Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Thursday, August 14, 2008

James and Eileen Netherland Branch Celebrate 63 Years Together

Today is August 14, 2008. Sixty-three years ago, the United States celebrated VJ Day, short for “Victory over Japan”, signaling an effective end to World War II in the Pacific. But another important celebration also happened that day. My parents were married in Lexington, Holmes County, Mississippi. Today, they are celebrating sixty-three (63) years of marriage. This post is the story about how my parents met.

I already knew a little about my parents’ courtship and subsequent marriage. I knew they met when they were barely 19 and 22 years old and were married less than three months later. I knew that she was just out of high school and that she was working at Cohen's Department Store located on the square in Lexington. And I was also aware that as a very new bride, my mother packed her clothes in a trunk, which she still owned when I was growing up, and took a bus all the way to Lenoir City, Tennessee, where her new husband met her at the bus station. It took her almost 24 hours to make the trip. The bus she took from Lexington, headed for Memphis, broke down on the way, and the passengers had to board a new bus. When she got to Memphis, she had to change buses again to board one headed east to Lenoir City. Her new husband met her at the bus station and took her to the apartment they would live in for less than a year while my father worked at the Oak Ridge Plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. That is me in the picture above….I was born about 11 months after my parents married and after they returned to Mississippi to live. They didn’t have a picture made on the day they were married, so the picture here is the earliest picture that exists of the two of them together.

What I didn’t know was that my parents met on a blind date. I recently learned this bit of information when I asked my parents to tell me more about their courtship so that I could write this post. My parents divulged that Bennie Killebrew, a friend from high school who had lived in both Ebenezer and Goodman, and who knew both my father and my mother, asked my father if he would like to go out with a “good-looking girl.” My father, of course, replied “yes”, and Bennie proceeded to call my mother at the store where she worked. Bennie asked her if she would go out with his friend, and she agreed. Several days later, my father called my mother, and they scheduled a date for that following Saturday night. Bennie Killebrew, sadly, is now deceased.

When my future parents met, my mother was living at Mrs. Brown’s Rooming house on Spring Street in Lexington, Mississippi. Since she didn’t get off work at Cohen’s Department Store until 10 p.m. on Saturday night, their date was a late one. I was always a little suspicious if one of my teenage or young adult children wanted to go out on a date beginning at 10 p.m. Little did I know that my own parents went out on their first date at 10 p.m.! Times haven't changed much, have they?

My father picked up my mother at the rooming house. My mother recalls that she had three female roommates at the time, Vivian Grantham, Elizabeth Self, and Martha Truitt. When I asked my mother what she remembered most about my father on their first date, she said that she was impressed with his good looks, how well he was dressed, and that he was driving a ’36 Ford. She said he wore brown trousers and a nice white shirt and that he had “very good manners.” He also opened the car door for her, and he was polite. They could not agree on the color of the dress she wore that night…..he said purple, she said blue. I think it must have been blue myself, because I don’t recall my mother ever wearing purple. My father said that my mother really lived up to Bennie Killebrew’s description of a “good-looking girl.”

So off they went in the ’36 Ford to Durant, Mississippi, to eat a late meal at the Ritz Café. They agreed that a hamburger was their first meal together. After they ate, my future parents drove back to Lexington and went to a movie. The rooming house was just doors away from the movie theatre, so my father didn’t have far to drive my mother home that night. They think they may have kissed “goodnight.” He told her he would call her, and she said he did call the next day and asked her for another date for the next Saturday evening. My father was working for the Illinois Central Railroad up in Corinth, Mississippi during the week and only came home on the weekends, and it was too far to drive for them to see each other during the week.

For the next three months, my parents continued to have a “late date” every Saturday night. And then one Saturday night, they decided it was time to get married. They were married on a Tuesday afternoon at the First Baptist Church parsonage in Lexington, Mississippi, on August 14, 1945. The Reverend Homer Robinson performed the simple ceremony with only witnesses present. Now they have been together sixty-three years of Saturday nights.

Quite a record, isn’t it? Their five children, seventeen grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren love them dearly and are very proud of them.

May they live to see many more anniversaries.


  1. What a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing it with us. Congratulations to your parents :)

  2. Very nice story Janice! I'm blown away that their date started at 10 p.m. back then. I'd be more than suspicious if one of my kids had a date that late too. Funny.