Feature Story: It began on a basketball court 66 years ago

EMPIRE, GEORGIA: James and Gerry Holland will celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary on August 28. 2020. James, 86 and Gerry, 84, are the parents of four – three biological children and one ‘chosen’ child.

James, a retired HVAC/electrical/plumbing contractor, recently started writing a record of their story together. With his permission, below is part of their ‘love story.’ He graduated in June 1950 at the age of 16 from the Old Dodge County High School in Eastman. James started working at different jobs and two years later, he began working at Robins Air Force Base.

Gerry is the oldest daughter of a Baptist preacher and his wife. They moved around, and ended up in Eastman at Zebulon Baptist Church. She was a cheerleader.

Since James played some basketball in high school, he followed the school team after he graduated. In late 1952, he went to a game in the old high school gymnasium, and sat “on the opposite side bleachers from where cheerleaders performed in support of the team. I was sitting with a former classmate, who knew ‘everybody,’ when one of the cheerleaders caught my eye. I asked my former classmate who she was, and his response was that she is Zebulon Baptist Church’s new preacher’s daughter. I remember thinking that she would be out of my ‘class.’”

“I was a bit shy with girls, and could not get enough courage to make contact myself, but I could not get her out of my mind. Through friends, cousins and an uncle, who was ten months younger than me and was a basketball player and a classmate of hers, I was able to schedule a double date to a basketball game with the Hawkinsville Red Devils in Hawkinsville in October 1952.”

The story continued. “I went to pick up my uncle to go from Empire to Eastman to pick up his date. His sister, who had graduated from the same high school two years earlier, asked if she could ride with us so her date would not have to come pick her up. By that time, we were late getting to my date’s house, and there was no one at home. I thought that she had gotten ‘cold’ feet and had ‘stood’ me up.”

“Had I been by myself, I would have gone back home, and that would have been the end of it, but my uncle was one of the main players on the boys’ team and needed to be at the game.”

James added, “We went to the gymnasium and climbed up the bleachers, the three of us sitting together. The girls’ team was playing and the cheerleaders were on the floor.”

“When the cheering was over my supposed date came up the bleachers, she knew who I was, but we had never spoken face to face, and said, ‘I believe I have a date with you.’ At that moment, all was right with the world. I never dated anyone else again.”

He added, “My little green Ford made many trips to Eastman during the next few months, and by the end of the next August, my date was my wife, and I offer eternal thanks to James Madison and Francis Poplin for getting married and having ‘that girl.’”

“We both had agreed that we would be married sometime after school was out, and Gerry had graduated from high school.” James said.

He added, “Gerry’s dad had asked his daughters to let him do the marrying duties when time came. We had tentatively planed the marriage earlier in the summer, but we didn’t get the house ready until middle August. Her dad would be away in a revival in Fitzgerald on the date we set. Being somewhat shy, I did not want a ‘big’ wedding, and Gerry went along with me. The ‘small’ wedding made it easy to have a flexible time schedule. We had decided to go to the church in Fitzgerald on Friday evening (August 28, 1953) and have ‘Preacher’ Madison ‘tie the knot.’”

“We packed our clothes in one suitcase and drove 40 miles to Fitzgerald. It was as we had planned. The pastor of the Fitzgerald church, Gerry’s two sisters (Lynn and Anna Lee) and her mother were the only other people in attendance.”

James said, “We thought then, and now know, that ‘the marriage was more important than the wedding.’ Our wedding lasted less than twenty minutes. Our marriage has lasted more than sixty six years … and how much longer is up to God. I am still as thrilled as I hold her hand in real time as I was when I walked her to the door after our first date.

When asked what the secret was to their long-lasting marriage, James said, “There is no secret.”

He paused, and added, “We just do what we are supposed to do … and when you are married, you know what you are supposed to do?”

James said, “We love each other … in spite of each other.”

And how about that love story? Pretty cool, huh?
I think so, because they’re my parents.


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Author: rlhwrites

Curator of prose and such.

One thought on “Feature Story: It began on a basketball court 66 years ago”

  1. That is a beautiful story. Ordinary is extraordinary….to the beholder. Typical is perfection to the twosome. I loved their story.


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