Wedded bliss 70 years later

April 16, 2000|By ANDREA ROWLAND

HALFWAY - Allen and Catherine Williams said they know just about everything there is to know about each other.

That's because they've been married 70 years.

"I know what she likes and what she don't like," said Allen Williams, 89.

"I'm sure of that," chuckled his wife, 88. "I know you sleep all the time."

The Williams' were married April 19, 1930, in Frederick, Md. The couple will soon celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary with a small family party in their Halfway home.

"I never thought it would last this long," Catherine Williams said. "But I knew he was always there and he knew I was always there."


"We've had a good life," added her husband.

Plenty of fun mixed with ample measures of honesty and open communication have proven the recipe for a successful marriage, they said.

"Don't pay attention to what other people tell you. Find out the truth for yourself. Talk to each other," Catherine Williams said.

She paused, looked at her husband, and smiled.

"Don't tell him everything you do, but make him tell you everything he does."

Allen Williams guffawed from his recliner.

"He laughs because he knows that's a bunch of stuff," his wife said.

"We've had a lot of fun in our life," he said.

Allen, who played baseball in various area leagues and drums in the Moose Drum Corps for 23 years, retired from a job with Western Maryland Railroad in 1974. Catherine worked at Fairchild Industries for three years.

The Williams' always took every opportunity to hop into their car for day trips. They loved eating in restaurants, and visiting their friends and family.

Their sedan now sits idle in their driveway because they can no longer drive.

Allen's poor eyesight forced him to relinquish his driver's license three years ago, he said. Catherine's nerves are too bad to risk driving, she said.

The Williamses never had children, and family members don't live nearby. Friendly neighbors take the couple to the supermarket and to the Legion for early dinners every now and then, they said.

Mostly, they stay at home. Allen likes to watch baseball games on TV. Catherine prefers the excitement of real-life emergency dramas.

"Even since we can't go out, we still have fun," Allen Williams said.

They've always had fun.

Catherine remembered Allen from the playground at the old Howard Street School they both attended. She thought the dark-complexioned boy was an Indian.

They lost track of each other for several years until Allen, an athlete who dropped out of high school to work at the Hagerstown Table Works when other members of his family got scarlet fever, spied Catherine sitting on the back porch of her Ridge Avenue home.

He began to flirt with her, and threw her a note asking for a date. Allen courted Catherine on an old Crawford bicycle without brakes.

"A good time was had by all," Catherine said.

She and Allen corresponded by mail while Catherine worked as a book router in Washington. He proposed in a letter.

Allen may be nearing 90 with bad knees and failing eyesight, but his memory remains sharp. He recalls his wedding day with the ease of describing snapshots in a photo album.

"It was 85 degrees that day- the day before Easter. We went for a walk at the reservoir (in Hagerstown)," he said. "We had dinner at the Boonsboro Hotel. I can remember everything I ate."

"The only thing I remember is that I had lima beans," said his wife, laughing.

The walk and dinner followed a day filled with excitement.

Catherine jumped in her brother-in-law's car with her sister, Violet, and rode from Washington to Frederick.

Though she had a wedding dress - "It was lavender with white trim," her husband recalled- Catherine chose to wear her new green suit.

She paused to remember.

"Thunderation, that was 70 years ago and I'd forgotten all about it. But I thought, 'If he won't marry me in this green suit, he won't marry me at all.' "

Allen said he wasn't surprised by his bride's feistiness.

Almost 19, he hitched a ride to Frederick with Catherine's sister, Margaret Kershner, and her fiancee, Howard "Ike" Eichelberger.

Ike, who had rented a car from a shop on the corner of Summit and Antietam streets, was to be the other groom in a double wedding ceremony, Allen Williams said.

"We didn't even have a marriage license."

They got lost trying to find the courthouse, then couldn't locate a parking space. The courthouse doors were locked when they finally arrived, said Allen, who persuaded the court clerk to open up and give the two couples their marriage licenses.

He also asked for directions to the nearest preacher.

At the parsonage, the preacher stood Catherine next to her future brother-in-law, and Allen next to his soon-to-be wife's sister.

"I said, 'No, you got 'em twisted,' " Allen Williams recalled. "We had a big time there laughing and carrying on."

This year, like every year since 1930, Allen will give Catherine a dozen roses for their anniversary. He does the same for her birthday.

"I've got to give it to Allen, he never mistreated me," Catherine Williams said. "I guess that's why we've been married so long."

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