October 13, 2011 in Washington Voices

International union began on the Cheney farm

By Correspondent
 
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Wayne and Karen Hull pose in their Spokane Valley garden last month. They will celebrate their 62nd wedding anniversary Dec. 6.
(Full-size photo)

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Hog butchering might not be your idea of a great first date, but it certainly leaves a lasting impression.

When Wayne Hull met a pretty girl named Karen at a Grange dance in Cheney in 1949, he knew he wanted to see her again.

Karen had tagged along with her older sister, Jean. The girls were from British Columbia, but had come to Washington to look for work. While they were at the employment office, a couple came in looking for a farm cook. They hired both girls. Karen was just 15. “I thought I was plum grown-up!”

Jean had met Wayne’s brother, Ira, at the farm and he’d invited her to go to the dance with him. Karen wasn’t about to stay home. “I wasn’t gonna miss out on a dance,” she said. And she spent most of the evening dancing with Wayne.

“The next day Wayne called and asked us if we wanted to come over to his mother and dad’s place,” Karen recalled.

The girls agreed. “Turns out they were butchering pigs that day!” Karen said, and shook her head, laughing. “So the guys went out and did the butchering.”

While it wasn’t the most romantic date in history, what happened next showed just how much Wayne liked her. His mother had crocheted a beautiful lace doily. When Karen admired the handiwork, Wayne immediately asked if he could give the doily to Karen. His mother said he could.

Wayne, 22, hadn’t had much time for romance. He joined the Navy after graduating from high school in 1945. He wanted to be a Seabee, and serve in a construction battalion of the Navy. “I’d run tractors all my life,” he said.

Instead, he was assigned to the USS Chincoteague, and became the ship’s cook. They sailed to Hawaii and then on to Midway, Okinawa, China and Saipan among other ports of call. “I made petty officer second class in 18 months,” said Wayne.

When he met Karen, he was quickly smitten. “She was a down-to-earth person. A lot of people put on the dog – she didn’t.”

In fact, she didn’t even bat an eyelash when he took her pheasant hunting on their second date. Karen said, “I’d never even picked up a gun!”

Meanwhile, Ira and Jean’s romance had blossomed too, and soon talk of a double wedding began to float through the air. “We went to a dance and I said, ‘What the heck are we waiting for?’ ” Wayne said. “She was what I’d been looking for.”

She was also 15 and far from her Canadian home. In addition, they’d only known each other two months. None of that daunted them. Karen said, “We made a long-distance call and I told my dad we were coming to get him for a double wedding.”

His reply? “You girls get home right now!”

The four of them obeyed and drove to British Columbia to speak to the girls’ parents. Wayne said, “Then we put them in the car and drove to Coeur d’Alene to get the marriage license. We told them we’d get them for a wedding and we did!”

Karen laughed. “We planned a wedding from start to finish in two days!” On Dec. 6, 1949, the couples were married at a Mormon church in Coeur d’Alene. Jean and Karen wore identical wedding dresses and the brothers bought them matching wedding rings.

The sudden nuptials weren’t easy on the girls’ parents – especially their mother. Karen said, “My mom said, ‘I lost both of my girls the same day.’ ” The honeymoon was spent driving back and forth to Canada.

Little did they know, they had a lot more driving ahead. Three days after the wedding the couples stopped at the Immigration office to inquire about citizenship for Karen and Jean.

“They told us, ‘You girls get back to Canada, or we’ll put you in jail!’ ” recalled Karen.

Several weeks of driving during a fiercely snowy winter ensued, while the situation was rectified.

With citizenship resolved, Karen and Wayne resumed farm work in Cheney, while Ira and Jean moved elsewhere. When asked if she was glad she married a man with kitchen experience, Karen laughed. “Well, he does cook – but he doesn’t clean up!”

In 1951, the Hulls moved to Spokane when Wayne took a job with Boyle Fuel. Their son, Rick was born in October 1951, followed by daughter, Evonne in 1953 and son, Larry in 1954.

“I was young and had three babies,” said Karen. “They kept me busy.”

And she got even busier. Melvin joined the family in 1958, followed by David, in 1966, Andrena in 1967 and Annette in ’69.

The family eventually settled in Spokane Valley. They planted a huge garden, which they still enjoy. “We had a cow out here in the pasture, so the kids could have fresh milk,” Wayne said.

But life wasn’t perfect. Tragedy struck the family in 1969 when they were involved in a horrific car accident while vacationing in Canada. Karen was holding baby Annette in her lap when their car was struck on the passenger side. While Karen was in the hospital recovering from a broken pelvis and ankle, Wayne had to tell her that 4-month-old Annette had died.

“She was a special baby,” Karen said. “There was something different about her.” She and Wayne grow quiet at the memory of the daughter they lost too soon. Karen said, “That’s been the hardest thing so far.”

Though they miss Annette, they draw comfort in their 18 grandchildren and 23 great grandchildren. While the Hulls chatted with a guest near their garden, two of those great grandchildren hid under a quilting frame in the living room. Karen is an avid quilter and over the years has crafted 50 large quilts for family members.

When Wayne retired after 32 years with Boyle Fuel, the couple enjoyed traveling across the U.S. But when Karen wanted to go to Hawaii, Wayne wasn’t enthusiastic – after all he’d been there before.

However, two years ago, she persuaded him. “It wasn’t the same! Honolulu was just a little town when I was there,” he laughed. “Things change in 60 years.”

What hasn’t changed is the love between them. Karen didn’t need a romantic first date to know Wayne was special.

“I always try to get a laugh out of her at least once a day,” Wayne said. “She’s my one and only.”


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