This first chapter explains the format and then chapter 2 tells the story of how my mom and dad fell in love. Keep in mind this was written for my children.
Family Life –CHAPTER 1
The First TWENTY Years
It is not how much you know about life but how you live your life that counts. Those who can avoid mistakes by observing the mistakes of others are most apt to keep free from sorrow. In a world full of uncertainties, the record of what has gone before–human experience—is as sure and reliable as anything of which we know.”
– Ray Lyman Wilbur
“The wise man learns from someone else’s mistakes, the smart man learns from his own, and the stupid one never learns.”
I was born to God-fearing Christian parents, which accounts for all of the success I’ve ever enjoyed in life. Before we start on our journey down memory lane, I want to tell you about the main characters in my early life. My parents, Bill and Judy Jetton, and siblings, Lottie, Ruth and Courts, will be involved in many of these stories. I want to start with a few of my thoughts and insights about them as well as my grandparents, with a few quick thoughts about other family members thrown in.
FALLING IN LOVE
Bill Jetton and Judy Lewis both grew up in DeSoto, Missouri. Bill was two years older than Judy, who first noticed the young Bill Jetton when her friend Rose Cawvey started dating him. Rose, however, didn’t like Bill romantically, but was only dating him because her mother was pressuring her to. He had a good reputation and Mrs. Cawvey thought he was a good boy. Judy liked Bill and wanted more than this for him. She decided she would get him interested in her instead.
Judy was good friends with Bill’s sister, Mary Lou, who was about her age and she would go over to their house for bunking parties with her friend. Unfortunately, Bill didn’t pay much attention to her until he started attending First Baptist Church and got saved one Easter Sunday morning. First Baptist church had a very large and active youth group, which attracted him away from the Christian church.
Bill’s buddy Keith Barnhart was going out with Judy’s best friend, Kathy Elmore and Kathy made sure that Bill learned of Judy’s interest in him. Suddenly, he paid more attention. He quickly asked Judy out on a date, but she was only fifteen at the time, and her father wouldn’t let her date boys until she was at least sixteen, which was eight long months away. Evidently this upset Bill, who could not believe that Judy’s father wouldn’t let her go out with him.
Realizing that she was at an impasse with her dad, Judy kept pestering her mother to let her go out with Bill Jetton. Finally, her parents relented and Judy was allowed to ask Bill to the Sadie Hawkins party at church. They were allowed to attend with two other couples and had to be home immediately after the party. After that night, she was allowed to go with Bill to other church functions, but only if they went with at least one other couple. After dates, they would return home immediately to sit in the front porch rocking chair and talk. When it was time for Judy to come in, her dad would turn the porch light off as a not-so-subtle reminder.
On their sixth date, Bill kissed Judy. Her heart was beating so fast and loud that she was surprised he couldn’t hear it. Bill, in those days, was a big spender. He worked at the local drive-in and the local grocery store. Most of his money was spent on cars and gifts for his new girlfriend. He wanted to buy them matching outfits since, back in those days, matching mole hair sweaters were in style. He bought them a set but Judy’s father wouldn’t let her accept it because he thought it was too expensive.
Bill gave her other beautiful jackets and sweaters, but the only gifts that she was allowed to keep were stuffed animals and small pieces of jewelry. By the time she was to be married, Judy had a bed full of stuffed animals and thought of her future husband as a very giving person.
Checking Dad Out
Judy’s father, Wesley Lewis, was very strict and didn’t know much about Bill Jetton. He was concerned about who his daughter was spending so much time with. On top of that, Bill’s own father had a reputation for drinking and gambling, which put Mr. Lewis on high alert and encouraged him to want to check his daughter’s new boyfriend out.
He asked Mr. Lindsey, who had a son who was good friends with Bill, what he thought about him. Mr. Lindsey told Mr. Lewis that Bill was a really good kid and that he understood Wesley’s concerns about Mr. Jetton but that Bill spent a lot of time at their house and Mr. Lindsey knew he didn’t drink. He told Mr. Lewis that he would highly recommend Bill as a very good young man. It must have made Judy’s father feel somewhat better, but when a young man is dating your daughter, you’re predisposed to not liking him and feeling that he couldn’t possibly be good enough for your little girl.
Dad’s Home Life
Bill’s father, Jones Jetton, was a very nice and funny guy but he also liked to drink. He drank and played cards at the VFW hall a lot and he and Bill’s mother didn’t get along. She didn’t want her husband drinking around the kids so he wasn’t home much when Bill was in high school.
Bill spent a lot of time away from home as well, either working or involved in sports. He was a starting guard on the high school football team and sang in the choir. Bill loved the band and played the baritone all through high school and into college. He received several honors for singing solos and playing the baritone for state competitions. Mrs. Gans said that Judy would be nervous for him before any of his musical com-petitions.
I Love You
Bill was doing all that he could to win Judy’s love. He had a nice car, planned fun dates, and bought her a lot of gifts. Then, about a year after they started dating, he told her he loved her. Judy told him she loved him too, but does a sixteen year old really know what love is?
Once he graduated, in 1964, Bill got a good paying job at the Pittsburg Glass Company and attended Southeast Missouri State University in Cape for a semester. He and Judy dated all through this time. Judy graduated in 1966, but they had started talking about marriage that Christmas. In May, right before Judy graduated from high school, Bill got up the courage to go and talk with her father on this subject.
Judy’s mother, Dorothy, was in the kitchen when Bill came over and paced back and forth in the room where she stood. She wondered why he was so nervous. Then he sat down and told Mr. Lewis about his intentions to marry his daughter. Mr. Lewis was hard on the young man who sat before him and asked him several questions. Judy’s parents both thought their daughter needed to wait another year, at least, before getting married, but Bill had an answer for this and for all of their concerns. They gave him their blessing. Ecstatic for the future, Bill then gave Judy the $200 ring he had bought, which she had unknowingly picked out of the jewelry shop window that Christmas.
Picking a Date
Judy said yes to Bill’s proposal but wanted to wait until the following April for the wedding. Bill, however, was very strong-willed and had other plans. He wanted to get married that fall of 1966 and, one night, he took the ring he had given Judy and told her that if she wanted to get it back she would have to agree to get married that year.
Early the next morning, he came by her house and threw a rock at her window to wake her up. “Do you want the ring back or not?” he called up to her. I doubt my parents understood how important that question would be to their future. What if she had said no? What if she had decided she wasn’t going to be pushed into getting married sooner than she wanted?
Mom told me years later that she spent a lot of time that night asking God if she should go ahead and marry Dad. Fortunately, God answered Mom’s prayers, and she said yes. Think about how two teenagers, who didn’t understand what they were doing, held the fate of all of us in their hands. Had Mom not been so easy going, I doubt she would have given in to Dad’s wishes. Thank God she did!
On November 26, 1966, Judy and Bill were married. Her parents didn’t have enough money to pay for the whole wedding, so Judy saved the money she earned from her dime store job and her new secretarial position in St. Louis to pay for the rest.
Their wedding day was a rainy one and Bill played football with his buddies that morning until Richard Gans told him that Judy said the wedding would be off if he didn’t quit playing. This time, he gave in and stopped the game. Dad sang “Each for the Other & Both for the Lord” before their guests and his sister Mary Lou sang the Lord’s Prayer. Dad started crying so hard during the ceremony that the preacher had to give him a handkerchief.
The ceremony and reception went smoothly except that a single gift was broken when it fell off the edge of the gift table. Finally, the couple were able to change clothes and head out for their honeymoon. They spent a night in St. Louis and headed for Gatlinburg, Tennessee the next morning. They woke up to a beautiful nine inches of snow covering the Smokey Mountains.
Having a Baby
The newly married couple came back home to their small apartment which their best friends, Richard and Mary Gans, had sabotaged in their absence. They had changed the labels on all of the canned goods, put cereal in the bed and wrapped the toilet in clear plastic wrap. It was hard for the newlyweds to believe that they were really married and later that week I was conceived. Mom was worried that all of the people at the church would think she “had” to get married, but Dad didn’t care what they thought. Sure enough, nine months and two weeks later, on September 9, 1967, I was born.
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