After decades of marriage and kids, grandchildren, granddogs and cats, the word is out that this venerable couple split.
They met in a first-grade class that numbered just over a dozen in a small-town school that now stands empty.
I pass that relic of community schooling and watch shadows of generations of children in the yard. There are playground skeletons of large pipes that held swings and a see-saw.
Those appliances of play were built to last, perhaps in the 1930s, and are still slick and rust-free, anchored in the clay with concrete.
There isn’t much activity, except for squirrels. The only movement is a single chain, a real chain made of fine steel links that dangles just above head-high.
They played in that yard as tots and progressed from one classroom to another until their migration ended on the high school wing of rooms.
They took classes together, attended dances and graduated in one of the last high school classes of the 1960s.
Of course, there were hitches, but I recall seeing them light up at the sight of the other and hold up a wall shoulder-to-shoulder chatting outside the movie theater.
They cruised the local “strip,” with Gwen sitting as closely as possible, when all cars had slick bench seats, and girls kept themselves from sliding in corners by pushing on the roof of the car.
There was no doubt they would marry. After high school, Larry worked at odd jobs until Uncle Sam made an offer he couldn’t refuse.
The marriage was planned quickly, and as time rushed towards “the date” they nearly vibrated; twitterpated as spring bunnies.
The first child, a daughter named for Gwen’s mother, came while Larry was on Guam.
They chatted via a “phone patch” established by a local ham radio operator. The calls were scratchy and not private, but free, and they could hear the other’s voice carried thousands of miles.
With instant pictures via email and text messaging, it is hard to grasp that nearly a week passed before an “air-mail” envelope containing a picture of Gwen holding the baby reached him.
It included a print of the child’s foot, which he framed.
In time, he added framed prints until a line of baby footprints of kids, grandkids, grand pups, family photos and crayon art ran down the long hallway of the old house they restored into their home.
They took leadership roles in their community and owned a business. They and their growing clan took up nearly two rows of pews in the small Methodist church. As the kids grew, they assumed roles so that their family anchored that church and community.
People wonder what could have happened to Larry and Gwen; how could it be?
Did it have anything to do with the mobile home parked in the side yard?
More coming. . .
Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.