I dropped out of college due to the lack of funds and I needed to find a job other than cutting timber with my father, as I would not get paid until the job was completed. In addition, my dad treated me like a child rather than the adult I had become.
My older brother, George had worked for a farmer in Ohio and met a girl by the name of Bertine Hess. I decided to hitchhike to Coolville, Ohio, to see if she knew where to find work. When I arrived at the Coolville High School and asked for her, the principal informed me she did not attend that school. He looked in the records and found she was enrolled in a school a few miles away.
So, I got back on the road with my thumb out and arrived at the Olive Orange High School about noon. I asked a young lady if she knew Bertine Hess. She said, “I’ll get her.”
A few minutes later, a girl wearing a purple school sweater with a large orange “O” on it, came up the steps to the landing where I stood. She clasped a zippered notebook tightly to her chest. Her sweater was about two sizes too big and in the pocket was a hot dog wrapped in a napkin.
Now, when I tell the story, I like to embellish it a little. I tell the story that in order to meet my future wife I had to swim the Ohio River from West Virginia. The Ohio River is full of hungry catfish, so a man has to swim fast to make it across unharmed.
When I arrived at the High School, I saw this young lady had a hot dog in her sweater pocket and I was really hungry. I remember thinking, do I have to marry that girl to get that hot dog.
That’s my embellished version. The truth is; I did not swim the Ohio River, I crossed over on the Belpre Bridge.
The Moral is: Be careful when you meet a girl with a hot dog in her pocket, you may end up a married man.
Notes: I later joined the Marine Corps in May of 1953. While I was in boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, Bertine wrote me letters, which I appreciated. After completing boot camp, I went to visit her. We attended the Meigs County Fair where we had our picture taken.
My first duty station was the US Naval Training Base in North Chicago, Illinois where I continued to receive letters from Bertine. I was given a 30-day leave before my next duty station, which would, most likely, be overseas. While home on leave one night, after her parents had gone to bed, I proposed.
She said, “What?” and for a moment, I thought I had made a mistake. But then, she started giggling, and said, “I’d be happy to be your wife.” We celebrated by going to the refrigerator for a pickle, which we shared.
After my leave was over and I arrived at El Toro Marine Corps Air Base in California, I put a deposit on a diamond ring. I didn’t complete the payments until after I arrived in Korea. The engagement ring arrived at her home the same day she graduated from high school, where she proudly showed off her ring to her classmates.
We were married for 61 years.