Charles Blaut of New Hyde Park recalls his first date with his wife, Shirley.
In April 1954, after Sabbath services at the Jewish Center of Richmond Hill in Queens, the rabbi asked me, along with my three brothers, to attend a family wedding he was officiating on Sunday at his house.
We would be part of a minyan, a minimum of 10 adult males — 13 or older — needed to be present during the Jewish ceremony.
After arriving at the rabbi's house, I was introduced to an attractive young girl named Shirley Alzfan. She was related to the groom.
The next Sunday, after services, the rabbi handed me a paper with Shirley's name, her address in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and her telephone number. He suggested I call.
I was 24 and had recently started a position as a research engineer at Columbia University. I was also taking evening classes there in September 1954. (I had received my bachelor's degree in 1953 at The Cooper Union School of Engineering after serving with the Army Corps of Engineers in Korea in 1951 and 1952.)
Each week the rabbi asked if I had called, until I finally did sometime later. Shirley was very easy to talk to. She was 19 and the office manager at Belle Maid Foundations, a bra manufacturer in Brooklyn.
Our first date was to see a movie at the Loew's Valencia Theater in Jamaica, Queens. We had gone in my car, and on the way back to her home, she mentioned her interest in learning to drive. It was late and the streets were empty, so I let her get behind the wheel.
Suddenly, we were nose-to-nose with a bus! Fortunately, both she and the bus driver were able to stop in time. I drove the rest of the way.
We dated for several months. Shirley was fun to be with, but we seemed too different. I was too serious minded; she was too upbeat. We decided to see others.
Sometime later, I invited Shirley to an event. We enjoyed the day, and I began to appreciate her fun-loving attitude. We continued dating.
For her 20th birthday on April 4, 1955, with the help of my mother, I found a nice gold ankle bracelet for Shirley and had her name engraved on it. Shirley and my mother loved each other. I also took Shirley to Flushing Airport where we boarded a light plane and were flown around the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. She loved it, including how the plane bounced.
When Shirley later raised the question of where our relationship was going, I was almost shocked to hear myself say, "Well, we could get married!" She said yes!
Our wedding was Dec. 11, 1955, at Temple Toldos Joseph, on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, officiated by the rabbi who introduced us. We honeymooned at the Kenmar, a family hotel in Lakewood, New Jersey. We purchased a house in South Ozone Park. Shirley became a full-time homemaker when our first son was born. Our second son and daughter were also born while we lived there.
In 1967, we moved to New Hyde Park, and Shirley eventually got her driver's license. I had earned my master's degree in mechanical engineering from Columbia University in January 1959. I later regretted not attending the June commencement with Shirley present, considering the sacrifices she made to help make it possible. I held many positions in my chosen profession and retired in 2009 as a consultant.
We celebrated our 63rd anniversary in December 2018 at home with our daughter, two sons, two daughters-in-law and grandson. Through the years we have, together, weathered the ups and downs of life, and our love for each other has continued to grow.
With Virginia Dunleavy
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