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In '66, A Summer Of Bliss Before The Realities Of War

A couple of weeks ago, Weekend Edition asked you to send us your tales for our Summer Love series. Some were funny, some were steamy and some even tearful.

Listener Cathy Gillaspy remembers a ROTC student she met in Corpus Christi in 1966. She'll forever associate her crush with Mel Carter's "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me."

Click on the audio link on this page to hear Cathy tell her story of summer love.

In the summer of 1966, I returned home to Corpus Christi, Texas after my freshman year in college, and for the first time was invited to a Midshipman's Ball. These dances provided social life for ROTC students who'd come for summer training at the Corpus Christi Naval Station.

On the night of the dance, my girlfriends and I, wearing our Sunday best and high heels, walked into the swank Officers Club and beheld a sea of young men in their dress whites. The dancing began, and as we listened to the songs of that summer, couples paired up.

I had a great time getting to know a Midshipman from Princeton. Over the summer, we made the most of all the fun things to do in a coastal city: beach time on Padre Island, cruising along the bay, and standard teen-age fare at drive-in restaurants complete with carhops.

There were certainly cultural differences between a girl from South Texas and an Ivy League guy from New Jersey. But my experience was a summer love with a beginning, an end, great memories, and a song I would forever link to those few weeks: Mel Carter's "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me" — music tailor-made for slow dancing.

Most of our dates were lighthearted fun, but on our last evening together, this handsome, intelligent, gentle young man began a conversation I was not prepared for: He told me that in two years, he would graduate, receive his commission, and be sent to Vietnam. He did most of the talking, questioning the whys and pondering what might lie ahead for him.

Over the years, I've come to believe that my greatest contribution was listening as he said out loud all the things he perhaps couldn't say to family, friends, fellow Midshipmen, or even to himself. His reality was only just beginning to invade my consciousness, but it was a reality that would ultimately mark our generation and wound the country.

At the end of that summer, I headed for classes at the University of Texas, picking up where I'd left off with my life plan. To this day, I wonder if Jamie, and all the other Midshipmen from that summer, were someday able to do the same.

If Gillaspy's story triggered a memory of summer love that you'd like to share, drop us a line. For details, see the NPR Weekend Facebook page.

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