When a Lewis and Clark Tiger danced with a Rogers Pirate, sparks flew.
Or at least that’s what George Creighton thought.
It was the summer of 1945 and George had been set up on a blind date with a strawberry-blond LC sophomore named Shirley.
They went to a dance. “I thought we had a great time,” George said. But when he called to ask for another date, Shirley declined.
“I had another guy on a string,” she said.
George didn’t wait around. He got engaged to someone else and joined the Navy right after graduation. Trained as a salvage diver, he was shipped out to the Philippines. George recalled, “I was two days out of San Diego when the war ended.”
Nevertheless, he served his time salvaging the ships that had been sunk in Manila Bay. While overseas his girl sent him a Dear John letter, so when he returned to Spokane in 1946 he was footloose and fancy free.
He attended a dance at the Granite Point Resort in Loon Lake, Wash., and ran into Shirley, who was staying at the resort with a group of friends. “He came out and danced every night,” she recalled. This time when asked for another date, she quickly accepted.
She was a high school senior, and he was attending Gonzaga University. George grinned. “I studied business administration and skiing.”
He was on the university ski team and that Christmas he bought Shirley skis, poles, boots and lessons. “I figured skiing might be important to him,” she said, laughing.
Even though she’d never even seen a pair of skis until then, she showed up for the lessons. “I wasn’t going to get left behind,” she said.
On June 19, 1948, they married at First Baptist Church in downtown Spokane. “We financed our own wedding,” Shirley said. “I borrowed my dress, and he borrowed his suit.”
After their honeymoon they settled into an apartment near GU. When his GI Bill ran out after three years, George wasn’t too worried. He’d worked at Stejer’s Fine Foods since age 14. The store was located where Huckleberry’s Natural Market is today.
“I started as a stock boy and worked my way up to grocery manager,” he said.
Shirley stayed busy with their growing family. Daughter Barbara was born in 1951, followed by Scott in 1953, Deborah in 1957 and Greg in 1959.
The family settled into a home they built on the South Hill in 1958.
After many years with Stejer’s, George branched out on his own and purchased the Rockwood Market in 1964. By this time, Shirley was working for Smith Nielsen Equipment Co., which eventually became Middco Tool and Equipment.
Despite their hectic work lives, play was very important to the Creightons. They often took Wednesdays off and hopped in the car to ski at Mount Spokane.
Turns out those skiing lessons George had purchased for Shirley during their first Christmas paid off. George said, “Shirley was the first female ski instructor at Mount Spokane.”
She shrugged. “It was a Saturday job. I got paid for skiing and all the kids got free lessons.”
Their children took to skiing like they were born on the slopes. In fact, three of them currently own places at Schweitzer. “I think we took the kids to every ski area within driving distance,” Shirley said.
When the snow melted, the family headed to Lake Coeur d’Alene. The couple had purchased a cabin at the lake when they were first married, and many happy memories were made as the family boated and water-skied.
In 1992, George sold Rockwood Market (currently home to Rockwood Bakery) to his manager and attempted to retire. “I worked there part time for a while,” he said. “I loved the people.”
Shirley retired in 1997, but neither of them has settled into rocking chairs. The couple helped found the Prime Timers ski club at Schweitzer and still ski most weekends during the season.
A picture of George on his 80th birthday shows him slalom skiing on the lake. They’ve also enjoyed international travel.
Reflecting on six decades of marriage, the couple said that their shared Christian faith formed the foundation of their lasting union. “George is such a faithful person,” Shirley said. “He taught me about God’s love.”
From the outset of their life together Shirley determined to make their home a haven. “I wanted to make him so happy he’d never even look at another woman.”
Her strategy paid off. Smiling, she said, “He couldn’t get out of that store fast enough to get home to us.”
Their genuine affection and friendship is apparent. Glancing at Shirley, George said, “She’s my best buddy and that’s about all you can ask for.”
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