Married for 75 years
She was very young — still in high school, as a matter of fact — and he had just signed up to be a pilot for a country then at war.
He says: “We were madly in love with each other.
“I know if my dad had been alive, he would probably have said hold on, wait till the war is over, then do it. But nobody said anything, so we went ahead.
“Probably nobody figured it would work out.”
Georgia and Ed Smith went to visit the justice of the peace on March 28, 1942. This year will be their 75th wedding anniversary.
“We had a good life. I couldn’t have asked for things to turn out better.”
Many North Enders and skiers (and their cars) will remember the generations of Smiths who ran the Chevron service station near the corner of Hill Road and Harrison Boulevard for decades. Ed and Georgia were the founders; they moved to Boise in 1960 to run the then-brand-new station for 20 years. Their son, Ken, who grew up checking oil and fixing bike tires at the station, carried on for more than 30 years after they retired, and then it was grandson Scott’s turn. The station closed Oct. 1, 2014.
Georgia: “You put everything you got into something.”
• • •
Both of them grew up in Yakima, Wash.; Ed, the youngest of 11 children, and Georgia, the youngest of four. Ed’s next-to-oldest brother and Georgia’s oldest sister had gotten married, so they were already family.
Ed: “We knew each other since we were kids.”
The idea of their dating grew slowly, a casual show here and there. Just before Ed graduated, things got more serious. He was drafted into the Army in 1940 and stationed at Camp Murray in Tacoma. They wrote letters; they’d see each other when he came home for weekends.
Had circumstances not intervened, Ed would have shipped out with his unit and eventually sailed into battle. But Ed came down with mumps on the day his unit departed. It was while he was recuperating in the hospital that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Ed: “Oh, I was so mad that I wanted to jump out of bed.”
Georgia: “You better be glad you were with the mumps or you wouldn’t be here today. … That saved your life, I really believe that. Because a bunch of those guys didn’t come back. …”
Ed had to transfer to another unit, and that’s when he saw a notice on the bulletin board looking for volunteers for pilot training. He signed right up, but he had a 30-day leave before he left for pre-flight school in Texas. More circumstances.
Georgia. “I tell you what it really was: It was the … uniform.
“I’m just being funny, don’t add that. It seemed like we’d known each other forever. He was in the service, I was still in high school; we figured the heck with it, we’d get married and whatever happened happens.”
As was tradition then, Ed asked permission from her folks before popping the question, and the two of them went quietly to the justice of the peace.
Ed: “There wasn’t very much done except we just got married, went to her folks’ for, well, I guess you’d call it the reception, but there wasn’t anybody there hardly.”
They took a photo — her in a simple little dress and him, handsome in his uniform — and began their life together.
Ed: “We never had a doubt.”
• • •
Ed had joined the National Guard before he graduated from high school (when he was 16 years old — he fibbed about his age), in part because his brothers were already in the Army Air Corps, in part because it was his patriotic duty — and in part because it paid.
“(Before I went into the service), during the summer we worked, mowed lawns, made apple boxes, whatever we could do for money.”
His father, a successful building contractor, lost his business in the Great Depression. He had bought a ranch and orchard in 1932 with a hefty mortgage and then died in 1937. The following year, the family couldn’t sell the fruit, and in 1938 they lost the ranch.
Ed: “Things went from bad to worse. Those were hard times. …
“Money was nonexistent. Mom needed all the help she could get at that time. She didn’t take any government help at all — all the kids pitched in. The money we made went to help Mom.”
Money was equally as scarce when Ed and Georgia got married.
“Of course, at that time, we were very, very poor. Wasn’t everybody?”
So even though he was a newlywed, Ed took a job in Walla Walla, working construction on Army barracks before he reported to duty in Texas.
“We rented a little place, stayed there for a couple of weeks.”
That was their honeymoon.
• • •
Again, if all had gone as planned, Ed would have become a pilot and gone to war. As it was, he was injured early in training and transferred to a training base in Waco, Texas, where Georgia joined him.
Ed: “I never did go overseas. …
“I was on the flight line; when the planes came in from their (training) flights, I would check the radios, make sure that every one was working properly. I guess I did too good a job — they kept me there for practically the whole war.”
It’s his one big regret in life, that he didn’t get to serve overseas.
Georgia: “I know you’re sad about that, but I’m glad you didn’t because I don’t think you’d be here today.”
Ed: “I volunteered for everything I could volunteer for. I volunteered for the Guards, volunteered for pilot training. I guess they didn’t want me.”
Georgia: “It wasn’t your turn to go, that’s the way I look at things.”
After the war, they moved back to Yakima with a baby daughter and, soon, a son.
Ed: “Probably our toughest year … was the first year out of the service. We had hardly any money and we had the two kids and not a good job. We just did whatever we could.
“We had enough money to buy a down-payment on a two-room shack for $1,000 — no indoor plumbing. We had no furniture, we had an orange box she draped with some towels and stuff for a dresser.
“But we didn’t want to go in debt and we didn’t, and things worked out good.
“We worked, got money and progressed and here we are today, with more money than we can spend today.”
• • •
Ed got a job with Standard Stations, working his way up to assistant manager and then manager. They were the first of their families to leave home, moving to Baker City, Ore., to manage a service station. When the opportunity in Boise came along, it was a huge decision for Ed to quit a good job and launch into the unknown.
Georgia: “We were scared to death whether we were going to make it or not.”
Ed: “We put every penny we had into it.”
But they were a team, and that’s what they emphasize: Everything they did, they did together. Although Georgia didn’t work on cars.
Ed: “She did all the daily books, the banking, the run-arounds, the errands — you name it, she did it. I couldn’t have done it without her.”
Georgia: “I’d go up, wash car windows, vacuum cars, give customers a ride home, whatever there was, come home fix dinner for the kids, whatever. We worked together.”
When the family moved to Boise in 1960, Bogus Basin Road was a dirt road, and Boise was much smaller. They visited every house in the Highlands to drum up business.
Ed: “Of course, there weren’t an awful lot, but we covered every house up there, left a little gift and invited them to come to the station. ...
“The first few months, I learned you had to work as hard as you could. I opened the station at 7 in the morning; I closed it at 11 at night. She brought me lunch and dinner up to the station; I just got acquainted with the customers, got to know them.
“I learned that if you’re going to go have a good business, you’ve got to work hard, give good service and take care of your customers. ...
“Right away, we developed really a good following in just a short time. And each year got better.”
• • •
Life has changed in the decades since they were growing up.
Ed was raised in a two-bedroom farmhouse with no electricity or indoor plumbing; the boys slept on the front porch, did homework by kerosene lantern. His dad would turn on the battery-operated radio for the news and the Calgary Stampede on Saturday nights.
Georgia: “Going to the moon — you never would have thought about it then. We just enjoyed seeing the moon, we never thought about anybody ever (walking on it). ... It just wasn’t a subject that ever came up. ...
“Every generation contributes. Things happened in every generation that are better ... That’s what keeps you going. That’s what keeps everything going, I think.”
Ed: “There’s a lot more things to be done. It’s doesn’t seem possible, but every year there’s something new. It’s great. I’m all for it. ... I love technology. ...
“Driverless cars. I mean, who would have thought?”
But one thing is constant, and that’s what Georgia and Ed bank on.
Ed: “The love for each other and our family. ... We’re just happy with our life. We’re happy with our home, our family, our job. I got nothing to be unhappy over.”
While they realize that very few marriages last anywhere near as long as theirs, Ed and Georgia suggest there are just simple things that make up the foundation of their marriage.
Ed: “We got along famously. We never did fight. We might have quarreled or argued a little bit, but we never did fight. ...
“(And) if we couldn’t pay for it, we didn’t buy it. ... We never had a money problem to argue over. ...
“We just lived a common life. We were both raised during the Depression, so we knew how to do without. We knew hard times.”
And so, on March 28, they will quietly celebrate their anniversary, just as quietly as when they got married. Their kids and grandkids will call or stop by, and they might go out to dinner Downtown, nothing fancy — just enjoy being together, as they have for three-quarters of a century.
Ed: “It worked out really well for us.”
Georgia: “I’d turn the clock and go back and do it again.”