Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dana and Papaw's 75 Anniversary

This is the news article that was in the Palestine Herald Press on Sunday, January 29th, 2012:

Virgil and Lela Harris of Palestine are celebrating their 75th Wedding Anniversary on January 30th with a dinner hosted by family and friends.
Lela Kelley Harris says her father cried when she told him she was getting married. His 21-year-old girl was marrying a man that he had not met and that Lela had only known for a couple of months. The year was 1937. She was a tall, beautiful red head who had caught Virgil Harris’ eye as she walked past the gas station where he worked on Avenue A in Palestine. He was 22, having been born the year World War One broke out in Europe. He was six-feet-one, weighed 220 pounds and had a 29-inch waist. He was all muscle and movie-star handsome with black hair as thick as his biceps.
When Lela began her new job and first started walking to it from her parents’ home, she didn’t notice the young man at the station. Then one day, her older sister came in and said there was a good-looking fellow at the gas station. “Let’s go get some gas,” she said with a wink. The girls scraped up a quarter and went and bought two gallons of gasoline for their father’s car. Virgil and Lela made eyes and the rest is history.
Well, as Lela Kelley walked by his station each day on her way to her depression-era government job in the old Post Office building in downtown Palestine, Virgil would come out to the street with a water hose and pretend he was going to spray her. She was a country girl from the hills of Concord in north Anderson County. He had only recently moved to Palestine from Wood County after he and his older brother, Roy, purchased the gas station from Williams Oil Company. He lived with a family on Dallas Street and also walked to work every day. Lela had long red locks that flowed behind her as she strode by on her five-foot-eight frame. She would cock her head at him and giggle as he tried to make the best of their brief daily encounter.

It didn’t take long for him to ask her for a date. She accepted and he met her at the movie theater. She says it was the Texas Theater, but he says it was the Pal. She told me he walked up with a coke bottle cap in one of his eyes and grinning like a mule eating briers. He had borrowed the “shop car” from the gas station. It was a Chevy coup with a broken steering wheel and no heater. “We didn’t need a heater,” he said, grinning. Their first date was on December first – his birthday. After the movie, which neither can remember, they drove the coup to the Old Mill Inn drive-in restaurant and ate burgers in the car.
The date must have gone well because they married two months later on January 30, 1937. He met her parents the night before the wedding and she went to Winnsboro to meet his folks a month afterward. A couple with a car drove them in thick fog to Jacksonville to Rev. Green’s house for the wedding. No family members were present.

The young couple moved into a furnished house on Kolstad Street where the rent was twelve dollars and fifty cents per month with all bills paid. Each of them made fifty dollars per month so they did okay. Virgil joined the home guard when World War II broke out.
She was a member First Baptist Church in Palestine and he soon joined her there. In 1954, they joined a new church on their side of town, Norwood Heights Baptist
. They were faithful members of the church, teaching Sunday School and attending regularly until this past year. Lela worked in a flower shop, but has mostly been a homemaker; Virgil retired from Mopac Railroad in the mid-seventies and went to work as a salesman at KLIS Radio until the early nineties. Both are members of the Masonic Lodge. Virgil is also a Shriner and Gideon.
Now days, they don’t drive anymore, so they only visit Norwood when they can catch a ride with someone. They lost their oldest son, Don, in 2010, when he was 72. Remaining children are: Judy Foree and husband, Ken, and John Harris and his wife Linda, and Daughter-in-Law Fran Harris. Grandchildren are: Kevin Harris and wife, Kelly, Craig Harris and wife Jodi, Lezlee Neel and husband Gregg, and Stephanie Miley and husband Robert. Great-grandchildren: Travis and Kristyn Neel, David, Savannah, Kody, Tanner and Payton Harris, and Monica Miley.

Virgil, 97, and Lela, 96, are residents of Dogwood Trails Assisted Living in Palestine.

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