My parents will celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary this month. That’s right – 50 years. Fifty. Five-O. To put it bluntly, that just don’t happen much these days, so pardon me if I’m a little proud of them.
The Baptist Student Union was hosting a Fall Welcome Social, and my dad had volunteered to drive all the girls home in the bus. (He was no dummy!) He had noticed this dark-haired, big-eyed girl with the big smile who looked a lot like his favorite actress, Natalie Wood. But how to separate her from the group of girls she was with? He quickly devised a plan. The infirmary was in the middle of the bus route home, but he drove past it. When the girl saw that he missed her stop, she let him know.
“Oops, sorry,” he said. “And the bus doesn’t have a reverse gear, so I’ll just have to take everybody else and come back.” Like I said – no dummy. So he dropped off everyone else, leaving her as the last one on the bus.
Opportunity created – opportunity taken.
He also worked in the cafeteria, and every day at lunch, he would save the biggest, prettiest fried chicken breast for her. Funny thing was, she didn’t like white meat. She was a drumstick girl. But she couldn’t fault him for trying. They began spending time together, mostly going to church and BSU functions, as there wasn’t much money for extravagant dates.
The path to true love did have a bump or two. Dad sort of still had a girlfriend from high school, and when Mom found out about that, she put her foot down. He was going home for a weekend, and Mom told him to either end things with her, or she would end things with him. He came back to school on Sunday evening and old girlfriend was no more.
It didn’t take long for them to find they had much in common. Dad was attracted to Mom’s sense of fun, and he liked that “she was a Christian and serious about it.” Mom liked Dad’s sense of humor and the way he made her laugh. Things progressed, and by the start of the next school year, they were both pretty sure they had found the person they wanted to grow old with.
As children of parents who had come through the Great Depression, they both had a wide practical streak. It wasn’t that they didn’t have dreams – they just had a way of assessing the reality of the situation without a lot of fluff. The story of Dad’s proposal lacks a little bit in the romance department, but knowing the two of them, it fits.
Sitting in the coffee shop one night in the fall of 1960, they were discussing the possibility of getting married. Money was tight, so they were trying to figure out how they could make it financially.
“She told me that we couldn’t get married if we didn’t have enough money to tithe,” Dad recalled. “So I got a napkin and started working out all the numbers and figured out how we could make it happen.”