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  Texas : Feature : Columns : Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories :

Carolyn and Sammy,
Her Daddy's '52 Ford and
the Singer Roy Hamilton

by Bill Cherry

Sammy and Carolyn had known each other since their days as students at Galveston's Lovenberg Jr. High. But while they were frequently in school and church groups where they did things together, they had never shown any romantic interest in each other.

In the spring of 1953, a movie, "From Here to Eternity" with Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra, Deborah Kerr, Montgomery Cliff and Donna Reed, was all anyone was talking about, primarily the result of a romantic scene where Kerr and Lancaster, in their wet bathing suits and lying in the moonlit sand, are locked in an embrace at the water's edge.

Sammy and Carolyn had been on the committee that was putting together the 1953 Ball High School yearbook, the "Purple Quill." It was Friday, and a few minutes after school. The two of them and the faculty advisor were making sure one last time that all was in order for the printer.

Making small talk, Carolyn said to Sammy, "Have you seen 'From Here to Eternity' yet?" He said he hadn't, and they then began to piece together the story from what friends who had seen it had told them. And then for some reason, and neither knows why, Carolyn said to Sammy, "I think I can borrow Daddy's car this evening, wanna go see it with me? Dutch treat, except you buy the popcorn in exchange for me providing the cool set of wheels." She grinned.

The feature was to start at 7:20, so about 6:45, Carolyn drove up in front of Sammy's house and honked. They had agreed they needed to get there early so they'd get good seats. It was sure to be a sell-out, this being a weekend and all.

After the show was over, Carolyn drove up 21st Street to the Seawall because they thought they may want to stop off at the Boulevard Drive-In for French fries and a frosted mug of Triple XXX root beer. When they got to the foot of 21st, it was like they were approaching that same Hawaiian scene in the movie. The tide was out, the water calm, there was a full orange moon in the east, and the gentle breeze was cool. And don't forget the smell of the sand and saltwater. Absolutely heavenly.

They decided that before they went to the drive-in, they'd go the other direction so they could drive down to the foot of the island and see and feel that whole gorgeous expanse of nature from the eastern tip of the island. And they did.

Naturally the car radio was on. They were listening to Rascal McCaskill's "Night Train" on Baytown's KREL like everyone did in those days. When Carolyn angled parked the car, they opened the front doors, and pushed back the seat. And then, wouldn't you know, something happened that changed their entire lives at that moment. Rascal began playing a new song by Roy Hamilton, "Ebb Tide."

First the tide rushes in, plants a kiss on the shore
Then rolls out to sea, and the sea is very still once more.
Sammy claims he didn't speak one word, he just got out of the car's passenger side, walked around to Carolyn's side, offered his hand, she got out and they started to dance right there on the asphalt. Roy Hamilton continued,
So I rush to your side like the oncoming tide
With one burning thought, will your arms open wide?
By now the two of them were cheek to cheek, and their arms were around each other's waists rather than in the dance position she had learned at Miss Mellon's School of Dance a couple of years before.
At last, we're face to face, and we kiss through an embrace
I can tell, I can feel, you are love, you are really mine....
And just like that they were in love, a love that has now lasted for a half-century.

There have been rough times along the way for Sammy and Carolyn, but their marriage counselor has always been to re-enact that entire scene. They drive to the east end of the island, open both doors, and turn on a CD of Roy Hamilton's "Ebb Tide." Sammy gets out, and without saying so much as a word, goes around to Carolyn's side and offers his hand. They begin to dance.

And it doesn't take either of them more than those few minutes, and the help of the legacy Roy Hamilton left to them, to silently and individually renew their vows.

*Words by Carl Sigman, Music by Robert Maxwell
Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories
November 2 , 2007 column
Copyright William S. Cherry
All rights reserved

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Bill Cherry, a Dallas Realtor and free lance writer was a longtime columnist for "The Galveston County Daily News." His book, Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories, has sold thousands, and is still available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com and other bookstores.
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