Love lesson

Chicago's harsh winter of 1978-79 was tough on everyone, but especially a native Californian spending her first year of married life in relative isolation on a farm. "I think that as a newlywed, oh, I cried occasionally," Allison Klotz says now, "but as a newlywed I knew I had things to do and I didn't let it get me down." (Jeff Cagel, for the Chicago Tribune / March 14, 2013)

Allison Klotz remembers the scene perfectly.

It's 1974, and she is in her family's driveway. She is about to depart California for Chicago, where North Park College and nursing school await. Her mother is taking pictures, her father is scrambling around, hurrying to get Allison and her two suitcases to the airport. Then, from out of left field ...

"My mother said, 'You will probably marry a farmer and move to Illinois.' I said, 'No, I won't. I'll be back. California is my home.'

"I don't know why she said that."

As it turns out, her mother's words were prophetic.

Allison did meet a farmer, Bob Klotz. They did get married, in December 1978. They have three adult children and live, yep, on a farm in Maple Park, about 45 miles west of Chicago.

That her mother was right is only part of the story. How Allison and Bob got to this point is just as interesting.

As a transfer student to North Park — she had attended a community college in California — Allison wasn't able to get into one of the dorms, which were full. Transfers instead were given on-campus apartments. She was moving into the building when another young woman asked her if she wanted to be roommates.

"That was my cousin Jean," Bob says.

"She told me right away that she had this cousin," Allison says. "I ended up coming out here (to visit) his family. … Jean would bring out three or four girls in our group."

"She'd just call me and say, 'What are you doing today? I'm coming out,' " remembers Bob, who at the time was working the family's cattle, corn and soybean farm with his father.

Bob and Allison became part of a group that hung around together. They didn't start dating until the last half of her senior year. For their first real date he got tickets to see Second City in Chicago in spring 1977, they recall.

But then came her graduation, and she returned to California "with the intention of never coming back to Chicago."

The previous winter had been fierce, with a stretch of 43 days below 32 degrees. And Bob or no Bob, she wanted out.

"After that winter and being so cold, I swore I'd never come back to Chicago," Allison says.

"Well, you had a choice," Bob points out, laughing.

She went to work at a VA hospital in Palo Alto, but they stayed in touch. In March 1978, he went skiing in Colorado with friends and invited her to join them.

"I really enjoyed myself," she says. "That's when we realized it was more than a casual relationship."

In fact, it was on the trip that they decided to get married. But that presented other challenges. The wedding would be in California, and it had to wait until after the fall harvest. Farmers can't just leave town for a few days.

"My whole family had to fly out to California," Bob says. "(But) we weren't going to budge my dad (until after the harvest)."