After all these years, she’s still ‘keeping an eye’ on him

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By Alice Du Pont

If ever any proof was needed that a couple that plays together stays together, it can be found in the relationship between Bob and Nell Hollingsworth. The pair meet one night in 1949 when a traveling skating rink stopped in Quincy. He was actually walking Nell's friend, Mary Catherine, home from a night of skating.

"For several years I dated Bob's best friend and he dated my best friend and we would double date. She asked me to keep an eye on him. He was quite the ladies man and I did," Nell said with a wink.

The two started dating in 1950. Nell was a student at Florida State and at least once a week Bob would pick her up and bring her to Quincy for a movie at the Leaf Theatre. They came back to Quincy because, they said, the Leaf was nicer than any of the theaters in Tallahassee.

"We liked the movies and Bob especially liked westerns. It wasn't  long before we learned that whatever one liked the other learned to like," Bob said.

Learning each other’s like and dislikes wasn't always easy and the couple, and like many young couples who navigate the sea of love, they had their share of disagreements.

"We fought a lot back then but then we'd make up a lot and that was the fun part," admits Nell, laughing.

They decided to get married after Bob joined the Army and learned that he was going to be sent to the Korean Conflict. He was 20 years old and Nell was 19. At the time, a young man under the age of 21 needed parental consent to tie the knot.

"My daddy didn't want to sign. He said I was too young," Bob said.

"And my daddy said there wasn't a man alive good enough for his only daughter," added Nell.

But their parents' arguments weren't strong enough the persuade the couple to wait until Bob's return. And Bob admits that he had another motive for wanting to marry before he left for foreign shores.

"I knew I loved her and I didn't want to take a chance on her dating someone else while I was gone," he said.

The two married on June 28, 1953 at the First Methodist Church in Madison. The next day at 6 a.m., Bob had to leave for Atlanta, Ga. where he was stationed. The two had a few months together before he left for 18 months in Korea. Nell said they missed their fist wedding anniversary and their first two Christmases but that never happened again.

Bob was a plant manager for Hinson Oil Company and Nell was a teacher at Greensboro High School and later at Robert F. Munroe, where she was also cheerleading coach.

"We always had a good time together. Even when Bob went with me to all of those games with the cheerleaders. Sometimes after those Tuesday night away games we still had to get up and go to work the next morning," Nell said.

Bob said he didn't mind as long as he was with Nell and they were enjoying what they were doing. He admitted, however, that a bunch of giggling and whispering teenage girls was "sometimes downright aggravating."

Through it all, the couple agree that their love has endured throughout the years because they have been there for each other. Part of the glue that keeps them together is their love for all things 50s, especially cars. Nell has a 1953 Ford and Bob has a 1959 Ford.

"We just love old cars. He can work on them,” Nell said.

Thinking about Nell's statement for a few seconds, Bob agreed that she's with him in the garage when he starts tinkering, But, he said, when he needs a wrench or screw and calls out to her, she's gone. But she's never far away.

They're both avid collectors. Nell collects anything Coca-Cola and Bob collects anything remotely connected to Gulf Oil – antique miniature cars, trucks, airplanes and old signs. If you looked at a photo of the couple's garage it would take close inspection to realize that the photo wasn't taken in the 1950s.

About once a month they join friends from the Antique Automobile Club of America and go cruising. The cruises now mostly consist of day trips but they enjoy getting out. Their senses of humor are contagious, especially when they are both admitted flirts.  

"I don't worry because like the song says, she's coming home with me at closing time,"  Bob said.

They'll often stop each other with a "don't tell that" or a gentle pat on the hand or back, the kind of signals only couples who have been together for a long time can send.

They have a little advice for young couples who want to stay together.

"Accept the other person for who they are and don't try to change them. You married them the way they are. Accept the other person’s mistakes. We all make them. Learn to laugh and do things that you enjoy together," they said.

"And never, never refer to your wife as 'my old lady.' She's a person and she has a name. I can't stand it when I hear a man call his wife that," Bob said, when asked for advice for husbands.

Between their collectibles and hobbies, the couple says they always find time to spend with their son, daughter and two grandchildren.

They don't have anything special plans for Valentine's Day this year because they don't need to make it special. You see, to Bob and Nell Hollingsworth, every day is Valentine's Day. And it's been that way for the past 56 years.

Send your comments to adupont@gadcotimes.com.