When I was a 20-year-old young man, young women my age were always on my mind. But they were not my priority in the fall of 1974. Instead, I needed to get off to good start in school, I had a scholarship campus job as the yearbook photographer that absolutely consumed me, and I was tired. I was tired, and the semester had just started!
I am very extroverted. My dad was in the military until the summer I left for college. I think the many moves I had growing up taught me to understand that there are plenty of friends out in front of me; I simply hadn’t yet met them yet. As the first few days of the semester proceeded, the only friends I had were the other York College transfers, the few friends I had from church and camp back home, my brother’s friends, and my newfound family of the Petit Jean yearbook staff. I was too busy to make a lot of new friends. In the end, however, photography kept me in school the time I spent on it instead of making friends was worth the effort.
My brother, Dave, and his friends knew a lot of people and were pretty social with a lot of the co-eds (i.e., girls) on campus. I usually tagged along with Dave and met a lot of them. A game of meeting and dating girls that a group of us guys played at the time was somewhat of a ruse, but it was also something that only college guys could have pulled off, and it became LEGENDARY! If there were a name for this process today, it would be called Fantasy League Dating! Here’s how it worked.
About six of us, all in the same social club, would gather in my brother’s dorm room every Sunday night. There we would talk about what most guys on campus talked about: the girls on campus! We would list all of the girls that we thought were “dateable.” (Please, hear me out before you throw me out.) We then ranked the girls on our list in order from 1-10 (1 being best, down to 10, still pretty good). Then each of us would go in order and select a girl to go on “our list.” When we’d finished, each of us would have the names of ten girls that we would attempt to go on some sort of “date” with that week before we all met again the next Sunday night. Throughout the next seven days we would chat-up, ask out, go to church with, and otherwise engage in some sort of date that qualified to get us points.
There were established rules about what constituted a date. For example, you had to pick her up and return her to her dormitory for it to be considered a date. Going to church with a girl was a date, but walking into the cafeteria and sitting with someone on your list was not. If you were able to date your number one choice, you received 10 points, nine points for the second on the list, and so on down the list. We would gather back on Sunday night, tally up our points, and declare a winner.
Before we did this all again the next week, everybody could “protect” five names and put the rest back in the pool to be selected in another round-robin draft. We also had a time of open trading of names—or “prospects,” as the case might be. The next round was then selected and off we went to try to date the girls on our newly formed lists.
About three weeks into the semester, as outgoing as I was, I still didn’t have enough names to make a serious run for a weekly championship. My brother looked over my list and offered a trade. “I’ll give you Donna Losak off of my list for your numbers 3 and 4. If you go on a date with Donna, then I want a future draft choice, to be named later.” I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I said, “Sure, I’ll make that trade.”
The next Sunday night was quickly approaching, and I had very few points. I had a date with a really cute girl named Karen. I honestly can’t remember her last name, but I recall that she was high on my list. Our date was to attend the campus movie showing in the Administration Auditorium on the approaching Saturday night. On Friday morning, September 13, Karen called me and explained that she had an opportunity to hop a ride home to St. Louis that day and she would be unable to go on our date. I said, “No problem, I’ll catch up with you when you return. Be safe.”
When Saturday evening rolled around without a replacement date, I decided to attend the movie by myself. I was hoping to see other friends who had also gone to the movie. The movie that was showing was “The Way We Were” with Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford. I looked around to see if there was anybody who I knew that I could sit with. I saw a group of four girls I knew, and among them was Donna Losak, a really cute, curly haired girl. I knew who Donna was but didn’t know her very well. I also knew she was the girl that I had traded a couple of names and a future draft choice for, so I eagerly went to sit with her and her friends. Donna was sitting in the middle, so I sat on the end next to Karen Carnes (not the same Karen who went home for the weekend). We all chatted, laughed, and kidded each other as college students do. Several minutes before the movie was to start, Karen got up, presumably to head to the restroom so she could look in the mirror for a lost contact. When the movie was about to start and Karen had not yet returned, I just moved over one seat to sit next to Donna. We continued talking until the movie started. After the movie was over, we stayed and lingered to talk some more. It was getting close to curfew time for her, so I asked her if I could walk her back to her dorm, Kendall Hall. In the NOW sweetest little Southern voice I had ever heard IN MY ENTIRE LIFE, she said, “Ah’d lack that!”
When we got to the door, I asked her if we could do something tomorrow. “Yes,” she answered. The date we made for the next day was to play tennis. Neither of us played tennis very well—well, truthfully, neither of us played tennis at all. But Donna had a tennis class as one of her P. E. credits and I owned a tennis racquet, so I volunteered to practice with her by hitting the ball back and forth over the net. It qualified as a date in my mind.
At her dorm, after we had made plans for our tennis date for the next day, I said goodnight…then impulsively, I leaned forward and kissed her right on the lips. The best part of the kiss was that I could tell that she was kissing me back! I had NEVER received a sweeter kiss, EVER! I turned around, walked away, and thought to myself, “I found her!” I looked back over my shoulder, and she was still standing on the front landing of her dormitory. She may have been wondering what just happened!
It was dark as I walked back to my dorm, but my path was well lit—probably by the fireworks that were going off over my head. When I got to my room, I remembered that I had a “church date” with one of my Petit Jean staff colleagues followed by lunch with her at Dr. Joe Pryor’s house. Dr. Joe, as he was affectionately known, was the Petit Jean faculty advisor, the same one that gave me the photography scholarship for which I was so very in over my head. I knew it would be a tight turnaround to get to my tennis date, but I thought I could pull off two dates back-to-back, one at lunch and one at two o’clock.
The next day, as lunch was winding down, I was wanting to leave, but the group’s socializing wasn’t slowing down. I HAD TO GO. I had another date–and SOON! It was getting close to 2:00 and I still had my church clothes on. Finally, I frantically said, “I really need to leave. I’m supposed to meet a friend to help with some class homework.” Well, that was true, wasn’t it? I rushed back to my lunch date’s dormitory, Kendall Hall, to drop her off. I said my thanks and good-byes to her, then hurried to my dorm, changed clothes, and ran to meet Donna. Did I mention that Donna lived at Kendall Hall? Donna was waiting for me in the lobby, standing very near to Kim, the girl I had just dropped off from my lunch date. Of course, Donna had no idea what I was doing, but Kim shot me a look! Needless to say, I never went out with Kim again.
The tennis was fun and goofy. Neither of us were any good at tennis, but I tried to act like I was. As the date ended, I thought, “I’ve got to find a way to go out with her again!”
That evening I went to my Fantasy League Dating meeting and bragged about the points I had accumulated over the weekend. My brother, Dave, told me I was in way over my head.
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
He laughed. “Do you even know what her major is?”
“No…what is it?”
The others in the room all laughed and waved their hands at me like I didn’t have a chance! Nonetheless, I placed Donna Losak at the top of my list and set out to try to see her on campus as many times as I could that week.
After a couple of days, I remember lamenting to my roommate, Duane Jenks, at lunch that I never saw her on campus. Was she real? Did she even exist? How come I never saw her? I would see her walk into Chapel, but then she seemed to get lost in the crowd. Duane’s girlfriend, Debbie Bachman, chimed in and said that I should look up her schedule and then place myself in her path between classes.
“That's GENIUS! Now how do I find out what her schedule is?”
Debbie said that she worked in the registrar’s office and that I could go look it up. (This was in the days before HIPAA, and security was low.) Well, I learned her class schedule, and I placed myself along the path in front of the Science building. When I saw her coming out, I would let her pass by me, and with just a few quick steps, I’d catch up to her! Hey Donna, where are you headed? Me, too!
A couple more days of intervening at different locations, and I was ready to ask her out on a real date.
“Dinner in Little Rock this Saturday night?” I asked.
“Yes, I’d like that.”
And just like that, we were dating!
We went to Casa Bonita, a fun Mexican restaurant. Casa Bonita no longer exists, but every time I drive by that location in Little Rock, I remember that first dinner date I had with Donna Losak!
The next day was the Sunday night (Fantasy Dating) meeting. I went so I could collect my first-on-my-list date points. Then I told my buddies that I didn’t want to play anymore! What I didn’t tell them was that I didn’t want to risk my new-found relationship with Donna by being seen at various places and times around campus with somebody else.
Before I left, Dave made me another offer: “If you give me all the names on your list, I’ll switch chapel seats with you.”
“What??? What are you talking about?” I asked.
Dave smugly said, “I sit next to Donna in Chapel!”
“Why didn’t you tell me that earlier?” I demanded.
Then he said, “You sit next to Connie Barnes, right? I’ll sit in your seat and you sit in mine. Most people think we are twins anyway, so yeah…is it a deal?”
In all my years growing up with my brother, that was the best trade I ever made with him. The next day, much to Donna’s surprise, I slid into the seat next to her in Chapel and said, “Hellloooo, Donna!”
I saw Donna every day from then on. We sat next to each other in Chapel. We went to lunch in the cafeteria together. We went to church together. We did as many social activities as I could think of so that I had a reason to see her more. When we went to study in the library she studied, but I just watched her study! I was lovestruck, and all of my friends knew it. I think Donna knew it as well. She was amazing!
On Saturday, November the 23, after we had been dating just 10 weeks, we pulled into the parking lot behind the Ezell building and in front of what is now called Keller Hall. I turned off the car and talked for a few moments when in a burst of impulsiveness, I just blurted out, “Donna, marry me.” As I looked at her, she was stunned and silent—for what seemed like forever. I was waiting for an answer when she stuttered and stammered, “I don’t know, I’ve got to think about this. Can I get back to you?”
What could I say? “Sure,” I said, “Let’s get out and take a walk.”
For the next few days we talked. We talked a lot. On Tuesday, November 26, I was leaving for the Thanksgiving break. I was headed back to York College for their annual Homecoming, and Donna was headed home. We would be returning after the break. I asked Donna to think about our situation and said we should get back together to talk when we got back to campus. I really wanted her to say yes, but I didn’t know if I could continue this relationship if her answer was going to be no. I knew we could never go back to the way things were. I suggested that a few days away might be a good thing for both of us.
I headed back to York, Nebraska. I traveled there with a friend who lived in Iowa who had a sister at York. Her father took me the rest of the way since he was going to pick up his daughter. All the while I agonized over having popped the question. Did I do so to soon? Probably, but I never had one minute of regret. I also knew that when I got back to the York campus, I would see my old girlfriend. I did. Our meeting was cordial. It was even warm and friendly. It was truly great to see and visit with her. We sat in the Student Center and had soft drinks, but I recognized immediately that there was nothing between us anymore, and that the girl I loved was back in Arkansas.
I returned to Harding about 8 p.m. on Sunday, December 1. I unloaded my bag, took a shower, and called Donna. I told her that we needed to talk, so could I meet with her soon? She said, “I’ll meet you at the Lily Pool as soon as I can get there.”
The Lily Pool was about halfway between our two dorms. I think I ran to our meeting place; but I may have just floated. Through the night lights near the Lily Pool, I saw her coming toward me. The world seemed to slow down as we finally met. Donna looked beautiful! It had started to lightly rain and the light was sparkling off the raindrops on her curly hair. Donna threw her arms around my neck. I wrapped my arms around her waist and picked her up. I think I even twirled her around a full 360 degrees. We had a sweet romantic embrace before I put her down. I asked her if she had thought about… Donna stopped me. She leaned in. I thought she was going to kiss me again, but instead, she leaned in to whisper in my ear, “Yes, I will marry you!”
On August 19, 1975, eleven months and five days after that first kiss, Donna and I were married. God has blessed us with a wonderful life, two amazing sons, two beautiful daughters-in-law, and four adorable grandchildren. I couldn’t be any more in love…and our love story continues to this very day!
Steve Shaner, is a professional storyteller that delights in traveling to meet new and old friends. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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