Steve Morris and Joe Whitehead may not remember all of the conversations they had at El Cid, but there was one they could never forget, thanks to a tattered dollar bill.
It was April 4, 1976. Morris and Whitehead had graduated college, quit their jobs at a Cadillac dealership, and were about to embark on a cross-country camping trip. Unsure what the future had in store, they made each other a promise: to reunite at their favorite dive bar West Palm Beach, Florida, in 40 years, no matter what.
"The only reason we wouldn't show up is if we were dead," Whitehead, 64, told TODAY.com.
Whitehead took a dollar bill out of his wallet, wrote the date "4-4-2016" on either end, and tore it in two. Each man took a half.
And even though they lost touch over the years, Whitehead and Morris have each cherished their half of the bill. Morris kept his in a box of important papers; Whitehead carried his in the window pocket of his wallet as a constant reminder.
And the reminder worked, because when Morris picked up the phone this past Christmas Eve and heard his old pal say "Hi, this is Joe," he immediately responded: "4-4-2016."
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"Life had just gotten in the way, as we suspected it would," Morris, 63, told TODAY.com. "I was planning on having my son track Joe down, but [Joe] beat me to it."
The two old friends hadn't seen each other since Whitehead moved up to Rhode Island 38 years ago, where he now lives with his wife and their 24-year-old daughter and works as a vice president for global compliance at an international bank.
Morris, who stayed in Florida, is now married with a 29-year-old son and a computer-assisted business designing machine parts. He'd been waiting for April 4, 2016 to roll around to return to El Cid with his partner in crime.
Unfortunately the bar closed down last September, so they had to pick another spot to meet. But they still paid homage to the beloved watering hole where so many memories were made.
While reminiscing about the drinks they had after their shifts at the car dealership and the old-school music that would blare from the jukebox, they caught up on 40 years.
"A childhood friend is different because your world is different," Whitehead said. "We went through everything together that those formative years bring — dating, driving, becoming legal — which is the reason why we made this commitment and why it's so special."
At the end of the visit, they took out a fresh dollar bill and wrote "4-4-2017" on it. Then they tore it in two and promised to meet in Rhode Island in a year.
"If there's someone you'd like to talk to, don't wait to reach out," Morris said. "It may be too late."