Harry Childs played some sweet '60s music, and Kathy Coakley liked to dance.
He was the bass player for a rock 'n' roll band known as the Ascots, mainly because they wore ascots when they played at school dances and local events.
They were both 16, juniors at Hot Springs High School in 1965. Their school was large -- there were 400 in the junior class -- and Harry and Kathy had no classes together. She knew who he was, but only peripherally.
"I had had a blind date with his brother," she says. "We did not click at all."
Clearly, she didn't know enough about Harry from that connection to know that he might someday have a starring role in her life.
"One of his best friends tried to get me to go on a blind date with him on a hayride. I said, 'No way am I going on a blind date on a hayride,'" Kathy says. "I said, "Besides, I've already had a blind date with his brother and I don't care to go out with him.' I didn't really know who he was. Isn't that funny?"
Kathy loved to dance, and she was dating the Ascots' lead singer. Those two things combined are what led to her going to the band's practice sessions, along with about 10 other friends, in the basement of one of the band members' parents' homes.
She met Harry at one of those sessions on St. Patrick's Day in 1965.
The practices were casual and there was time to sit around and talk and that gave her a chance to get to know him.
"I liked his looks," she says. "He had dark hair and he was very good-looking."
Harry didn't really pay much attention to Kathy at his band's practice, but when he saw her not long after that at some kind of meeting in the school's field house, he took note.
He asked her for a date while they were at school, and she was happy to say yes. Their first date was to a school dance. He was on stage the entire time, which was OK with her.
"I loved it because he would play and I would dance," she says. "He was working and I was dancing."
When the dance was over, they joined a bunch of friends at Cook's Ice Cream, a well-known hangout in that time, on Albert Pike Road not far from McClard's Bar-B-Q.
That was the first of many such dates, with her dancing and him playing bass and singing. They also went to school functions -- football and basketball games -- movies and out to eat.
"I had never eaten Mexican food before. He took me to my first Mexican dinner," she says. "My parents were from up north and his aunt owned a Mexican restaurant, it used to be called El Taco and it was where Cajun Boilers is now. It was one of the first Mexican food restaurants in town."
After graduation, they both enrolled in classes at Arkansas State Teacher's College -- now the University of Central Arkansas -- in Conway.
Kathy's parents liked Harry, but they had plans for their daughter.
"My mother was a registered nurse," Kathy says. "She had an education and she wanted me to have an education, too. My parents had hoped that if I went to college we would break up and I would forget about him and finish school."
Kathy finished a year of college.
"Then I got my 'M-R-S' degree," she quips.
Harry gave her a ring in 1966, and they exchanged their vows on Sept. 14, 1967, in front of a justice of the peace with just a few close friends and family present.
They took a short honeymoon to Little Rock and then Harry continued in college for a bit longer before realizing he could make a good living as a welder and they went on the road while he worked on pipeline construction. They traveled together while he took on projects from Chicago to Freeport, Texas, and myriad sites in between.
"I loved it. I wish we did it today," Kathy says of their nomadic years. "We made so many friends and through Facebook I have contacted and stayed in contact with a lot of the people we met during that time."
In 1984, they opened Garden of Eden, a landscape nursery, and settled back down in Hot Springs. They have two children -- Clint Childs, who works with them at Garden of Eden, and Christi Parker, both of Hot Springs.
Kathy doesn't dance much anymore, although she and Harry did get to take a few turns -- together -- on the dance floor when they celebrated their 50th anniversary recently and at their 50th high school class reunion last year.
They still like the same kinds of music Harry and his band played when they were juniors in high school.
"We still love '60s music. We listen to the oldies, but we like country, too," she says. "We're still working hard at the age of 65, and we've really had a good life so far."
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The first time I saw my future spouse:
She says: “It was at one of his band practices. I was dating the lead singer.”
He says: “It was in a meeting, maybe in the field house at high school.”
On our wedding day:
She says: “We were very much in love.”
He says: “We all gathered together at her mother and dad’s house. We got married by the JP but then we came back to her mother’s house at 112 Watt St. and it was just a very small gathering of friends, from what I remember.”
My advice for a long happy marriage:
She says: “You have to make it work. You cannot just give up and say, ‘I’m done.’ It’s not a bed of roses, but it takes a lot of will and power and prayers and love to keep a marriage together for 50 years.”
He says: “Try not to put self first. It’s really a covenant — it says that in the marriage vows. A covenant is an agreement between two people and you should be willing to do that if you’re going to get married because it’s not just self anymore. It’s an agreement between two people to love one another forever, not to just try it out and see if it works.”
High Profile on 10/29/2017
Print Headline: Blind date a no-go; rock 'n' roll opened her eyes