Thinking back, there were several reasons Walter Frank “Chub” Gerard, 27,
should not have married Sue Emelyn Meyers, 23. He was an electrical
engineering student at MU, and I was a junior in University High School. We
saw each other at Little Bonne Femme Church south of town, but I think he
didn’t know I existed. Stupidly, I sent this Gerard fellow a comic valentine.
He wrote back: “Listen old Top...I’d like to know you better...Why didn’t you
stop this morning, you’d have been as welcome as a rose in January.” The
comic valentine wasn’t as stupid as I thought!
That was during the horrible Depression. We began our friendship by eating
sack lunches together in his truck. Soon he took me to the Presbyterian
Student Center, where fellows took turns cooking 15-cent Sunday night suppers
for the girls. This group did a lot of no cost -- fun things. We sang and
played games in the winter and once hiked from Rocheport to the big cave in a
hard rain. Drying our socks and other clothing was interrupted by someone
shouting, “Get out of the cave at once; a wall of water is coming.” We left
the food and wet socks and got out fast. The group felt like family after that
At my church, our friends were mostly young married couples. We played cards,
swam, picnicked, fished, cooked out and had lots of parties. In winter, the
fellows made sled runners for a farm wagon and we had some wonderful star-lit
horse-drawn trips in that sled. Chub and I hosted a Halloween party where he
wore only a draped sheet and looked just like Mahatma Gandhi.
University tuition and fees were near $50, and that was a lot! Dad and Mom
sacrificed personal pleasures to keep my brother and me in college. I made a
little money selling blackberries, gooseberries, walnuts and Christmas trees.
Chub helped me cut, carry and deliver trees. He helped Dad on the farm
occasionally just so we could be together.
We used Dad’s mules and big old scraper and leveled a place for tennis, but
the joy was in the doing; we couldn’t afford rackets and a net. We swam at the
free city pool in Columbia; we skated on our ponds. Mom played the piano while
Chub sang and I fiddled. When I fiddled for square dances, Chub was learning
to dance. After midnight he’d take me home in his truck, and I often fell
asleep with my head on his lap.
By 1935 I was teaching 10 hours a week at Christian College for a tiny salary
that doubled for the second semester. Chub’s meager income came from hauling
milk from about 10 farms south of Columbia. He didn’t make much more than his
expenses, and he had student loans to pay. We never talked about marriage, but
I guess we both felt we would someday have money enough to establish a home.
My mother’s basic instructions, before I was old enough to date, were, “Save
your kisses for your husband.” I knew what she meant, and Chub and I never
violated the underlying principle of that advice.
Our married friends were somewhat older than we were. On summers Sundays we
often took picnic lunch to a great swimming spot on the Maries River near
Westphalia. We also had fish fries or got together at our various homes. Chub
and I entertained when Mom and Dad were visiting elsewhere. Four of us singles
drove Dad’s model A Ford sedan to Chicago to the World’s Fair in 1936. We
stowed our luggage under the car and put seats flat and slept like sardines --
my brother and I in the middle.
Chub bought a 1927 Chevrolet chassis from Dad for $15 and an old coupe body
from Gibbs’ Auto for $20. We once drove that car to Illinois to visit his
relatives and had no problems at all.
After seven years of courtship, we were 23 and 27 years old. We abandoned
sensible reasoning and called Carl Agee, dean of the School of Religion, and
said, “We want a small wedding in my home on December 27.” He obliged. Then
we went on a short, old-fashioned honeymoon.
Mother died several months before we married, and I’ve been forever grateful
for her simple philosophy of “saving...for your husband.” Maybe that’s why
this marriage lasted all these years.
Last Saturday our Nancy and Walt and their families helped us celebrate our
60th wedding anniversary!