It was easy for me to make friends and, before the summer was over, I had collected several. One was Dave Daniels who lived further down Kauffman Avenue and shared my keen interest in aviation. He and I made innumerable model airplanes, some for show and some to fly, during the next year or so before his family moved away.
Another (temporary because he quit school that fall and joined the Army) was a tall, lanky, curly-haired fellow with a big grin. I met him on Kauffman Avenue one afternoon when he was strolling along tossing a football from one big hand to the other. His name was Rex Lester.
We played catch with the football for a while in a vacant lot then Lester invited me to come along and see a nice girl he knew just down the street. I told him I did not want to horn in on his girlfriend, but he insisted that she was not a girlfriend because she was too young. He stated that the girl’s mother always had cold Coca Cola in the refrigerator. That sounded fine and that was how I met my “first love” in Vancouver who drove thoughts of the Ozark girls clean out of my mind.
We walked down to 13th and Kauffman. The H&H Tavern was on the lower floor corner of a big wooden apartment building. It was painted a nondescript gray. We went past the tavern to the rear ground floor apartment. She was sitting out on the concrete steps leading to the apartment door and I knew at once that she was, by far, the prettiest girl I had yet to meet. Turned out she was not quite thirteen years old and was just finishing the eighth grade, but she was tall and slender. Long glossy black hair framed a beautiful young face that had a radiant smile. Her name was Patricia Cross.
Rex Lester was right—there was Coca Cola in the refrigerator. Patty got us each a bottle and we sat on the steps and talked. Her voice was not high and nasal like most of the Ozark girls and when she laughed I wanted to reach right out and hug her—which, of course, I could not do right there in public and in front of Lester. The fact remained that she was nearly three years my junior and not even in high school yet so that precluded any serious dating even after Rex Lester left for the Army. I was strongly attracted to her, however.
Even after school started and I began to get acquainted with and started to date pretty girls near my own age, I continued to go often to see Patty. Sometimes, when her mother (who was divorced and worked at the Evergreen Hotel restaurant) would allow, I would take Patty to a matinee movie at the Kiggins Theater.
My mother did not approve of my seeing Patty as she sort of looked down her nose at Pat’s mother who had a gentleman friend that used to come and see her at the apartment. When he was there, Patty and her brother Albert would have to stay outside somewhere until the friend left.
My mother’s objections were not all that strong and I saw Patty off and on right up to the time I joined the Navy. She blossomed rapidly into a tall young woman and the only blemish to her beauty was slightly protruding front teeth that could have been fixed easily if her mother could have afforded braces. She was one person in whom I could confide and with whom I could discuss problems. We were just very good friends and no matter what sort of school “romance” I had going I frequently went back to that little apartment on Kauffman Avenue.
The nearest Patty and I ever came to “romance” was one warm summer evening, probably in 1939, when we climbed the stairs and went out onto the roof of the apartment building to watch the stars and talk. It was not too warm to cuddle so I held her close and finally delivered the first truly passionate kiss of my young life. I remember that Patty sighed and said, “Conrad Frieze, if you ever kiss anybody else like that, I’ll scratch your blue eyes out!”