Maurice & Charlotte — Valentines for 65 years strong

Maurice & Charlotte — Valentines for 65 years strongBy DIANA REGIER

News Review Correspondent

On Feb. 14, as many couples celebrate their special someone, local couple Maurice and Charlotte Hamm will be celebrating their 65th Valentine’s Day together since their wedding day Dec. 31, 1952.

However, Maurice and Charlotte’s story of friendship and love begins years earlier before cards, candy and candlelight dinners entered the picture.

In 1947, Maurice was in the Navy — interestingly enough, stationed at China Lake. When his two years of service were completed, he left the Navy and pursued an opportunity in Omaha, Neb., to study and earn a radio 1st-class license. He did well in school and got a job working for an AM radio station, WDLB, in Marshfield, Wisc., Charlotte’s home town.

Shortly after Maurice began the job, his boss asked if he attended church and if he would be interested in running the radio broadcast on Sundays from the Methodist church. Maurice remembers “spotting Charlotte right off.” He recalls that she and her sister were sitting in the choir loft giggling. Charlotte says, “We were laughing about some of the hats being worn that morning.”

As both Maurice and Charlotte recollect, her mother invited “that poor bachelor” home for Sunday dinner that first week and it was the beginning of many Sunday home-cooked meals. Maurice was living in a single room with no amenities, and he ate most meals in restaurants. He continued to accept invitations for Sunday dinner, but romance didn’t develop right away.

Maurice went out with a lot of other girls — Charlotte was still young, only 15, when they first met. Maurice didn’t want to jeopardize his Sunday dinner, either!

Maurice became eligible for the GI Bill. So he entered college starting out at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, then later transferring to the University of Kansas in Lawrence for its engineering program.

Charlotte was also going to school by this time, training in Madison, Wisc., for a nursing career, but the nursing students also went to Cook County Hospital in Illinois for studies and training. Charlotte would stay with her aunt and uncle in Chicago, and Maurice would visit her there.

Charlotte and Maurice wistfully reminisce that the turning point and change in their relationship was during an outing to Island Park in Winfield, Kans. It was under the willow tree in June of 1952, they said, both smiling as the memories surfaced.

Yet it wasn’t until months later during one of Maurice’s visits to Chicago when they decided to tie the knot. The two were snuggling in a comfy chair when Charlotte suggested, “We should just get married.” But it would have to be “in secret” since Charlotte was still in school and marriage before or during coursework and training was not allowed. Charlotte would not be ready to graduate until September the following year.

Of course, even when eloping, a couple doesn’t just get married on a dime. They chose New Year’s Eve for the day, but there were many details and only a few days left in the year. Plans were put in motion. They needed blood tests, a marriage license and a judge.

When they applied for the license, the county clerk informed Maurice that the application process required 48 hours. Unfortunately, their plans were to get married the following day. As Maurice tells it, “This poor university student reaches in his pocket and finds a last $10 bill and asks the clerk if that will get it done faster.” The Cook County clerk who signed their marriage license? The future Chicago Mayor, Richard Daley.

The following day, Jan. 31, 1952, Maurice picked up the blood test results, had the valid marriage license in hand and then picked up Charlotte after her shift that afternoon. On the way to the appointment with the judge, they also stopped to pick up their wedding rings.

When they arrived at the courthouse, there was no one in the reception area, so they headed directly to the elevator. The elevator operator informed the couple he was leaving for the night and then proceeded to give Maurice a quick tutorial on how to operate the elevator for the trip down. The judge’s office was also empty, but finally he did present himself.

The next problem was that they hadn’t brought witnesses to their “secret marriage,” and the judge’s staff had left for the evening. Well, it was their lucky leap year — Maurice and Charlotte were married … without witnesses.

The newly married couple’s next destination was the Jackson Hotel. However, the street car they were on broke down, and they had to find another. Finally, they arrived at the Jackson to celebrate their wedding, but even that would be brief: Charlotte had finals to prepare for. Maurice claims they had 13 honeymoons … one for each time they were able to get together after their wedding day.

The tale doesn’t end there, though. In March 1953 Charlotte became pregnant. Their marriage was still a secret, but they knew she wouldn’t be able to hide the pregnancy for long. Charlotte went home for a weekend to tell her parents, knowing they would not be pleased. However, in the telling, Charlotte forgot to mention that she and Maurice were already married. Once things calmed down and all the facts were known, her father took her back to school and successfully fought for her to keep her position in the program.

After both graduated and held other jobs, the Hamms moved to Ridgecrest in 1955, when Maurice took a job at China Lake. They raised their four children, Jeff, Susie, Mike, and Steve, here and the family was active in community, school, sports and church. Their roots are strong, and the family has grown to include grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In December the family had a large celebration honoring the couple’s 65 years of marriage. Maurice recalls sharing with friends and family gathered, “My wife was a great wife and great woman and a tough person to live this long with me.”

Charlotte’s reply? “Yes, those are all true.”

Charlotte emphasizes that another factor contributing to longevity of marriage is communication. “People don’t communicate enough.”

She also says she and Maurice were always sincere in their relationship. “In hindsight, she has been right 99.9 percent of the time,” adds Maurice.

The length and strength of their relationship is a testament to the wedding vows they spoke 65 years earlier.

Maurice phrases it, “Toleration is important when the rough times come.”

Charlotte has endured many health issues and illnesses and Maurice has stayed by her side during all these stressful periods.

And humor. Maurice and Charlotte both have wonderful senses of humor, and they agree that it takes a lot of humor to get through 65 years!

They also believe their love for fishing has been an asset.

After all these years, their memories of how they met and married and lived are still strong and alive — fresh and endearing. Their relationship didn’t begin with romance, chocolates and Teddy bears or even that immediate “knowing.” Yet their early friendship and later love and commitment have grown into something that has survived a lifetime of living.

That is the essence of what true Valentine’s Day looks like.

Story First Published: 2018-02-09