"Most parents bend a little or show some flexibility," says Chris, "but to this day I've never heard my mom or dad say a cussword and I never will. They just block everything out. I don't know anybody more conservative. It's amazing. Evil just never existed in our household."
The Everts sent their first two children to St. Thomas Aquinas High rather than to the more elite Cardinal Gibbons, "to keep them humble," according to Colette. Later, John attended Gibbons while Jeanne went to public school. If it is true that a person is shaped most by what happens in the home and the classroom, certainly the unique influences of a parochial education left a mark.
"When I think of childhood, I think of being protected," says Chris. "Protection first. Then Laurie [Fleming] and me. Laurie went to Gibbons but we saw each other every day. We played tennis every day. Away from school, where we wore those hot woolen uniforms, we dressed alike. We acted alike. We thought alike. We even liked the same boys. Boyfriends then were people you saw at the courts, watched their matches, spent the day hanging around and talking tennis with, then went home."
Chris' first real crush was a boy named Pike Rowley with whom she "went steady" until Laurie started liking him too much. Laurie eventually married him.
Growing up, Chris always was reserved, quiet, hesitant; clearly her father's daughter as opposed to the bubbling Jeanne, a ringer in personality for her mother.
"Chris hated excess," remembers Colette. "She thought it was wrong to kiss in public, or to cry. Crying was a sign of weakness. She was always dainty, peace-loving. Never had to be scolded. If three of the kids fought for a toy, Chris was the first to give in."
So this was Chris at an early age. She would not volunteer in class, or say hello unless she was greeted first. She had no confidence. "I was afraid of people," Chris says. "Then the better I got in tennis, the more pride and confidence I got in myself off the court."
The crunch came in the eighth grade when she had to make a choice between tennis and cheerleading. "I loved the uniforms, the noise and excitement. Away games and everything," she says of the latter. "But Dad got upset and I knew it would take too much time away from tennis."
In high school Chris made it to only one prom, to only one slumber party, to the Pizza Shack after a football game just once. It was a very big deal when she showed up at a social event. The kids couldn't believe that Chris Evert would waste her time just to have a little fun.
She was not permitted to go out with boys until the ninth grade, and long after that her father would sit up waiting for Chris to come home from every date.