The look of love was in their eyes

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Photographer Rick Gunn held his head in his hands, visibly recoiled his 6-foot, 6-inch frame and begged me to go away. Finally, he collected himself and recounted the bittersweet saga of his first kiss.

"Her brothers were in prison," he began. "Well, maybe it was only two of them."

It turns out that object of Rick's affection had six or seven brothers and two of them were behind bars.

"It was the worst kiss of my life," he said. "The memories are too painful to talk about."

My innocent little Appeal Valentine's Day survey -- when was your first kiss? -- had reduced a grown man to a quivering 12-year-old, but I pressed on.

Next, I asked Sally Taylor, a page designer and general assignment reporter. Our Sally has only been with us for a short while, but obviously she has what it takes.

"His name was Joe Ashby," she said, as if it were yesterday, "and he was an older boy. I was 4 and he was 5 and we used to gross out the other kids by touching tongues. His mother used to babysit for me. "

Moving right along, I approached my boss, Barry Smith, who tried to brush me off. I persisted and finally, he relented.

"It had to have been at the Palace movie theater. That's where we all learned everything," he said. "The younger kids sat down front and the older kids sat smooching in the back. As they got their driver's licenses, they progressed to parking lots and that's when the spaces opened up in the back row of the theater. I don't remember her name. There were so many," he said.

Photographer Brian Corley confessed he was at church camp the summer after sixth grade when he was kissed by a fellow camper named Belinda.

"We were right next to the lake," he said. "We got found out, but we didn't get in trouble even though we were out after curfew. We were friends for quite a while. We lost contact after she got married. "

Terri Harber, also a page designer, can't remember his name, but she does remember her first kiss was in kindergarten and "he was a little blond-haired kid with dimples."

"He was tormenting me. I was tormenting him. I was in trouble a lot in kindergarten. I can see him, I just can't remember his name," she said.

Business writer Jim Scripps thinks he was in the seventh grade in Los Altos, Calif., and he thinks he kissed Emily Herbert. And he hopes she isn't reading this.

"It was your typically embarrassing situation, a pseudo-date ... we were experimenting with dating," he said. "We were on a street corner."

Jim seemed shocked when I asked what time of day it was.

"It was during the day," he said. "We weren't allowed to date at night."

A few minutes later he came back to my desk.

"That was all off the record, wasn't it?" he asked.

Features editor Kelli Du Fresne also is fuzzy on the details. She's pretty sure it was while she was playing Little League. And it could have been at any ball field in Northern Nevada, but probably was Washoe County.

By far, the most enthusiastic response came from F.T. Norton, the Appeal's hard-bitten crime reporter.

"Oh," she gushed. "I was 12 and in the fifth grade. His name was James and he was a little surfer with long black hair. "

F.T., also known as Fran, and her sister had cooked up a truth-or-dare scheme and Fran ended up in the closet with James.

"He wanted to stop," she said. "And I wanted to keep going. It made my toes curl. "

She has a message for James, who might remember her as little Fran Piccolino rather than F.T. Norton.

"If you are out there, James, find me," she said, plaintively.

My final interview was with statehouse reporter Geoff Dornan.

"I am trying to remember," he said, pausing for a moment. "Her name was Diane and it was a dance at the Armory in Winona, Minn. We were in the seventh grade. "

I asked Geoff whether he was the kisser or the kissee.

"It took me the longest time to figure out that guys are not in charge in those situations. Any guy who hasn't figured that out just isn't paying attention," he muttered, shaking his head and walking away.

As for me, well, I never kiss and tell, but Henry Markwood -- wherever you are -- I will always remember the afternoon we took the long way home from kindergarten.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Sheila Gardner is night desk editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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