Love stories: Bread ties and dirt roads: Couples share memories of love

Published 3:00 am Saturday, February 6, 2016

webBread Ties and Dirt Road - Picture Collage

“My wife Renee and I are considered by some to be ‘old timers’ since we have been married for over 32 years,” said the Rev. Charlie Newman, pastor of Oak and Shady Grove United Methodist Church

“But on Jan. 11th this year, we had a treat to be able to sit down with some of our elders. Five couples that have a combined 316 years of marriage met that evening at the residence of John and Lena Kate Harden. The average length of marriage for this unique group of people is 63.2 years. At 51 years old, all of these folks have been married at least 10 years longer than I have been alive.”

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Newman said he was so moved by the experience visiting with these long-time couples that he wanted to share their stories. “It was an honor to be asked to come over and take a few pictures of this group,” he said.

What follows is the story he wrote about the experience:

Many stories were told of a time when things weren’t as quite as complicated as they are now a days. This generation of folk came up on lean times and knew how to make ends meet back then, and is certainly not forgotten even today. When I asked how their marriages have lasted so long, the most common answer was they stayed together because they had no choice but to stay together so they could survive in such lean times.

Even though I wasn’t of their generation, I shared a story from my own grandmother with them. I told the story of after my grandmother had passed, we were cleaning out her kitchen and came across an entire kitchen drawer full of nothing but bread ties! It’s hard for any of us to imagine what one person would do with that many bread ties. Lots of chuckling went around the big table as I told this story but I also noticed a few elbows and smirks too. Eventually the truth came out and nearly every one of these couples also had an ample supply of bread ties.

John and Jewell Long were married July 27th, 1951. Mr. John recalls one of the few things they had going for them when they got married was a vegetable garden. What is remarkable, is that they still grow vegetables each year. Working together in a family business for 55 years, their love and affection is as strong today as it has ever been. I’m not sure that anyone else noticed, but their hands rarely separated throughout the night.

Lloyd and Mary Charles Long were married June 14th, 1952. If anyone knows Mr. Lloyd, they know that he can tell some very entertaining stories. Mr. Lloyd said he had six pigs that he raised to get up enough money for the wedding ring he bought for Mrs. Mary Charles. Being farmers and living off the land, many stories were told of how folks were there to help each other out when hard times or sickness came upon any neighbors. Back then folks just helped each other out because it was the right thing to do.

Jerrell and Jeanette Harden were married December 27th, 1953. Jerrell recalls growing up listening to the “Lum and Abner” radio program that came on at 7:15 every evening. Humorous stories from the adventures of the Jot ‘em Down Store and fond memories of his father, J.C Harden and the strong work ethic that was taught way back then that still thrives today. I learned about Renee’s uncle J.C and how he had the first truck in their part of the county. When he went to town, everybody had a list to bring back from town and sometimes they would even hitch a ride. Before motorized transportation was common, a trip to Troy was a two day event.

John and Lena Kate Harden were the hosts for the evening. Married July 14, 1954, this couple had many stories from some of the colorful characters around this part of Pike County. Stories abound about adventures from the Rolling Store to the grocery stores they ran in Clio and Louisville. Adventures of walking to school rain or shine and how the older boys had to cut wood for heat in the old school rooms. There were many stories about neighbors that had sickness and suddenly one day, their fields were full of friends and neighbors tending to the crops.

Cecil and Faye Locklar were married November 13th, 1954. Mr. Cecil told how he went to school only four months when he was eight years old because he had to work to help keep crops up when his daddy came down with appendicitis and was in the hospital for months. He kept his lessons up at night and was able to complete his grade that year. After many years of operating a rolling store, what is truly amazing is that Mr. Cecil still practices the “old” ways of the farm and raises his own vegetables and meat.

Dirt road memories of walking past the neighbors that had just washed their feet for the evening. A daily bath was not common back then but washing feet was a must! As they walked past their house, nearly the entire family could be seen on the front porch with their feet propped up on the railing as their feet dried out in that late evening summer heat. Cell phones, video games or text messages weren’t even close in their minds as they focused on the most important things; faith in God, family, friends, neighbors and most importantly, love.

I am so very thankful for that glimpse into their past. A walk alongside them in their memories on those old dusty roads, tales from their courting adventures and the stories of how they all persevered in hard times made me proud to be in the same room with them. This special generation representing 316 years of marriage knows how to make ends meet and keep love strong through the years. I learned quite a bit that evening like how sometimes it takes bread ties to keep things together. I look forward to sharing these stories with my children and grandchildren – God willing.