By Bob Kaster
My family moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1957, just a couple of weeks before my fifteenth birthday. I was in the tenth grade. We had moved there from a community near Denver, Colorado.
High school in Colorado had been miserable. I was academically okay, but socially and physically backward; the proverbial 97-pound weakling. Academics was not admired at my school. Having good grades was a liability, and made me an outcast. The cool students were either jocks or thugs, but the move to Cheyenne changed everything. My new school was an entirely different environment. Academics was considered important, and the athletes and school leaders maintained good grades. Cheyenne High School changed my life.
The first Sunday after our move, my parents took our family to church at the St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church. Of course, we didn’t know anybody in the congregation. Although this was 1957, I vividly remember sitting with my family in a church pew when the most beautiful girl I had ever seen walked in the door! The moment I saw her the entire room was filled with a musical crescendo from Beethoven’s fifth Symphony. The church had an active youth group that met on Sunday evenings, and I was invited to attend that evening. The youth group enabled me to meet other high school kids in Cheyenne; and, better yet, the most beautiful girl I had ever seen would be there. I found out that her name was Lynne; but also, unfortunately, I found out that she had a steady boyfriend.
So, I played a waiting game. I went out a few times with another girl, also from the church youth group, who was Lynne’s best friend. Although her friend was a very nice girl, I’m ashamed to say that the main reason I went out with her was to get closer to Lynne. In fact, we double-dated a few times.
Toward the end of my junior year, I discovered that Lynne no longer had a boyfriend. Now was my chance! It took me three days to get up enough nerve to actually call her. I practiced many times in front of a mirror what I was going to say, in an attempt to anticipate any curveballs. Finally, I actually dialed her number and had the conversation. I asked her to go to a movie, and, to my astonishment she accepted. We got along great, and I asked her out again. Ultimately, we had a steady boyfriend/girlfriend relationship until graduation. Although we loved each other, we never discussed plans for after high school. It was a given that we would both go to college at separate universities. She was headed to Colorado State and I to the University of Arizona.
While in college, we kept minimally in touch, and one day I found out that she was going to be at her grandmother’s house in Los Angeles for Spring Break. Some of my fraternity brothers were also going to L. A. for spring break, so I went along, and Lynne and I got together. A re-release of the movie Gone with the Wind was showing at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. It was a big deal because it was the first re-release of the movie since its original release in 1939. We stood in a long line at the box office, but, just as we got to the front, the ticket window slammed shut. The two people in front of us were the last to get in. The theater was sold out! We walked down the street and saw another movie, the original release of The Absent-Minded Professor, the black-and-white film starring Fred MacMurray. Not quite the same as Gone with the Wind, but I liked it a lot, and Lynne swore that she did too. To this day, I have never seen Gone with the Wind, and I’m not sure if I want to.
After my high school graduation, my parents, brother, and sisters moved to San Jose, California. After two years of college, Lynne transferred from Colorado State to Fresno State, and I transferred from Arizona to San Jose State, which made it possible for me to visit her in Fresno every once in a while, from San Jose. A two-and-a-half hour drive each way, but worth it.
The last time I went, she kindly and gently told me, “I’m sorta going with a guy, and I don’t think you and I should go out any more.” I was hurt, but not fatally. After all, our getting-together was a once-in-a-while thing, from a distance. If I really had wanted her to be my permanent mate, I would have found a way to put more into the relationship. That was the last time I ever saw or spoke to Lynne, but she continues to this day to occupy an important place in my heart. Before I met her, I was a lost soul, not doing well, and she was a big part of the positive Cheyenne experience that brought me around.
After a one-year stint at San Jose State, I returned to the University of Arizona to complete my Bachelor’s Degree, which took another three semesters. It was during that time that I met another girl that caused my head to ring with a symphonic crescendo. Her name was Ann. We were married in 1966, and are still married, fifty-four years later.
I hadn’t been back to Cheyenne since high school graduation, but was always on the mailing list of the Class of ’59 reunion committee. As 2009 approached, a high school friend and I decided to travel to Cheyenne to attend the 50th reunion. I have to confess that one of my incentives was to see if my high school girlfriend Lynne would be there, even though I hadn’t seen or talked to her for forty-seven years. When I got there, I learned for the first time that she had died, some twenty-five years before, way too young. Nobody at the reunion had any information about the circumstances, and I still don’t know what caused her premature death; but when I first heard that she died, it was like a punch in the gut, even after all the years. I was surprised to feel such an emptiness, which still hasn’t entirely gone away. I still think about her from time to time, and probably always will.