doing this. So they kind of kept it cool. I mean white to black or white to white or black to black. It didn’t matter. It was a private matter, that’s all. Nobody’s business, really.
Back then it was pretty easy to get a room, for a few hours or whatever or something like that, and then go home, but we didn’t plan it or anything. It would be natural. It was spontaneous. It would have been mutual and just thought about right then. We didn’t super plan any of the times when we got together like that. Just boom, and okay, fine. There we’d be.
We were going to get married. We had plans. That spring her father left and went to Colorado and we had spoken about both of us going out there and me going to school. I’d transfer out there, and she was going to get into modeling, because her dad had some ideas for her to do some modeling out there.
We were going to go after she graduated. But the way things turned out, we never got to do it.
I got her a ring. I can’t remember what store I bought it at, but I gave it to her as a token of my love for her. It was a pretty little cut diamond, not an engagement ring, but a promise ring. She wore it all the time. And I got her that nightgown, too. The one she was wearing. She really loved it, too, because it was beautiful and because it was silk. It was long and… pink, I think. I think it was pink.
She was supposed to be okay. She promised me she’d be okay until I got back. But that never happened. Boy, it really really really screwed me up. Because, see, I know we would have married. No doubt. That was our next step. I would have asked her if she would and if she said yes, fine, that would be it. Then we could be together forever, or whatever.
They tried to say like she was pregnant. I didn’t know anything about that. She never told me anything about that. Not one thing. And I know damn well she would have told me if that was so. Even if she was there and I was gone, she’d have wrote me a letter or I’d have talked to her on the phone. I know damn well she would have told me. I hope. Unless she didn’t want me to know. Like, if it wasn’t my child.
She came over to talk to me on the Fourth of July, but I don’t recall exactly what the content of that conversation we had then was. I just know that she wanted to see me. I think I had contacted her and told her I didn’t want her living with that Debby Kellogg anymore, and what’s going on with this other guy, Lonnie? That’s basically what I remember from it, but we didn’t have bad words or anything like that. It was a positive conversation. I mean, she didn’t ask me for anything. And she sure didn’t tell me she was pregnant or anything like that, either.
If that was true, she would have told me. Because I think she could tell me anything about our situation. I never kept anything from her and she really didn’t until this situation, so I think there was outside influence on her at that time. Basically that’s what I feel about the whole situation of that.
I never did talk to Lonnie Bell. I don’t think I ever saw him again. We did get into a tussle one time. A couple of fists were thrown. Because I didn’t want him to even be around her. I knew he wasn’t good for her. Even if she didn’t love me, I didn’t want her to be with him. Anybody but him. Because he was a drug addict. That’s a known fact. He was dealing drugs. And, he had a bad disposition. I just didn’t think she needed to be around him. I don’t even know where he came from. I have no idea. I never saw the guy until I saw him in a red Porsche over at her house one time. And that’s the extent of it.
I didn’t like that Debby Kellogg being around Paula like she was, either. I don’t know how they met. Lynn knew her first, maybe. But I didn’t like it, and especially when she left her mother’s and moved into that apartment they had down in Oak Hill. That was the whole total downfall, I think. Being around negligent people. She just got in over her head, and with the wrong people, that’s how I see it. People who were not totally in a positive mode all the time. Drugs, alcohol, promiscuous behavior, like that. Dangerous behavior. Doing whatever people that are like that do.
Somebody lured her out there, that’s all that I can say.