What is the key to their long and happy marriage?
“We don’t know, but love, a good sense of humor and respect for each other helps,” Lucy said.
The Chiles’ story began as children on the schoolyard of Annie West Grammar School during the Great Depression.
“We grew up in Atlanta in the Ormewood Park area about three blocks from each other. I was making use of playground equipment provided by the WPA (Works Progress Administration). Lucy, however, was (on the playground) with her cat and blue ribbon it had just won at the cat show. Lucy was 11 and I was 13,” said Cecil, 90.
“It was not love at first sight because we didn’t start dating for several years after we met,” Cecil said.
Lucy maintained a presence throughout Cecil’s life. Cecil graduated from Boys High in 1940 and Lucy from Girls High in 1941.
“I proposed to her the night she graduated,” Cecil said.
Marriage plans were put on hold when Lucy and Cecil learned, while horseback riding together at Chastain Park in Atlanta on Dec. 7, 1941, that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Although Cecil joined the U.S. Navy on Feb. 12, 1942, Lucy remained on his mind.
On Dec. 10, 1942, Cecil called from New Orleans and asked Lucy to arrange for them to marry on Saturday evening, Dec. 12 at Ormewood Park Presbyterian Church. Lucy secured the church, the organist and pastor.
“The maid of honor notified the others in the wedding party and spread the word to friends and relatives,” Lucy said.
The couple met along with their mothers on Saturday morning and applied for their wedding license.
“I immediately went to Rich’s Dept. Store and purchased a light blue suit to marry in and a few other clothes for my trousseau. I still made it to the church on time,” she said.
“A lot of planning in a short time paid off as the church was packed and everything went well.”
The Chiles spent their wedding night at the Dinkler Plaza Hotel.
“Many (of our friends) followed and we had a reception of sorts in our room until the wee hours of the morning. The next morning we had a deluxe breakfast in bed for two costing $1.30, no tax. I still have the menu,” she said.
The following afternoon, the newlyweds boarded a train to New Orleans for their weeklong honeymoon before Cecil went to his assignment in Virginia. A family friend who worked at the terminal station was able to get them an upper birth ticket on the sold out train.
“(The train) was packed with servicemen and I was the only female on board,” Lucy said.
Like Cecil, Lucy did her share during the war as one of the first women to work at the Naval Air Station in Atlanta. She also worked in Marietta at the Bell Bomber Plant (now Lockheed Martin) as a temp for employees who were out. Lucy joined Cecil who was stationed in Alameda, Calif., for a short time. She worked at Hurley Marine Shipyard before returning home after Cecil left for the Pacific.
When the war ended, Cecil returned home to Atlanta where housing was difficult to find.
“A lady next door to Cecil’s family moved in with her son so that we could live in her house until we could find other housing,” Lucy said.
In 1949, a new chapter of their lives began when Cecil earned his college degree from Emory University through the G.I. Bill. He took a job with Southern Bell where he worked for 34 years until he retired in 1982. The Chiles also started a family. They have two daughters, Kathy Pilcher of Marietta and Cindy Allen of Huntsville, Ala., and now five grandchildren.
Through the years, the couple developed a love of traveling. They journeyed extensively throughout the world and all but one state in the U.S. To celebrate their 70th anniversary, they will take a second honeymoon in New Orleans and will travel there by train.
“This time we will be on the Crescent Line with a private room,” Lucy said.