Fred Cohen of Massapequa recalls how he met his future wife, Phyllis.
In 1963, at the end of my sophomore year at Brooklyn College, I was regularly hanging out at my friend’s house. I was 19. When he left on a cross-country trip for the summer, I started my summer job and began evening classes at school. To save bus fare, I went everywhere by bicycle. I continued taking the long detour to his house on my way home from class to visit with his mother and sisters.
They weren’t home one evening, so I kept riding until I heard a voice yell, “Fred, you dropped your cigarettes.” It was their next-door neighbor. She was sitting across the street on her friend’s porch. I stopped to thank her and she introduced me to her friend, Phyllis.
Phyllis was 17 and had just graduated from George W. Wingate High School in Brooklyn and was about to begin attending Baruch College in the fall. I stayed for a half-hour to talk and flirt, and made her house a regular stop on my ride home. I wanted to ask Phyllis out without the complications of an audience, but her friend was always there. I didn’t know Phyllis’ last name; however, I did notice a letter K embossed on the aluminum screen door below her house number.
I then did what any innovative but cowardly 19-year-old would do in the early 1960s. I took the 1,200-page Brooklyn telephone book, with hundreds of entries on each page, and began scanning the letter “K” section, looking for her address — “908 Rutland Rd.” After an hour or two of frustration, I finally found it near the end — “Kriftcher.”
Not being the coolest Popsicle in the freezer, I called with trepidation and the fear of rejection that only a teenager knows. Fortunately, Phyllis was as eager to receive the phone call as I was to make it, surprised that I hadn’t asked her for her number. She was even more surprised at how I actually found it.
For our first date, we went to see a movie at the Astor Theatre on Flatbush Avenue. On our second “date,” we went with her family to Coney Island.
Dating turned into an engagement in April 1965, and Phyllis’ relative gave us a 1954 Ford as a present. We were married at Congregation B’nai Israel of Midwood on Aug. 21, 1966, and took our first airplane ride to Puerto Rico for our honeymoon.
We moved to Massapequa in 1971. Phyllis taught business education in the Farmingdale school district, retiring in 2003. She is still an adjunct professor at Nassau Community College in Garden City. I retired in 2002 as principal at John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore and as assistant superintendent of the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District. I am a part-time consultant for Nassau BOCES.
Last year we celebrated 50 happy years of marriage by taking a cruise to Bermuda with our son and daughter, their spouses and our five grandchildren. We have much to be thankful for, including our both giving up smoking ages ago despite its fortuitous role in our meeting.
Thinking back, we do have one regret — putting that old Rudge three-speed English racing bike in a dumpster. Though it was the instrument of our chance meeting, sentiment had to be put aside to make room for the next generation of car seats and high chairs. I still ride, only now with Phyllis, on a tandem bike that brings us even closer together.
— With Virginia Dunleavy