Sixty Years: A Puff of Smoke, But A Lifetime of Joy


Sixty years ago, this week and next, you would have found me climbing ladders practicing a trade my friendly paint store manager made possible. I worked for the county school board a year earlier, painting school buildings for $3.00 an hour (not bad for the time). However, as a college student paying my way, I need to maximize my summer working hours to produce as much income as possible. One day the boss sent me to the paint store to pick up several five-gallon cans of paint that would complete the summer’s stint of working for the school board. I asked Charles, “Could you teach me how to estimate house painting jobs?” He said, “Sure if you buy your product from me.” I told him that was a deal, and he did. Throughout seminary, I earned a good side income painting houses for a friend who owned numerous rental properties. But I am getting ahead of myself, back to sixty years ago.

Sixty years ago, this summer, I finished my last college course—post marching for graduation—the third week of July. Rather than driving back to Pennsylvania, I went to Pam’s home in Georgia, where her parents graciously allowed me to live for the next five weeks. He Dad lined me up some house painting jobs for himself and some friends. So, most any day between the last week of July and the last week of August, you may have caught me painting.

Those Five Weeks

What a joy were those five weeks since our courtship had been 90% on the campus of Bob Jones University, where the simple joy of holding hands was a taboo. With her folks and 15-year-old brother as constant companions, holding hands and other appropriate demonstrations of affection were both legal and approved. However, those weeks were wonderful for many different reasons. There was the opportunity to get to know her mother and father, who quickly became Mamma and Daddy. They were in their early 40s; my folks were already pushing 70, as were all my relatives. I quickly developed a special friendship and her mother, Betty, became one of my best friends over the years. I had no living siblings, so now I had a brother, and we had a typical brotherly relationship, a 22-year-old, and a 15-year-old, that grew into an adult relationship we both cherish. Those five weeks laid a foundation for relationships for the rest of our lives.

The Last Week of August

That last week of August, sixty years ago, was my introduction to middle-middle-class America. My family would have been considered middle class, but just so. My Dad was a pipefitter by trade. My Mom worked in a sewing factory, then ran a convenience store (think a privately owned 7-eleven). When I was about seven, she became a farmer’s wife, as we moved to a farm until I went to college, and then she returned to the sewing factory working piece work at 57 years of age. 

Being part of getting ready for a middle-middle-class wedding, though tame in today’s terms, was a bit baffling. I did what I was directed to do simply because I had no idea what to do. While some men would have been thoroughly frustrated, I was fascinated. It whetted my intellectual appetite. I was also getting to know the woman who was about to become my bride in her environs—a new window into her being and she into my being. 

My best friend, David King, would later become my son’s namesake, and my college roommates of three years, Jimmy Miller and Dean Oldham came into town. No formal bachelor parties. We just hung out, told stories, and laughed a lot.

The Wedding Day

Sixty years ago, on September 01, 1962, we made our vows to God and each other. Earlier that day, Daddy, Rex (brother-in-law to be by evening), Uncle Gene, and I buckled on our holsters, grabbed some long guns, and went out for breakfast and a shoot. On the way home, we stopped in a little country store somewhere south of Atlanta, piled out of the car, and headed in to get some cold soft drinks. Only we forgot the cowboy-style side arms. When the older lady, the store clerk, looked at us with a somewhat scared look, we realized why. I assured her we meant no ill and took our six shooters to the car.

Then it was home to shower and dress for the big event. Meanwhile, a friend of Mamma’s gave Pam a room at a nice hotel where she could spend the day by the pool, shower, do make-up, and do everything girls do to look their best.

 The Wedding Ceremony

Dr. Paul Van Gorder, Pam’s pastor, who she says fed her stake at every meal, did the honors. It was a relatively simple service followed by a reception at the church. My grandchildren, strong Christians, would have thought our reception rather like an old fogey gathering. Nonetheless, our reception was enjoyed by 100 plus who attended.

We capped off the wedding day by spending our first night together at the Holiday Inn on the other side of Atlanta. In terms of glitter, our wedding day was a precursor to our lives for the past sixty years. However, our lives have overflowed with God’s blessing, just like that day was overflowing.

So Why this Simple Personal History

  • To highlight a sixty-year milestone of God’s faithfulness. Pam and I met 15 days shy of a year before we married. By October 16, we decided to get engaged at Christmas. Neither of us was committed to a career pathway, but one of the strong appeals we saw in the other was the desire, spoken and demonstrated, that Jesus is Lord, and we would follow Him as He would lead us.
  • To declare that these sixty years, with trials along the way, have been filled with joy. We have loved, encouraged, prayed, confronted, cared for, supported, and practiced all those other one another passages toward each other. 
  • We have traveled much of the world carrying out a gospel ministry. We have counseled together, spoken at conferences together, and ministered to each other’s parents together.
  • We have rejoiced in not only seeing our children walk with and serve Jesus but our eight grandchildren as well as the spouses of those who are married.
  • Finally, to commend to my readers God’s way to live. Not all of you will have the opportunity to marry or enjoy our long life. But if you marry, commit to and be sure your spouse is committed to following Jesus. The latter laid out the marital roles and guidance for glorifying Him and thereby enjoying Him, which brings great enjoyment to your marriage.
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