MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, November 17th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. WORLD commentator Kim Henderson on framing up a marriage.
KIM HENDERSON, COMMENTATOR: Anyone who’s been wed long enough will tell you some days of marriage are happy. Some are hard. For those landing on the hard side of the meter, let me tell you what I found at the Milltown Antique Mall last Thursday.
My quest for picture frames—sturdy ones—had me digging through the dark and dusty. On a back aisle I spotted a possible. It was propped between a concrete yard fixture and a complete leather-bound set of Arabian Nights. I moved in closer and fingered the frame. Nah. But what was this yellowed document?
Wow. A marriage certificate from 1914. And not just any old marriage certificate. One worthy of non-glare glass, double mats, and a frame gilded in gold.
Evidently someone once prized this record of Henry L. Newman and Lula May Barnes’ union, but there it was, on sale for $12.95. Price stickers told the tale: This antique was at its second stop on the thrift market circuit.
Bumping into Henry and Lula May like that had me wondering. What kind of happy and hard did the years hold for them? Did Uncle Sam draft Henry? Did Lula May survive childbirth? Were they an Aquila-Priscilla like team or the Ananias-Sapphira variety?
A few days later I tracked down their graves at Rose Hill Cemetery. It turns out the new Mrs. Newman was just shy of 15 when she said her vows. She kept them until she died of a heart attack at 65.
Then I managed to get in touch with one of the Newman’s granddaughters. She filled in some of the blanks.
The groom, Henry, had a barber shop downtown beside the railroad tracks. To accommodate hard working farmers, he opened before 5 a.m., six days a week. Lula May brought him a home-cooked meal every day around 11. On Sundays they took their five kids to First Baptist Church.
Henry managed to build a house during the Depression. It’s still standing on land where their descendants live today. When he retired, the local newspaper celebrated him and a career built on 25-cent haircuts.
The Newmans’ 3 boys and 2 girls grew up and married wisely, too. No divorces in their family tree. The last layer of the immediate branch, a daughter-in-law, died in August.
The granddaughter I spoke with has no idea how “Big Daddy and Big Mama’s” marriage certificate got discarded, but her sister went posthaste to retrieve it. The store owner didn’t charge her a dime. Seems a whole bunch of us agree that when it comes to framed masterpieces, beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.
Truth is, when Henry and Lula May started out, they probably couldn’t have imagined a time when nearly half of all marriages don’t make it. That’s why the fading cursive of their 11 by 14 love story is strong encouragement. It can help you see bigger pictures and the perspective of end results. It can even be rocket fuel on a hard day of marriage.
I’m Kim Henderson.