January 13, 2011 in Washington Voices

Globe-trotting couple thrive on mutual respect

Cindy Hval, Dchval@Juno.Com
 
Dan Pelle photo

Mary and Glen Green have been married more than 70 years after meeting on a blind date.
(Full-size photo)

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Glen and Mary Green met in the summer of 1939, but not many photos remain to document a love affair that has spanned 70 years and counting. “I didn’t know we were going to live this long,” joked Mary, 88. “I gave all our pictures away!”

But one black and white snapshot reveals the adventurous spirit shared by the couple. In the photo, they’re astride a ’30s era Harley-Davidson. Glen sports a leather jacket and sunglasses while Mary wears an aviator cap with flaps, and goggles perched atop her head. Behind Mary a bedroll rests on the bike’s fender. The photo was snapped right before the two set off on one of their many road trips.

Glen Green was a biker when the Hell’s Angels were merely cupids. He belonged to the Spokane Motorcycle Club, and said the group wasn’t at all like today’s connotation of a biker gang. Instead, these motorcycle enthusiasts rode their bikes on cross-country trips, went on hill climbs, and traded parts, tools and expertise.

Mary had never ridden a motorcycle until she and Glen went out. “We met on a blind date,” recalled Glen.

It proved to be a memorable outing. Mary said, “On our first date we rode a Harley to Coulee Dam.”

The trip wasn’t exactly a smooth ride. Glen shrugged and said, “I got a flat tire on the way.”

The sizzling summer day made the fix more challenging. Mary said, “He laid his tools on the ground and they got so hot he could hardly pick them up.”

Still. That date made a lasting impression on them both. “We liked each other right away,” said Mary.

Soon Glen took off for the World’s Fair in San Francisco. But he didn’t forget Mary. She said, “He wrote to me from the fair and sent me presents.”

When he returned, he asked her to be his wife. They married in Glen’s parents’ home on Aug. 3, 1940.

Glen worked as a salesman for a barber supply company and earned $17 a week. He made a return trip to the World’s Fair – this time taking his bride with him for their honeymoon. Of course, they traveled by motorcycle. “I rode on a little jump seat and had to use a cushion!” Mary said. She can hardly believe the luxury today’s motorcycles provide. “When I see these motorcycles now, I wish we’d had one of those back then.”

Soon after the couple began their married life, Glen received a phone call. “This fellow said, ‘I’ll give you a choice; you can join the service or you can run the machine shop at General Machine.’ ”

The Selective Training and Service Act had been signed into law. Glen’s experience in sheet metal work coupled with his poor vision meant he spent the war years supervising a shop that manufactured aircraft carrier parts.

As World War II intensified he found himself in the unusual position of running a machine shop primarily staffed by women. “I had five grandmothers on my shift,” he said. “They were good workers.”

Things grew busier on the home front, too. Their family expanded with the birth of a daughter in 1943, and another in 1944.

After the war, Glen discovered his true calling – woodworking. He started out making doll furniture for a lady who owned a local variety store. Then he was asked to make unfinished furniture for a department store. From there he added cabinetmaking to his skills. He said, “All of my cabinets were commercial and made for schools, banks, hospitals and motels.”

Work and raising their daughters curtailed their motorcycle outings. “We had a bike but didn’t have time to go anywhere,” Mary said. “So, instead we’d have friends over to play cards late into the night.”

They also took up square-dancing and joined several social clubs.

When Glen retired in 1983, the spirit of wanderlust seized them again. “We traveled all over the world,” he said. “We’ve been every place now – Africa, India, China, Russia – every place except the South Pole, but we got close!”

While in India, Glen rode an elephant to a mosque. On one memorable excursion they visited 13 countries in 10 days. That was too quick for Glen. “We did that over again later and took our time,” he said and grinned. “Of all the places we traveled, I would have hated to miss one hour of any of those trips.”

But it takes more than a shared love of adventure to make a marriage last 70 years. Mary believes the mutual respect they’ve always shown each other contributes to their happiness.

They still live in the west Spokane home built by Glen 36 years ago. “We look after each other pretty well,” said Mary as she patted her husband’s hand. “And we’re still in love.”


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