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Sunday, May 26, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Bumpy road to matrimony for this couple

Breakdowns of car, bus didn’t deter McLauchlins

Archie and Awana McLauchlin pose for a photo Wednesday at their home in Nine Mile Falls. (Tyler Tjomsland)
Archie and Awana McLauchlin pose for a photo Wednesday at their home in Nine Mile Falls. (Tyler Tjomsland)

The road to true love may never run smooth, but in Archie and Awana McLauchlin’s case the road to matrimony was bumpy indeed, and involved both a car and a bus breakdown.

They met in the fourth grade when Archie briefly attended the same small Oregon school as Awana. “I was only there for three days and she’s the only thing I remember,” he said.

His mother had died when he was 5 and he’d been living in an orphanage in Oakland, California. After a few days in Oregon, his father sent for him and off he went.

He returned briefly in 1945 when they were in high school and that’s when the romance kindled. This time when he left for California, letters flew back and forth between them.

“She’s the only girl I ever dated,” Archie said.

Awana laughed. “I never had any competition!”

But she was smitten, too. From their Nine Mile Falls home, she pondered what it was about Archie that made him so unforgettable.

“It was fascination,” she said. “I was just fascinated with him.”

Finally, in their senior year of high school, they got to spend significant time together and made wedding plans.

However, the looming Korean War hastened those plans.

“We were going to get married in November,” Awana said. “But the Korean War was starting and we had to be married by Oct. 1 if he didn’t want to be drafted.”

As members of the LDS church, they wanted a temple wedding and the only one they could find with an opening was in Logan, Utah.

“We headed out from my house in his Model A,” said Awana.

Shaking his head, Archie said, “It didn’t get there. We got halfway between Bliss and Glenns Ferry (Idaho) and the car quit. It was the timing gear.”

Stranded in desert country, they pondered their options.

Suddenly Archie said, “Hey! I see a bus coming down the road. Help me push the car into the sagebrush and we’ll flag down the bus.”

So, that’s what they did. The bus stopped in Bliss and they got off, bought tickets and had breakfast. When they got ready to board again they learned the bus had broken down and a replacement was on the way.

However, when they tried to catch the replacement bus they were made to get off because it was overcrowded.

That might have been enough to daunt most people, but not these two. They wanted to get married and they had a deadline to beat.

They caught the next bus to Logan and went to the temple.

“They said, ‘Where have you been? We’ve been waiting for you!’ ” Awana recalled.

Finally at 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 29, 1948, the two 19-year-olds were pronounced man and wife.

“By 1 a.m. we were on the bus again,” Archie said. “I didn’t want to leave the car in the sagebrush and I’d bought the part for it! I had $50 in my pocket when we left for the wedding. I was flat broke when we got home.”

On his first day back on the job, his boss, who had no idea about the problems they’d encountered, gave him $50 as a wedding gift.

That epic road trip to matrimony proved prophetic as the couple has traveled a lot of miles together during their almost 67 years of marriage.

Archie found work in the iron industry, working as a blacksmith for his entire career.

Awana had her hands full with the six children who quickly filled their home and their lives.

For 17 years, Archie managed an LDS farm in Boring, Oregon, in addition to his blacksmithing.

Horses were a big part of their lives. “We took pack trips through the Cascades, around the Three Sister Mountains, Mount Hood and Hell’s Canyon,” recalled Awana.

And when the children had grown and gone, the couple hit the road – this time in a pickup truck with a trailer towed behind it. Archie built farm machinery for LDS farms across the nation. “We drove the trailer from ocean to ocean, twice,” said Awana.

They lived in that trailer, stopping for brief periods in North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, wherever Archie’s skills were needed.

Finally, in 1998, they settled in Nine Mile Falls, near their youngest son. With 25 grandchildren and more than 50 great-grandchildren they’ve decided to stay put.

Instead of horseback riding, Archie, 86, said, “I terrorize the mountain on a four-wheeler, now.”

Awana, 85, said the secret of their six-decade marriage is simple, “We just get along very well.”

She glanced at Archie and it’s obvious the fascination that began so long ago, still holds. She smiled. “He puts up with me.”

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