The long and winding road
By ANDREW MCGINN
In retrospect, 1970 is generally remembered as a fairly bleak year:
The astronauts of Apollo 13 nearly died in the cold vacuum of space; soldiers of the Ohio National Guard took aim at a Kent State rally against the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and opened fire, killing four students; the Manson Family went on trial; Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin overdosed; the Beatles broke up.
And at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jefferson on June 27, 1970, a young bridegroom knelt at the altar with a secret message on the outsoles of his dress shoes — the word HELP spelled out clearly in athletic tape.
Fifty years later, Steve McCoy feigns innocence, saying it was the work of his brother and best man, Tim, without his knowledge.
Their mom wasn’t too happy.
Nevertheless, it was a moment of fun within a day of joy at a time when one of the most popular songs in the country just happened to be “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today)” by the Temptations.
But if the world — shaken by pandemic and stirred by the worst civil unrest since the Vietnam era — once again seems like it could wobble right off its axis, it may do a little good to know that that couple, Steve and Karen McCoy, are still happily married.
“We’ve had a wonderful life,” Karen, 69, said one recent morning while sitting at the table of the home they’ve owned since 1973 on South Cedar Street.
Fifty years ago, the McCoys were chosen as the Jefferson Bee & Herald’s “local bridal couple of 1970,” an honor, by way of a nomination process, that put them on the cover of the Jefferson Bee’s annual “June bride section.”
“It was kind of a big deal,” Karen said.
Their prize was a whirlwind trip around town accompanied by a Bee & Herald photographer, where local retailers showered the couple with gifts.
Like a pair of nice, new electric scissors at Tucker Pharmacy — or, as the headline read, “For the new homemaker who sews ...”
“I still don’t sew,” Karen said.
At Allen & Son Carpeting and the Cudahy Decorating Center, the couple was shown the very latest in floor and wall coverings. (Whatever it was, it presumably came in their choice of avocado or harvest gold.)
They lived in an apartment, but nevertheless liked what they saw — in fact, they returned by decade’s end and bought the Cudahy’s store, rechristening it the McCoy Paint Store, which they then ran for 20 years.
At Dunn’s Sure Save, they were shown, well, around the store.
“At Dunn’s,” the paper heralded, “newlyweds always find quality meats attractively displayed for their shopping convenience ...”
For what it’s worth, the week of the McCoy nuptials, the advertised special at Dunn’s was a 12-pack of Schlitz or Hamm’s for $2.09. No one knew it wouldn’t last — the Schlitz Brewing Company, that is, not the marriage.
One amusing part of the bridal section was a story titled “Marvels of Tomorrow,” which predicted a multitude of “Jetsons”-like innovations that could be anticipated by the “bride and groom of tomorrow.”
Among them was some crazy thing called “electronic shopping.”
“The homemaker’s console will be equipped with a wide screen,” it read, “that will put her at fingertip control with the store of her choice. When she sees what she likes on her screen, she gives her order by push-button. The store’s computer will total the bill and send it to the home computer and to the computer at the family bank.”
For their part, the McCoys, like most boomers, have a hard time believing that they could even be old enough to observe their own golden anniversary.
“Never in my life did I dream I’d live long enough to be married for 50 years,” Karen confessed.
It’s a stretch anymore to even call them “baby boomers,” considering that, come September, both of them will be septuagenarians.
“You lost your hair. I gained the weight,” Karen observed as she and Steve flipped through their copy of the 1970 bridal section.
He was a 1967 graduate of Jefferson High School. The former Karen Swaim followed in 1968.
“I liked him from day one,” she said.
It goes without saying that the annual process of choosing a “local bridal couple” was done with the best of intentions — and a great number of crossed fingers.
“There are a lot of people who don’t ever make it to 30 or 40,” Karen said.
Doomed marriages abound, but they may be doomed for a reason.
“We’ve always been great friends, too,” Karen explained, chalking up their longevity to the fact that they actually like each other.
That, and some independence helps.
Whatever’s at work at home, it’s kept arguments to a minimum.
“It wasn’t going to do me any good anyway,” Steve wryly observed.
That’s not to say there haven’t been tough times for the McCoys.
After starting their family with a son, Jeff, their second child, son Todd, was born weighing just two pounds, 12 ounces.
While Todd ultimately pulled through, the McCoys lost their third son, Brett (named for Royals third baseman George Brett), at seven months in 1981.
And there are newer, stranger challenges yet on the horizon.
Steve, 70, who retired from the local post office in 2013, has started experiencing memory issues, Karen said, like wandering off and getting lost on a trip to Nashville or, on this day, misplacing the keys to his pickup.
“I was kind of goofy all my life,” Steve said.
“No you weren’t,” Karen countered, adding that she can tell her husband of 50 years is changing.
“It’s hard to see it,” she explained.
But for all of their new aches and pains, they also consider themselves blessed that they made it, together, into retirement.
Whatever lies ahead for them, “We’ll work through it,” Karen said, “You do what you have to do.”
They plan to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary with an intimate family getaway — and at no point is anyone to ask youngest son Todd about marriage.
Todd and his girlfriend have lived together for nearly eight years, Karen said. And there’s nothing unusual there — more Americans these days are delaying marriage or forgoing it altogether.
“We’re fine the way we are,” is his response.
But it’s a touchy subject, Karen said.
“It never would have ever crossed our minds back then (to live together),” she said.
Had they, it probably would have disqualified them from being the “local bridal couple of 1970.”
The times they are a-changin’, indeed.