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Philly's Phinest Profile: Glenn and Linda Bowman

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Ten years ago, Glenn Bowman got a phone call that would change his life forever.   Glenn and Linda Bowman

“Is this Glenn Bowman?” It was a female voice. She had a strong Philly accent.

“Yeah. Who is this?”

“Glenn, did you go to Mayfield High in Lakewood?”

“Yeah. Who the hell—”

What followed forced the cell phone out of Glenn’s hand. He began to cry. All the memories of his teenage years came back to him in an instant.

In 1966, Glenn was sixteen years old, living in Lakewood, California, outside Los Angeles. Early in the spring of that year, he was at a carnival. He’d fall in love that night. He’d never seen the girl before, but according to him, they had an immediate connection, one he would spend more than 30 years trying to replicate.

Her name was Linda D’Addesso and she had recently moved to California from South Philadelphia. The daughter of Italian immigrants, Linda was the oldest of three children. Her father, a World War II veteran who drove a truck – often for the Philadelphia mob – died when Linda was young. She was forced to grow up quick, taking care of her siblings while their mother worked at a Rittenhouse Square hotel, cleaning rooms.

Years after Linda’s father died, several of her cousins moved to Southern California, to the Los Angeles suburb of Bellflower. As a way to forget the past and move on, Linda’s mother decided their family would make the cross-country trip as well.  They found a small community of condos in Bellflower and moved in. Everything Linda was used to in Philly, the Italian bakeries, the cool nights, block after block of red brick row homes, was gone. She’d buy brand new clothes to fit her new home, as well.  She quickly adapted to her surroundings, began growing her hair, and made friends while walking to school, past the Five and Ten shops along Bellflower Boulevard.  Before long, Linda and her new best friend, Paulette, began making anonymous phone calls to a boy they both liked, John. “You don’t know who this is,” she’d say, “but I sure know you.”  He played along most of the time.  Within a few weeks, he tricked the girls and found them out. Liking what he saw, he and a friend began dating Linda and Paulette. One night, talking about their dates the following day, Linda and Paulette decided they had nothing to wear. Nanette, Paulette’s sister, agreed to drive them to the May Company (the then-west coast Macy’s) for outfits.

But something stopped Linda dead in her tracks as the ’64 Volkswagen Bug sped past a carnival, in town for the weekend. “I don’t know what came over me,” she says. “I saw him in the corner of my eye, and I just had to meet him. I thought I had seen this boy before, but I didn’t know where. I screamed at Nanette to stop the car.” Tall and skinny, the boy was wearing gray dress pants and a Pendleton shirt, the style, she says, of most “surfer boys” at the time.  “Do you still want to go to the May Company?” Nanette asked.  “No, I’ll find something else to wear.” Playing along, Paulette got out of the car with Linda and walked toward the carnival, specifically toward the scrambler ride. Linda says despite the bright lights, loudness, she couldn’t take her eyes off the young man. She got on line next to him. He glanced in her direction, then walked toward her.

“Oh my God,” Paulette said. “He’s coming over here.”

“Hi,” the boy said. “I’m Glenn. I go to Mayfair High. What’s your name?”

“Linda, and I go to Bellflower.”

Glenn laughed. “Do you know our schools are arch-enemies?”

She shrugged. “We don’t have to be, right?”

The next few months saw Glenn and Linda become very close. He picked her up from school everyday, and, despite her mother’s protests, took her to The Shebang in Los Angeles, a Casey Casem west coast version of American Bandstand. That’s when her mother got mad.  She didn’t like Glenn’s ability to make Linda rebellious. She didn’t like that Glenn was older. But mostly, she thought their time together would end with Linda getting pregnant (though the two were waiting for marriage).  Glenn’s mother didn’t approve, either. “She took one look at me,” Linda says, “she saw my curves, she saw I was built like a woman, and she didn’t like me. She didn’t like one bit of me.”  The couple’s mothers became friendly, now that they had a common goal – keeping their children apart.

Linda found ways to sneak out of her house, and the two skipped school to get together. It got to the point that Linda’s mother only saw one end to her problem: Take Linda away from Glenn. At the end of the summer, 1967, Linda’s family drove back to Philadelphia. Linda and Glenn agreed to hold a long distance relationship, and would get married when they were both 18.  Linda saved her milk and lunch money every week and called Glenn from a pay phone at the corner of 9th and Shunk. She didn’t fit in to Philly anymore. The leather-clad students at South Philadelphia High School glared at her dyed strawberry blond hair and flower dress, and dismissed her, she says. She counted down the days until she and Glenn were back together.  Every time Glenn’s letter came, she’d put on Her Mindbenders LP to “A Groovy Kind Of Love”, which had become their song in California. But one afternoon, she got a letter from Glenn saying they had to break up. He wanted to go to prom with someone.  Linda called him later that night. “For all I care you can drop dead,” she said. “I never want to see you again.”

Trying to forget about him, Linda began going out with a boy she’d known as a toddler, a friend of the family. Things were going as well as they could until a Tuesday that summer. Linda’s sister woke her up. “There’s a boy at the door,” she said.  “But Johnny’s not supposed to pick me up until later.” Still groggy, Linda walked to the front door and had to double-take. It was Glenn.  After a day together, they got off the Broad Street Line and headed back toward Linda’s row home. Linda’s boyfriend had been tipped off by her mom. He and two friends were waiting for Glenn to get home, baseball bats and chains in hand.  After a confrontation, Linda’s boyfriend told her she had to choose between him and Glenn (the catch being, if she chose Glenn, he’d get beaten by the three on the street). So she told Glenn to leave. He’d jump on the next plane to Los Angeles that night.  After getting arrested for smoking pot in a park back home, Glenn was given a choice: Jail or Vietnam. He chose the jungle.  Linda ran away one night after a fight with her mother. Upon her find, Linda’s mother and boyfriend talked her into believing she, too, had a choice: A yearlong stay at a women’s detention center in Hershey, PA or marriage.

In 1999, with the modern technology of the Internet at her fingertips, Linda had been researching, looking for Glenn. Every day, she’d type his name into Google, receiving thousands of hits. She thought it was hopeless. Sometimes she’d call all the “Glenn Bowmans” she could throughout the day. It was never the right one. She once had a phone recipient say to her, “Please call me back when you find him. He sounds like the luckiest guy in the world if he’s got you looking for him like this.”  Classmates.com, Search Angels, chat rooms, you name it, she tried it.  But eventually, she found something. A search for Glenn Bowman gave her a home in Nevada. The person who picked up the phone had bought the house from a Glenn Bowman, and knew the Oregon town he moved to.  Within weeks, she had a phone number. She called. No answer, but the message gave a cell phone number to call in case of an emergency.

After picking up the phone from the ground, Glenn said: “Linda?”

“Yeah, it’s Linda.”

“No,” he said. “It can’t be. Anyone can say that. Anyone can say they’re Linda.”

“I can say a lot of things about you from 1966,” she said. “We went to the beach all the time. You came to South Philly to win me back.”

Long story short, the two are happily married today, living on South 8th Street. “I’m a persistent person,” Linda says. “I think if something is meant to be, it’s meant to be. But you’ve got to make it happen. There were things that happened in my life that I’m not proud of. Getting married to Glenn wasn’t the easiest thing to do, either, but there was no going back after I found him.”  “I agree,” says Glenn. “I had thought about her all those years. I even had relationships with girls named Linda while I was in California. I mean, for 30 years, I just couldn’t get her out of my head.”

The two were forced to start over. Their friends didn’t understand. Their families couldn’t understand. “Everyone thought I was having a midlife crisis,” Linda says. “They didn’t get the connection we had. I don’t blame them, it was 30 years in the making, a 30 years, no less, that I never mentioned Glenn to anyone in my family.”  Glenn now runs his own business as a lock installer. He has taught Linda how to work alongside him, and the two are together all day, every day. “I figure, we’ve got to make up for lost time,” he says.

Glenn and Linda may not fit the mold of what you’d think of as Philly’s Phinest. But today, after their lifelong journeys, they’re making ends meet, working alongside each other, and making up for a lot of lost living. Despite what they’ve been told in the past, they now know they were meant to be together, and are stopping at nothing to make it work. Consider them Philly’s most unlikely couple.  Linda and Glenn are working on a book about their lives apart and what it took to get back together. “We’re self-publishing,” Linda says. “Everyone has told us we need to write a book, so now we are. And I guess I agree with them now. Most people never meet their soul mate. I met mine twice.”