We had driven to Brewton, Alabama, to the home of Coy Phillips and his wife Brenda. Coy had been the preacher where Jilda’s family attended church.
I’d worn blue jeans on the ride down. Jeans and a T-shirt were all I wore in those days except for special occasions. For the ceremony, I put on grey slacks, a white shirt and a brown velvet jacket. Jilda had on a beige voile dress with crochet lace trim and she looked like a China doll.
Standing on the front porch of a doublewide trailer, the preacher opened his tattered Bible and began to read from 1st Corinthians. His voice rang out to anyone within earshot.
It was a warm afternoon in south Alabama but a gentle breeze blew out of the west and cooled my face.
I gave Brenda a crash course in wedding photography showing her how to look through the viewfinder, how to focus and which buttons to push. My instructions must have sounded like Mandarin Chinese to her because after the honeymoon when I developed the film, the negatives looked as though the pictures were shot at midnight without a flash.
We said our goodbyes to Coy and Brenda and aimed our old Plymouth Valiant towards the beach.
We stopped at a mom and pop convenience store just south of town and bought a couple of Hostess Twinkies. We parked under the shade of a giant oak, pulled a chilled bottle of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill wine from the cooler in the back seat, ate our Twinkies, and with red plastic cups we toasted our future together.
We honeymooned at the Quinn Cottages in Laguna Beach, which is just west of Panama City. Jilda’s family had stayed with the Quinn’s each summer for many years, and the elderly couple was like family.
We spent our days swimming in the warm water of the gulf, walking on the beach and eating seafood so fresh, I’m surprised it didn’t wiggle.
The cottages were built with concrete blocks and had no AC, so we slept on the screened porch and fell asleep each night to the sound of the surf.
There were no condos then, only mom and pop stores, restaurants and sea shell shops. It was a place where people from up north came year after year because it was like a community.
After the honeymoon, we headed home, which in those days was a 12x65 foot house trailer on a small lot we rented from the Lion’s Club.
I worked for The Community News and Jilda worked at Keynote Fashions. Even with our combined wages, we probably qualified for government assistance, but we made it fine most of the time.
A handicapper in Las Vegas would have given odds that our marriage wouldn't last. There were times when the stars lined up against us, and it might have been easier to walk away, but we didn't.
As I sit here reflecting on our 40th anniversary, I'm happy we found each other and found a way to beat the odds.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Happens is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org