Times Change, But Couple Finds Love Is Timeless
When Marvin met Amanda, the world was a vastly different place.
Tight-lipped Cal Coolidge was campaigning to stay in the White House. Nobody slugged harder than heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey - except for maybe Babe Ruth, who was, and who always will be, the Sultan of Swat.
Movies were silent, although that was about to change. A new car could be yours for 500 bucks, which still was a lot of money to a working stiff. Twenty-six-year-old George Gershwin had just given America a haunting new melody. He called it “Rhapsody in Blue.’
It was 1924 - the age of the flapper and bathtub gin and speak-easies and 23 skiddoo.
But love - love was the same in the Roaring ‘20s as it is in the New Age ‘90s. And when Marvin Henshaw first gazed upon Amanda Harper on a bright day in June, he felt the timeless tug of the heart that vibrated all the way to the soles of his feet. Nothing in his life, he realized, ever would be the same again.
Amanda was fetching a bucket of water from the schoolhouse with her sister. Running water was a luxury in Leeds, Iowa, a tiny farming community north of Sioux City. Marvin gawked at the femininity and finally mustered up enough gumption to make some uncomfortable small talk.
Thus began a love affair that would endure seven decades and counting. Marvin and Amanda said “I do” Sept. 11, 1924.
“I was just 17; my dad sort of frowned on that,” recalls Amanda. “He thought I was too young to get married.”
Amanda and Marvin are seated at the kitchen table of their small, spotless north Spokane home a block from Rogers High School. With them is Ed, their 65-year-old son.
The Henshaws agreed to take a breather from their marathon pinochle play to share a few secrets of romance for this, their 71st Valentine’s Day together.
Marvin is a lanky man who still looks lean and fit for 90. Amanda, 87, has snow-colored hair and a quick wit.
The Henshaws have lived in this house since they bought it in 1951. They migrated to Spokane in the mid1930s and brought up three sons and a daughter.
Marvin always was a worker. He dug ditches for the city and kept the Paulsen Building’s boilers working for years. The Henshaws may be average working-class people, but they know what it takes to make a marriage survive.
“You have to work at it, and you have to keep working at it,” says Marvin. “Young people today need to learn how to talk things out and be sensible rather than getting in a huff at the least little thing.
“Don’t ever walk away mad.”
Marvin always has been a thoughtful guy. He never has been one to make childish distinctions between “man’s work” and “woman’s work.”
He still cooks breakfast every morning. His pancake dinner on Fridays is a ritual. Even when he was working, Marvin vacuumed, made beds and washed dishes.
“It doesn’t bother me at all,” he says. “If something needs to be done, you just do it.”
So much has changed since Marvin met Amanda.
He remembers the time when an airplane was a rare sight. Once, when Marvin was a teenager, he made the brash prediction that a day would come when people on the ground would be able to talk to the pilot in the plane.
“Everyone just roared with laughter,” says Marvin, who enjoys being the last one laughing.
The Henshaws learned how to play pinochle in the 1950s and have played it daily ever since. At one time, says Amanda, they sat with three tables of friends, dealing and shuffling the cards.
“We’re the only couple still left,” she adds with a touch of sadness in her voice. “Nearly every one of our friends has died.”
Amanda also worked plenty over the years. She was with the Sunshine Biscuit Co. and then dipped chocolates by hand for a candy company.
Her diabetes keeps her from enjoying any treats this Valentine’s Day.
Of course, when you have a sweetie like Marvin around, who needs candy?
“Oh, he’ll do,” Amanda says with a wink. “I guess I’ll keep him.”