Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Features

December 29, 2013

The girl next door

Elmer Byers and Kathy Tilley were next-door neighbors when the teens fell in love

(Continued)

“It was too convenient,” Elmer laughed. “I would watch and see when she’d go outside so I could go out there also.”

Elmer and Kathy dated for a year before they were married.

“She just matched up with what I wanted in a person,” Elmer said of Kathy.

Kathy was 15 and Elmer was 19 when they were married at a minister’s house off Market Street on Aug. 7, 1952.

They were very close to each other when they were teenagers, but it wasn't just that bond that prompted them to get married. Kathy found out she was pregnant.

Her parents were supportive of the union, even though her dad was unsure about Kathy marrying so young. Kathy wanted to be married when the baby arrived, though.

“I thought it was the right thing to do,” she said.

They had to get permission from a judge to wed since Kathy wasn't yet 16.

“I never really was a teenager,” Kathy said. “When you’re 15, you’re not thinking about getting a house. It wasn’t an easy life. It was hard. It was going to be something new because I’d never been away from home or anything.”

She dropped out of high school, and the newlyweds moved into her parents’ house where there was no running water. They had to get water from Elmer’s parents next door and heat it on the stove. Elmer was in between jobs, and their first baby was born a week before he got his first paycheck.

“We lived primitive,” Elmer said.

They had a lot of help from their parents when they were married, but it was still a rough financial start for the young couple. Through it all, they said that their relationship never suffered.

“I always thought whenever I get married I’m gonna make a go of it,” Kathy said. “I was ready to grow up.”

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