by Patti Emmel
Special Edition of Charles City Press
April 23, 1985
A love that’s lasted
Married 61 years
Charles and Alethia Pettitt, Charles City, Iowa are an example that marriages can be happy successes.
By Patti Emmel
It was a cool October 31st in Iowa in 1919. The trees crackled as the Halloween wind whistled through their leafless branches.
Charles Pettitt, a fifteen year old boy, directed his horse named Tom, as he sat in the carriage behind. Out of the families drive and down the road the two traveled, moving quickly as the boy held the reigns tightly in shy anticipation.
Crossing the railroad tracks, the house came into sight. He held a few jitters in his stomach as he turned into the yard.
Then he saw her.
He thought she was awfully pretty when she came out of the house, her brown hair blowing in the wind. She was 17, and Alethia Logan was her name. They had just met 15 days earlier at his first day spent at the Otranto, Iowa, consolidated school.
His family had just moved into the area.
He didn’t like her at first. She had laughed at him in front of the whole class during that first day, when he got out his lunchbox but didn’t know where to sit and stood in the middle of the room looking at everyone else. But, she was his neighbor and she didn’t have a ride to the Halloween school dance, and he did live awfully close.
Now, 66 years and four later, Alethia and Charles Pettitt, 1002 21st Ave., Charles City, are still together. Married more than 61 years, the couple still laughs playfully at one another, and more importantly, laughs with each other. “He lived on the wrong side of the tracks back then,” Alethia joked. “No, you lived on the wrong side of the tracks,” Charles replied. “Anyway, it wasn’t love at first sight,” he said. However, love obviously entered the picture somewhere, and the couple claims it is something that has only increased as they have become older.
What are the secrets to have a good, lasting marriage?
“Well, we tried to follow our vows. So many people today don’t seem to follow them.” Alethia said.
“You’ve got to talk things out. Talk about everything,” Charles said.
“That’s right. Don’t keep secrets.” Alethia patted her palm on the couch. “We never kept secrets. And you have to kind of know each others business in expenditures.”
Charles continued. “Put it in one pocketbook. You both have to agree where the dollar will be spent.”
The couple also stressed much of the success of their marriage is due to their faith and relationship with God. They have attended the United Church of Christ at Colwell, located four miles northeast of the spot where they farmed, since the fall of ’49. They also attend Sunday school and read the Bible every morning. “I’m always learning something new from that,” Charles said.
The couple was honored last year for their 60th wedding anniversary, receiving greetings from President Reagan and Nancy, Alethia said.
Throughout their lengthy marriage, they became the parents of two children: a daughter, Anita Darrow, Charles City; and a son, James Pettitt, who died seven years ago of multiple sclerosis. The couple also has five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
“There’s been ups and downs,” Alethia said. We had hard times – the depression and when we first got married. There was a time when we got $5 for cream and thought we were rich. But we made it. We’re still here!”
“I wouldn’t start that way again, though,” said Charles. “I got married and took someone I loved and about starver her!.”
“Oh, it wasn’t that bad,” chirped Alethia, who often addresses her husband as ’honey.’
And what advise would they offer to newlyweds?
“When there’s a problem, a friend of mine used to put it, ‘lay it out on the table; let’s have it,’ ” Charles said.
“Well,” Alethia continued, “I think the whole family should go the same way. With so many, the wife goes her way, and the kids go theirs and the husband goes his. But, it works better if you all go the same way.”
Alethia held up a ceramic lamp at the end of the interview.
“See,” she said, “I painted this.” It featured an Iowa scene of a boy driving a buggy into a yard and a girl coming out of a house.
Below, it said, “October 31, 1919. Our first date.”
The first of many good memories for Charles Pettitt and Alethia Logan Pettitt.