Back in 1949 one of our favorite pastimes on Friday evening was to drive around Statesville to see what was going on and meeting people. On the evening of May 2nd, I was cruising around town and met up with Calvin Carter and James Parks two of my old classmates. We sat in the cars talking through the windows for a while. James told us that he had a date with a girl, Betty Ruth, he had met. We ask him to check with her to see if she could find us a date. We all went to pick her up and she said she would do her best. We headed over to Ninth Street where she convinced her friend Hazel Gentle to go with us. Since there was only one girl, Calvin and I flipped a coin to see which one of would get to go on a double date with this girl and he won. When Hazel got into the car, I took everyone back to town so James could get his car. When they left my car I went my own way and continued to cruise around the city. By chance I saw them at Randy's Diner and I pulled in right beside of them. Hazel's and my windows were side-by-side which gave us a good chance to talk. Hazel and I ended up talking most of the time. After everyone finished eating their BLTs and drinking their Coke both cars we went separate ways and did not see each other any more that night.
The next morning at breakfast, my sister-in-law Pauline asked me how things went the night before and I told her that I met my wife. She asked me her name but I did not know it. I told her that I knew someone that did and I was going to find out as soon as I could!
James gave me Betty Ruth’s telephone number andI called her to get the information I needed. I discovered that the name of the girl I had met the night before was Hazel Gentle. She did not have a telephone but she worked at J. J. Newberry’s 5 and 10 Cent Store. On Saturday morning I call the store to speak to her and let her know how much I enjoyed meeting her. I found out that she had already told her good friend at the store that she had found the right guy for her. We talked on the phone for a little while and made a date for the next Saturday. It sure was a long week until the next Saturday! On our date we visited a friend of hers and had a great time. I asked for another date on the following weekend which made for another long week. On this date I ask her to marry me and she said yes! Since she was seventeen years old, she did not think that her parents would let her get married that young. Her birthday was September 8th so we decided to wait until after she turned eighteen so she would not have to get their permission to get married. I was a good ol’ country boy I knew a good watermelon from a bad one so you can say I knew which one to pick and the ones that should left in the field. I was just a kid of twenty years old when I asked Hazel to marry me. Listen to me tell this story.
I worked for Joe Brown, a brick sub contractor for G. L. Wilson, building a new gym for Statesville High School in Statesville where Hazel attended school. I would take my lunch break during Hazel’s lunch period. We would sit on the steps out side the high school and eat our lunches so we could spend a little time with each other every day.
Three weeks passed and Hazel invited me as her date to the J. J. Newberry's company picnic at Morrow Mountain Lake on Wednesday afternoon; in Statesville, all stores closed a half day on Wednesday. I asked Albert to use his car to take Hazel to Morrow Mountain State Park for the afternoon. He would not lend me his car because he told me that I should work and not lay out that afternoon. After I arrived to work the next morning I walked over to Sonny Sherrill’s Used Cars and purchased a 1941 Ford so I could take my girl and some of her friends to the picnic. We had a great time! From that time on I always owned a motor vehicle.
Often we would double-date with Jim Wooten and Pat Stradley or Calvin Carter and Peggy Mitchem. Albert and Pauline would leave there house and let us three couples use it. We would go to the store and get something special to cook, prepare the meal, and have a great party. We would play cards and other games until Albert and Pauline came home and then we would spend some time with them. Shortly after they arrived, we had to leave and get the girls home before their 11 p.m. curfew. After we took the girls home, the three of us would cruise around town and see what all went on late at night. It was safe back then to go anywhere we wanted even if it was way into the night. Sometimes we would go to the skating rink and watch the folks skating but would always be home by 1 a.m.
We were very close friends for many years after we all had gotten married but over the years we lost frequent contact with each other. Calvin had a heart attack and passed away in 1995, Jim became disabled and was unable to easily travel, and I had an accident while fighting a fire and was unable to travel for several years.