Sunday, January 1, 2012

River Romance

Published January 1, 2012 in the Commercial Appeal

Today, Nola and Tom McKnight celebrate 70 years of marriage.

And it all traces back to an encounter on the Mississippi River.

In the summer of 1940, Nola came to Memphis from her home in Dyersburg to look for a job. She stayed with a well-known Realtor, and her son, Spence Baker.

Baker thought Nola should meet his friend Tom McKnight, so one Saturday afternoon he told her that they should go out on the Mississippi River and wait for Tom.

Nola thought it was a terrible idea, as she was in her high heels, gloves and hat. But she finally agreed, so they went out in Baker's runabout into the middle of the Mississippi River.

A short while later Tom showed up in a Chris Craft runabout that Buddy McKnight, Tom's brother, kept at the Memphis Yacht Club, which was very active at the time. The two were introduced, but neither one was much impressed.

"We really just held on to each other's boats," recalls Nola.

"Spence was known for his women," explains Tom. "I didn't think much about it. I thought it was just another one of his girls."

For two weeks, Baker kept after Tom to ask Nola out, so to shut him up, Tom called Nola for a date. She accepted, and on their first date Tom showed up on his Harley Davidson motorcycle -- and they went back down to the river. "We anchored on a sandbar, climbed up it and courted, as they say," says Nola.

A full moon, the Harley, and the river created a memorable first date, so much so that they dated constantly after that night. "That did it. That sealed it. Everything just worked for us," says Nola.

Less than a month before the wedding, however, Pearl Harbor was attacked. Since Tom had received an Army second lieutenant's commission from Davidson College, they knew he would be called to active duty. But that did not deter them, and they went on with the preparations.

They were married at Central Christian Church on Jan. 1, 1942. And Tom went on to serve in the military for four years.

Nola credits their long marriage to the fact that they enjoy doing the same things and enjoy doing them together. Although both in their 90s, they stay very active. "Tom and I do whatever comes up that we want to do. It could be one thing one day, and another the next," says Nola.

Tom says they take one day at a time, and just love each other. "She's the greatest gal that ever was," says Tom. "If you get a good one you might as well keep her."

Both say they have had a wonderful life, blessed from the very beginning. They have two sons, three grandsons and four great-grandchildren.

To celebrate their big day, Tom and Nola are hosting an open house from 3 to 5 p.m. today, which is the same time as their wedding. Tom says they are expecting 30-40 people, mostly from the neighborhood and Sunday school. "We both have a few things we're going to say," hints Nola. "We'll sip champagne and have a nice afternoon," adds Tom.

As for their matchmaker, Spence Baker, Tom says he was married three times. "We always joke that he did much better with us than he did with himself," says Tom.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...