My Million Dollar Baby From the Five & Ten

1946 - 1947  

          Nineteen year old Marie stretched her long legs beneath the seat in front of her as the hilly country side whizzed by outside her bus window. She had counted two hundred barns since leaving “down home”. The sad look in her mammy’s blue eyes still lingered in her mind. Marie and her older sister Susie were the last two of the fifteen kids born to Fannie and Wilke Lawson of Stony Fork, Ky. It was time for them to fly the coop and see what the big city had to offer.


          The last six months of teaching in the one room school house was not Marie’s cup of tea. Teaching kids how to read, write and do arithmetic was plain boring for the five foot-seven raven hair teacher. The Bell County school board would be disappointed when Fannie told them her daughter Marie wasn’t coming back.


           Susie Lawson and her fiancé Elmer sat quietly across the isle from Marie. It was unusual for Susie to not be talking or cracking jokes. The so called “love birds” seemed lost in their own thoughts. Maybe Susie was having second thoughts about going to Indiana to marry Elmer, Marie thought.


          That night in King's Mills at their brother Ed Lawson’s house the sisters shared a twin bed but they were too tired to go to sleep. “Are you glad you didn’t go to Indiana to marry Elmer?” Marie was happy Susie hadn’t gone.


           “Lord, have mercy, yes! He’s a nice guy from a good family but I don’t want to get married right now. I want to have some fun, first!”


          The girls found their own apartment the next day across from Eden Park then they perused the newspaper for a job. They loved the fancy stores at Peeples Corner, a suburb of Cincinnati, and the Paramount Theater where Tyrone Power worked as an usher in 1909. They decided that riding everywhere in the street cars for ten-cents was better than riding old Bessie the cow! 

Picture by Brad Greenlee

Picture by Brad Greenlee


          After the sisters worked six months at the Card Plant Marie decided she couldn’t watch another hour of playing cards going by on a conveyor belt.  She landed a clerk job at the F.W. Woolworth Co. at Peebles and within two months she became the bookkeeper; math had always been her expertise.


          One day at the store grill as Marie collected the noonday money from the register she felt somebody looking at her. She slowly looked up and saw two big eyes staring at her over the lunch menu. Immediately, she looked back down and finished putting the money in a bag. After she left, the guy with the big eyes asked the waitress who she was and if she was married.


          That evening after work Marie and her girlfriend went to eat at a restaurant a few blocks down the street from Woolworth. Her girlfriend saw her boyfriend at a table with friends so they joined them. The guy with the huge eyes and black wavy hair introduced himself as Jimmy Wilcox. The tall, handsome, Army radio operator walked Marie home that night.

Photo by  Clive Darra

Photo by Clive Darra


          Dating in the big city was expensive so Jimmy took Marie to an occasional movie at the Paramount. They had just as much fun going to all the free and interesting spots in Cincinnati. Their favorite spot was in Eden Park where they fed the ducks and listened to the radio. Suzie and her new boyfriend, Fred Schutte from South America, joined them on occasion for picnics and posing for pictures.  


          Jimmy kept calling Marie his Million Dollar Baby from the Five and Ten when he introduced her to people. One day he asked her. “Let’s go look at rings!” Marie smiled and they picked one out at Rogers Jewelers in Peebles. For the next week she couldn’t stop looking at the sparkly diamond  on her ring finger and showing it to all her friends.


Jimmy picked Marie up on Tuesday, March 11, 1947 for a lunch date. After lunch he said, “Let’s go right now to the Justice of Peace over in Covington, Ky. and get married.” Marie agreed if he would take her to Stony Fork for their honeymoon. She yearned to see her mother and to show off her new husband.


          “By the authority invested in me by the state of Kentucky I now pronounce you husband and wife! You may kiss the bride!” The justice of peace  announced. Jimmy kissed his new bride. When they boarded the southbound Greyhound bus, Marie couldn’t believe a former boyfriend, Clayton, who had proposed to her two years back was sitting on the bus going home. Neither one acknowledged the other.


          The Greyhound bus deposited a very tired couple at the Pineville, Kentucky bus depot. Marie’s brother, Brad Lawson, picked them up in his truck and drove them back to his house in Stony Fork.

Photo by  BEV Norton

Photo by BEV Norton


          With no electric for heat in the frigid bedroom it took a long time under the thick quilts before Jimmy and Marie stopped shaking long enough so they could… go to sleep.

Their first child (me) was conceived about eight months later which you can read about in my memoir called, “PICK ME”.