Bob and Phyl: Vows have lasted 50 years

Bob and Phyl: Vows have lasted 50 years By Bob Karolevit On January 4, 1951, 24-year-old Phyllis Gunderson and I pledged our troth just inside the parlor of the old, long since gone Sacred Heart Rectory in Yankton.

Good grief! That was 50 years ago � which means we'll be celebrating our golden anniversary.

On that cold, wintery day, we agreed to love, honor and obey: through thick or thin, through ups and downs, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer. That was half a century ago, and those vows are just as good today as they were when we made them.

I have a hazy recollection of our reception at the local VFW club, but I remember like it was yesterday that Bob Barr, my best man, broke off the aluminum key in the door of our tin can-trailing Kaiser.

After a moment of panic, we must have found another key because we loaded all our worldly possessions in the back seat of the car and took off through the snow with little thought of the morrow.

Our first night was spent in Mitchell at the Lawler Hotel (also long since gone). We tried to disguise our new status, but the next morning the bellhop asked us: "Well, how do you like married life so far?"

We headed west, with a meager bankroll and no job for me to go to. We didn't even know where we were going to live � but the U.S. Army took care of that.

It was on our honeymoon that the telegram caught up with me and I was recalled to the service as a public information officer at the Seattle Port of Embarkation. We rented an apartment, and the two of us became deeply involved in the myriad details of welcoming home shiploads of Korean War veterans.

Being intimately involved in the press coverage of the pier receptions and Seattle's famous Welcome Lane was fulfilling work for us. However, it all ended when I got new orders. I spent that Christmas and our first wedding anniversary away from Phyllis with the U.S. Eighth Army in Seoul.

She still teases me about having to drink martinis out of a tin cup while she lived it up in Seattle. I was a censor of sorts and spent brief assignments at Panmunjom and Koje-do Island in the aftermath of the "war that wasn't a war." Then I, too, was welcomed back to the U.S., with Phyllis waiting for me pierside as our troop ship docked.

Together we rode in a convertible through a rain of confetti and streamers in downtown Seattle. It was our "one touch of Venus" � and then reality set in.

As an ex-G.I., I was unemployed until I landed a relatively brief job with a Seattle printshop. Phyllis went to work as a secretary, and eventually we bought our first home. It was sort of a run-down hovel on a wild blackberry-infested acreage near Bellevue, Washington.

I became a freelance writer, and Phyllis supported me with a paycheck until she quit when our first daughter was born. We had our share of ups and downs then, and for a while it looked like the "richer or poorer" part of our vows would have the emphasis on the latter.

As they say, a lot of water has gone over the dam since then. Sheep came into our life. Daughter Jill joined daughter Jan. We thought my first book � Newspapering in the Old West � would set us free. It didn't.

I suppose you can say our life together has been like the Dodge commercials. Different!

We've been through political wars. We've promoted boat shows, fairs, civic celebrations and even the early-day Dallas Cowboys. In between times, I wore out two or three typewriters writing 36 books. In the acknowledgement sections I've had to think up many ways to thank Phyllis for being my chief goader, sounding board and microfilm-squinter.

I think my best one was when I included her in my "succor list." But I digress.

Yes, fifty years is a long, long time, but it seems like it has just whizzed by. In the process we've met lots of wonderful people, had some great experiences and slept in hundreds of different beds since that first night at the Lawler.

I've never been much good at mushy sentiments, but I almost get choked up when I think about all those good years together. Now I've got to come up with still another way to thank her.

Unfortunately, my dictionary just hasn't enough words for that!

© 2000 Robert F. Karolevitz

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