Friday, June 8, 2012

Bill & Mary: The Love Story

Mary Pierce Engagement Picture-1946
Most love stories begin the same.  Boy meets girl.  Boy falls in love. Boy marries girl.  My parents were no exception except that it went more like this- Boy sees girl then takes entire summer to ask her out and finally has first date the night before she's scheduled to leave town.  But fate is a funny thing.  That first night both of my parents knew they'd not be apart for long.

In the Summer of 1944 my father, Bill,  was working at Curtis-Wright (now Rockwell) as part of his Engineering Co-op work study through the University of Cincinnati .  My mother, Mary, was also working at Curtis-Wright as a temporary secretary during her summer break from Ohio University.  The first time Bill Johnston saw Mary Pierce he was on a city bus on the way to work.  He looked out when the bus stopped and saw a beautiful, young, slender woman with long dark wavy hair running to catch it.  After boarding the bus she found herself face to face with a tall, lanky gentleman dressed in a typical suit and tie.   Mary looked up at him and smiled and said hi. She says he was drop dead gorgeous. According to Bill, he was already in love at that point.  He would see her on the bus daily, but didn't feel confident he could get a date.  He wondered about it  for 3 months and near the end of the summer someone told him  that Mary would be leaving the next day because her summer break was over.  Bill finally found his nerve.  They went on their first date that night at the VFW for dinner and dancing.  When he walked her home he was not sure of what to say so he told her to travel safely the next day and turned to leave.  She watched him walking away and knew that she was in love and at that moment called out to him softly saying his name, "Bill?"  He turned and ran back to her open arms taking her in his and kissing her for the first time and cementing the bond between them that has lasted 68 years.
Mary returned to school in Athens, Ohio and Bill returned to the University of Cincinnati.  At some point in the semester he sent her a letter suggesting that she come visit him in Cincinnati.  He had even arranged for her to stay in the Alpha  Gamma House on the UC campus, but my grandmother said it would be improper for my mom to do that.  According to my mother, my grandmother never put her foot down about very many things, but when she objected to my mother going to UC, my mom listened to her.  The following semester at the beginning of 1945, Mary left school to work for the war effort.  She wanted to go to either the Pentagon or to go work in Tampa, Florida at a Discharge Post.  She had never been to Florida so off to Tampa she went.   They had no openings so she went to work at a newspaper in the area.  It was in that office that she found out about the death of President Roosevelt when it come over the teletype machine in the newsroom.
Mary continued to work at the newspaper until a friend from OU came to Florida wanting to work in Sarasota and asked my mom to go with her.. Marcie and Mary arrived in Sarasota to get jobs at drug stores right after the movie "The Greatest Show on Earth" was filmed there.  Being a hub for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus my mom made friends with many of the circus performers and even stood bridesmaid when a friend married one.  Marcie soon got bored with Sarasota and returned to OU.  My mom finally got a spot with the Discharge Post and went back to Tampa.  When the Discharge Post closed she went to work for the VA in St. Petersburg.

Bill was Honorably Discharged from the Army Air Corps for having a bad chest x-ray, but he kept the uniform.  After Mary went to work in Florida,she didn't see him since travel was limited because of rationing.  During his summer break in 1946, Bill hitchhiked in his uniform from Cincinnati to St. Pete.  Mary says that she was on lunch break at work on the beach in St. Pete and when she returned to the office she saw this good-looking man in uniform walking toward her with a huge grin on his face.  She said she was so shocked to see him, but extremely happy.  She was crazy about him and he obviously felt the same way!  After he went back to school, Bill sent her a letter proposing marriage and she returned a letter accepting it.  In the Fall of 1946, he got a ride with other UC students going to the UC/OU football game in Athens, Ohio.  While in Athens he met Harold and Flora Pierce, my grandparents.  It was during this visit that he asked her father for her hand in marriage.  They both immediately gave them their blessing.

After becoming engaged, Mary returned to Athens but did not return to school.  Bill was doing his Co-op in Dayton at Wright Field and wrote to tell her that the R & D (Research & Development) Department badly  needed secretaries and that she could get a job there.  Harold and Flora drove her to Dayton where she lived in a Girls' Residence and worked at Wright Field. They decided not have a long engagement so in November Bill Johnston & Mary Pierce took a city bus to the county courthouse and were married by a Justice of the Peace.  It was November 16, 1946 and so began a union that produced 4 children(Kristie, Bill III, Frank & Heidi) and led to 8 grandchildren (Alex, Taylor, Sean, Fiona, Maggie, Liam, Colin & Brendan).   This year they celebrate 66 years of marital bliss.  And they are still crazy in love.  Is it any wonder why this writer is such a hopeless romantic?
July 9, 1962


Julie said...

Oh, how I love a love story. Thank you for sharing that one, Heidi.

Gadget Girl said...

Thank you very much, Julie!