My parents were little more than children when they met in the fall of 1960. A new school year had begun and the days were growing short. Mother sat facing a blackboard spread wide across the front of her eighth grade history class. A gently breeze fluttered in through an open window, rustling the red and white stripes of the America flag as her teacher droned on about names and dates. The scent of burning leaves accompanied the breeze and drew mother’s focus off her teacher and onto the multicolored leaves of crimson and gold that resided just outside the open casement.
When her teacher called upon her to answer a question, she immediately jerked her head forward, but knew neither the question nor the answer. Her temperature began to rise as embarrassment and anxiety caused her neck to turn several shades of red. Just as she was about to confess–she didn’t know the answer to the question–my father, whose desk sat directly behind my mothers, discretely leaned forward and whispered the answer in her ear. This act of chivalry on my father’s behalf was the beginning of a budding friendship, which bloomed into love and continues to blossom today.
A few weeks later, my mother stood poised in front of her bathroom vanity combing her hair for the hundredth time making sure not a strand was out of place. Her mother called from the living room to let her know her two girlfriends had arrived and were ready to leave for the movie. Mother grabbed a white sweater from the closet and slipped out the front door with her friends. Smoke curled from chimney tops, dried-brittle leaves crunched beneath their feet, and a gentle wind brushed against their faces as they made their way down the sidewalk to the center of town–chatting excitedly about my mother’s first date with my father.
Dad patiently waited just outside the By-Jo Theatre for Mother and her friends to arrive; a smile curled at the corners of his mouth when Mother’s silhouette came into view. My parents made small talk (their stomachs jittery with nerves) before purchasing tickets and entering the theatre. The small group of four made their way down the lighted aisle, the smell of buttery popcorn teasing their tongues, to the middle of the the theatre, and choose four seats–my parents sat side-by-side and talked until the movie reel began to roll.
There was a chill in the air as my parents exited the theatre and a hint of wood burning was carried on the breeze. My father walked my mother nearly all the way to her house under a colorful array of leaves which lined the sidewalk before turning around and heading for home. This began their dating–she was thirteen and he was fourteen years old.
My parent’s, small, hometown not only housed a movie theatre but a roller rink as well. The skating rink was one of their favorite places to hang out–many a Friday or Saturday evening one could find them logging mile after mile around the rink–hand in hand as they circled the roller rink to the sound of popular 60’s music stopping occasionally for a soda or a snack.
In the autumn they sat under Friday night lights huddled close, keeping one another warm, as they cheered for the Germantown Cardinals. Winter brought not only piles of white but basketball season. On game nights my parents often kept the bleachers warm cheering for their school.
After home games (both football and basketball) they often went to a sock hop–a dance costing thirty-five cents and was held in the school gymnasium. Bleachers were pulled out for seating, shoes were kicked off (shoes weren’t allowed because they would destroy the gymnasium’s floor) and music was played or a live band was hired to play. Both my parents enjoyed dancing and spent many an evening slow dancing in one another’s arms. From time to time my father (who played the electric guitar and was in a band with some of his friends) and his band would be hired to play at the sock hops.
On sunny afternoons they might spread a patchwork quilt upon a carpet of green and eat a picnic lunch prepared by Mom or take a leisurely walk under a sky of blue…just happy to be in one another’s presence.
Just as the hands of time move forward, so too, did my parent’s relationship. They went steady–dating only each other–sharing their hopes and dreams, establishing trust, and fashioning an unbreakable bond. Each season brought with it, it’s own set of change, and yet their love continued to grow.
My father found employment, working part-time at the Shell filling station, his sophomore year of high school. Not only did he pump the customer’s gas but he cleaned their windshields and checked their oil–service was great in those days. He saved his pennies and was able to purchase his first car, a ’54 Ford convertible, his junior year of high school. The following year (his senior year) he would sell his convertible and purchased a brand new ’64 Ford Galaxy.
Keys and a set of wheels opened a whole new world of dating for my parents. Cruising quickly became a favorite activity on a Friday or Saturday night. They drove from one end of town to the other–starting at the burger joint and ending at the Dairy Queen. On warm summer nights, a gentle breeze blowing, they would stop and chat with friends as the crickets and katydids provided backup music. A giant juicy burger, salty fries, and a carbonated coke (Mom drinking cherry coke) was a much loved dinner. The night wouldn’t have been finished without a hot-fudge sundae smothered in whip-topping, sprinkled in nuts, and topped with a bright red cherry.
They took drives, down long country roads with the top rolled down and the wind combing its fingers through their hair.
The prom of ’65 was the last school dance that my parents would attend. Dad pulled up to Mom’s house in his Ford Galaxy dressed smartly in a blue tux. He rang the doorbell. Mom, looking lovely in a blue chiffon dress with an empire waist, greeted him with a radiant smile and a look of love in her eyes. Dad smiled back and carefully pinned a bouquet of white carnations to her dress and she attached a boutonniere to his lapel. Pictures were snapped of the handsome couple and off to the prom they went.
Only a few weeks later they and their fellow classmates gathered to receive their diplomas. Dressed in cap and gown they filed out of the school auditorium, high school graduates. Parties with cake, punch, and good things to eat were held in their honor.
The summer of ’65 marked the end of their childhood. Vietnam was fully in swing and my father planned to join the Air Force at summer’s end. The calendar pages slipped by quickly for my parents-Dad continued working at the filing station (working seven days a week until 9:00 p.m.) which left him only evenings to spend with Mom.
When September arrived it was not an easy good-bye for my mother–Dad was her whole world. They’d been nearly inseparable for the last five years and suddenly he was miles away in Lockland, Texas. When his basic training was completed in Lockland he boarded a bus and traveled across country to Kessler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi–his first duty station. Here he learned how to fix radios and became a radio repairman–he worked on B52 Bombers and KC135’s.
Letters flew back and forth across miles–a trip to the mailbox could be pure joy or utter disappointment. They planned to be married on my father’s first leave home, however, there was only one slight problem with this plan…they didn’t know when my father would be given leave–making it difficult to plan a wedding. All wedding plans had to be put on stand-by until a date could be established.
The Air Force gave my father one weeks notice prior to his leave–he would be flying home Christmas Eve. All family members began to scurry–see if the church was available, order a cake, dresses for bridesmaids, a marriage license secured, a blood test taken (blood test were required in ’65), and pretty much the whole nine yards had to be arranged in only a week.
Dad purchased a plane ticket for December 24, plans were being made and all systems seemed to be on target for a Christmas Eve wedding. However, three days after they got the green light on Dads leave an outbreak of meningitis occurred on the Air Force Base that Dad was stationed at. Officials threatened to quarantine the base which would have meant no leave…no wedding. However, without a definite quarantine, wedding plans continued–prayers were prayed and all were hopeful that a wedding was on the horizon.
Dad’s plane touched down on Christmas Eve, 1965, at the Cincinnati Airport in Newport, Kentucky. Mother stood anxiously awaiting his arrival wearing a blue wool dress and red heals she had purchased, just, for that occasion. The moment my father (dressed handsomely in his Air Force uniform) came into view, tears slipped down Mom’s face and happiness shined in her eyes. They embraced and kissed both elated to be in each other’s arms.
There was just one remaining obstacle, a minor impediment they had to overcome, they would need to be married in Kentucky before driving home to Germantown, Ohio. It being Christmas Eve, no public officials were open in Ohio, therefore, they were unable to get the required paperwork to be legally married in Ohio.
Thankfully, they had discovered this little detail prior to Dad’s arrival and had made plans to get married in Kentucky. Two cars were driven to the airport, so that, the following family members would be able to witness the wedding: my grandparents on both sides, my father’s brother and his wife, and my father’s sister and her husband. My parents were married in the Justice of the Peace’s living room their families watching.
That evening, the altar of the small Baptist church that my mother grew up in was festooned with red and white flora; and my parents were married yet again on Christmas Eve. Mother clutched a bouquet of evergreens and white carnations as she gracefully walked down the aisle in a white satin gown; the veil that covered her head could not hide the joy that radiated from her face as she made her way to my father. Dad, looking dashing in his uniform, never took his eyes of Mom.
Bridesmaids wore red and white dresses-red velvet bodices with white satin skirts–groomsmen wore white tuxes with black ties.
They repeated their vows once again surrounded by a room full of family and friends. A stunning couple hey made as they exited the sanctuary as man and wife.
A reception was held in the basement of the church–cake was consumed, a toast (punch) was made, the garter was thrown, and the bouquet was tossed–a celebration for all. Just as they existed the church it began to sprinkle–well-wishers showered them with grains of rice as the Lord showered them with drops of rain. They drove away in their car, lovingly decorated with he words “Just Married” upon their windows.
The subsequent morning they went to my father’s parents for breakfast–it being Christmas Day, not a restaurant was open–and spent the remainder of the day visiting with family. The following afternoon Dad boarded a plane back to Kessler Air Force Base. Mom would not be joining him for another month, he had to secure a place for them to live which he was able to do by the end of January. Mom said she cried her eyes out when she had to say good-bye at the airport. She joined Dad in Mississippi on January 21, 1966. They have been together ever since.
If you enjoyed reading my parent’s story please drop me a comment and let me know. I’m going to be continuing their story after the first of the year and I’d love to hear what you think.
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