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They tied the knot in 1917

The year 1917 was full of landmark events.

The United States entered World War I and American women won the right to vote. John F. Kennedy and Kirk Douglas were born, and Mata Hari and "Buffalo Bill" Cody died.

And Largo residents Warren and Midge Greenlaw met and married.

Last week, the couple celebrated their 77th wedding anniversary with a potluck dinner at Grosse Pointe Estates Mobile Home Park in Largo.

"We must have done something right," Mrs. Greenlaw said with characteristic modesty.

The Greenlaws have been married two years longer than the current average life span. They are just nine years short of the longest marriage in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The Greenlaws' marriage outlasts Hallmark's wedding anniversary gift guide, which stops at the 60th, or diamond, anniversary. The World Book Encyclopedia guide goes to the 75th and suggests diamonds, diamond-like stones or gold.

The longevity of their union is even more extraordinary considering that the current divorce rate is 1 in 2, according to government statistics.

Warren and Midge Greenlaw were born and raised in Maine towns less than 20 miles from each other. But they didn't meet until they were set up on a blind date in Massachusetts. He was 20 and she was 18.

"I thought he was all right," she said.

"I liked her from the start," he remembered.

When they met, he was working in Massachusetts and she was there visiting a sister. They went ice skating on their first date and remember having a lot of fun.

So much fun, in fact, that she missed her 10 p.m. curfew and her sister locked her out of the house.

"I crawled in through a window in the laundry," recalled Mrs. Greenlaw, who won't say when she got home that night.

Next day, the future Mrs. Greenlaw _ Margaret "Midge" Bridges _ was sent packing back to Maine for her misdeed.

But she kept in touch with her suitor through letters, and they met again in Cleveland, where Mrs. Greenlaw went to visit another sister. He went to see Midge.

They married Oct. 16, 1917, in Cleveland, where they settled. He worked as an auto mechanic and an auto and an insurance appraiser. She stayed home with their two children _ Warren "Bud" Jr., 75, who lives a few doors down from his parents, and Phyllis, who died at 30.

When they retired to Grosse Point Estates in 1968, there were only about a dozen homes in the park. Now there are 129.

The Greenlaws, now 97 and 95, play rummy every day. She said he keeps score and usually wins.

Mrs. Greenlaw said they are happily married and get along very well. "We've never had any knockdown fights, just ordinary arguments."

What arguments they do have, she generally wins. He rarely apologizes.

"He's very stubborn," she explained.

Mrs. Greenlaw said she sees little disagreements as a necessary part of marriage. She remembers a lady she knew in Cleveland who bragged that she and her husband never argued.

"Your life must have been damn boring," Mrs. Greenlaw recalls telling the woman.

In 1997, the Greenlaws may be celebrating his 100th birthday and their 80th anniversary. Mrs. Greenlaw said that they have suffered no real illness and that Mr. Greenlaw has a sister who is 100.

But as far as whether they'll see that celebration, she says, "It's in God's hands."

So what's the secret to a long and happy marriage?

Mrs. Greenlaw isn't saying. Young people, she declared with a smile, have to simply learn for themselves.

1917: A SNAPSHOT

The United States enters World War I.

The military draft begins.

The first woman is seated in the House of Representatives: Jeannette Rankin, R-Mont.

Women's suffrage is made law in New York state.

The first Pulitzer Prizes are awarded.

The Chicago White Sox defeat the New York Giants to win the World Series.

Byron White, later to become a U.S. Supreme Court justice, is born.

Average price of a new car: $720.

In St. Petersburg:

The St. Petersburg Times costs 3 cents during the week.

Movie tickets costs 10 and 20 cents.

A milk shake costs 5 cents.

A 10-pound sack of sugar costs 93 cents.

"Family-size" Armour hams cost 33 cents a pound.

_ Sources: The New York Public Library Book of Chronologies; What Happened When; Chronicle of the 20th Century; St. Petersburg Times archives.

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