When folks are married for 50 years, the Golden Anniversary, it’s a momentous accomplishment. We gathered Saturday to celebrate my parents’ 65th anniversary.
It’s a feat few can imagine. And to think they are in great health, living in their own home, and still devoted to one another.
After retiring on Camano Island, Bill and Yvonne Brayton became active in the senior scene, Dad as a volunteer for 25-plus years and Mom as manager of the Second Chance Thrift Store.
They had plenty of business acumen, having owned Aurora Cold Storage in Shoreline for three decades. Every time I write about growing up, someone who used to have a locker at my parent’s butcher shop gets in touch.
It amazes me how many folks kept extra boxes of frozen peas in the icy area under my bedroom.
Dad cut meat to order. Mom wrapped sirloins and rump roasts.
They worked side by side, six days a week.
There may never be such a hard-working American era, as noted in the famous book, “The Greatest Generation,” by Tom Brokaw. Those who grew up in the Depression saving string and eating beans, if they had beans, were honored to serve their country in a time of war.
They came gallantly home to suburbs, color televisions and rocket ships.
While her husband served overseas, Mom worked for the Army Corps of Engineers. When Dad returned from 40 months in the Army, Mom had a surprise for him.
“I never spent any of my allotment money from the government for being married,” Mom said. “I salted it away in the bank.”
She found a cute house for them and kept it a secret.
“After I drove Mom Brayton to Fort Lewis to pick Dad up for good, there was a huge dinner party that night at the locker plant.”
As the night wore on, Dad wondered if they would be retiring in the spare bedroom for their anticipated first night together. Mom insisted they keep the party going by visiting a friend.
“You can imagine how excited that made your Dad,” Mom said. “My folks had gone by first and turned all the lights on in the house. I drove up and we got out and went up to the door. I handed Dad the keys and said ‘This is ours’.”
My brother was born within the year.
The best thing my folks did for their three children was to build a summer cabin on Camano Island. Long hot days on the beach are the stuff of my dreams. We floated on logs, slept under the stars, water-skied, dove off rafts, collected agates and raked smelt.
On the way to our oasis, driving through stinky Everett before I-5 was built, if you kept to 28 miles per hour, you wouldn’t hit any annoying traffic lights on Broadway. We usually stopped to get a burger at Herb’s Curb in Marysville.
How my Dad built the cabin at Utsalady Bay, while he worked from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. six days a week, is beyond me.
Mom scrounged most of the interior furnishings.
Relatives, neighbors and friends helped. Dad usually squeezed in an hour on Sundays to troll for cutthroat near Brown’s Point.
Just as fishing has its ups and downs, Dad said through their marriage things weren’t always smooth sailing. During one lull, to reconnect, they took lessons at Arthur Murray Dance Studios. Dad said they had a favorite place to practice new steps on the way home, a tavern in north Seattle, that appreciated their business.
“They had beer waiting,” Dad said. “As soon as we started to dance, the shy ones on the sidelines joined in, and of course, consumed more beer.”
The hard workers deserved nights out. Mom started a preschool and Dad was a volunteer firefighter for 39 years.
Besides the 65th wedding anniversary, our big family news is the impending arrival of Mom and Dad’s seventh great-grandchild. As with all their descendants, Benjamin Terry Whitten will be adored.
The baby will find open arms on Camano Island, where my Dad whips through crossword puzzles. Mom weeds rhubarb and goes to aerobics. Together, they watch the Seattle Mariners games on TV and go to Angel of the Winds Casino, where they love the slots.
They’ve earned every second of fun.
Columnist Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451 or email@example.com.