After about two months of training in Tulare, I was sent to manage the Cornet store in Bakersfield, California. The $85 a week salary was not too bad for an unencumbered single guy in 1953, and I rather enjoyed the job.
I particularly enjoyed having Lupita as an employee. When I told her I spoke a little Spanish, the coquettish Chicana smiled and started flirting with me in the language—but was discreet enough to not do it within earshot of the other sales-ladies.
Lupita was married and the flirting was just her idea of harmless fun. Even if she'd been single, company rules precluded managers from dating sales clerks.
But her flirting became more intense after I told her about my
trip to Cuba and how I loved doing the Latinamerican dances. In fact, I was beginning to think the flirting should stop, for fear of its getting out of hand.
Said Her Husband Wouldn't Mind
But then one day she asked me if I'd like to take her dancing.
"Dancing? I'm not allowed to go out with employees," I told her, "and even if I was—what about your husband?"
"Oh, he doesn't care," she shrugged. "He's a stay-at-home who doesn't know how to dance and who doesn't like partying, anyway. I told him about you and he said going dancing with you would be just fine."
So I took her dancing.
We went to a cantina on the outskirts of town where, hopefully, we wouldn't be seen by anyone we knew. Well, the low-cut blouse and slit skirt she wore rather unnerved me, and her sexy way of dancing didn't do much to relax me, either. However, I made it through the evening and got Lupita home at about 1:00 in the morning.
In No Hurry to Leave
But she wasn't in a hurry to get out of the car. In fact, she snuggled up next to me and said, "Let's just stay here for a while—okay?" and laid her head on my shoulder.
Well, I wish I had an exciting story to tell about a night of uninhibited passion with Lupita—but all I did was point out that we both had to be at work in a few hours and that we'd better say goodnight. So we did—and I walked her to her door, where she smiled and said "Thank you for a lovely evening." Then she gave me a kiss on the cheek and went inside.
Beyond that, the thought of losing my job and/or being pursued by a jealous husband was not too appealing, so I was glad the evening was over. As for going dancing again—well, it would have been a moot point, anyway, because I wasn't at the store for very much longer.
My boss Joe Cornet Jr. stopped by unexpectedly the next day.