Secret Crushes

Secret Crushes

A secret crush is one which you have no intention of sharing with the world — and certainly not with the person you have a crush on, even if you could. You might share your feelings in a journal or confide in friends, but generally the idea of a secret crush is to keep it a secret.

We’ve all had secret crushes. In the early 60s, my sister had scotch-taped posters of American teen idols on her bedroom wall – Frankie Avalon and Fabian. We were Americans living in Germany at the time while my father was stationed at an Army post in Bavaria. Frankie Avalon (still around) is an American actor, singer, and former teen idol. He had 31 charted U.S. Billboard singles from 1958 to late 1962, including the #1 hits “Venus” and “Why” in 1959. Fabian Anthony Forte (also still around) rose to national prominence after performing several times on American Bandstand. He became a teen idol of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Eleven of his songs reached the Billboard Hot 100 listing.

Fabian, such a cutie!
Frankie Avalon, also a cutie!

Those two guys were gorgeous and worthy of having posters taped to a wall! For me, the younger sister, my crushes came in my late teens as I was trying to figure out what type of guy was right for me. Rugged and a man of few words like Clint Eastwood portrayed? Hip and cool like Steve McQueen? Amiable and handsome like James Garner? Cute and musical like Paul McCartney? Or something else? Spoiler alert – I ended up with a good blend.

Isaac Bowen’s Crushes

Secret crushes come and go in life. In my book, Lifelines – The Bowen Love Letters, Captain Isaac Bowen had a few crushes on female vocalists. These secret crushes were known to his wife, Catherine “Katie” Cary Bowen, and she didn’t see any harm in him admiring certain women from afar. One of Isaac Bowen’s crushes was on Johanna Maria “Jenny” Lind, a Swedish opera singer who was called the “Swedish Nightingale.” As one of the most highly regarded opera singers in the 19th century, she performed in soprano roles in Sweden and across Europe.

After being approached in 1849 by the American showman P.T. Barnum to tour the United States for a year, Lind agreed, because with her proceeds, she could fund her favorite charities in Sweden. In September of 1850, Lind sailed to America with a supporting baritone and a London colleague as pianist and conductor. Barnum’s advance publicity made her a celebrity before she even arrived in New York. Tickets for some of her concerts were in such demand that Barnum sold them by auction, and American enthusiasm was so strong that the press coined the term “Lind mania.”

Jenny Lind

Katie Bowen wrote to her mother about Jenny Lind on September 21, 1850, from their posting at Schuylkill Arsenal, near Philadelphia:

My dear Mother,

Isaac says we must be prepared to go hear Jenny Lind, but all the rest of the world are making such fools of themselves that I do not care much to hear her.

Isaac Bowen wrote to his wife about Jenny Lind on October 22, 1850, during a business trip to Washington, D.C.:

My dear Wife,

I returned to Philadelphia on Wednesday evening, devoted Thursday to the closing scenes of packing, &c. I stopped at the Mark House in Philadelphia and had the pleasure of hearing Mrs. Angus sing a whole evening. She sings vastly better than anyone I have ever heard off the stage. Jenny Lind sang at the Chestnut Street Theater the same evening, but I could not afford to give $7.50 to hear her.

On November 12, 1850, Isaac was still in D.C. and again mentioned Jenny Lind in a letter to his wife. He also mentioned Teresa Parodi, his other secret crush. Teresa Parodi (1827-1878) was an Italian operatic soprano who sang leading roles in Europe and in the United States. Admired for her acting ability and attractive stage presence, as well as her voice, Parodi was particularly known for her portrayals of the heroines in operas by Donizetti and Rossini.

Teresa Parodi

My dear wife,

I intend leaving here as soon as Monday, stop a day in Philadelphia, in New York see “the Lind” and Parodi, make a visit of a day or two to West Point, and then hasten to throw myself into thy arms.

By the end of March 1851, as Katie and Isaac Bowen were staying at the Planters House Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri, while making preparations for their trip across the Santa Fe Trail. Katie Bowen wrote to her mother about Jenny Lind:

My dear Mother,

I felt sorry not to get a letter this morning, but will wait patiently till another packet comes in. The one we came in on goes out tonight, and I send this by it. Only two mails a week come here I think. I have missed Jenny Lind. She left here the same day that we left Cincinnati, and we met the boat she was in on the Ohio at the mouth of the Cumberland. She is going to Nashville and to the Mammoth Cave, before going to Cincinnati and will sing in the cave. Some of our passengers remained over at Louisville to hear her, but my enthusiasm did not quite carry me to that.

In her final droll mention about Jenny Lind on April 5, 1851, from the Planter’s House Hotel, Katie wrote:

My dear Mother and Father,

Isaac has laid in stores of every description for our housekeeping, and when we get fairly settled I shall take such delight in describing to you every part of our domicile. Here we are occupying the room and bed used by Jenny Lind – only think what an honor. The great actress Miss Charlotte Cushman is here also, playing every night, but I have not taken a notion to go.  We have so much to spend that I do not care to throw away money in a theatre. 

Katie Bowen’s Crushes

Katie Bowen was not quite as romantic as her husband, but she did admire certain men with interesting histories. One of these was Francois Xavier Aubry (1824-1854), who was a French Canadian merchant, wagon train captain, and explorer of the frontier southwest. Some of Aubry’s achievements include speed records crossing the Santa Fe Trail. It’s unclear if Katie and Isaac Bowen ever met Aubry (also sometimes spelled Aubrey), but they were familiar with him due to his association with the merchants of Santa Fe. One of Aubry’s titles was “Skimmer of the Plains,” and he was also bestowed the honorary title of Colonel out of respect for his authority as a wagon master on the Santa Fe Trail. Aubry was extremely popular among both men and women in Santa Fe and was described as equally at home on a dance floor or in a boxing ring. Reportedly, he was a graceful man of remarkable endurance and agility. The stuff of legend. He spoke several languages and was a dead shot with a pistol or rifle.

Katie wrote to her mother in March 1852 from Fort Union, New Mexico Territory, where she and Isaac were stationed:

My dear Mother,

Some gentlemen leave today for the States. One young officer is going for his health and one is sick here. Mr. Francis X. Aubry, a citizen who trades back and forth between Santa Fe and Independence, is called the plains telegraph. He went over the road once in five days on horseback and has been out and back twice since we came here.

Francis X. Aubry

Katie mentioned Aubry later that year in another letter to her mother from Fort Union:

My dear Mother,

I made a discovery in the art of cooking yesterday. A gentleman living at Barclay’s Fort sent me a bag of tremendous carrots and knowing that they are rarely used for the table at home, I was at a loss how to dispose of them when the idea entered my head that I would parboil and fry them as we do parsnips, and with one’s eyes closed, no one could tell the difference. Just you try them and see how sweet they are, either in sweet lard or butter. We got eighty pounds of beautiful lard out from Independence by Aubry’s last train and made plenty of butter for the table and for cake beside. I have not bought a pound yet, and given away many a roll to those less fortunate.

Unfortunately for Francis Aubry, he was mortally wounded by a knife during a bar fight in Albuquerque in 1854. Katie, Isaac, and their children were living in Albuquerque at the time, but we do not have a reference to it in her surviving letters from 1854. Aubry is buried in Santa Fe’s Rosaria Cemetery.

Katie Bowen’s only other secret crush was on her brother-in-law, Dennis Bowen, whom she described as having “ the music” like her husband. I’m not exactly sure what she meant about “the music,” but I can guess. She adored Dennis Bowen, who was a year older than Isaac. While Isaac Bowen chose the military, Dennis became a prominent Buffalo, NY, attorney who mostly counseled other prominent men of that city. In his obituary, Dennis Bowen was described as a quiet, hard-working, and trustworthy man whose counsel was widely sought regardless of his reticence, but whenever Katie visited Dennis and his wife in Buffalo, Dennis was described as a big tease.

Katie wrote to her mother on August 8, 1847 from Buffalo, New York:

My dear Mother,

Dennis calls me a barbarian and asked me the other day the name of the tribe I belong to. He is a funny fellow and you would all like him very much. He sent a servant this morning to the Post Office and told him to inquire at the “east window” for letters for Dennis Bowen, and then go to the “Dutch window” and inquire if there was anything for me.

Later that month, Katie also wrote to her mother from the home of Dennis and Mary Eliza Bowen in Buffalo, New York:

My dear Mother,

I wish, Mother, that you and Susan and all the rest were well acquainted with Dennis. He is the best soul that ever lived and a good deal of a tease too. Tell Susan that this morning after I got my potatoes all fixed on my plate, and a warm cake buttered, he spread my cake with salt, covered my potatoes swimmingly with molasses and peppered my coffee. If she is not acquainted with the most approved dishes, tell her that this is the latest Paris style for breakfast, and I shall be looking for fashion to eat when I get home.

My Secret Crush

My secret crush is Kenny Loggins, an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. My husband knows about this and we particularly enjoy watching the DVD of Kenny’s Outside: From the Redwoods, a live album recorded in June 1993 at the Shakespeare Festival in Santa Cruz, CA.  My husband and I are happily married and my crush on Kenny Loggins is not a threat to our marriage in any way. Maybe we both have a secret crush on him! In addition to his gorgeous voice and incredible vocal range, what I appreciate the most about Kenny Loggins is his humility and ability to collaborate with other musicians throughout his career. For detailed information about the life of Kenny Loggins, please visit Or join his fan club at like I did!

Kenny Loggins

My book, Lifelines – The Bowen Love Letters, is currently available on, Dorrance Publishing Bookstore, and The Last Chance Store of the Santa Fe Trail Association.

If you want to reach out to me, send a message to with the subject line of Secret Crushes. You can also friend me at I’m using Susan Lee Ward as a pen name. Cheers!