From Topless Bar To Biology: A Love Story | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

From Topless Bar To Biology: A Love Story

Play associated audio

Forty years ago this week, Philip and Susan McClinton had their first date. Today, Susan is a retired biologist and Philip is assistant curator at the Draper Museum of Natural History in Cody, Wyo. But when the two met, it was at a very different place.

The McClintons' story starts in 1972, at a topless bar in Fort Worth, Texas. Philip was a bouncer. Susan was there to compete in an amateur night, hoping to win the cash prize. To Philip, Susan was out of place.

"I thought, 'She doesn't belong in here,' " he recalls. "She didn't need to be in this place."

"At the time I had two children to support, so I needed the money. I remember at one point you said, 'I'll keep an eye on you,' " Susan says. "And I think that was the beginning of our relationship."

Philip told her he wanted to take her rattlesnake hunting. Susan thought he was crazy, but she went anyway. She loved it. "I thought, 'Hey, this is something I might want to do on a regular basis,' " she says.

Later, Philip had another crazy idea: He wanted the two of them to go back to school.

"Neither one of us had anything but a ninth-grade education. I'd tried 10th grade three times, and I couldn't cut it," Philip says. "And we didn't think anyone would take us."

But they called around and asked. Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, accepted the couple for a probationary period. Going back to school was a challenge, but they signed up for classes together and helped each other.

"You didn't know anything about school," Susan says. "And I recall several times when you told me that you just didn't think you could make it anymore. And I would always tell you, 'I'll get you through it.' "

They studied biology. When Philip was struggling with cell biology, Susan drew a diagram and taped it to the bathroom mirror, so that he would have to look at it and learn it every morning.

"Without your help, I'd have never gotten through this, because a lot of it I just plain didn't understand," Philip tells her. "But I think the thing I am proudest of is that you finally did things that you never dreamed you could do. And you did them so well. You turned into a fine field biologist."

"I guess I learned for the first time that I really was a person of worth," Susan says. "You know, after my life started out so bumpy, I never thought we'd get a college degree. And if you hadn't come into my life, I think I would have ended up in a very bad place.

"It was a rescue romance, is what we called it, because we saved each other," she says.

The two graduated in 1992 with bachelor's degrees in biology and minors in wildlife management and geology. In 1998, they both received master's degrees in biology.

StoryCorps Bonus: Animated Video

In a special StoryCorps animated video, Ramon "Chunky" Sanchez talks about his experiences attending an elementary school in a small farming town in the 1950s.

Audio Produced for Morning Edition by Katie Simon.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Amazon Deal With Simon & Schuster Raises Questions For Other Publishers

Amazon has received a fair amount of bad press lately over its long-running dispute with the Hachette publishing house. So Monday's announcement of a deal with Simon & Schuster took some industry watchers by surprise.
NPR

From NFL To 'Scandal,' Whole Foods Buys TV Ads To Boost Its Brand

A pioneer in selling organic, sustainable groceries, Whole Foods now finds itself beset by competitors. So it's launching its first national ad blitz to sell socially conscious consumers on its story.
NPR

Obama Has To Balance His Base Without Hurting Dems In Red States

If Democrats have a chance of hanging onto Senate seats in southern states, they need to do well with African American voters. But for President Obama, that creates a difficult balance between turning out the base and energizing GOP voters who don't like him.
NPR

In Silicon Valley, Paying For Access To Peace Of Mind

The San Francisco area is the home to the high-tech sector and has a history of embracing Eastern spirituality. Now the two meet in the yoga and meditation classes popular with the local tech workers.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.