On Oct. 1, 1961, at 1:46 p.m. at Yankee Stadium in New York City, in the fourth inning, Roger Maris hit his 61st home run in the last game of the season against the Boston Red Sox, thus beating the record held by Babe Ruth.

The run won the game 1-0. At City Hall in St. Louis that chilly day, almost everyone was listening to the game on their portable radios. No one in particular was watching a handsome young couple walking in the front door and taking the elevator to the fourth floor, where they would be married by Judge Tammany.

The couple had taken their blood tests and bought the requisite wedding bands the day before. The judge pronounced them man and wife, and off they went for a quick wedding dinner at a Chinese restaurant nearby, and quickly caught a Greyhound bus for New York City.

This young couple, who would one day become famous, had met two years before on the escalator in Bloomingdale’s Department Store in Manhattan. Well, not exactly met. She was on the down escalator on the far side of the Lexington Avenue entrance, he was on the up escalator on the far side.

Legend has it that she saw him but looked away. Legend has it that he saw her, was captured by her red hair and blue and lavender tweed coat, and quickly pushed past other passengers and rushed across the top floor to find her. Alas, she was gone.

Some months later, in need of a partner for an audition at the famous Actor’s Studio, the handsome young man was recommended by a friend to a young woman who might be available. He was warned by said friend that this young woman was no pushover, that she would be immune to his legendary charms and sweet talk, and besides, she was currently working in a Broadway show with a friend, a handsome young actor named Robert Redford, who at the time hadn’t yet become that Robert Redford.

So when they finally met, the young actor recognized at once the auburn red hair and fabulous tweed coat. The young actress in the tweed coat agreed to meet and rehearse the scene. She did not, however, remember ever seeing him on the escalator at Bloomingdale’s department store. She remarked that she often sees handsome young men at Bloomingdale’s, but he was not one of them.

According to the legend, it took two years, many cheap dinners and even cheaper glasses of wine, two seasons of summer theater and a couple of touring shows together for the young actor’s legendary charms to take effect, if indeed, they ever did.

So for reasons known only to the young actress, she finally succumbed to his insistent pleas and agreed to marry him.

So there they were, just off the train from a tour, in his hometown, she with badly dyed blonde hair, and he with newly curled oily black hair, and with makeup still behind their ears, waiting in line with 10 other couples waiting for Judge Harold Tammany to bond them.

After another year, the two actors went off to Hollywood, where he became a television and film actor, writer and director, and she a young teacher. As the years went by and his fortunes increased bit by bit, and they moved from tiny flats to larger flats and eventually into their first home, they acquired two beautiful daughters, one who looked like him, and the other like her, three dogs, a Chinese Gunboat parrot, seven white doves and a Ford Pinto.

As the years went by, Robert Redford became that Robert Redford and her young actor, grown older, did not. But the jobs were plentiful, the money very good, the weather balmy, palm trees plentiful, the daughters more beautiful and well-educated.

One day, with the daughters in college, the first couple of dogs, doves and parrot deceased, the Ford Pinto long since disposed of, they relocated to her hometown in Maine. Here they settled in, traded palms for pines and birches, the parrot for a cockatiel and balmy winds for freezing.

Now, 50 years from that day when Roger Maris’ 61st home run sailed across Yankee Stadium, the young couple, grown older and famous (among family and a few readers) are celebrating the anniversary of that chilly day in St. Louis.

Today, 50 years later, there is surely some young handsome actor on the escalator in Bloomies. Surely he will see a girl on the next escalator, and chase her. I hope he catches her, and I hope they will have as good a time as we have had.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer


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