It was in the fall of my senior year in high school when a life-changing event occurred in my life. I walked into my history class, sat down at my desk and started talking to a friend who sat in the next row over from me. We started out talking about the usual kind of things — such as “Did you get your homework done?” type of questions — and then, from out of the blue, he asked me an unusual type of question: “Don’t you live in the country?” I answered: “Yes, I live on a farm but my Dad works at public works and we raise produce so my Grandpa will have something to take to the Farmers Market at Candor. Why do you ask?”
“Because I have a friend who would like to meet a girl who’s from the country” he said. Then he asked: “Would you be interested in meeting him?”
I replied: “I don’t go on blind dates.”
He told me, “I can bring a picture of him so you can see what he looks like.”
I said “Well, I suppose that would be alright. Meantime though, why don’t you tell me a little bit about him.”
He proceeded to tell me this guy lived outside of Rockingham, had graduated a couple years before from Rockingham High School, continued his education at a technical school in Sanford, and was now working for the local power company.
To my great surprise, my classmate, Billy, brought a picture of his friend the very next day and showed it to me. Then he asked if I was interested in meeting this friend that everybody called J.A. and I told him, “Yes,” I was. We then came up with a plan for us to meet later in the week.
I’m pretty sure it was on a Wednesday when Billy came to my house and brought J.A. along so we could meet. I’m not gonna say that it was love at first sight, but I will say it was pretty close. Of course, that first night I really didn’t get to talk with him one-on-one very much because most of my family was home and he and Billy and my dad talked about hunting and fishing pretty much the whole time he was there. He did manage to ask me out before he left, however, so we went on our official first date that Friday night.
After that, we became a steady couple with him calling me every night that we were not dating. I’m not going to be foolish enough to say that it was all smooth sailing after that but we both soon realized we were meant to be together. About a year after we first started dating, he asked me if I would marry him. I told him that I would — but first he would have to ask my dad if it was okay. He very nervously did that very thing and we got officially engaged on my birthday in October.
We didn’t waste any time with our wedding plans. We planned it for January not knowing if we would have rain, sleet, snow or sunshine. Our wedding day turned out to be a beautiful, sunshiny day — not too cold and not too hot.
We were married at my home church, Jones Springs Methodist Church, which is in the Derby community in Richmond County. We had a nice, simple wedding which didn’t cost a fortune, but was exactly what we wanted.
Everything went well during the ceremony until the preacher asked: “James, do you take Azalea to be your lawfully wedded wife?” and the groom looked over towards his dad. There was this really long pause before J.A. realized the preacher was talking to him.
You have to understand the situation here: J.A. is officially James A. Bolton Jr., so everybody called him J.A. from the day he was born since his father was called James. He finally answered the preacher with the correct response: “I do.” I have to tell you, I was pretty nervous there for a while because I couldn’t help but wonder if he had changed his mind or what!
Sometime or other while we were still in the church, my brothers and some of J.A.’s friends decorated his car. That included tying cans on the back and writing things on it such as “Just Married” and also a popular saying of the day, “Sock It To Me.”
After the festivities were over, we headed off on a honeymoon trip to Myrtle Beach. However, when we got to Bennettsville, South Carolina, we had to make an abrupt change of plans. You see, the fire chief there ran a stop sign and hit our car — right where my brothers had written those words “Sock It To Me.” Our car was no longer drivable, so we had to come up with an alternative plan.
The little, young police officer that came out to the accident scene told us he would give us a ride to the police station so we could call somebody to come get us (since this happened before the days of cell phones). Then he said, “We can put you up at the jail if you need us to, but you’ll have to sleep in separate cells.” At that point, I didn’t find his comments very amusing at all. When I look back at it now, I can laugh about it and see how funny it had to have been to that little officer I called “Cowboy” because he was wearing this great big belt buckle and cowboy boots.
The whole situation was kind of ironic, too, since back then a lot of people went across the state line to Bennettsville to get married. Instead, we got married in Richmond County and got to Bennettsville where we were taken to jail instead of the wedding chapel!
I called my house from the jail and when my Dad answered, he immediately wanted to know what was wrong. I’m sure he realized that daughters don’t usually call back home less than an hour after they’ve left. I told him we had been in a wreck and then I burst out crying. That probably scared the life out of him because he wanted to know if we were all right. I finally assured him we were fine and he said he’d bring us his car so we’d have something to drive.
Meantime while the cavalry was on the way, we found out that a hearing was going to be held the next day about the accident. We were afraid not to attend since the fire chief had hit us and we felt like he probably had a little influence in the town. We ended up driving back to Rockingham after we got Dad’s car and spending the night in a motel so we could go back to Bennettsville the next day. Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to make plans, right?
Our marriage truly got off to a rocky start with that disastrous honeymoon, but we must have done something right along the way since we just celebrated our 49th anniversary. The good Lord has truly blessed us with a wonderful daughter and son-in-law and four awesome grandchildren!
Azalea R. Bolton is a resident of Richmond County, member of the N.C. Storytelling Guild, member of the Anson and Richmond County Historical Societies and co-author of the book, “Just Passing Time Together.”