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Frances Newman and Clifton Booe were just teens when they eloped, but decades later, they have no regrets.
DON PETERSEN | Special to The Roanoke Times
Frances and Clifton Booe celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on Monday. A billboard display along Williamson Road honors the milestone.
Photo Courtesy of Linda Williams
Clifton Booe and Frances Newman met after a baseball game in Winston-Salem, N.C., a few years before they eloped.
Photo Courtesy of Linda Williams
Identical twins Linda and Brinda were born July 6, 1944. Their young parents struggled to make ends meet.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
The teenagers eloped on a Greyhound bus, riding from Winston-Salem, N.C., to Chester, S.C.
Frances Newman had just turned 15. Clifton Booe was 16. They knew South Carolina’s lenient marriage laws would allow them to wed.
Clifton had no ring for Frances. That came later. The couple barely had enough money to buy the bus tickets to get them to Chester and back.
“I had a pocketbook full of pennies,” Frances recalled.
On Oct. 14, 1943, Clifton and Frances became husband and wife.
Thus, the wedding anniversary they celebrated last week was their 70th. Clifton and Frances, both now 85 years old, were prodded by their daughters to talk about their decades together. The couple participated somewhat skittishly in an interview at the C. A. Booe Insurance Agency off Williamson Road. They still go to the office every day during the work week.
“It don’t seem like it’s been 70 years,” Frances said. “If I had it to do over, I would do it.”
Frances acknowledged that her parents, Frank and Ora Newman, reacted with dismay to news of their young daughter’s marriage.
“But don’t put that in the paper,” Frances said, a command she uttered several times during the interview.
Her demand elicited a reaction from Clifton and the couple’s identical twin daughters, now 69, and a son-in-law. They chimed in nearly simultaneously, as they would more than once, to convince Frances to abandon her reticence about disclosing details few readers would find surprising, much less shameful.
The couple first met after a baseball game in Winston-Salem a few years before they eloped. One of Clifton’s cousins introduced them.
“I was thrilled,” Frances recalled. “He was very attractive and good-looking and kind.”
Clifton said he thinks he left school in the ninth grade. Frances attended through the 11th grade.
For a time, Clifton worked at the Hanes Hosiery Mills in Winston-Salem.
Money was tight and got tighter when Frances gave birth July 6, 1944, to identical twin girls, Linda and Brinda . A photo from that time shows Clifton, looking much like a kid himself, holding one girl in each arm.
He said last week that the marriage’s toughest times followed the girls’ birth, when he and Frances struggled to make ends meet.
“We counted our pennies,” Clifton said.
He drove a milk truck. He worked in a filling station. Clifton eventually found his way into sales.
In 1956, the couple moved their family, which by then also included a son, Melvin, to Roanoke.
Clifton founded the C. A. Booe Insurance Agency. He said he once had five offices in Virginia and was a top seller for Union Bankers Insurance for two years straight, month in and month out. Frances has been his secretary for decades.
She said the couple feels no need to retire.
“We just enjoy our work,” Frances said. “We enjoy staying busy.”
Daughter Linda Williams said her father’s successful career in insurance speaks to his character.
“He is honest and not pushy and tries to help people,” she said.
Daughter Brinda Booe agreed.
“His honesty is what has gotten him this far, that and his being fair with people,” she said.
Frances and Clifton have lived for 55 years in the same house on Fleming Avenue Northwest.
Brinda lives next door. Linda and her husband, Billy Joe Williams, reside in West Virginia. Melvin died at age 47 in 1997 from complications tied to diabetes.
For Clifton and Frances’ 65th anniversary, Linda and Brinda paid for a billboard display along Williamson Road to publicly congratulate their parents for reaching that marital milestone. The sisters have done the same thing for subsequent anniversaries, renting the billboard each time for a month.
Frances said she and Clifton have stayed married because they have nurtured their relationship and been willing to compromise.
“It’s a give-and-take thing when you’re married,” she said. “You have to work on it every day. And never go to bed mad.”
She said the marriage has been blessed from day one.
“I think God put us together and he wants us to stay together,” she said.
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