50 Years of Us: Part 1 Courtship and Early Days of Marriage
Updated: Feb 23
Four weeks from tomorrow, my Silver Fox and I will celebrate our 50th anniversary. I am beyond excited. Our children and grandchildren are planning a party. So far, we know very few details. We don't know where the party will be, how it will be decorated, what we'll eat, or what the entertainment will include. That's almost unheard of for a Control Freak/Super Planner such as myself. Steve and I chose to let them have the full reins of this event. Our only stipulations were: it needs to actually BE ON THE 20th, we want everyone (all 23 of us) there, we want LOTS of photos, and I want to wear my sequin dress. :) In other words, we want it to be something the grandkids will remember for a long, long time. I trust them. I know for a fact there have been numerous texts and Zoom calls between them as they've worked out details. We love knowing they are having fun with all of this and can't wait to see what they've cooked up.
So, I hope you'll indulge me today and for the next 4 Fridays as I look back on our 50 years, try to describe the highlights, and continue to be amazed at how God has blessed our marriage and family.
From my point of view, there was at least "attraction at first sight." Steve, on the other hand, doesn't really even have a clear recollection of our first meeting. That could be because he was unofficially engaged to another girl at the time.
I saw him for the first time in the pastor's study of Oak Park Baptist Church in Decatur in December of 1968. We, along with 3 or 4 other college students, had been invited to share about life on our various campuses with the Sunday night crowd. Student Night at Christmas was a "thing" in Southern Baptist Churches at that time. It was where we talked about the Christian activities we were participating in while we were away from home. I quickly persuaded my mom after church that we needed to host "a fellowship." I invited all of my fellow speakers to our house while she rushed out to buy some refreshments. (And, yes, I realize that terms like "fellowship" and "refreshments" date me on the spot). I kept opening the door to let in our guests watching for Steve's arrival. He was the last one to appear, and when I opened the door, there he stood with his fiancee. Bummer. I proceeded to turn my attention to a few other cuties in the room and considered that was the end of that. However, Steve's momma was praying. Never underestimate the power of a praying momma! She didn't believe that fiancee was the right choice for her son, and she was depending on God to fix the situation. A few months later there was an infamous Sunday afternoon double date, me with Steve's brother in the front seat of the car, Steve with the fiancee in the back. I'll spare you the details.
Six months later (summer of 1969), Steve and that girl had broken up, we were both home from college for the summer-- Steve from Auburn, me from Samford -- and "free." The thing is, "on paper" we appeared to be the perfect match. Both of us were Christians. Our parents went to the same church. We each thought the other was mildly attractive and interesting. We were both living in Decatur when we weren't away at school, etc. etc. We went out a couple of times and even kissed once, but the chemistry just wasn't there. The timing wasn't right.
We went back to our respective campuses in the fall, got busy with classes (he was in vet school, I was majoring in music), and dated a lot of other people. We were each even serious about one or two of those "other people," but no one, in either of our lives, was emerging as "the one." In early August of 1970, we were both at Wednesday night prayer meeting at the same time, and he asked if he could walk me home -- it was only a couple of blocks. When we got to my house, he asked me out for the following Saturday night. We went to Hatfield Drive-In between Decatur and Athens supposedly to see "The Planet of the Apes," but to this day, I can't tell you a single thing about that movie. We talked and talked and talked and had a great time. The next night he asked me to go out after church. Again we talked, talked, talked, laughed, and finally "clicked." From that point on, there was never anyone else for either of us. The timing was perfect.
Reluctantly, we went to our separate schools the next month, wrote letters frequently, and made long-distance calls when we could scrounge up enough money. This was long before the internet or cellphones or texting or Facetime, you understand. He made trips to Samford. I took a bus to Auburn. The week before Thanksgiving 1970, he came to Samford, so I could take him out for his birthday. We came back to the lobby of Vail Hall where I lived, and there, in one of the date rooms, he asked me to marry him. :) :) He actually wanted us to get married during Christmas break, but I persuaded him that we should wait until spring break, so we could plan a nice wedding. During Thanksgiving, he got up his courage to ask my dad for permission. I knew, of course, that daddy was a softie on the inside, but I also knew he could be quite formidable to outsiders. Daddy gave his blessing. We set the date for March 20, 1971, Oak Park Baptist Church, 8:00 p.m. Let's just say that was the fashionable time for weddings among my Samford girlfriends in those days. I have no other explanation.
My Dad had been supporting the family on a Children's Home salary since 1960. In layman's terms, let's just say it was a modest salary. He had also been allowing my dream of going to Samford to come true, and my brother was about to graduate and go to college the next fall. He said, "All I can spare for a wedding is $500. Take it and do what you can with it." My mother and I had to be very creative. She had a friend who loaned me her wedding dress. We had one flower arrangement at the church, then had my brother take it to the reception. Our invitations were printed, rather than engraved. The pattern and fabric for the bridesmaids' dresses were about $13 each. At the reception, we had a wedding cake, a groom's cake, mints, nuts, and punch. Nothing else. On the day of the wedding, my mother hosted a bridesmaids luncheon at our house, while Steve went fishing for the last time as a single guy. My beloved piano teacher from Samford, Mrs. Betty Sue Shepherd, played the organ. My Uncle George sang. My Aunt Margie directed the wedding. The church was packed. Everything went off without a hitch. We had a 3-day honeymoon in Atlanta. Steve's dad gave us $100 to spend, and Steve dutifully gave him back $35 of that, which, as I think of it now, was a huge hint about Steve's thoughts on money and spending, etc. etc. And yet, God put us together. Go figure. Considering this marriage has lasted 50 years, I'd say my dad got a good return on his $500 investment, wouldn't you?
Genesis 2:24 -- "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."
Mark 10:9 -- "Therefore, what God has joined together, no person is to separate.”
During the middle of the wedding preparations, I withdrew from Samford and began the process of getting accepted to Auburn. Miraculously, every single credit hour I had accumulated at Samford through 6 semesters transferred to Auburn. About 10 days after our wedding, I started my senior year. We lived in a 10' x 50' trailer on Wire Road. I graduated in December of 1971, and Steve graduated with his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in June of 1972. I got a job playing the organ for the First Independent Methodist Church in Auburn making $15 a week. Believe it or not, that paid for a tank of gas and a week's worth of groceries!!! I also had 2 piano students who paid me an additional $4. With that money, we had a weekly date, which often consisted of supper at Burger King followed by playing pool for a penny a minute at the Student Union Building.
(Our first home)
Between my graduation and Steve's, I had an unexpected major surgery to remove a 9 1/2 pound cyst from my abdomen. It could have been cancer. It could have required a hysterectomy. But it didn't. We were so very fortunate.
During our second year of marriage, we lived in Huntsville where Steve worked for Dr. Robert Bentley, and I taught music at the Roger Williams Music Center in South Huntsville. We rented a 3-room, duplex apartment on O'Shaughnessy Street and joined Lakewood Baptist Church, where Steve was ordained a deacon at the age of 24.
(Steve's graduation from the Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine -- such a proud day).
During our courtship, Steve had told me that eventually he wanted to open a vet practice in "either Hartselle or Australia." Seriously. At the end of our second year, we started making plans to move to Hartselle and set up that practice. We borrowed the money for a down payment on a house, rented a tiny office space on Main Street, bought the barest amount of equipment we could get by with, furnished the rest of the office from garage sale finds, and opened the doors on April 2, 1973. That same day I learned I was pregnant with our first child.
Genesis 1:27-28a -- "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it;"
Next Friday -- 50 Years of Us: Part 2 A Full House and Busy Careers