HOLIDAY — They met in a rickety lounge with a bar on the ground floor, a dance hall up top and outhouses in the back. It was an Easter day dance in Wisconsin in 1944.
Betty Frye, 18 and 5 feet tall and barely 100 pounds, and her girlfriend put on lipstick at a mirror in a hallway. Mick Anderson, 21 and tall and lanky, and his buddy just happened to be walking that way and saw the pretty girls and asked whether they could buy them a drink.
So the foursome walked to the bar, and the men bought them all beer, which was somewhat hard to come by then, as the war was still on and things were rationed and young people were lucky to scrounge up enough change to pay the cover price at a dance. Betty made sure she was next to Mick. There was just something about him she liked. They drank and jitterbugged and just took to each other; both were hard working yet also easy going, not expecting fairy tales but content with whatever they had.
They married on Dec. 29, 1945 at Betty's parents' home. Mick worked at a textile mill making women's nylon stockings, and Betty worked at an upholstery factory. When the textile mill closed, Mick lost his job and it was rough for a while. But he found another one at a factory making equipment for dairy farms. Both Betty and Mick had grown up on farms in Wisconsin, about 20 miles apart. Both had to wake in the cold dark and go out and milk cows and do chores before walking to school. In the summers, Betty and Mick had second jobs white-washing barns; Mick handled the pressure equipment, Betty followed behind him, scrubbing windows. She always had a huge garden and canned so much that their basement was full.
They went out dancing as much as they could afford to; polka, mostly. They had a son, Ted, and in 1979 the family decided to move to Florida. Betty's sister lived in Holiday and found a small but nice home for a good price for them. Mick got a job painting condos, and Betty worked as a cleaning lady at a hospital. Mick retired in 1982 and kept the house clean and paid bills and made sure dinner was ready for Betty every night when she came home. She retired in 1991. Their son moved back to Wisconsin and now he and his children and grandchildren all live up North, but they are good about visiting. Their house is covered with photos, "so I never feel alone," Betty said.
Betty and Mick have now been married for 62 years. He's 85, and she's 82. They're both in fairly good health, though both have back problems, from the years of strain they put on their bodies working so hard. Betty has had two knee replacements and is getting ready for her third hip surgery. But they get out of the house at least once a day. Neither likes cooking anymore, so they go for early dinners. Mick likes open-faced sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy. Betty has a cup of soup and then dessert.
Mick still kisses Betty before bed each night, and she goes to sleep with her headphones on, listening to the polka music they used to dance to. They said they don't have any secrets about how they stayed together for so long. They just enjoy each other's company, and they talk through all decisions together, as partners. In 62 years, they've only spent a few weeks apart — a few days here and there when Betty went to visit her sisters or when they've had hospital stays. They don't like being apart.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4609.