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My Grandparents’ 1940s Love Story – 70 Years Later

Today was Nana and Grandpa’s 70th wedding anniversary. A sweet family came over for a cookout to help us celebrate them. The family has 3 teenage daughters who love the Hallmark Channel. Grandpa’s telling of their love story did not disappoint.

We all circled up and asked them questions about where and how they met. Grandpa did most of the talking. Let me try to paint you a word picture of how their love began.

It was late 1940s. Grandpa had served as a sailor in WWII. He was a radio operator aboard one of the battleships. He was young, witty, handsome, and talkative. While all the other sailors went to the bars to drink and pick up women, he would throw his roller skates over his shoulder and find the nearest roller rink. “That’s where all the gals were,” he told us. Then he looked over at Nana – and blushed. But he was just as quick to say that “those gals didn’t want to date a sailor – they just wanted to dance with one.”

Every town back then had a roller skating rink. Each had a disco ball (which he described as a globe of reflectors they would shine a light on), a large wooden floor, an organ and lots of young people eager to couple up. The organist would sit up on a platform above the skating floor at one end and play. “It was a classy thing back then, a big deal – none of this rap music or rock & roll or all this junk the kids play these days. It was clsssy. You really had to know the steps for the circle waltz, the tango, the flea hop, the samba, the rumba, and so forth.”

They would turn down the lights, crank up the organ, and begin with the circle waltz. The music would play and they would just dance.

Grandpa describes throwing his roller skates over his shoulder and hitchhiking to the next town to find a rink so he could skate and dance.

This is just an image I Googled, but it’s what my mind pictured as he talked.

When he met Nana, she was a telephone switchboard operator. When you’d want to make a call, she was the one on the other end who would say, “may I have your number please” and you’d tell her like – 543 Pleasanton – and she would take the plug for your call and stick it in the proper jack to complete the circuit. This would cause the phone to ring at that address. I describe this here for my daughters’ sakes – in case they were on their cell phones during this lesson in history class.

It probably looked something like this:

This is where Grandpa came to see her during work one day and when he couldn’t find her, he climbed onto her grandparents’ roof and into a second-story window just to make sure she was okay. Pretty sure she wa just napping.

Nana was a looker (see the top pic), and when Grandpa saw her he said “that was it. She was the one. It was just a matter of time and overcoming obstacles.”

Obstacles like the fella she was seeing.

She was apparently seeing a quiet guy who was Grandpa’s best friend. Grandpa said, “I just walked right home, got my harmonica, went back to where my best friend was with her and began to play.” He told us “that guy didn’t stand a chance against my harmonica playing. Not a chance.”

At this, Nana interjected that she’d actually been won over because Grandpa was a talker. And then this happened:

He flew an airplane and took her up in it one day. They both flew.

Side note: Apparently the person who taught Nana to fly also taught Amelia Earhart. Her instructor had eaten with Amelia just before her ill-fated flight.

So Grandpa took her up and did a couple of barrel rolls just to see if it would scare her. All she had to say was, “Do you have any other tricks?” And the rest is history.

70 years, 2 boys, and several grandkids, great-grands, and great-great-grands worth – actually.

This afternoon Grandpa gave her this ring set and said, “this oughta do us for another 70 years.”

Happy Anniversary to two of the most awesome people I know, from a granddaughter who is grateful for their love and example toward her over the years.

God, please grant me such a love.


Mom. Word Nerd. Friend.

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