For 21-year-old Jean Penwell, it was a fairly normal Wednesday in Noblesville during May of 1939. Her shift working at a beauty parlor ended at noon, and she, along with her two sisters, were waiting on the curb by the courthouse for their brother to pick them up and give them a ride home.
Alfred “Tookie” Johnson, 21, also happened to be in Noblesville that day. He was walking around town with a couple of buddies. They were on a short leave from being stationed at Fort Harrison in Indianapolis.
When he glimpsed at Jean sitting on the curb, he was hooked.
“I just thought: She’s for me,” he said.
The guys approached the sisters and offered to give them a car ride back to the girls’ home. The girls refused at first.
“I thought, oh no, that’s a pick up,” Jean said.
They eventually agreed, and the group squeezed into the small car.
“The car was like the old-timey cars,” Jean said. “There wasn’t a lot of room. We were packed in there like sardines.”
They were so packed, that Jean sat on Tookie’s lap during the drive.
“I kinda felt guilty,” she said. “I thought, boy, my mom and dad are not gonna like this.”
Even though Tookie was smitten the first time he saw Jean, the feeling was not mutual.
“I didn’t really like him at first,” she said. “He was a smart aleck.”
A few days later, Tookie called Jean and asked her out.
“I don’t know why I called, I just lost my mind for a minute,” he joked.
Jean agreed to the date, and Tookie started to grow on her. She realized they had a lot in common, and she was impressed with his courtesy and decency to her and other people.