Tuesday, January 21, 2014

When I Was "Little Susie"

While I was writing about the Everly Brothers the other day, I recalled an event that happened when I was 18 years old. It won't do any good to tell you about it unless you remember this portion of the lyrics to the Everly Brothers' song, "Wake Up Little Susie":

"Wake up little Susie, wake up
Wake up little susie, wake up
We both fell sound asleep
Wake up little Susie and weep
The movie's over, it's four o'clock
And we're in trouble deep"

It was the spring of 1961, three months after I'd broken up with a man I'd end up marrying later that same year. At the law office where I'd worked since the previous spring, we had a new girl, Jude, who became a good friend. Jude was determined I would not sit around and mope after the breakup. She'd gone to a different high school than I did and immediately set about introducing me to a few boys she knew from school. They were nice boys, and I enjoyed meeting them and spending time with them. Most of them were a little on the country side compared to my own classmates, not that that was a problem. Except for Sidney.

Sidney was a greaser. He was Danny Zuko from Grease and Fonzie from Happy Days long before I ever heard of those characters. He wore the jeans, the black leather jacket and the motorcycle boots, and he slicked his hair back in the same ducktail hairstyle. There were no gangs in our East Texas town; the only other person I ever saw there who dressed like Sidney was a recent transplant from the Bronx.

Jude assured me that Sidney was a nice guy in spite of his cool, tough guy image, and when he asked me to go with him to the drive-in movie one night, I agreed. Jude was right: Sidney was nice. He had good manners. He opened the car door for me, offered popcorn and a soft drink from the concession stand, and, when the movie started, he stayed on his side of the car.

I don't remember what movie was playing, but it wasn't interesting enough to keep me awake. I didn't get enough sleep in those days and had a habit of falling asleep as soon as I relaxed in a semi-dark place. Sidney must have had the same issues.

The next thing I knew, he was waking me up. It was two o'clock in the morning. We were the only car in the parking lot, and the only lights we could see came from the moon and the stars. I knew my mother would be angry and doubted seriously that she would believe my true story about what had happened. Sidney apologized and said he'd have me home in five minutes.

But his car wouldn't start. The battery was dead, and there was no one around to jump us off. I could have walked to my house--we could see the movie screen from our front yard--but I wasn't about to take a walk at that time of night. So, Sidney took off walking while I sat in his car alone in the drive-in parking lot. I don't know where he went, the hospital across the highway maybe, but he walked somewhere to make a phone call. He called his mother.

Poor Sidney. Something is wrong in the universe when a guy in a black leather jacket has to call his mother to jump off his ride in the middle of the night. Especially when he's on a date. That is not cool. He knew it, and I knew the embarrassment was killing him.

His mother came, and the two of them drove me home in her car. If I remember correctly, she did have enough compassion to let Sidney drive it. Sidney walked me to the door--his shoulders slumped all the way--apologized again, and politely said goodnight. I assume they went back to the drive-in after that and got his car started. (My mother slept through the whole thing--never had any idea how late I got home.)

Sidney never asked me out again. I didn't blame him. Once or twice in the months that followed before I married and moved away, Sidney and I would spot one another among the throngs of teenagers circling the parking lot at Zack's. We would acknowledge each other with a subtle wave and a sympathetic expression, then go our separate ways.

Those tough guys? Sometimes they're the tenderest inside.


  1. Same thing happened to me except the car did start. We both fell asleep and woke in a panic at 2 a.m. No cell phones back then!! My time to be in was midnight and my mother was beside herself with worry that we'd been in an accident. She did believe me though. I ended up marrying this guy but after 21 years, we parted. Still amazes me that I was 18 and had to be in by midnight and it didn't bother me. Parents were more strict back then and that wasn't a bad thing. Thanks....you brought back a potent memory. LOL

    1. Val, I didn't have a defined curfew, but if Mother happened to wake up and realize I was out later than I should be for what I'd told her we'd be doing, she'd be worried first, like your mother, then mad as the dickens when I walked in with all my limbs intact.

  2. What a sweet story! I've enjoyed your last two blog posts reminiscing about old Everly Brother tunes. I can still remember the words to some of their songs, too. If you like Norah Jones you might enjoy listening to this song. It's an old, old, OLD Everly Brothers tune. She's singing with Billy Joe Armstrong and I think they did a great job capturing some of that Everly brother's harmony. You may have to copy and paste it. Not sure it will work by just clicking on it or not. http://youtu.be/0R_rhdglVBk

    1. Joy, I never thought I'd see Norah Jones and Billy Joe Armstrong on the same stage or in the same sentence--especially in connection with the Everly Brothers--but kudos to the musical genius who had the idea for this match-up. They were great together! Thanks.

  3. Little Susie You! I, too, was intrigued by the Norah Jones - Billy Joe Armstrong pairing. I checked in iTunes and turns out they did an album covering the 1958 Everly album about songs their Daddy sang. Gotta' have it.

    1. Sounds like a good'un. I'll check it out.

  4. I just love this story!!! Poor Sidney... he seemed like he as a nice fellow. If you both hadn't fallen asleep, who knows????


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