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How I Got My Man A 15— Dick Clark & Barbara Mallery

“This is the boy I want to marry!”

Eight words that stand out sharp and clear in my diary. There is no hesitation, no wavering in the writing—no ifs or buts. Just firm conviction, sureness, foresight.

I wrote those words when I was fifteen. I wrote them about Dick Clark. . . .

If ever we have a daughter who tells us, at fifteen, that she’s falling in love, we won’t do any laughing. Memory will be too sharp in us—as sharp as those words in my diary.

I’ll see the pleasant-looking, easy-going boy who used to laugh into my eyes in Miss McDougal’s Latin Class at A. B. Davis High in Mount Vernon. At sixteen, he made me over from a little frightened rabbit to a person. He did it without half trying, just by being himself and liking me, just as I was.

Maybe we didn’t guess then that we’d change each other’s lives, but deep down, I think I’ve known it always from the first time I noticed him, way back in Junior High when I was only thirteen. We didn’t share classes then—Dick was a year ahead of me—but I knew he was the most popular boy in school. He was president of the Dramatic Club, president of his class for two years, and in the thick of just about everything. Why should he notice a kid like me, tall, awkward, too shy to open her mouth. . . .

But in those first days at A. B. Davis High, it was different. As I scampered around to my new classes trying to get my bearings, I noticed him and, for the first time, he noticed me. I first felt his eyes on me as I rushed to gym, clad in middy and bloomers. As I said, I was tall—‘leggy’ was the word I’d always hated—especially since the boys always seemed to like the cute little-girl type. But now, as I caught Dick eyeing me in the hall, I nearly stopped dead in my tracks. For his glance wasn’t anything but admiring! “You must be imagining things,” I told myself and forced myself to go on without another look back.

But in Latin class, there he was! I was assigned to the last seat in the first row. And who do you think was in the last seat of the fourth row? You guessed it! By moving just a little bit forward or leaning back just a trifle, Dick was able to by-pass the two kids between us and signal with those nice, frank brown eyes and friendly smile the things every girl needs to hear at fifteen: Hi, friend! I’m glad you’re here!

I dropped my own eyes to my book. Silly, I told myself, angrily. How could he be signalling that to me, a shy lanky kid. He went for small, cute blonde girls. As for me, I had average brown hair and my eyes went from blue to green to hazel—depending on what I wore, what my mood was and how the light struck me. Besides, to notice my eyes at all, you had to get past those glasses which I always wore and always hated. Every time I passed a mirror, I’d say Ugh! and shudder. That’s how much I thought of myself.

We meet—finally

But after class, Dick followed me to the corridor.

“Hello,” he said. “You’re from my school, aren’t you?”


“I can’t remember your name.”

“Barbara Mallery.”

“Oh sure. How do you think you’ll like Davis High, Bobbie?”

“It’ll be okay, I guess, once I get used to it. It’s such a big school—three floors, twenty rooms.”

“Don’t let it bother you,” he laughed. “You’ll only be in one at a time. You’ll do fine. I noticed you going to gym. On you, those bloomers look good! What are you blushing for? Most girls look terrible in them, but you’ve got nice legs.”

I went on blushing but I’d never again hate that word ‘leggy.’ A. B. Davis High was going to be all right. . . .

But a couple of months went by and Dick didn’t date me. He’d smile at me in class, sometimes even send me funny notes; talk to me in the hall—but when it came to dates, he took out Diana Ruffano who was small, cute and blonde.

Now it was Halloween and Dick still hadn’t dated me. But his best friend, Andy Grass, invited me to a Halloween party. Andy and Dick were inseparable. They studied together, they double-dated, they had a jalopy, The Green Hornet, which they owned jointly. I was glad to go with Andy. At least it would be something to be at the same party as Dick.

It was a nice party. We ducked for apples, we played games, we danced. Dick won a box of Whitman’s chocolates and when he came over to ask me to dance, he gave them to me. Since I wasn’t his date, I was speechless with surprise and just managed to stammer my thanks.

But I still have that box. It holds all our mementoes over the years.

Dick and I danced well together. I loved to dance but I liked it best when we sat down in a corner and just talked.

Dick to me had seemed happy and gay all the time—the type of boy who doesn’t have a care in the world. Now I got a glimpse of another Dick—the real Dick, the one who thought a lot, figuring things out for himself—the Dick who never let the world suspect that he knew tragedy.

Dick’s secret idol

I found out that a year ago his brother Brad had been shot down in a mission for the Air Force. Dick had idolized Brad the way a kid will with an older brother who had the world by the tail. To Dick Brad had not merely been a brother, he’d been a friend, an ideal of what a boy should be, a prop in growing up. And then suddenly, Brad was gone. But for his parents’ sake, Dick had pulled himself together and in one short year had tried to fashion himself over to be more like Brad. Dick was a boy with a mission of his own.

I understood and felt for him, because we’d had a tragedy in our family too. One night my father had come home saying he didn’t feel well. A week later, he was dead with spinal meningitis. It was terrible for all of us. I was thirteen. The twins were eight years younger. Mother was only thirty-seven. She had to pull herself together and go back to work. It was awful. I began to see how important it was for a woman to be able to work and not just as a file clerk helping out either. A woman had to have a profession to be able to support herself and family in an emergency. My father hadn’t graduated from college but he had always regretted it. I knew one of his fondest dreams was that I’d get a college education. Now I was determined to make it come true and to become a teacher so I could help take some of the responsibility off Mother.

As Dick and I told each other about our families and our problems, as we saw we could talk to each other about these things, we grew closer and closer. We had a lot in common and it made us feel better to be able to tell each other important and serious things and get sympathetic understanding and a warm response.

The evening had started out as just a party where I could see the boy I had a crush on. I had thought I’ll go home and write in my diary all the details—how Dick looked and what he said.

But when I got home, I wrote, with a blind flash of insight: This is the boy I want to marry.

Sometimes a girl knows things, even at fifteen.

Our serious moments

There were other parties at Diana’s and at my house. My mother was good about letting me have the gang in. Andy, Dick, Diana and I made a foursome and had good times together. But it was our serious talks that meant most to Dick and me. We could talk about everything—even my hated shyness. Dick drew me out about it, hoping to get me over it. “Do you think those cute twins helped it along? They’re such scene-stealers.”

“Oh no. Not in our family! There was always enough love for all of us,” I told him. “Actually that old complex dates back further than the twins,” I told him. “I think it started the summer we went to Cape Cod. Mother and I had had pneumonia and we went there to recuperate. Next door was a family with a bunch of kids. I used to play with them and one day I pestered Mother to let me go downtown with them in their car. She finally consented. The kids’ mother drove us downtown all right but then she locked the lot of us in the back seat for three hours while she went about her own business. I felt so trapped. You know how sweltering and airless a car gets sitting in the sun on a hot humid day. I couldn’t get out, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe. My own mother would never have done such a.thing, and I couldn’t imagine why our neighbor would be so cruel. After that I was always expecting the worst, afraid to go more than a step away from my family.

I don’t know how I came to tell him this. I hadn’t remembered it in years or told it to anyone. Dick just nodded and patted my shoulder. “You’ll get over it,” he said lightly. “How about your coming to the Snowball Dance with me?”

“I’d love to.”

There it was at last—Dick’s first invitation. I had always thought it would take my breath away but it had happened so casually and I’d accepted so naturally, it just seemed good and right. And Dick followed it up by another: “Let’s see a movie next Saturday—just the two of us.”

I couldn’t tell you what the picture was because he held my hand all through it. And we discovered we were both mad about circuses so that’s where he took me next—to Madison Square Garden. But it didn’t matter where he took me. Just being with him sent me to Seventh Heaven.

The Snowball Dance

The Snowball Dance was our Christmas dance held in the gym. I wore a black skirt and an aqua blouse with black scrolls and a jump-rope belt. I hoped Dick would like it and judging by the way he looked at me, he did. When we did the Lindy Hop, my skirt flew out and I forgot about those awful glasses. The band played Let It Snow and we hummed it together. After that, it was our song.

Things happened so fast. When he took me home, I wanted to ask him to my first formal sorority: hop but before I could get the words out, he told me Di had already invited him and he’d accepted. “It doesn’t mean anything, Bobbie,” he said. “You’re coming to the New Year’s dance with me.”

I felt better. I asked someone else to my sorority dance and had a good time because I knew that after this, I would be Dick’s date.

We began to go steady now, all through spring. We dated every afternoon after school and on Friday and Saturday nights. Sundays we’d join the crowd at private record hops and Coke-and-potato-chip parties.

Dick was right about my shyness. I began to get over it when we went steady. At first when he took me out I was flattered because the most popular boy in school asked me. But as I saw he liked me for myself and didn’t mind the glasses, my self-confidence gradually came back.

But I had always been a good student and had gotten good marks. Now my grades began to suffer, for I was spending too much time on dates and dances and not enough on study. My mother began to worry. “Dick is a thoroughly likeable lad,” she said, “but it’s too early for you to go steady. You wanted to go to college—you know how much your father wanted it too. Now you don’t seem to care any more.”

She was disappointed in me and I was disappointed in myself. But if it was a choice between studying or going out with Dick, he won every time.

Things were getting pretty serious with us. He gave me his frat pin and we began to talk about our future. We agreed that he’d have to finish college and get a job before we could think of marriage.

“But what about you, Bobbie? If we wait till you get through school, it will mean another year.”

“Maybe I ought to go to college for only a couple of years and then take a secretarial course and get a job. I could get some money saved—”

“Sure, but that isn’t what your mother wants and it isn’t what you wanted either. Aren’t you going to be a teacher?”

“I dunno,” I said. “I wanted to but—”

We both had misgivings. He didn’t want me to disappoint my mother any more than he wanted to disappoint his family. We were torn by the age-old arguments. Should we marry early and be together or wait till we both got an education and a start in life? It would mean four or five years of waiting and it wouldn’t be easy. One day we’d be all for it and the next we couldn’t bear the thought of it. We were getting nowhere.

Should we break up?

Then one day Dick sat me down for a serious talk. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, Bobbie,” he told me. “Maybe I haven’t been fair to you tying up all your time the way I’ve been doing. Maybe we’ve just become a habit.”

“As long as it’s a good habit—” I smiled.

But he was serious, too serious. “I’ve been thinking maybe we ought to test our feelings—see if they’ll stand up if we go out with others.”

I felt as if a bomb hit me. “You’re not sure, then?”

“Sure I’m sure. I’ve pinned you, haven’t I? But I see your mother’s point of view. The way we’ve been going, you’re liable to throw over your chance at college. I wouldn’t want that on my conscience—you’re too smart a girl. If what we feel is real—and I think it is—dating other people won’t make any difference. And if we’ve just become a habit, now is the time to find it out.”

I sat there, telling myself it was just common sense. It sounded so reasonable, but reason was cold comfort. When I got home, I cried for a solid week.

That summer Mother sent me to visit an aunt and uncle in Toledo. When I came back, I attended Brentwood Hall, a small private school in Bronxville. I could buckle down better and my grades improved almost immediately when I was away from the charm of one Dick Clark. Some of the students boarded at Brentwood. It had five bedrooms, two small buildings and no more than twelve in its graduating class. It was quite a change from Davis High—with all its excitements, club activities, sororities, boys.

Being away from Dick was a particularly lonely period for me. I was happy when he began to date me again on week ends. He didn’t hide the fact that he was dating other girls too. The funny part of it all was that he was blindly jealous when I went out with other boys.

That’s how my Junior year went. Our romance was an on-again, off-again situation and I wasn’t happy about it. In my last year, my mother moved down to Salisbury, Maryland, to be with her sister, end became a boarding student at Brentwood.

Together again

Dick and I had an understanding. We were going to marry some day but we weren’t tied down now. After Mother moved, the Clarks invited me to spend some time with them. Dick’s family were nice friendly people, very much like my own. I suppose that’s why Dick and I were so compatible from the first. We were a lot alike and a lot different but the alike part stems from the fact that we come from similar backgrounds and have the same kind of sense of humor.

The Clarks moved to Syracuse when Dick went to Syracuse University. Dick became a big wheel on the campus just as he had been in high school and there was always some pretty co-ed giving him the eye, though it was I who wore his pin. Fortunately for me none of these girls cut much ice with him. He worked hard at an assortment of jobs, making beds, waiting on tables, working around the campus radio station to earn his own spending money and get the feel of working.

After graduation, I went to State Teacher’s College in Salisbury, Maryland, and I worked hard to get good grades and unlimited cuts so that I could spend a lot of time with Dick when he came down. Those three hundred miles between us really hurt.

Every week end now he got into his old 1934 jalopy and drove like crazy over the snowclad Poconos to spend a couple of days with me. Once in the middle of winter, his brakes went bad and he almost got himself killed. He told me about it gaily but it froze my blood.

“Cheer up, Bobbie,” he said. “I’m here, all in one piece.”

“Yes, but you might not have been. Dick, I can’t let you go on taking this chance, careening over those mountains in that car every week.”

“Then why not come up nearer me? There must be a teacher’s college close to Syracuse.”

“A state school or one where I could get a scholarship? Remember there’s that little thing called money—”

“I know,” Dick said. “I’ll do some asking around.”

The ideal situation

As fate would have it, that week end going back to Syracuse, Dick picked up a hitchhiker who told him all about Oswego, a teachers’ training school only twenty miles from Syracuse University. Except for that little thing called money, it looked ideal for us.

Dick and I talked it over and I decided to try to borrow my tuition money from Hadley King, my godfather, who was a lawyer. I told him frankly about the two hazards—that awful trip and the pretty girls up at Syracuse. “I’ll pay you back every penny as soon as I get out and begin teaching,” I promised.

I didn’t have to ask twice—he agreed right away.

As soon as I transferred to Oswego, Dick and I knew everything was going to be all right between us. The coeds faded from the picture. Dick didn’t want to go out with anyone but me. I went up to Spring Lake with the Clarks early in September and had a marvelous Thanksgiving with them in Syracuse. Christmas, Dick and I came down to New York. I stayed with friends and he roomed with a frat brother. We did the town and had a wonderful time. Though ı didn’t have a ring, everyone knew I was Dick’s girl.

In his senior year, Dick invited me to a formal cocktail party which the seniors were giving for their dates. He looked stunningly handsome in his tux and I wore a white formal with his gardenias pinned to my shoulder. Dick said I looked so nice, he had a hard time keeping his eyes on the road as we drove to the party. Then casually, he reached into his inside pocket and threw a small box into my lap.

“This is for you, Bobbie,” he said, using the words he had used when he gave me that first gift, the box of chocolates.

I opened the box and there was a beautiful engagement ring. “Dick Clark, stop the car this minute and put it on for me!”

We waited for another year until Dick got set in his job at WFIL, Philadelphia, and I graduated from Oswego.

Actually we waited for seven years all told before we finally got married. They weren’t easy years. The teenage years never are. But nobody wants them easy. Growing up means heartbreak and exaltation, sacrifices, days and nights of ‘Should we or shouldn’t we,’ but love is worth all the sacrifices and the pain of waiting.

Dick and I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it. We’re glad we fell in love at fifteen and could help each other over the rough spots.

But problems are a part of living. And problems shared and solved together make love that much stronger and fulfillment that much sweeter.





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