The year was 1939, Fort Smith Arkansas. Historians have a lot to say about that year. War breaking out in Europe was the main concern for many but just getting by day-to-day was a way of life for many.
On average things looked good for people across the nation. One could buy a new house for $3,800. A new car would drop you back a good $700 but you could fill that car up with gasoline costing you ten cents a gallon. One could leave a grocery store with bags full of groceries for just a few dollars. A loaf of bread could be bought for eight cents and hamburger was fourteen cents a pound. I might have been in big trouble being able to buy coffee at three pounds for thirty-nice cents. The Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind came out that year. Americans could see the movie for twenty-three cents.
It all sounds really good, but so many people were not making the average income of $1,700. Most Americans were lucky if their yearly income was above a thousand dollars.
A young woman from a small coal mining town had moved to the big city to make her way. Struggling, Jeanne landed a job at the movie theater and found a room to rent through a friend of the families. She was engaged to an older many, he was twenty-seven and had a good job. He came from a prosperous family. If it wasn’t for him taking her out to dinner, she would have gone to bed hungry many nights.
One afternoon when she reported to work, she noticed a new employee, a tall, handsome, quiet, man. He was to be their new usher. It wasn’t long before conversations before opening time became a habit between all the employees. David, new usher was full of himself, she thought. Conceded and a braggart, she was sure. He worked during the day for the city, digging ditches, which explained his lean yet muscular build. His tanned skin set off his pale blue, almost icy blue eyes. Sometimes the color of the sky and other times a pale aqua. She wouldn’t let him know just how handsome she thought he was.
He was smitten with her. The first time he looked into her deep violet-blue eyes, he was sure he could drown in them. She was all he could think about during the day, hand shoveling new water line ditches for the city. Hot summer days in Arkansas was enough to melt the strongest of men. No one had air conditioning and fortunate to have fans. He would rush home, clean up in front of a small fan and try to make the trip to the theater without being hot and sweaty again. The cool air in the theater was his only relief.
One night when a man picked her up from work, David’s heart fell. One of the other ushers told him to forget about her, she was engaged. Denying he had eyes for her, he made up his mind that he would win her over. How, he had no idea. He was working two jobs, didn’t have a pot to piss in, lived with his cousin, and had an old beat up car. What could he offer her?
The next night at work, he set his plan into motion. He would flirt and tease this beauty into his arms. First he made her tell him about her fiancé, so he had some ammunition for the fight. It didn’t take long before he started chipping away at her. Placing as much doubt in her mind as he could regarding her engagement. Explaining how much more fun life would be with him. How he would kiss her all the time. She would try to laugh it all off, but the handsome man was planting the seeds of doubt. She had to admit to herself, he made her laugh, she was so very much attracted to him, she often wondered if he did kiss as well as he bragged.
At night in her small room, her thoughts concerned David, not her fiancé. No matter how she tried to only think of the man she was to marry, she would fall asleep dreaming of being in David’s arms. Jeanne didn’t know but David had a steady girl too. They had also talked about marriage but no formal engagement. He was poor and was barely supporting himself, how could he take on a wife? Yet, he was thinking about doing that same thing with Jeanne.
At closing time one night as the employees were leaving the theater, David noticed Jeanne walking down the sidewalk. He ran up beside her and explained she shouldn’t be walking alone. Where is you fiancé he asked. He was out-of-town on family business. It was David’s chance! He walked her home for her own safety. She would never admit it but she was thrilled and so excited she found herself lost for words. They made small talk all the way to her place, she was wondering what happened to the man who had bragged about how we would kiss her and make her forget all others.
She turned to say goodnight and thank him for walking her home when he took her into his arms and kissed her. He was right! He kissed her like no one else ever had before. She melted into his arms. She kissed back. He then pulled away and said good night. Breathless she whispered good night back, turned and opened the front door. When she turned he was walking away.
That was how a love story began so many years ago. Three months after that walk home, Jeanne and David were married. After that one kiss they could never get enough of each other. Both had to break off the relationships with their respected others. The friend of Jeanne’s family, Mr. Bell worked in the court-house. He arranged for a Judge to marry Jeanne and David on December 24, 1939, even though it was a Sunday.
After the quick ceremony, Mr. Bell took the two young lovers to dinner. Scared and nervous of the pending honeymoon to be spent in Jeanne’s small room, the two decided to delay a while longer and attend midnight mass. Neither one was Catholic and had no idea what was going on.
After the service, David kissed Jeanne on the steps of the church, whispered into her hear, we have waited long enough. It will be fine because I love you with all my heart.
Seventy-five years ago today, my mom and dad tied the knot, that stayed tied through thick and thin, sickness and health, for richer and poorer, and all the other things that come with life. Although they both have been gone for some years now, Christmas Eve was always a special time in our lives. Not only did we celebrate Christmas, we celebrated a special love between a man and a woman.
Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.