NOTHING TO SAY, EVERYTHING TO REMEMBER

James Gregory / Movie Life / June 1966


“This is Lee Yeary” he told her mother, using his real name, which was the name that the girl – Pat – had known him by. “Is Pat there?”

No, the mother said, Pat wasn’t there. Hadn’t Lee heard? She was married now, and had twin girls.

The news jolted Lee, although, of course, he had realized that Pat might well be married by now. After all, it had been over five years since he’d seen or heard from her, and she was a very pretty girl.

But – what should he do now? If she was married, was it proper to ask her mother for her phone number? Once again, he hesitated. But then decided, “Well, I’ll probably never see Pat again, anyway,” so he asked for the number and her mother gave it to him without comment.

The minute he heard Pat’s voice on the phone, he felt strange. This was the girl he almost married. The gap of the years loomed suddenly between them – all the years they had been apart.

Embarrassment hampered him, kept him from expressing himself with the ease of the old days. And it was especially awkward not being able to see her while they talked. He wondered what she looked like now, how she was reacting to their conversation. Her voice, friendly but somewhat reserved, gave few clues. He remembered how her eyes had talked almost as expressively as her mouth did, and now it was almost as though he heard her incompletely because he couldn’t see her.

She told him she was glad to hear from him – that she’d wondered how he was doing. He told her about his big break in getting a leading role in The Big Valley. She was glad for him. He asked her about her husband and children, and she told him that her husband was a teacher. They were very happy together she said. She herself had taught school for a while. Her twin girls were beautiful and she was very proud of them.

Then, suddenly there was nothing more to say, and wishing each other good luck for the future, they said goodbye.

No, there was nothing to say – but there was everything to remember. After Lee hung up the phone, the memories of his college days, of his romance with Pat and its sad, frustrating ending, came rushing back to him.

He’d felt lost when he first started attending the University of Indiana as a freshman. The campus at Bloomington, Ind., was a huge one, with many thousands of students. And he was just a small-town boy from Kentucky, who didn’t know anybody.

He had been a popular football star in high school, but here at Indiana, he was just another member of the freshman football squad – and not a very big one at that. He weighed 165 lbs, which was not much by Big 10 Conference standards.

He felt his lack of size most intensely at practice, where his tackling partner was Earl Faison, who is now with the San Diego Chargers professional football team. Earl stood 6’5” tall and weighed 235 lbs. of sold muscle. Both Earl and Lee were ends, but after Earl had clobbered Lee for a few days, Lee was moved to halfback and given a less formidable tackling partner.

At first Lee didn’t date much, because it took him a long time to meet girls. He hung around with the other members of the football team. He had trouble adjusting to his college studies because of his unfamiliarity with college life; he had little time for anything but classes, homework and football. Just getting C’s was about the best he could do during his freshman year. Social life was kept at a minimum.

Then, one day, he met Pat – an attractive girl from New York State. He liked her immediately and they began dating. They met after classes for Cokes – went to weekend dances, and spent as much time as they could together.

Now he finally began to enjoy college. Thanks to Pat, he had a feeling of belonging. And he was doing better at football, too. When he became a sophomore, he was a fourth string wingback on the team, which was not bad at all considering he had over two years left to play, and the team was eight or ten deep at each position. He dressed for all the games, saw some action, and his chances of becoming a first stringer by his senior year were excellent.

Things were going well for him as a sophomore – he had his girl, he had a least a chance to become a Big 10 football star, and he had a lot of friends. He lived with the other football players at a student’s residence called The Pines, having moved out of the men’s dorm where he’d stayed for his freshman year.

Then came the night that ruined everything for Lee – including his romance with Pat.

Up until then, he had never been in any trouble of any kind. Not that he was any angel. He’d done his share of hell-raising from time to time, but in a harmless way. And this night started out innocently too – with a very understandable mistake that soon snowballed into disaster. Lee had gotten into the habit of running around with the upper-classmen of the football team, many of them brawny seniors who were pretty much used to having their own way around the campus. And they asked him along when they were invited one evening to a fraternity party.

Many of the fraternity houses at the University of Indiana line a single street, which naturally enough is called Fraternity Row by the students. And, as fraternity houses will, they identify their houses only with Greek letters. This particular night was a dark one; the fronts of houses were not too brightly lighted and Lee’s friends, not too familiar with Greek anyway, misread the sign on one of the fraternity houses and thought it was the one they’d been invited to. There was obviously a party going on inside. The only thing was, there were parties going on in most of the houses that night, and so they happened to wander into the wrong house, with Lee accompanying them.

The fraternity brothers inside took one look at Lee and his friends and assumed they were trying to crash the party. The football players insisted they’d been invited. Tempers flared. Fists flew, followed by various items of furniture. The football players weren’t used to being told they couldn’t attend a party and the fraternity men didn’t like having their party crashed. Soon the scene approximated a barroom brawl in a Western movie in modern dress. Somebody in the house called the police and soon officers came pouring into restore order. The names of all the participants in the fight were taken by the police, and the injuries tabulated. It turned out that the seriously injured were among the fraternity boys, they were no match for the hefty football players.

Up till then, it had all seemed like a bit of a lark. But the next few days proved it wasn’t. Lee and the other football players were summoned to appear before a faculty disciplinary committee, and were expelled from school. Just like that.

Lee could hardly believe it at first. He wondered how he would be able to tell his family; his folks had been so proud of having a son at the University of Indiana and on the football team. He knew they would feel disgraced when they learned he’d been expelled.

And then he thought of Pat. What would happen now to their romance? How would they be able to see each other if he had to leave the school?

When he told Pat the news, she was stunned. She hadn’t expected anything this bad. Trying to ease the blow, Lee told her that he wanted her to come to Kentucky during the vacation and visit him. She told him she’d try. But after he packed his bags and moved out of The Pines and returned to bid her farewell, they both knew in their hearts things were not likely to be the same for them again. And yet, just a week before, they had even been thinking about getting married someday. How a week could change everything! Or rather, how one night could change everything. As Lee kissed Pat goodbye, he knew inside that this goodbye might be forever.

On his way home to Kentucky to break the news to his family, Lee stopped off at Eastern Kentucky State College in Richmond, Ky., to visit some of his high school friends who were now on the football team there. They urged him to drop by and say hello to the football coach. Lee did. To his surprise, h e was offered a football scholarship, and within two days he had been enrolled at the school.

He had to wait a year before he was eligible to play football at Eastern – a football conference rule for transfer students – and then, in his first game, he suffered a back injury that put him out of commission for the rest of the season. But after that he had a successful career as a football player at Eastern, and he found the campus life more congenial than at the University of Indiana, for many of his high school classmates were attending this college.

The only trouble was that he could no longer be with Pat. Somehow they never even corresponded, and her first visit to his home town never came off. Without really meaning to, they lost track of each other. And yet whenever Lee thought of her, it was with a pang as he considered what might have been.

Eventually, Lee met a local girl in Richmond, a pretty girl named Kathy Robinson. They fell in love and, despite the fact that she was only 16, they were married. Even though they loved each other – very much at first and had a son they both loved, the marriage didn’t work out. But they are still friends.

Today, Lee feels yet another loss. Her name too is Pat, spelled Patti. The love they shared over the past months, a love that brought them as close to marriage as he and the other Pat were as college freshmen, has slipped through his fingers. The reasons why are not clear; that it could have happened seems unreal, but hurt – and memories – are undeniably there. Perhaps Lee and Patti can reconcile their differences. They have lost track of one another. They have a little more maturity on their side than the Lee and Pat of more than 5 years ago.

Lee has often wondered what his life might have been like if he hadn’t been kicked out of college, if he hadn’t lost Pat. Whether he’d have been happier or not the other way, he can never know. But the girl he once loved is married to someone else. The girl he’s loved over the last year may be in someone else’s arms. Lee Majors may already have nothing more to say, and everything to remember