Amanda Stevens was born into a lower income family in the middle of Nebraska's heartland. She was the fifth child of Joseph and Emily Stevens. Joseph took work wherever and whenever he could, but he had born with a bad spine and that made farming a challenge. Emily had not finished school when she was sent out to be a maid at one of the local hovels. The Great Depression was raging all around them and getting food on the table every night was a challenge at best. Amanda arrived into this world on March 1, 1948 just as the world was trying to recover.
Emily had not expected to give birth to a healthy child as she had lost three of her babies earlier. But Amanda was healthy. She was also inquisitive, precocious and cute as a button. When she was five years old she was selected to be Nebraska's toddler of the year. Unbeknownst to her parents, she had been spotted by one of the officials of the contest and he felt she was the perfect child. Life was never the same after that.
Amanda was recognized by everyone. People would stop her family on the street just to get near her. Strangers bought her clothes, and sent food to her house. Her home town of Florida, Nebraska made an official day for her - the Amanda Stevens day and people from all around the state came to see her.
Amanda's life then became a whirlwind of pageants and contents, with her winning every one of them and all the proceeds went to the family. This was great while it lasted, but it cost Amanda an early education and by the time she turned thirteen her babyish good looks had vanished and she entered the awkward stage of puberty. Pageants didn't want to have anything to do with her; the contest money dried up.
Joseph, never really a happy man, became agitated and hostile. He'd had eight years of free money coming in to take care of his family and he'd grown fat and slovenly. On July 4, 1961 he told Emily he was going out for cigarettes and he never came home. Emily completely fell apart. It wasn't so much that she loved, or even cared, for Joseph, but they had been married twenty two years and she had never been on her own. Amanda did the best she could to take care or her family, but her older brother Riley had enlisted in the Army right after high school and was not even home when Joseph disappeared.
Amanda would get up in the morning, make sure her mother was okay and then walk four miles to school. She did not get good grades and really didn't have any friends, but she didn't want to end up being a housemaid like her mother had been and thought that if she at least finished high school she would have a chance at a better life. She'd come home at the end of the day and make whatever dinner she could from what little they had. There were many nights neither one of them ate.
In September 1963, the then fifteen year old Amanda, began her first day at Florida High School as a Junior. Her awkward puberty stage was almost gone and she had turned into a beautiful teenager. Heads turned as she walked down the hallway of the school that day. People she had been going to school with for years suddenly noticed her. All of a sudden everyone wanted to be her friend. She had no idea how to handle that so she closed all the walls around her and stuck to herself.
Rarely speaking with anyone in class or in the halls she was stunned when someone said, "Hey Amanda, can I talk to you?" She spun around to see a girl that she recognized as the most popular girl in the class, but had no idea what she wanted.
Responding she murmured, "I guess so."
"My name's Cindy and I know we've never spoken before, but I was wondering if you were doing anything after school tomorrow. A bunch of us are going to go the football game and we just thought it would be fun if you joined us."
Before she could think, "Why?" popped out of her mouth.
Cindy was shocked, but took it in stride, "Because I've noticed you don't have many friends and I'd like to change that."
"Oh, OK," Amanda accepted that response. "I'm not sure I can tomorrow. I need to check with my mom first."
"No problem, we try to go every week. The quarterback is dreamy!"