THE BALLAD OF MYRTLE AND JIM, PART ONE
In the hot Florida summer of 1910, a nervous young man got off a train in the small town of Live Oak. He was there to be interviewed for a position with the Atlantic Coastline railroad, a job he'd been recommended for by his Uncle Dosh, who already worked as a Morse code operator for the company.
As he stood there sweating into the itchy wool suit that was the only one he owned, this slender blue-eyed man had a more immediate concern than his interview the next day. With less than $5 in his pocket, he had to find a roof for the night and a meal. He asked the station manager to recommend an inexpensive boarding house, and was told to head for the last in a row of sprawling wooden houses across the dusty street from the depot. He was cautioned to stay away from the largest and most ornate of the homes on the basis of it being outrageously overpriced at $2.00 a night. long black formal dress with sleeves
In the early 20th century, even small towns had a railroad station, and Live Oak was no different. And where there was a station, there were boarding houses. For much less than a hotel, you got a room and a meal, and in some cases, you also got lice and bedbugs. As the young man made his way down the row of houses, he could see that the house he was heading for had a sagging porch, and grimy curtains fluttered out of the open windows. Lice and bedbugs seemed highly likely.
As he looked around to survey his other choices, he walked slowly past the fancy establishment he'd been warned to avoid. Gleaming white paint, immaculate flower beds lining the walkway that led to the wide porch wrapping the house. Her back turned to him, a child in a starched white cotton dress swept the dark green painted boards. Although the porch looked perfectly clean to the young man's eyes, the girl wielded the broom with a determination that made it clear not a particle of dust would elude her.
As he continued his slow stroll, she turned to attack another section of the vast expanse of porch. He was surprised to realize that she wasn't a child at all, but a very petite young woman, not even five feet tall. A delicate, heart-shaped face with serious blue eyes and a cloud of soft brown hair. She was the most perfectly lovely girl he'd ever seen.
In that instant, his decision was made. He headed up the brick walkway. The young man, James Earle Harris, had just had his first glimpse of the woman who would be his wife for nearly 70 years. With one look at young Myrtle Creekmore, his destiny was set in motion.
The love story of my paternal grandparents is a sweet and tender tale, and one I never tired of hearing as a child. I've always wanted to write their story down, and this seems as good a place as any to begin. With their beginning.