Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wandering Around in the Past

As I am wont to do, I decided to play a little "What Ever Happened To...?" on Facebook yesterday. This time I chose a girl that I worked with at Jack in the Box over 30 years ago. Funny, I've often wondered about her, but it wasn't until yesterday that I realized our time of friendship, of hanging out together, lasted only six months or less. How do some people stay in your head like that and others flit through as if they never existed?

I was in my second year of college and had transferred from a University to a Community College, wanting to be nearer my freshman year boyfriend, who had also transferred out. I never saw him again even though I made that move. Silly girl.

I got a job at a Jack-in-the-Box drive-in and became fast friends with the other workers. Karen, Debbie, Kathy and Mike T. are the ones I particularly remember, in fact two of the women are friends of mine on Facebook even now, although we don't interact much. Debbie is one of the sweetest funniest people I know and the one I stayed most in touch with, attending each other's weddings and meeting each other's children as babies. My family and Kathy's family got together once or twice when the kids were small. But we all live in different areas and life is busy and so on. You know the song.

Karen is the one I totally lost touch with. When I decided to go back to the University something had happened to our little band of friends and I am at a loss to remember what. But Karen was on the outs, that's all I remember about it.

Karen was also fun to hang out with. She drove a hot, black with white stripes on the hood, 67-68-ish Firebird. Please forgive me if I got the year or make wrong... It could have been a Camaro. I'm usually pretty knowledgeable about cars in that era, but it's been a long long time. I recall us taking her baby (car) through the car wash prior to going to a Beach Boys concert. As we neared the end of the car wash the blower was doing it's job and the car's little windshield wipers were vibrating like crazy. OMGosh, we laughed so hard and mimicked the vibration with our hands on the dash. It became our symbol of excitement. The kind of sexual excitement young women feel over things not necessarily sexual... like a hot car or a rock song that shakes you to your toes. Although no one around me understands it, to this day I occasionally make the same hand movements when something is "totally cool!" and excites me.

And we decided to change the lyrics of a Doobie Brothers' song on our way to the concert...

Give me the Beach Boys
and free my soul
I wanna get lost in their rock and roll
and drift away

Even now I sing the wrong lyrics if I hear that song.

So I went back to the University, leaving my new friends behind. Here, once again, I've lost the thread of the friendship, but somehow I contacted Karen. Birthday card, maybe? She was so excited and wrote me right back that she was getting married in just a short time. She had been dating another co-worker at our restaurant and was pregnant. Ha! So many women are when they get married - even more so back then, I think. I happened to be passing through the area the day of her wedding and so I was invited to stay at her parents' house that night and attend the wedding. And that is basically the end of the story. I never saw her again after the wedding and we didn't keep in touch. Her husband had either just joined the service or was very shortly going in. I don't know if that was why or what. But that is the short story of my friendship with Karen, although she never fully left my thoughts.

As many women put their former names on their Facebook profile I decided to look for her, using both her maiden name and the name of her husband from so many years prior. Nothing came of those searches. I decided to search for the boy/man she married, although I was sure there would many hits to look through.. and would I even recognize his profile if I came across it?

So I typed in his name....

I got ten hits and many more to follow if I click on the "see more results" link.


Not inspired to check out any of the male photos that popped up I instead clicked on number ten, a photo of a car. Can you believe it... everything in the limited information provided about this guy matches. Could I really have scored a home run on my first at bat? I took a chance and sent him a message (actual transcript):

Me (February 16 at 7:50pm) : Did you ever work at Jack in the Box in B***** back in the 70's?

Him (February 16 at 8:50pm) : I sure did. A short stint back in 75 / 76 I think.

Me (February 16 at 8:56pm) : You married Karen Baer? I'm just wondering what ever happened to her. I was there at that time...

Him (February 16 at 9:06pm) : She passed away of breast cancer Oct. of 08.

Wow. I felt like I was struck dumb. I managed to pull it together and find out a little more about her life since I last saw her. Her marriage to this man didn't last. I don't know why and it's none of my business, but from our brief exchange I have a lot of respect for the person he seems to have become.

I'm sorry I never got to say "hi, how are ya" to Karen again. Even though our friendship only spanned a few "in person" months, she must have made an impact on me to have remembered her for so long.

R.I.P. Karen Baer. You are missed by more people than you could ever know.


  1. Betsy, I too always remembered Karen....and the black camero and the car wash and the laughter! Thank you for reminding me! I am sad that we never got a chance to go back and reconnect with Karen. Life really is too short! Thanks for some of the best memories...I love you for always! Debbi

  2. Right back at ya, Debbi!! Right back at ya!