A STORY OF LOVE

A STORY OF LOVE

Monday, April 4, 2016

A STORY OF LOVE

It was a time of hope and celebration. The war was over and soldiers were coming home. Food and gas rationing was over. New cars and appliances were being manufactured for the public for the first time in four years.

Cecil Puckette was a sophomore in high school in the fall of 1945. He played baseball in the City League and his team was in the City League baseball playoffs. They needed another big win. On the morning of the big game, he awoke sick but went to school anyway. During the day, he felt increasingly worse and told the player-manager that he   felt awful and would be unable to play. The manager was adamant that he had to play because there were only nine players and if he did not play the game would have to be forfeited.  So, Cecil played.  He does not remember whether he got a hit or whether they won or lost. But, he does remember the bus ride home and wondering whether he could make it home.  When his Mother came home, she   found Cecil unconscious on the living room floor, and immediately called an ambulance. When Cecil awoke three days later in the hospital his doctor told him that he had double pneumonia. He remained in the hospital about three weeks. A new drug called penicillin was credited with saving his life.

During that hospital stay, a friend named Sonny Williams, who lived near the Puckette home brought a radio to the hospital. In those days, hospitals did not have television and Lynchburg hospitals did not furnish radios.

Sonny and Cecil attended the Baptist Training Union (BTU) Class at the Rivermont Avenue Baptist Church every Sunday evening. During this visit, Sonny mentioned that a new girl had started attending the class and that she was really cute. He was going to get a date with her. Well, time passed and Cecil was soon sufficiently healed to once again attend the BTU and sure enough the new girl was there and Sonny was right.  She was really cute and totally fascinating to Cecil. There was just one problem. Cecil was almost sixteen and she was only twelve. Her name was Carolyn Hamilton.  She was the most beautiful, sweet, and charming person that Cecil had ever encountered.  He said, “Her hair, her hair, was the most beautiful that I’ve ever seen. I was smitten.”

So, Cecil thought about this problem of Carolyn’s age and he decided there were other girls around.  He wasn’t about to have his friends accuse him of "robbing the cradle.”  So, Cecil made the best use of every opportunity to talk to Carolyn and even walked with her to the bus stop while she waited for the bus to go home from church.  In the summer of 1946, the BTU Director took the group to a lake for a day in the sun.

They were permitted to take a guest and Cecil asked a cute fifteen year old girl by the name of Jean to go as his date. He and Jean arrived a little early and sat on the driver’s side of the bus about two or three rows back. Carolyn soon arrived and when she saw Jean, her eyes flashed, her face changed color, and at that moment Cecil knew that Carolyn Hamilton was very disappointed with him, but, more important, she liked him.  Cecil sat there thinking, “That girl really likes me. Her plan, now gone awry, was to spend the day with me at the lake.”  That date with Jean ended Cecil’s romantic interest with anyone but Carolyn.  He knew that Carolyn was everything he had dreamed a girl could be and her age didn't matter. Regardless of their tender ages, he knew at that moment that if Carolyn would say yes that he would spend his life with her.

 Time passed and by the summer of 1947 Cecil was accepted by Carolyn’s family and was even being invited to accompany the family on their Sunday visits to Carolyn's grandparents.During this summer, he got his  driver’s permit but money for gas was a problem. A typical date with Carolyn was usually spending an evening sitting on the front porch in the swing just talking.       To be near each other seemed to be the only thing that mattered. They spent hours and hours and hours in that swing.

In August of 1948 their relationship took a new and lonely course. Cecil became a VMI Cadet, "a rat", in a severely regimented system. In his first week at VMI, he    received seven letters from Carolyn. Every week the letters came -- one for every day except Sunday and two on Monday or Tuesday. Her letter writing to Cecil continued throughout his years at VMI.  At the end, he literally had a trunk full of her letters. Those letters sustained him with assurances of her love.

In the summer of 1950, he asked Carolyn if she would wait for him and marry him. She said, “yes.”  The question was sort of redundant for by then they were a couple and knew they would never be apart.  Everyone knew there was a bond between them that would never be broken.

In November 1950, at the annual VMI Ring Dance, Cecil gave Carolyn a miniature of his class ring.  This was her engagement ring and was only replaced 39 years later with a diamond.   That night, Cecil said that Carolyn was wearing a white formal and was gorgeous at 17 years of age.  LOOK MAGAZINE happened to cover that dance and their picture was published.

Cecil and Carolyn were married on June 11, 1953 in the church parsonage. It was a very simple wedding with his VMI roommate as best man. With money that she had saved, Carolyn bought their first car.   As they left driving from Lynchburg on their honeymoon, Cecil thought, “This wonderful girl is finally mine -- she is finally mine.”

They both agree that their wedding day was the happiest day of their lives.  He says that Carolyn has made their home and his life a paradise.

Cecil and Carolyn are residents of The Summit.