GUERNSEY – “Don’t run off to mamma every time something doesn’t go right,” is some of the wisdom that Lois Baker shares when she talks about the longevity of her marriage to Ben Baker.
Her first bit of advice that brought laughter to Ben was “don’t listen to each other” as she said it very tongue-in-cheek and then followed with the real thing. “Just work at it,” she said.
The couple have been married for 68 years and they are a reverse of Burns and Allen with Lois spouting the witty comedy and thoroughly cracking Ben up. He is 89 years old and she is 85 and as sharp as a tack.
Returning to the first bit of advice, Lois waits a while and says, “I never ran home, but he did once. I don’t know the reason, but mamma sent you back.”
Ben was born and spent his first nine years in Sargent, Nebraska, and then moved to a small town near Grand Island.
“I went to Wood River, Nebraska, but I never graduated,” Ben said. “In ’52 I joined the Marines and although I never got to Korea because they signed a truce, I was with a bunch of soldiers that ended up going to Japan. Once a Marine, always a Marine.”
Lois, who not only translates, but clears things up and fills in the gaps, said, “He was part of the standby. If the peace didn’t hold, then this group went in from Japan.”
She grew up in central Nebraska, born in Kearney and grew up in Gibbon. How they met was nothing less than magic, and Ben jumped off and began to tell the story, although Lois prefaced the conversation by revealing that she knew his brother before she met Ben, but that the sibling, “didn’t like me so much,” she said.
“A bunch of us was up to Gibbon one night driving around,” he began. “I don’t know who was driving, but I was in the back seat. A bunch of girls stopped and next thing you know, they got in and rode with us. She had to sit on my lap. That started it.”
Lois agrees as she said, “Yep that was the beginning I guess.”
He asked her out on a date that same night and they just became… regular.
“We saw a lot of drive-in movies,” Lois said. “We didn’t go to dances. He did not dance. He never has danced. One of my most embarrassing moments was an anniversary. We lived in Torrington and there was a group of us that worked with him on road construction and we were like a family.”
They knew it was their anniversary and so they took them someplace special for dinner and dancing, obviously not knowing that Ben just refused to dance.
“We had our dinner and then they announced that we were having an anniversary and they’d like us to dance the anniversary dance,” she said and then portrayed the sinking down into the couch reaction she had, knowing full well he wasn’t going to dance. “I was scrunchin’ down and he wouldn’t get up so our friend who invited us to this thing took me and danced.”
The couple actually have an agreement that if Lois would learn to camp in a tent, he would learn to dance.
“We’ve never camped in a tent, and he’s never danced, it goes both ways don’t you know,” she said with a straight face as he grins from ear to ear.
She got married before her senior year in high school and again, the story of why she didn’t graduate is priceless the way she tells it.
“I INTENDED to finish my senior year,” she said. “But the superintendent decided that married girls shouldn’t be in school.”
She waits about five seconds shrugs her shoulders and adds the kicker to her statement, “We had pregnant ones that were goin’ but not married ones.”
The couple have two children, Norma and Reed. Ben worked a backhoe for many years and Lois was a stay at home mom until the kids got through high school and then she was a housekeeper for a motel.
Although the couple have had many adventures and misadventures, they always stuck together and got through it together. Through the lean years, past the day that Ben had a mini stroke and then what they consider one of the biggest trials was when their camper caught fire. With them in it. As they were doing 65 miles per hour down a very hot Arizona highway.
The couple had gotten to a point where they were living in an RV and enjoying the traveling. They spent six months down south and then came north for the summers.
When she was asked about the nightmare circumstances that surrounded Ben’s stroke, Lois replied, “Well, not as much of a nightmare as when we burned the trailer. We burned a camper on the highway.”
Which was like a cliffhanger put out there to go into the next chapter.
“I always stopped to check my tires,” Ben said. “We were in Arizona and went 30 miles when this guy pulled up alongside and were waving and pointing. I looked in my mirror and there was nothing. But anyway, there was smoke coming out of the top of the trailer. It melted the vent fan so that the smoke was coming out.”
Turns out a spring shackle broke and the trailer lowered down to the spinning tire which burned a hole through the bottom of the trailer and the friction caught a chair on fire inside the trailer. It was a total loss for the couple and an angel must have been standing guard because according to Lois the fire was started at the point of the propane tanks.
Through it all, they have not lost their sense of humor nor a deep love and dependence on one another.
You can usually catch the Ben and Lois show entertaining their friends at lunch in Guernsey at Services for Seniors, but be warned, when they get on a roll, be prepared to laugh until your stomachs are sore.
Services for Seniors in Guernsey offers many options for senior citizens to get out and socialize and fellowship together. Whether it be the afternoon lunch every day or the wellness breakfast on the third Friday of every month, there is always something to do.