Friday, September 9, 2011

Romance, Corry Style


Like many love stories, the story of Florence and Elwood begins with a date, Elwood’s first. To be more precise, the story begins with basketball, hometown rivalry, and the wager of a box of candy. It was a Saturday night in January 1930. Cedar City’s high school basketball team opened its season with a game against rival Parowan High School. Coach Linford’s boys needed to prove themselves, and a win against a strong team like Parowan would set them on solid footing in their quest for the division championship. They had the home court advantage, and Elwood joined his friends to cheer on his team.

Elwood was a senior in high school and, despite a self-professed admiration for girls from about the third grade on, he had always felt too bashful to ask a girl on a date. As luck would have it, he found himself standing next to a pretty Parowan girl during the game. They bantered about whose team would win, and Elwood jokingly said, “Well, I’ll bet you a box of candy that Cedar wins.” Cedar did win. Elwood forgot all about the bet.

A few days later, a box of candy arrived in the mail for Elwood with no return address. He puzzled over the origin of the candy for a few days before the light dawned. All of a sudden, he remembered the bet. He called the pretty Parowan girl and asked her to go to a show and help him eat the box of candy. And that is the story of Elwood’s first date with …Lillian Adams.

Wait! Lillian, you say? I thought this was a love story about Elwood and Florence. Ah, yes. Well, you see, Lillian and Florence were good friends, had been ever since they met in Miss Parry’s 1st grade class. Lillian graduated a year early from high school and went to Cedar to start college while Florence finished her senior year at Parowan High. In Cedar, Lillian ran into Elwood at the aforementioned basketball game. They dated for a while until Elwood decided that perhaps he should avoid going too steady with any one girl before his mission.

In May of 1930, Elwood and Florence graduated from their respective high schools, and Florence joined her friend Lillian at the Branch Agricultural College (BAC) in Cedar City. Elwood knew her briefly before he left on his mission to England that October. In fact, he remembers seeing her one day as she walked toward campus and thinking, “I would like to ask that girl for a date sometime.” Then missionary work filled his mind, and he forgot about Florence until he returned home from England.

Florence in 1932
The Christmas holidays of 1932 found Florence in the middle of her sophomore year at BAC. She lived with her sister Fae and kept busy with drama, student government, her sorority, and her work at Cedar Mercantile.

Far from Florence’s thoughts, Elwood sailed home from England at the close of his mission, arriving home on Christmas Day 1932. Lillian, still rather enamored with Elwood, dragged Florence to church to hear Elwood’s homecoming talk. Elwood makes no note of seeing her at his homecoming, but then the returned missionary’s social calendar filled up pretty quickly in those first few weeks home.

In mid-January 1933, Elwood and Florence both found themselves at a party at the home of Bertha Seaman. Elwood arrived alone and saw Florence enter the room. She must have looked particularly striking that evening, because he remembers thinking “here comes the bride” as he watched her. Not realizing that Florence had come to the party as the date of Waldo Adams, Elwood intended to ask her if he could take her home. Either bashfulness or wisdom prevailed. In any event, Elwood left the party alone.

A week or so later, the Cedar Second Ward planned an M.I.A. party. As he hurried out the door to go somewhere with his friend C. J. Parry, Elwood followed an impulse. “Wait,” he called to C.J. “I have to go back in the house for something.” Back inside, he called Florence at her job at Cedar Mercantile and made a date to take her to the party. Thus began a lengthy courtship.

Planning a life together in the midst of the Great Depression often meant delaying marriage for more practical matters. Elwood completed his schooling at BAC and worked the family farm while Florence continued working at Cedar Mercantile. He played tennis, competed on the debate team, and served a term as Student Body President. She kept up with her sorority, continued doing readings, and became involved with the newly formed Business and Professional Women’s Club.

While they waited to build sufficient finances for their marriage, Elwood and Florence watched close friends get married. One of those friends was Lillian Adams. In a speech she gave just months before her death, Florence shared her admiration for Lillian for not letting the love triangle interrupt their friendship.

As two years passed, day-to-day life and increasing responsibilities crowded in. Florence and Elwood each supposed the other had begun to lose interest in the relationship. In the summer of 1934, Elwood accepted a call to serve as Leland Perry’s counselor in the Second Ward bishopric. His bishopric duties sometimes overshadowed romance. Florence recalled sitting in the living room at the Corry home one evening, listening to cries of “horsler” from the kitchen. Elwood had a bishopric meeting and needed someone to take Florence home. In time-honored Corry tradition, the last one to yell “horsler” pulled the short straw and played chauffeur.

But Elwood got a wake-up call one day from his friend Demoin, who announced that Florence was dating someone else. As the story goes, she even kissed the competition, a Swedish fellow named Roy Lundgren. Perhaps that was just the motivation Elwood needed.

Elwood’s personal history mentions nothing about their courtship after the first date until an incident that occurred shortly before the wedding. It was June 1935, and Elwood was putting up hay on the farm with Rex Maxwell. Rex had no idea about the quickly approaching wedding until Elwood casually mentioned that he would be gone for a few days as he “had a little detail to take care of.”

“What detail?” asked Rex.

“Oh, I’m getting married.”

A bit put off by Elwood’s casual approach, Rex raised his voice. “Man, you call that a little detail?” Elwood said Rex went on to lecture him about the importance of the step he was about to take. Apparently, he took the lecture to heart. In any case, the two married on June 21, 1935 in the St. George LDS Temple.

For Florence and Elwood, the real love story played out over the next 19 years of marriage. Together they weathered the financial devastation of the Great Depression, Elwood’s service in World War II, and the deaths of their remaining parents. Together they raised a family of six children and built an insurance and real estate business. They supported one another in demanding church callings and community activities. And finally, after two decades of laughter and disappointment, hard work and good memories, they supported one another through Florence’s final illness. While perhaps a little short on traditional romance, their romance, Corry style, has inspired generations of their posterity.

(Many thanks to family members for contributing their memories, to the Utah Digital Newspaper project for its online archive of old newspapers, and to Grandpa Corry for recording personal history. Feel free to correct me on details!)

No comments:

Post a Comment