TRAVEL BUG TALES: A CONFESSION OF FAVORITISM
When it comes to family, you’re not supposed to show any favoritism. However, I think it’s OK for me to tell you Gene Alton is my favorite cousin, because he’s everyone else’s favorite cousin, too. I think if I’d really gotten to know his sister Sharon, the way I knew Gene Alton, she would have been a favorite, too.
Sharon was Aunt Sis’ oldest child and she was beautiful. That’s the first thing I ever knew about her. Ma’am had a photograph of Sharon on her wall and it was so glamorous I couldn’t believe she was a real person. I found these old Christmas photos and Sharons’s the blonde in the green dress in the first picture, but as pretty as she obviously is, in a few years she would become a real stunner.
She was so much older than me that I don’t even remember her being a part of the rambunctious group of cousins at Ma’am’s house. She obviously she was, but I was only three. As I grew up admiring the studio photo on Ma’am’s wall, Sharon seemed more like a movie star or a celebrity. She had a bouffant bubble hairstyle just like my Barbie!
Though I never really knew Sharon when she was young, I learned a lot about her after I was an adult. I think she must have been a saint. She had several very serious medical conditions. Conditions which would have rendered anyone else totally ineffective, but not Sharon. She was a wonderful wife and mother. She was a beloved sister. She was an absolute rock, when it came to Aunt Sis – and Aunt Sis, as I have mentioned, could be a bit difficult.
It will embarrass him for me to say this, but all of us girl cousins were half in love with Gene Alton. Like his sister he looked more like some dreamy fan poster than a cousin. Oh, when we were younger he was just another kid with a crew cut, but as he got older, I thought he was just about the most handsome boy I’d ever seen. The most charming thing about him was that he never acted like he thought he was handsome. He acted like a normal person.
The other remarkable thing about Gene Alton was his love for music. He bought me a 45 record that I have until today, “The Ballad of the Green Berets.” We’d only recently gotten a stereo and he felt I needed something more than Ricky Nelson’s “Love and Kisses” album to play on it. He was special like that.
Music is something that ties all of us Caves together. At family reunions the instruments always came out. Uncle Al played at the Garland Opry. One cousin married a songwriter. My dad adored the story behind musical lyrics and had an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of country/western music. I love opera and can be entertained for hours with folk dances. But for Gene Alton it was something more. He likes all kinds of music. He gifted me with “The Ballad of the Green Berets”, but he was also the first person to introduce me to Fleetwood Mac and the Jefferson Airplane.
Since the introductions are out of the way, let’s get back to Houston in 1968.