It all began at the California State Fair in 1956. The Jersey cattle were in the show ring. The judges selected the best of the breed.
From the corner of the show ring, the Jersey Queen came out to hand out the awards to the winners. I’ll never forget the day I first set eyes her. She had a little crown and was wearing a light blue dress that matched her blue eyes and walked with poise and elegance.
Talk about love at first sight, she was all I could think about. I finally got up my nerve to buy a Coke for her and her attendant and introduce myself.
Who was she? I did some checking. She was an All Star in 4-H; had a small herd of Jerseys of her own. My dad knew her dad — all “purebred Jersey people” knew each other.
I was too busy driving a tractor on my dad’s farm. She was going to Modesto Junior College. Our farm was in Hughson, their ranch was in Farmington. She had come to America from England with her mother who was a World War II bride.
Rosemary was 8 and had seen war first hand. She and her mom had been rationed one egg a week. Her new father, who had been a sergeant in the U.S. Army, had to pull strings in the California State Department to bring her to America. She couldn’t become a citizen until she was 21.
After we were married, I got to see her sworn in after her 21st birthday, a very moving ceremony. In those days, citizenship really meant something. Applicants had to take a test about our three branches of government and the Bill of Rights, among other things.
Because of Rosemary’s background, she was very frugal with the money we made. She stretched the family budget by cooking, sewing and canning. We worked together as a team to have what we have today. I’m a very lucky guy to have married the Jersey Queen.
On our first date, I took her to the best place in Modesto for dinner. We then drove out to discuss the Jersey show with my folks and see slides of it. When we drove down the driveway, the cows were sleeping in the pasture in the moonlight.
Right then, on the car radio, Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly sang “True Love,” which has been “our song” ever since. Second date was dinner and a movie. Third date, because it was hot and we both had the day off, I drove her to Carmel where it was cool. I’ll never forget walking barefoot on the beach, hand in hand.
A year later we were married, on June 23, 1957. Some accused me of marrying her for her cows! They knew better!
In lots of ways it has been a magical 62 years. We started out rather poor, worked hard, raised our kids, bought a home. Lots of tears offset by fun and laughter. Finally retired and moved from Modesto to Columbia.
We are surrounded by beautiful wooded hills and good neighbors. Rosemary grows roses and hybridizes them. I have a 1946 airplane that I have hung onto for 35 years. One of our great adventures was flying it from coast to coast. We flew low enough to see kids swimming in the creek, women hanging out the wash, barges on the Mississippi River. We rented a car in Pennsylvania and drove through Amish Country — took pictures of their beautiful barns.
We celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary on June 23, 2017, by staying home. Too hot to do anything else. In the morning, I put on a nice white shirt and clean Levi’s, went out and cut a big bucketful of roses.
Rosemary put on a pretty dress and made a beautiful bouquet. I barbecued lamb chops and we had dinner on dishes that were wedding presents. We toasted 60 years with champagne, listening to old vinyl records that were popular in our days on the farm: country music by Hank Snow, Patsy Cline, Buck Owens, Marty Robbins.
While we danced, our two dogs got jealous watching us.
In the evening, we watched a golden anniversary Fox Video of “State Fair,” a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. It was a wonderful day, with phone calls from our kids and very loyal Best Man who always remembers our wedding day.
We feel very fortunate to have grown up when we did and where we did. The family farms that we knew are gone. The big old barns that were a focal point are mostly replaced by modern buildings.
The farm wasn’t just a way of making a living, it was a way of life.
On our “day to remember,” we finally went to bed to dream those dreams again.