Ken Bush enlisted in the United States Air Force in August of 1956. He was sent to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas and Harlingen Air Force Base in Harlingen, Texas for five months of Navigator training. He earned his flight wings on Nov. 7, 1957 and was reassigned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. There he flew C-124, Globemaster cargo planes to Europe, Asia, South America and Thule, Greenland.
He averaged three flights a month and each could average four to six days. The days in between were his to do as he liked. So, Ken would take the three and a half hour trip to New York to spend time having fun with friends.
The friends he went to college with, some married and some single, would find women for him to date. When one romance would end, his friends Dimitri Kurlioff and Stan Handel, who knew his taste, would set him up. Overall, things were going well and he had no complaints.
A Matchmaker Mother
However, Ken’s mother definitely wanted in on helping her boy in blue to meet someone. Ken wasn’t keen on the idea because he knew her taste and his weren’t in sync.
His parents owned a commissioned bakery in Arverne, (located on Eastern Long Island) New York City, which was a popular resort area, and was two blocks off the Atlantic Ocean. Each summer, thousands of New Yorkers and people from the Bronx would descend upon the Rockaways, to escape the summer heat and enjoy the sandy beaches and waves off the Atlantic Ocean. And it is here that fate begins to build its story.
As a mother with matchmaker genes, she was also an enterprising business woman with a popular bakery where thousands of summer clients bought their baked goods. And now her own son was an eligible 22-year-old bachelor with a steady career. She was open for business, and not just cakes. On her counter, she kept a photo of Ken in his Air Force flying suit with white billowy clouds behind in the background. It resembled a poster to join the United States Air Force. Mrs. Bush would keep her eyes open for attractive young women that she thought might appeal to her son.
In early July of 1958, she saw a tall and very attractive young woman of about 20 years old come into the store. She thought Ken would approve.
So, on his next foray home, she began to rave about this beautiful young woman that she was sure he would like. He declined. She made the same pitch on his next visit. He declined again. But his curiosity was growing even though he was dating someone else at the time. Ken did start to ask other customers about the young woman, and they did agree that she was a tall, attractive, personable young lady.
As it turned out, he broke off with his current girlfriend and returned to base for another overseas flight. Ken asked one of his college friends to set him up with someone else.
When he returned from the flight on a Thursday and called his friend Stan, he said he had been unable to find him a date for the weekend. Ken briefly panicked because he wanted to go out dancing. A little desperate, he called his mom. She said she would ask the young woman.
On Friday, he arrived home in Rockaway and first thing he checked with his mom to see if the date had been set. She responded, “Sort of.” He asked, “What does that mean?” She told him that she had shown the attractive young woman his picture (Ken in an Air Force Flying suit which his mom displayed on the counter) and asked her if she dances and would she like to go dancing with her son. She looked at the picture and said, “Yes, but not this weekend. I have a date for Friday and Saturday and I don’t break dates.”
Well, Ken was a little disappointed, but thought he could still go out with friends and possibly meet someone. His mom said, “That’s not necessary because another customer who came out every season came in.” In a matchmaker’s recovery mode, Ken’s mom started a conversation with the woman:
“You have a grown daughter, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do,” was her reply.
“Does she dance?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, she just won a Cha-Cha contest.”
“Would she like to go out with my son, (again pointing to Ken’s picture) who also is a good dancer?”
“She doesn’t usually go out on blind dates. But I’ll ask her.”
As fate would have it, this young woman didn’t have a date for the weekend and figured “Why not?” and accepted.
As Ken’s mother related this scenario to him, he tried to stay calm. He said, “Unbelievable. After weeks of hocking me about the beautiful young lady. You set me up with someone else without checking with me. Did you see her yet?” he asked.
“Not this year, but I remember her from last year and she was quite pretty.”
Well, Ken decided he could cancel the date but instead chose to have a look see.
He called the young lady, introduced himself and instead of asking her out for Saturday night, invited her to an afternoon at a swim club with four other friends. Two were married and two had dates. He was going to look her over.
And so it Begins
As Ken drove up 66th Street looking for the address, he saw an amazing looking young woman standing on the porch of a very large summer boarding house. She was wearing a white, strapless bathing suit with large red polka dots. She had her very long dark hair braided and over the front of her left shoulder. She had a bronze tan that glowed and made her appear like a star from central casting for the movie, “Pocahontas and John Smith.”
He said to himself, “If that is my date and she has any brains, that’s the woman I’m going to marry.”
It was Vicki.
The two spent the afternoon at the swim club, swimming and having drinks. Of course, he asked her out for an evening of dinner and dancing. She was 18. He was now 23.
He dropped her off at her apartment to change. Later he would learn that her family knew something was up. Something was different than Vicki’s other dates. Her bathing suit was wet, and that was unusual because Vicki never went into the pool. And, she certainly never went in to the ocean.
When Ken picked her up at 8 p.m. he thought she was even more stunning in a beautiful dancing dress and very high heels. She looked and walked like she was a model born on high heels.
They dined at an upscale Chinese restaurant and had some cocktails. Then they went out on Long Island to a very large night club called Page 2 that featured continuous dance music. When the band was finishing their set of American dance music (Foxtrot, Lindy and others), the Latin band eased in and start playing the same music. The American band then eased out, leaving the Latin band who would switch over to Rhumba, Salsa and the Cha-Cha.
Vicki and Ken danced for six hours, until 4:00 a.m., rarely getting off the dance floor except to drink a cocktail. The two danced like they had been dancing partners for years. Saturday, Ken took Vicki to the beach where she did venture into the ocean with him. And Saturday night the couple repeated Friday night but in different venues.
That Sunday they went to the beach in the afternoon and a movie in the evening because Ken had to return to base on Monday for two scheduled flights to Europe—one to Paris. Of course he secured upcoming dates with Vicki for the three-day weekend when he would return.
On the Friday night Ken returned, which was their fourth date, he gave Vicki Je Revien Perfume that he had purchased in Paris. They repeated dancing at Page 2, the beach, dinner and dancing. It was on their fifth date that Ken told Vicki, “I think I am falling in love with you.” Sunday was date six and the couple had dinner and spent the evening on the boardwalk enjoying the summer evening.
Ken returned in late-August for date number seven—their favorite kind of date: dinner and dancing.
Date #8, a Saturday, was a little different. Ken took Vicki to a popular restaurant called the Brass Rail in New York City followed by a Broadway show, “The West Side Story” which had opened a few weeks before and they were thoroughly immersed in the show with all its dancing, and each other.
Popping the Question
Later that night the two returned to Rockaway to a favorite spot. And after a few minutes of kissing, Ken took Vicki’s shoulders and gently separated, he looked into her amazing eyes and said, “I love you. Will you marry me?”
Looking slightly taken aback, Vicki took several seconds to reply, “I love you, too. But can I think about it?” Vicki had been accepted to the School of Drama at New York University and would start the following September.
Well after midnight, Ken escorted Vicki upstairs to her apartment and kissed her goodnight.
She woke her mother up to tell her Ken had proposed. Her mom tapped her father on the shoulder and said, “Did you hear that Herb? Ken proposed to Vicki.” Herb sleepily replied, “That’s nice. Talk to me in the morning.”
Sunday, date #9, was spent on the beach talking, sunning, everything but talking about Ken’s proposal. After three or four hours, he finally asked her about it and she said, “Yes, yes, yes!” She had been waiting for him to ask her again just in case he had changed his mind.
Through the Years
They spent the next year meeting each other’s families and planning their wedding, which took place on July 5, 1959.
After their honeymoon, the newlyweds moved to a brand new home about 12 minutes from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Victoria was now an officer’s wife. She and Ken danced at the Officer’s Club, 20-25 hours a week. Even after their children David and Deborah were born, the two still managed to dance 20-25 hours. Sometimes, if Ken were due to return on a weekend night between 6 and 9 p.m., Victoria would meet him at the Officer’s Club with his dancing attire and electric razor. Ken would change in the restroom and they would dance the evening away.
Ken and Victoria continued dancing through their life together until about ten years ago, when Victoria’s problems with her legs prohibited her from dancing. But they would still slow dance in close hold in their kitchen whenever the mood hit one of them. They always encouraged young people to learn to dance so they, too, could experience what happens when you closely hold your beloved for hours. Victoria’s and Ken’s fifty-eight and a half years of marriage bear testimony to their belief about dancing together.
Ken and Victoria always felt that nothing could replace the feeling of holding each other closely and moving to the music and the beat of their hearts.
Ken believes that someday they’ll dance together again throughout eternity…in close hold.