Great Lovers I have Known—James “Cecil” Simons
I have told how Dan Tonks became the first of us to get married, but it almost didn’t happen. That honor almost went to Cecil, the psych major, who so laboriously counseled with Dan. Cecil certainly deserved to be first. He definitely tried the hardest, and he almost was, as will herewith be explained.
It started not with Cecil but with Tom “Watergate” G______. I will never really understand what happened with Tom. He certainly seemed like a true-blue liberal Democrat. I know, because I had several knock-down, drag-out battles with him. Back in those days, I felt that it was my responsibility to set anyone straight who drifted from the path of Bill Buckley Conservatism. Since not many of my acquaintances, and certainly, not many of my close associates, did, or at least, were willing to admit to me, if they did, I did not waste much time arguing politics. The exception was Tom G______. He was a very outspoken and also very argumentative liberal. Since he was also a political science major, he had a great many facts and figures at his command which always sent me scurrying to the library to find the necessary data required to set him straight. It was because he was so adamant, so seemingly sincere, that I was absolutely baffled at what eventually happened.
Well, anyway, because Tom could not spend all his time arguing with me, he found time to get engaged to very attractive girl named Jan. What Jan’s last name was, I honestly don’t remember, which is unfortunate, because I should, but if the reader should happen to run into Tom or Cecil, I’m sure that they could supply it. At any rate, Tom got engaged to Jan at the end of the school year. If you wonder which school year all you have to do is go to an Encyclopedia and look up “Watergate Break-in” and it will undoubtedly tell you which year, because, as the patient reader will soon discover, the Watergate break-in is a very important part of the first part of my story. But I digress.
At any rate, Tom got engaged to Jan, which, although it certainly did not make him disconsolate, it made Cecil somewhat disheartened—or maybe “disheartened” is too strong a word, but it did make Cecil something that was somewhat less than disheartened, which, if I had a Thesaurus handy I could probably tell you the exact word that would tell you how much less than disheartened he was, because he had dated Jan himself and liked her a lot, but as much less than disheartening as it was, he had to acknowledge that she obviously liked Tom more than him. Parenthetically, I might say that that sort of thing was happening to me and my roommates all the time.
Besides getting engaged to Jan, Tom also worked out a deal with the political science department where he would get Political Science credit by working on the presidential election campaign of Eugene McCarthy. Tom apparently told Jan, who was eager to settle down and get married, that by working on the presidential campaign, he hoped to be in a position to marry her in the fall. So to waving flags and loud accolades from the political science professors for their rising star, Tom was off to Washington DC.
Well it wasn’t very long before Tom sent back to the Polly Sci department requesting permission to be transferred to the George McGovern campaign, which they said was ok but they wondered why since McCarthy was the front-runner for the nomination. However, within about a week or so McGovern had overtaken McCarthy and was the new front-runner and the Polly Sci people wrote an article or letter to the editor about how proud they were of their rising star and his ability to foresee the drift in the political race.
Well, a few weeks later Tom came back to BYU in absolute disgrace. Shortly before he returned, the Watergate breakup occurred and, it turns out, Tom was a big part of the reason. Of course, we didn’t know that. All we know is that the Pol. Sci. people came out and said that Tom had betrayed their trust. Shortly thereafter our Bishop, Lennis Knighton, got up and said he was not going to discipline Tom, because Tom had been misguided but he did everything he should have done when he recognized the error of his ways. But, of course, none of us knew what the error of his ways was until later. We did know, however, that it had to do with the Watergate break-in. I think we assumed that he must have driven the get-away car for Hunt and Liddy, but, as it turns out it was nothing like that.
What actually happened, we found out later, was that Tom, as soon as he got to Washington was approached by Bob Bennett, who at that time, was working for the committee to re-elect Pres. Nixon. What was baffling to me was what happened next. I would have assumed that if Bob Bennett were to approach Tom that Tom would have started to tell him in no uncertain terms all the facts he had learned in his Polly Sci classes, such as if the minimum wage was not raised—and soon—workers would not be able to afford to appear at work in anything but burlap loin cloths, and if the food stamp program was not continued, or even expanded, there would be millions of men, women, and children lying in the streets having died of malnutrition. These were the sorts of facts he was always throwing at me, and why—as I said—Bob Bennett didn’t get the same treatment was a puzzlement. But he didn’t. According to what we heard from Tom and his friends, apparently, all they talked about was money. He, Bob Bennett, would pay Tom a tidy—especially for a student—sum of money if he, Tom, would provide information about what was going on at the McCarthy headquarters. It was Bob Bennett who asked him to transfer to McGovern, having guessed, correctly, that McGovern would be Nixon’s eventual opponent in the final election.
But after he had been working at the McGovern headquarters for a few weeks and secretly calling Bob Bennett and telling him all that was going on, he started to have second thoughts. Maybe it bothered him when he pictured all those workers showing up in nothing but burlap loin cloths. Whatever it was, he went and told his Bishop what he was doing. The Bishop told him in no uncertain terms that it was wrong, that he was to call Bob Bennett and tell him he was through, and, furthermore, return all the money he, Bob Bennett, had given him (Tom had banked it all), and leave Washington. Of course, if the Bishop had known that Bob Bennett would eventually write a book defending the Book of Mormon, he may not have been so harsh, but one can’t always foresee the future. Anyway, Tom did exactly what his Bishop told him to do, which was why Bishop Knighton, who was incredibly strict about enforcing Church Discipline, refused to punish him. It was also why the university, as I remember it, over the protests of the Polly Sci dept., only suspended Tom for one semester.
The important upshot of all this was that Tom announced to Jan that he had no money and could not, therefore, get married in the fall. Whether it was for this reason, or something else, I don’t remember, but at any rate Jan broke her engagement with Tom. The perceptive reader will notice, although it has taken a long time to get there, that Jan is now free to date, and the really perceptive reader will remember that Cecil liked Jan.
Well, as soon as, or at least, at some decent interval after, Tom and Jan broke up, Cecil began dating Jan. As an aside, let me say, that just as Watergate may have been the very best thing (politically speaking, of course, in such discussions one always lays his baptism and his marriage aside, they being presumed “the best things”) that ever happened to Bob Bennett, he being forced by circumstances to actually do something worthwhile in life, so Watergate may have been the very best thing that happened to Tom for reasons that will become more apparent as I continue my story. But as an even further aside, my wife (this is really getting ahead of the story—I am still a good five years from getting married) knew Tom some years after all this happened, and, as a result, she was invited to his wedding reception and, as is more or less my custom on such occasions, I went along. Did we, you are probably asking yourself, get into a knock-out-drag-down battle about politics? We did not. In fact, I rather gathered from the brief interchange I had with Tom on that occasion, that he had more or less laid politics aside. He did, however, seem very happy, beaming proudly as he stood beside his new bride, which, of course, is a very good thing. I have always said that it is important for a man to be able to smile on his wedding day. But, I digress.
Anyway, at some sort of decent interval after Tom and Jan broke up, possibly even as much as two weeks, Cecil began dating Jan. It went, as most such affairs do go, from casual to more-than-casual, to less-than-serious, to serious. It started out by Cecil taking her to a movie on the week-end and progressed to Cecil taking her to two movies on the week-end. It rather stuck at that level for some time, because, Cecil, like the rest of us in our apartment, was not all that imaginative about dating. But eventually, it moved beyond that point to the point where he began taking her to firesides, and mid-week lectures, and concerts. Finally, it got to the point at which we knew it was really getting serious because they began studying together.
Finally, we got the big announcement. They were engaged. Of course, that would more or less, be the end of the story, were it not for the fact that, as Shakespeare says, “The course of true love never runs smooth.” The hitch came, in this case, because Cecil was making so much money. Of course, making a lot of money is seldom, in my experience, a good thing, but, as the perceptive reader will come to realize that, in my opinion, at least, in this case it was. Normally, of course, students—and Cecil was still working on his Master’s degree in psychology—are not all that well off. But, as a part of his master’s work, he got a job giving psychological examinations to students, for which he was—for a student, at least,--very well paid. He was excited about this, as one could well imagine, because it meant, he felt, that he and Jan would be starting their married life out with a nice little nest egg, after going on a better than average (for newly graduated students) honeymoon.
Cecil and Jan decided that it would be a good idea if Cecil would use a small part of his newly acquired wealth to buy food. Jan would prepare it and they would have dinner together every night; hence, a sort of pre-marriage domestic arrangement. For a couple of weeks this worked out famously. Cecil reported ecstatically that he was eating better, and more cheaply, than he ever had as a student. After a couple of weeks, however, problems began to arise. The problem was that, with increasing frequency, when Cecil reported for dinner, Jan would inform him that she had been unable to fix dinner. At first, this was no problem. After all, Cecil was making plenty of money, so eating out on an occasion or two, wouldn’t hurt. But, the fact of the matter was, that although Cecil was making a lot of money when compared with the rest of us who were working at campus wages, he was not yet quite in the Rockefeller class, and eating out regularly began to take a toll on his income—so much so that he found himself having to dip into his savings.
Cecil began to fret and worry about his diminishing wealth—especially as he saw his anticipated nest egg disappearing. Finally, he laid down the law. No more eating out. She would have to prepare dinner no matter what. This worked for a couple of days, but it became painfully clear, that Jan did not enjoy preparing dinner. It got to the point that it was either eat out or not eat at all or maybe eat peanut butter sandwiches. It got to the point that the conflict over dinner began to strain the relationship. Cecil began—first to us, his roommates—and then to Jan herself, to express doubts about the advisability of their continuing the engagement.
Fortunately, before it came to an actual break, Jan actually rode off into the sunset with a fellow she apparently had been seeing a good deal of. Cecil was actually the second of my roommates that was thus spared from what, I predict would have been a very unhappy marriage, by his intended riding off into the sunset with a hippy on the back of a Harley-Davison motorcycle.