A simple, old-fashioned love story of a guy and a girl who found love on the brink of the "golden age", and chose that love for the next 65 years.
1947 marked the year Francis Craig was topping the music charts with "Near You", the WWII peace treaties were signed, the first TV soap opera was broadcasted, the first Tony Awards took place, Jackie Robinson became the first African American baseball player in the MLB and "Rookie of the Year", Pan Am became the first worldwide passenger airline, and the Marshall Plan took shape becoming the first American program aiding other countries with economic support following WWII in order to prevent the spread of Communism. Amongst a country going through great change in history after the war, there was a young and sweet farmer and a cute and feisty waitress in North Dakota who fell in love.
Before they met...
In the summer of 1947, Lois had just finished her sophomore year of high school and was working at the Munich Cafe as a waitress. This is a job she had been working since the young age of 14. She worked there every lunch hour and Wednesday nights when the freight train would come through town. Her main worries were her job, getting ready for a new season on the basketball court, and going to as many dances with her friends as possible.
In the summer of 1947, Vince had finally made it back to Munich from serving in the United States Navy. He captured the end of WWII on an oil tanker in the Lucian Islands and Japan. After serving in the Navy from 1944-1946, he was ready to go home and farm; a place that would forever have his heart.
How they met...
Back in the good ole' days, long before bumpin' and grindin' became a thing, town hall dances were all the rage in small towns all over America. It was a chance for everyone from the surrounding towns and areas to come together and dance, drink, and have a good time. According to Vince, you would go to the dance and get burgers and shakes at the cafe afterwards. Live bands, swing dancing, and loads of people young and old were guaranteed at these events.
On one particular night in the summer of 1947, there was a dance going on at the Munich town hall, and love was in the air. The music was playing, and Vincent Dawley wanted to dance with Lois Wirth. He had known her from working in the cafe and was friends with her older brother, Norman. His good looks ands suave personality got him a dance, which led to more dances, and a chance to drive her home. Lois points out, "I think there was a spark pretty quick."
That ride home led to a love that definitely lasted past the summer. Vince was not only a farmer, but a referee for boys and girls' basketball in the winter time, so many of their dates consisted of Lois going with him to his games. When she wasn't at his games, he would be at hers. She was still in high school after all. Vince recalls one occurrence where he was actually officiating one of Lois's games, and he called a foul on her, which led her to getting so mad that she threw the ball at him! With a wink and a chuckle, Vin ended the story saying, "She must have gotten over it because she still went out with me."
Once Lois had graduated from high school, she got a job as a teacher's aide in Egeland, North Dakota; a town 17 miles from Munich. If you're familiar with the weather of North Dakota, you'd know how deathly cold and snowy it is in the winter time. Due to bad roads and harsh conditions, Lois rented a room in Egeland for $15/month. What a steal! Through the bad roads and horrible weather, Vince kept it his regular routine to visit his lady as frequently as possible.
How he popped the question...
After hearing from most of his family and friends, "If I were you, I'd hang onto that little blonde," Vince decided to make it official. On a spring night in 1950, Vince was driving the two of them to a dance, and couldn't hold it in any longer. He pulled over the car, and asked her to be his wife. Her response? YES!
July 31, 1950 was a wet and cloudy day. There had been a terrible rain storm the night before, but this couple wouldn't let it get them down. Through her many years as a waitress, Lois had become quite the cook, so naturally, she did most of the cooking for their reception. She remembers going home early the night before the wedding to make the dressing for the meal. My how times have changed! With the ceremony in the morning and reception at noon, that left the afternoon for a kick-back at the farm with friends and family. Their most favorite part of the whole day was the wedding dance held at the place where it all started, the town hall.
Being the youngest of 11 kids and a sister getting engaged at the same time, Lois's mom suggested (and forced) her and her sister to have one wedding, a double wedding. The brides took it very literally with matching dresses ($50 each!), veils, and flowers. One thing they didn't share, however, was the groom.
After 6 kids, 16 grandchildren, 5 great grandchildren, and 65 years together, this couple's love story came to a close in the fall of 2015 when Vince was taken to his heavenly home. At the time of this interview, they both said the key to their marriage was hard work. Lois recalls, "The 50s were different. We depended on each other for our livelihood. It's a different world nowadays, and people don't depend on each other anymore."
The support and hard work that they put into their family and farm solidified their marriage and stood the test of time. They both stress how important it is to do things together and spend time with one another. Don't say "I" this, but "we" this because you're in this as one.
Vince put tears in my eyes and his when he said this, "She is my family...my everything. From the very beginning I have loved her beauty, personality, and hard work for our family. I knew we'd have beautiful children, and she'd be a good partner to spend my life with. I feel we've had a good marriage, and I couldn't be happier and more blessed. I still love her as much, if not more, as I ever did."
As I'm writing this, I can't help but feel the tears welling up in my eyes. Why does this love letter make me so emotional you ask? Well, I am proud to say that these two are my grandparents. I was blessed with the chance to grow up within 6 miles of them my entire life. I spent much of my life sitting in the tractor with my grandpa and kickin' it with my grandma. Between spending countless hours in my grandma's old photos, playing dress up with her fancy jewelry and old clothes, baking, and washing all her china on a regular basis (simply because I have a love affair with cups and saucers), we became very close. There is never a day that goes by where I don't long for a tight squeeze and kiss from my grandpa, or my grandma's witty responses and sly winks. The two of them have made my life so rich and full of love. I saw their cute faces at every basketball game, volleyball match, theatre production, pageant, music concert, and graduation. They never showed up in my life out of obligation, but because they love and support their family with their entire beings.
It's been 4 1/2 months since my grandpa passed away. I think of him everyday and miss him with my entire being. I can't begin to imagine how my grandma feels being she got 65 years with him over my measly 25. I recently got to spend time with her during our first holiday season without my grandpa where I didn't just feel like her granddaughter, but her friend. After laying in bed looking through old photos of them dating and watching hours of home videos dating back to the 50s, she finally opened up to me about the struggles of letting go. The thing is, she didn't just lose her husband; she's not just mourning her love, but her life. Most of her life was him. There's something so beautiful, yet so painful about that concept. Not one of us deserves love or a story like this more than the next, which makes it such a gift when you do get to experience it.
I can't begin to express how thankful I am that I was able to sit down and talk with them about their story before my grandpa approached the final chapter of his life. Boy, do I wish I could have been a fly on the wall of that town hall 69 years ago when sparks flew on the dance floor. They were young and excited to spend their lives with each other. The way that these two view marriage and commitment is a faraway concept that was thrown out the window years ago. That is why I adore this love story so much, and will hold onto it for the rest of my life. I plan to carry these same principles into my love story. Love is not just a feeling, it is a choice. Somedays, love is the furthest from your mind when you're dealing with finances, frustrations, and crying children, but you choose to love and commit through the good and the bad right? May we live by that example and choose to love through all of life's twists and turns, even when it's hard.
Thank you, grandma and grandpa, for transforming me forever by your love story. Thank you for showing me such a strong example of what love, commitment, respect, and trust looks like, and never forgetting to say, "I love you too". I love you forever. This one's for you.