Twenty-nine-year-old Capt. H. H. Macurdy, USAF always knew how to get his way. I gave in to his urgent insistence, by agreeing to go as far as New Orleans with him for the weekend, when he was really pressing for marriage. This was my small way of compromising.  I was a 22 year old first grade teacher at Eglin AFB Elementary School in the Florida panhandle.  My teacher friends would lie for me, telling the school principal I would be back to work on Tuesday.

I borrowed some clothes from one of my four roommates, never dreaming I would get married in her beige boucle’ suit.  Three days earlier I’d been on a date with Amos Bamberger, another fighter pilot. I was not looking to marry either guy. I was just dating whatever fighter pilot asked me out.

Mac drove a bright red Jaguar XK120 roadster. I had never been west of the Mississippi River, and going to New Orleans was exciting for me, especially in a red Jaguar roadster with a smitten fighter pilot.

We got there, settled in, and went immediately to Bourbon Street. After a day and night of drinking, and dining at restaurants like The Court of Two Sisters, I began to think it would be more entertaining and appealing to travel on across country than to figure out a way to get back home to the little town of Mary Esther, FL and my teaching job. Plus, Mac was not offering me any assistance toward that effort.

Mac asked our parking lot attendant on Bourbon Street where we could get married. The guy wrote “St. Barnard’s Parish” on a scrap of paper, but said the state of Louisiana would require a three day waiting period. If we wanted to get it done sooner, it would be necessary to go back across the state line into Mississippi. Mac had a limited number of days before having to report to duty at Hamilton AFB north of San Francisco in California.

So the next day, we bought a $7.50 wedding band, and a $25.00 black nightgown with rosebuds on it.  While he went to get a haircut, Mac left me standing on a specific New Orleans street corner instructing me to meet him back there in thirty minutes. When he did not show up at the exact appointed moment, I assumed he had taken this joke far enough and had gone home to his wife and kids. My level of trust was obviously low.

The next day, however, we both drove back across the Mississippi River in search of the nearest court house, which happened to be in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Getting the marriage license was uneventful. The fun began when we asked about a Justice of the Peace to perform the ceremony.

According to the court house ladies, the nearest Justice of the Peace lived about ten miles out in the country on a long stretch of narrow road toward Log Town, Mississippi. We followed their instructions. They had said if Mr. Martin wasn’t at home, he could sometimes be found working on the roof of a house along the road to his home. So we watched, to no avail, for a man on a roof as we rode along in the bright red jaguar roadster. When we did reach his modest home, his wife answered the door and said Mr. Martin was in the backyard chopping wood, and that he would want to change from his overalls into his Sunday suit to perform a wedding ceremony.

We waited in their living room for him to change clothes. He soon came out in his black suit, shook hands, and told us where to stand. He mumbled a few word, and asked will you, Harold Haile, do such and such, and will you, Pattie Martin, do this, that and the other. We both said we would, and they invited us to sit down for a visit, which we did politely, but awkwardly. There was no thought of photographs.

Soon, we said our goodbyes and headed back down the long narrow country road. When I quietly asked, “How much did you pay him?” Mac did not say a word, but stopped the car and started backing and forthing from one ditch to the other to go back toward the guy’s house. Mac said to Mr. Martin “How much do I owe you for marrying us?” The answer was “Just give me whatever you think it was worth”, so Mac gave him a twenty dollar bill. The date was February 11, 1952.

I was traveling with my most recent paycheck of $180.00 for two weeks work. Mac liked to say he married me for my money, which he promptly spent on Jaguar repairs. We spent the first day of married life in a foreign car dealership. I hung out in the waiting room writing letters, while Mac and the mechanic were in the back, on the garage floor, underneath the red Jaguar. At some point in the afternoon, the mechanic commented to Mac that he had a really patient wife. Mac responded that he had me well trained. When the mechanic asked how long we’d been married, Mac looked at his watch and said it was coming up on about 24 hours.

Eventually we got on the road to California. This was before the Interstate highway system, so we drove through every dinky little town. One night, in Uvalde, Texas, we were parked in front of a coffee shop, taking a 3:00 a.m. rest stop. I was sitting on a bar stool facing toward the street when I saw our car leap backwards. The local drunken newspaper editor had spotted our unusual car, and wanting a closer look, had drifted across four deserted traffic lanes, got too close, and sideswiped our car. The Jag’s aluminum body was dented bumper to bumper all along the driver’s side.

By then, I was sick with a terrible cold, or worse, maybe walking pneumonia. I was happy to rest in a motel for a day while the editor sobered up and dealt with Mac about the collision. The badly dented car was perfectly drivable, so we drove it on through the rest of Texas, all of New Mexico and Arizona, to Northern California.

At Hamilton AFB, we found a furnished place to rent near San Rafael, twenty five miles north of San Francisco. Mac was immediately sent across country for ten days, leaving me on my own. Bus drivers happened to be on strike in the San Francisco area, so I signed onto a chartered bus deal and went into the San Francisco commercial district and got a job working a teletype machine for an insurance company. Our rented place was on a mountain called Corte Madera overlooking San Quentin. The road was so steep and narrow, a downhill facing car had to back upward off the road to allow an uphill facing car to proceed upward. Our Jaguar was in the body shop and I was driving a loaner.

And thus began my challenging married life with Mac. I had definitely gone west of the Mississippi, and I was fine with that, reckless as it might sound. Log Town, Mississippi, the site of our marriage, later became a military bombing-practice range.



  1. I love it. reads so well, very funny, a superior piece that would delight anybody. Remind me to tell you about my first marriage in Folkston, Georgia. signs at the city limit just over the Florida, state line said, “Fireworks and marriage licenses.” Should have turned aroundrightthen.


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