In the big band era, I was a saxophonist with a band that played at a weekly dance for patients at the South Carolina State Mental Hospital. Mr. Ben Gardner, my music teacher, was in charge of music at the hospital.
Every Christmas morning, some of the student nurses would sing carols at the hospital. Two Big Band musicians, chosen by Mr. Gardner, accompanied them.
In 1940, it was my turn. We met the nurses, about 20 of them, in front of their residence. Since it was snowing lightly, I asked the most attractive of the nurses if she’d put my saxophone under her cape between buildings. She was happy to oblige.
After we finished, she agreed to a date the next night, a Friday. But on Friday morning I got a phone call from a bandleader asking if I could play a dance job that night. I accepted and called Evelyn to tell her. She suggested we go out Saturday night instead.
After the dance, however, I was asked to play Saturday night, and again I accepted. When I called Evelyn to tell her, she was not as forgiving as the night before. I suggested we go out Sunday night, assuring her we didn’t play on Sundays. She said OK but added that if I broke this date, I was not to call her anymore.
Saturday’s dance was at Fort Jackson, and guess who was there? Evelyn! As soon as we had gotten off the phone, an employee at the hospital called and asked her to go to the dance.
We wed on July 20, 1942, and were happily married for 65 years.
By Harold Cromer • Columbia, South Carolina