1894. Princess in Uniform: Chased, Captured, Conquered


It is cold and late at night in January near Memphis, but she warms up quickly. He has just changed from civvies into uniform so the marine guards will admit him back on the navy base. (WAVES can wear civvies on and off the base.) They steam up the windows of his newly purchased first car with some more smooching. He proposes, she accepts, and they feel the need to celebrate. He is proud; she is lathered up with joy. She wants to tell everyone; he wants not to be upstaged in declaring their intentions.

He drives to the hangout favored by many sailors and WAVES. A mile from the gate, it is the only food and beer in a place suitable for women to hang out. Also, most unmarried sailors lack a car. They pass a phone booth and he reminds her they no longer need it. It has provided them a great heater-upper break during cold walks back to the base. With the door closed and light bulb loosened, they steamed up the windows and faded out of sight to passing traffic. It was much like the old practice of engaged couples bundling in bed in sewed up individual sheets. Except that in a small phone booth it is vertical, the bundling is with heavy winter clothes, and hard corners can discomfort a rib or two. She loved the attention and affection. He loved the feel of her body even through so much fabric and against her moral restrictions. To this day the memories entertain.

As he drives he asks her not to disclose their plan to marry. She thinks, “Oh, s***! He’s already trying to back out. Why go there? Why celebrate if I cannot involve others in my happiness?” He cannot explain but she agrees and on arrival goes first to powder her nose.

She returns to cheers, sincere congratulations, and catcalls of whether she knows what she is doing. How can she take herself out of circulation? And with him?

To this day she begrudges his telling everyone. She wants the pleasure, but he has to protect his manliness. If she announces it, he becomes the beta guy or gamma dunce having to watch her declare his future. If he announces, his alpha side shines through. He at least starts out still in charge of what is ahead.

But a few minutes earlier, his proposal of marriage caused a gigantic hullabaloo and her accusations about the honorableness of his intentions have not quieted in 58 years.

He grew up in West Virginia, she in Texas and California. Both joined the Navy late at age 20 and 21 respectively. Their paths first crossed and quickly uncrossed on the commercial bus—the ‘Vomit Comet’—that hauled sailors back and forth between Memphis and the Naval Air Station 20 miles away in Millington, Tennessee.

She and Wanda Garcia, a boot camp friend, are reporting to their first duty station at NAS. They board the bus, take the farthest back seat, and fill the full width with luggage. The bus is nearly empty. Slightly encumbered when he steps aboard, he musters his beer courage at sight of a beautiful redhead. He focuses his eyes, steadies his body, reviews his intentions, and moves in.

As soon as he gets close, his ambitions turn honorable. Redhead, beautiful, and coming to a location near him, but his excitement overwhelms his charm—better yet, beer charm. She gives him the old heave ho with a hitch-hiker’s thumb wave as if to say, “Get outta’ here.” Her abruptness de-energizes him; she is one tough broad. I need to recover he thinks and slinks to a seat far away. If they giggle, he does not want to hear it.

That was October 1953 and he endures her icy coldness for a full year. She joins the admiral’s staff at headquarters. He works elsewhere but falls in ranks with her and the rest of the staff every Friday morning. Before or after formation, if she sees him first, she scurries away. If he sees her first, he tests every attractive appeal known to mankind but without success. It is not always “Get outta’ here” but it feels like it to him. Nothing matters. He is the redhead expert, but she defies his expertise.

He questions his qualifications. He recognized at about age 16 that redheads make the prettiest women. He specialized and became an expert. He ogled four without getting serious enough to date, dated three, and now hopes to marry the most beautiful, but she will have nothing to do with him.

So many defeats kill his initiative, until embarrassment forces a cowardly incident. Serendipity arrives at a Halloween dance. Five sailors and five WAVES arrive in two groups. They all know one another and sit around and swill at a round banquet table. Four sailors invite four WAVES to dance. Guess who is left across the table from each other. They have not spoken to each other in days if not weeks. A jitterbug number plays—‘In the Mood’. Embarrassment mounts. Should he or shouldn’t he? Is she embarrassed less than he? Would she rather be wall flower than dancer?

Oh, what the hell, he thinks. She loses, not me. With no thought of rescuing her or using the milk of human kindness to relieve her discomfort, he takes the coward’s way out. He says with no concern for her as if her response does not matter, “We might as well dance, don’t you think?” With bowed head she nods yes and gets up before he can round the table to help with her chair. Then lightning strikes.

After just a few bars, they dance as if made for each other. They are tuned to jitterbug perfectly. She learned from a brother in California. He learned from his sister in West Virginia. Now, in Memphis, they dance as if those teachers are grading the performance.

When romantic ballads play, it is near-lightning. Neither will admit to wanting to dance exclusively with the other. Their steps are together, but their spirits do not heal much less jell. They both dance with other partners as if nothing exceptional has happened, but it has. At the end the gals and guys return separately to the base, just as they came.

A week or two passes. It is noontime. He exits the Navy Exchange with two Hershey bars intended as his dessert. She is entering. He stops her, says that he has bought the chocolate for her. After a moment’s chat, she accepts both bars. Three months later they marry. He learns a vital lesson: Chocolate triggers a woman’s interest when words fail.

We now return to the unresolved and disharmonious disagreement over his proposal of marriage and the family’s entertainment over their present-day disputes.

Situation. It is mid-January 1955, the same night outside his locker club with which this story opened. His newly earned reenlistment bonus, after purchasing his first car, still leaves enough for them to marry but without a honeymoon.

They date several times a week for about three months, all without a car except for borrowing one a few times. If they cannot bum a ride, they walk. Saying goodnight at her barracks door is not always peaceful. In one moment of frustrated regression into adolescence, he tests her for round heels. She refuses to be pushed over into a flower bed. Whenever their sons need a good family laugh, they whoop and holler teasing dad about it.

Burgers and beer with an occasional pizza are all he can provide on E-6 pay of $195 a month. She makes $99 on E-3 pay. He gets about $100 more if they marry and rent housing on the open market, which returns them to about $300 a month before taxes.

With his orders to transfer to Pensacola, they discuss their future together. (After almost six decades of marriage, he admits his proposal of marriage hinged on her willingness to follow him wherever the Navy sent him. Could she handle being a Navy wife and live it up to his expectations?)

In those days a wife in service could not get orders to husband’s new duty station. She had to marry, resign from the Navy, and then move at private cost. But on that usually unacknowledged fact, loud accusations and disputes still flood the family with laughter.

His Version. Being practical, marriage plans come before the proposal. Presuming that she knows she must leave the Navy to follow him, he proposes that he transfer to Pensacola and prepare an apartment while she goes through the discharge process. While not proposed as such, marriage is implied by their spending plans for his reenlistment bonus. They have a couple months to plan, carry out a marriage, and get her discharged so she can go to Pensacola too. He has already disclosed that his reenlistment bonus will buy her wedding outfit, get pictures made, and set them up in housekeeping. Neither has other savings and she will not ask her father to pay. He anticipates that she will need at least several weeks if not months to map out wedding plans. He does not know her family or her intentions for them. He wants to hear how proud she is of his intentions and plans.

Her Version. He invites her to follow him to Pensacola so they can shack up. (Not the farthest thing from his mind but not his plan. After all, without marriage before he departs, she can neither follow him nor exit the Navy.)

Results. Misinterpreting his invitation to mean shack up, she blurts, “I wait for no man. Go by yourself. Take me home right now!”

Sensing that romance is not a life preserver as she prepares to abandon his ship, he smoothly shifts into recovery mode. He sticks his wrists together in front of her and says, “Okay, put on the handcuffs and ball and chain. Will you marry me?”

A couple of weeks later they marry in the base chapel with many friends but no family. They set up the first of 24 households (in the first 38 years) and honeymoon in Navy housing for two months while she is honorably discharged. They depart for Pensacola via his family home at Easter time. Five years pass before he meets her family.

Thus, she single-handedly conquered her male beast. Today she celebrates her 81st birthday. However, he is burned out when it comes to surprise gifts. She has seen it all and knows him well; nothing will surprise her. She has already been surprised with everything from diamonds to a new ironing board cover.

It was years before he discovered that the written word is more surprising than things. Consequently, he surprises that beautiful lady with the tribute above.

Happy Birthday, Grace. Thanks for 58 years in which each new year converts former years into better memories and appreciation of how great, attractive, and important you have always been as wife, friend, and mother.

P.S. This November 23 she celebrates her sixth anniversary as Mrs. A. Guy Maligned. (Darn it, life would be so much easier if we had two ironing boards.)

35 Comments

Filed under courtship

35 responses to “1894. Princess in Uniform: Chased, Captured, Conquered

  1. Sis

    This was beautiful, I love hearing about all your couple mistakes and how how you both recovered in the end. Happy Birthday Grace!

  2. maries@earthmotorcars.com

    That was so beautiful, I’m still crying after reading that amazing story. So proud that you have taken your talents and share your valuable information. I miss you guys! Would love to see you both, Marie
    Call if you want to grab breakfast sometime. Happy Birthday Grace!

    Your Highness Marie,

    Welcome aboard. It’s a great day when another pretty woman joins us on this cruise to WhatWomenNeverHear.

    We’ll call about breakfast and find out how Mia has grown.

    Guy

  3. maries@earthmotorcars.com

    I have to tell you I felt like I was reading a romance novel! Your writing skills captured my attention!

  4. Tania

    This would make a great movie. Happy birthday, Lady Grace!

  5. Wonderful! Thank you for all you have taught me and for the great story. Happy Birthday Mrs. Guy and God bless your new year.

  6. Brown_eyes

    Beautiful! Congratulations! What a great story! I need to hear more! Tell us everything Mr. Guy! (:

  7. Steady

    Happy Birthday Grace. This is an amazing ‘love’ story and I for one am very happy for the ending.

  8. Happy Birthday Grace! I loved reading about your courtship & marriage! 🙂 I love & miss you!

  9. Thank you for sharing.. I enjoyed the romance. Ted

  10. Sharon

    Have a lovely birthday, Grace. Sir Guy, thank you for the great stories.

  11. StillLearning...

    Happy Birthday, Lady Grace! What a wonderful story. Wishing you both many more happy years.

  12. thetruth01

    Happy Birthday, Grace!
    Thanks for marrying a great and wise man. Who lifts you up as the Queen you are and is an example for what we women should look for in a man and what men should strive to become.

  13. Sandra C

    Happy birthday Grace! This is such a precious story and what honor you have given to Grace with this true story. Someone commented that it could be a movie and I say ditto! My favorite part was “her version” and “his version.” I want to read more!

    Your Highness Sandra,
    Welcome aboard. It’s a great day when another pretty woman joins us on this cruise to WhatWomenNeverHear. Plenty to read wherever you look.
    Guy

  14. GOD LOVE YOU!!! THANK YOU FOR SHOWING US HOW TO DO IT!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

  15. Cocoa

    Happy Birthday Lady Grace.
    You have captured a great man. Or should I say, you’ve worked so hard and with patience and tact to turn him into a great man. Well done:)

    Loved the romance. God bless.

    Sir Guy, can’t leave without a question:
    ” Chocolate triggers a woman’s interest when words fail.” Is that for real?
    If so, I better pay attention to someone who’s buying me chocolates. Oh well, my name is cocoa and I love chocolate.

    P.S. When he offered me choc I insisted on paying my share 😉

    Your Highness Cocoa,

    Men expect that chocolate will trigger a woman’s interest simply because they look for something that will work and chocolate seems so universally accepted.

    You gotta’ learn to accept a man’s gifts with grace, charm, and smiles. Give him enough that he admires himself for doing the right thing. Don’t pay next time.

    Guy

    • Cocoa

      oooops! I thought I did the right thing. I wasn’t planning by any chance to make him feel bad for something really sweet and thoughtful.
      I insisted to pay as to set barriers but maybe I went to far. After him offering and me paying I sent him a message saying “Thank you so much for offering to pay, that was so manly of you”

  16. Lin

    What a lovely story! Brought me to tears. Happy Birthday Lady Grace!

  17. J'ahdore

    Congratulations on so many years together! Happy Birthday Lady Grace! Thank you for sharing! What a beautiful story! : )

  18. Miss Terri

    Wow! An awesome post for an awesome lady! Happy Birthday, Lady Grace. Here’s hoping to many more happy and beautiful years!

  19. Sbaby

    I am so moved. Happy Birthday Lady Grace! Sir Guy, you are one of a kind.

  20. Lisette

    Happy Birthday Grace! And what a wonderful real life love story. Those of many of my friends, both married & unmarried seem so sordid by comparison. As for me personally, I have no love story in my life yet, but I’m still hoping! And, Guy, you are so right about the chocolate.

    Your Highness Lisette,
    Welcome aboard. It’s a great day when another pretty woman joins us on this cruise to WhatWomenNeverHear.
    Guy

  21. The Shrinking Black Girl

    I am so happy to hear the personal story! Amazing and INSPIRING!

  22. Lori

    What a beautiful tribute. You have both inspired our lives with you wisdom, knowledge, grace and love of God. We miss you both so much.

    Your Highness Lori,

    Lori, thank you. It’s great to hear from you. We want to catch up. So, expect an email.

    Bill

    P.S. Welcome aboard. It’s a great day when another pretty woman joins us on this cruise to WhatWomenNeverHear. I would sure like to hear whatever contributions you and Richard would like to add.

    Guy

  23. Sara

    I admit this is a romantic story and I’m warming up to military stories as time goes by. I too have a personal affinity for redheads, having dated more than one and am letting one pursue me now. Congratulations on getting hitched to a beautiful and classy redhead; you got it made 🙂

  24. Anon

    Happy birthday 🙂 How blessed you are. Your inner beauty , spark and wisdom have won and built the love of a family and drawn us to you in respect as we learn with a smile from the best godly teaching – a life that proves it.

  25. Lyndeeloo

    Sir Guy,

    I’ve read this post several times; it is beautiful.

    I did a search for “proposal” and this was the first post that came up. I’m not sure it’s the place to ask my question, but here goes nuthin’.

    Is there a way that a woman can drop hints that she needs more time before a man proposes? I’ve been dating a man for almost six months and my mother and sisters keep saying I should prepare myself for his proposal and know how I will answer him. They are certain he’ll be proposing any day now. I wouldn’t be dating him if I didn’t think marriage to him was a possibility, but I have some more digging (regarding faith and family matters–i.e. children and the raising of them) to do before I could answer yes to a proposal. If he were to ask, I wouldn’t want to say no and end the courtship, but I couldn’t say yes just yet. So, to reiterate–is there a way a woman can gently drop hints that more time/information is needed before a proposal can be answered?

    As always, your thoughts will be greatly appreciated.

    Your Highness Lyndeeloo,

    Here’s what you do. Sit and list all the things you want to check out before you accept. Don’t show it to anyone, as they will just find ways to take exception or add to the list. The list will give you ideas for seed planting. Then, just start hinting to him about things of listed interest. Two roughly drawn examples:

    • You want to meet his family. Show interest in it. Inquire often about some member. (You are interested in knowing them, right?) Will some member ever visit him? How often does he visit? Verbalize it when things remind you of them and his role in the family.

    • Regarding his faith. Ask him to take you to church. If it’s already happening, branch out into prayer meetings or Sunday School. Or inquire about changing churches, so that denomination becomes of interest. Or, take bible verses to him and ask for his interpretation.

    Those are just ideas to hint at getting what you want to know. Your list will put you in charge of qualifying him for marriage to you, which is what’s expected of you in the first place. He can’t earn you if you don’t know what you want and expect.

    Guy

    • Lyndeeloo

      Sir Guy,

      Thank you for the advice. My beau and I spent the afternoon together and I was able to subtly direct the conversation (via some gentle questions) to family matters and he took it from there. I feel that the discussion left us both knowing that more conversation is needed on some important topics. I’ve been to church with him, but he hasn’t come to my church yet, but he expressed interest in coming with me, which would open up plenty of opportunities to guage where we each stand on certain theological issues that can be difficult to work into everyday conversations.

      Thanks again!

  26. Cinnamon

    Sir Guy,

    Would you please post a wedding photograph of you and Lady Grace (or a photo of you together from around the time you met)?

    Thank you

    Your Highness Cinnamon,
    I’m willing but have neither the skill nor the picture. Wedding pic is still loaned out for grandson’s wedding. All other pics have been packed for relocation to WV in month or two.
    Guy

    • Cinnamon

      Sir Guy,
      I hope your relocation is a successful one and that you will be closer to your children and grandchildren. I am looking forward to seeing the picture once you are settled in.

    • Anne

      Best of luck in your relocation. Our family is originally from that neck of the woods. It is a beautiful place!

    • Cinnamon

      Sir Guy,

      We are still very much looking forward to this – could it possibly be arranged as a Christmas/New Year’s treat?

      Much love to you and to all your wonderful commenters this Christmas (I realise I am a week early!)

      Your Highness Cinnamon,
      I’ll try. Wedding pic is being shipped back to me. My favorite has been misplaced or at least ‘unfindable’ after relocating. But there’s a copy with a son. So, perhaps I can fulfill your wish.
      Guy

  27. Cinnamon

    Hi Sir Guy,
    I am supposed to remind you to explain to us what in heaven’s name was going through her mind between October 1953 (the bus to the duty station at NAS) and October 1954 (the Halloween dance).

    Your Highness Cinnamon,

    Her Majesty Grace spent that year telling me to spin off in some direction other than her. She would never tell me but I think I put it together.

    First, my running mate was a ladies’ man. I just stayed close to the magnet. He worked near her and teased her regularly, and so I was guilty of something or other by association.

    But then I got promoted in a rare manner for those days in the Navy and made senior to my buddy. I think she saw that I had promise that she hadn’t recognized before, her interest changed, and my charm won the day.

    Actually, she later told me that she accepted the challenge when I told her that I rejected the idea of ever marrying. I said that on the first or second date after I gave her the chocolate. It lasted 59 years, which says much about her ability to get what she wanted.

    Guy

  28. Cocoa

    ‘Which say much about her ability to get what she wanted’ this is lovely and gives me hope. I always feel in myself that if I really wanted something I can get it. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of indirect work, hints and plant seeding. Her majesty Grace must’ve been great in all that. All with a quiet and feminine spirit.

    • Cinnamon

      Well you have certainly piqued my curiousity, Sir Guy. Why were you so soured on marriage at that age? And when did your mind begin to change?

      It’s interesting because one of the axioms I cite (wrongfully, apparently) when advising single women about WWNH principles is to categorically avoid men who speak negatively about marriage. I know that I would never have had the mettle to take one on, but Grace was obviously made of much tougher stuff.

      I am going to have to rethink how I present this particular subject, since I don’t want to steer a single female away from a potential Mr Goodenough who actually might be a diamond in the rough. I do however think it takes a special kind of female to rise to this particular challenge.

  29. msarianne

    Love this true story. Had read it awhile back. So nice to find it again.
    Ari

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