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Meeting My Wife

February 10, 2013

I was in the Navy for nearly four years and fully intended to make it a career. I loved the Navy. Dad did not want me to re-enlist, but I intended to re-enlist anyway. I planned to spend a couple of months at home, travel to the east coast and re-enlist. By shipping out on an east coast aircraft carrier, I hoped to see Europe and meet some pretty French, Italian and Spanish women.

I arrived home Sunday afternoon, March 20, 1955. Dad was the pastor of a small rural church in western Oklahoma. That night at church, Mom introduced me to a young lady and her family. She was one of the prettiest girls I had ever met.

Mom, Dad and I went to Jackson, Mississippi for the national meeting of the North American Baptist Association the following week. While there, I decided that I would continue with my plans to become a Baptist minister. Mom and Dad were very happy about that.

Growing up in a family with a tradition of Baptist preachers every generation, I was expected to be one. I had really thought I was called to preach from my teen years, but had wavered in that thinking as I grew up. I did try it for a while and even was the pastor of a small Baptist church south of Lawton, Oklahoma for a few months. But, I finally realized that I was not truly a God-called preacher. I have taught Sunday School a few times and also worked with kids in various activities all of my life, but I am not a preacher.

On Sunday, I saw Billie at church again. I sat behind her and her family and decided I really wanted to get to know this pretty girl. After church and lunch, another young lady at church called and asked if I wanted to take a few of the girls from church riding. I said yes and drove over to her house. There was Billie among those girls. The girls arranged to seat Billie next to me in the car and we began getting acquainted.

While riding around that Sunday afternoon, I asked Billie if she would like to go to a movie on Monday evening and she accepted. I also asked her about going to the Easter Pageant near Lawton a couple of weeks later. She did not think her father would let her go, but she would ask him. I had seen a movie several years before about the Easter Pageant at Lawton and wanted to see it in person.

On Wednesday night after church, we had a young people’s group get together at someone’s house and I did a magic show. Billie was a sharecropper’s daughter and wearing the only nice dress she owned. I did the milk pitcher trick and apparently spilled the paper cone of milk on Billie. She fell out of her chair to get away from the spill. It got a lot of laughs and she even laughed after realizing that she did not have a ruined dress.

Billie and I began dating and were together almost everyday after that. I had her class ring and she had mine. We went to the Easter Pageant that year with my two sisters and their boyfriends. Back then the Easter Pageant began a few hours before sunrise so that it would end right at sunrise Easter morning. All of us had quilts or blankets and were on a hillside watching the pageant when it began raining after about an hour. We went to the car and left.

I realized within a few days that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this pretty lady. I was not interested in just a few dates, I wanted to be with her forever. I asked her to marry me a few days after the Easter Pageant. I would be starting a new job a few days later and would get her a ring at that time. I asked her what kind of ring she wanted, thinking about yellow or white gold. She said to just go to the five and dime. She did not care.

A few days later, I told Dad I had asked her to marry me. It did not faze Dad one bit that I had asked her to marry me. He told me that the first time he saw Mom, he knew he wanted to marry her. He said they did not get married for a couple of years, but he knew he wanted to marry her. He asked me what I was going to do about a ring and I told him I did not have any money, since my new job wouldn’t begin until the next week. Dad offered to go with me and make the down payment on rings that I could pay out.

We did. I picked a low-cost set with a small diamond. I think they cost about $40 and I would pay them out at $4 per week. Then I went next door and found a fake diamond ring the same size with a larger piece of glass instead of a diamond. Dad said I was crazy. We went home and told Mom. She was quite upset about it being too soon. She said I did not know her well enough yet. Of course, it did not take the entire family long to all fall in love with her because she was such a wonderful person.

That afternoon I drove over to see Billie and gave her the fake ring. It was Wednesday and the day before her birthday. I planned to give her the real ring that evening at church. She got to church before I did and was showing off that fake ring when I got there. I was embarrassed and immediately took her outside, gave her the real ring with the tiny diamond and apologized. I reminded her of what she had said about going to a five and dime. She had a wonderful sense of humor and went inside with both rings, showing everyone. I felt bad, but we laughed about that for the rest of our life.

I found out that Billie had been E.B.’s girl friend, but they had not dated in over a year.  E.B. was gone on harvest when I got home from the Navy. I wondered how he would take the idea of me marrying Billie. I then heard that he had returned. When I arrived at church on Sunday morning, there was E.B. He walked up to me with a grin, held out his hand to shake hands and said, “You are marrying the prettiest girl in the area. Congratulations. I wish you the best.” We are still friends.


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