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Lee Quinn Enters My Life

Author at age seventeen.

At age eighteen, I was relentlessly pursued by a young man I never knew existed until he trapped me in a revolving door—literally. Lee Quinn was entering the college library and I was leaving. He pushed the door around so fast I could not exit. He had planned this initial meeting to the second and was smart enough to know he could blow the entire scheme of meeting and courting me if I were angry about being held captive in the confines of the door. Round and round we went, he in one panel, me trapped in the opposite panel. It was akin to a roller coaster ride. He didn’t let me out until I was laughing uncontrollably.

I went back into the library with Lee where we discussed the subjects we were taking. Until Lee told me, I was unaware that he was in my Political Science class at San Mateo Junior College. I thought maybe this was someone who would understand how I felt about this class.

Lee listened politely as I vented my inner emotions. “I’m upset about that 2,500-word reading assignment due in a few days. I don’t like the class. I don’t want to read the stuff. The prof is imposing an undue hardship on me, and I’m about to cave in to my last red corpuscle.”

Lee’s calming words were like a voice from heaven, “I’ll help you. I like to read and have already written my summation. You may have it. Just change it into your own words.”

Well, now, I thought, that was easy. What a nice young man. It was in this moment I made the decision not to try for all A’s in college.

Actually, Lee (even before our meeting) had already selected me to be his wife—if I met his “qualifications.” One would expect that what might follow would be dates to the movies, a dinner out now and then, strolls in the park or along a beach. Instead, Lee took me to flower shows, an art exhibit, a prize fight, a wrestling match, the ballet, live theater, auto racing, a rodeo, and many more firsts in my life. This was life before television.

My parents were so close and protective that they would wait up for my return after these dates. In fact, to make sure they didn’t drop off to sleep with Mary Ann not accounted for, they reset the alarm clock every half hour.

Then Lee asked to meet my parents. Later I learned he wanted to size up my mother and was pleased that at fifty-eight she still had her slim girlish figure. He was trying to judge what I might look like in later years!

After the revolving door incident, Lee told his mother:
“I am going to marry Mary Ann Burton.”
“How do you know she will say yes?”
“She will.”

Throughout life, I have met few men as self-assured as Lee Quinn. We were both pre-legal students, and I could sense he would become a relentless trial lawyer of the type who tries to make a felon confess his guilt on the stand in open court.

Six months after our initial meeting, I surmised that the serious side of our relationship was coming and made a feeble attempt at hinting that I was too young for marriage.

“I always get what I want,” Lee said as we drove one evening to the top of Sutro Mountain overlooking San Francisco Bay. There he proposed marriage.

I again hedged. “Get in the car,” he ordered, then raced down the mountain’s dark and winding road.

People regularly got car sick on this downgrade in low gear. I envisioned dying at each curve. I was so happy to arrive safely at the bottom alive that I said, “Yes.”

In 1946 we were married in Reno, Nevada. We did not elope. Our parents accompanied us.

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