Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

July 7, 2013

A love that outlived a war

The 70-year love affair of Hugh and Dolly

by Kelly Lafferty kokomo tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Dolly noticed Hugh Smith from across the cafeteria at Kokomo High School and decided right then that she wanted to be introduced to him.

“He was neat-looking,” she said. “He was on the football team so he was popular.”

Sixteen-year-old Dolly asked a friend, who was also a friend of 18-year-old Hugh, to make the introductions.

“I thought she was the best lookin’ girl I’ve ever seen,” Hugh said.

They met up one night for Cokes, sandwiches and jukebox music at a popular place in Kokomo during the 1940s called Mom Oakley’s. Hugh walked her home that night.

Besides going out to Mom Oakley’s, the new couple would go downtown on Saturdays and people watch around the square as they sipped on Cokes.

Hugh would drive Dolly around in his 1924 Model A Ford he bought for $35 with money he saved from delivering Kokomo Tribune.

“We were just compatible,” Dolly said. “It hasn’t changed. It’s the same now as it was then.”

The couple dated for about a year until high school graduation started to approach.

“We all knew what would happen when he graduated;” Dolly said, “When they all graduated they all had their draft cards.”

So they decided to get married.

“I didn’t want nobody to get her,” Hugh said. “They’re hard to find.”

They didn’t tell anyone of their marriage plans, and ran off to wed in Tipton by the justice of the peace when Dolly was 17 and Hugh was 19.

“We didn’t tell anybody because if they found out, we were afraid he’d get kicked out of school,” Dolly said. “If we’d done it here, it would’ve been in the Kokomo papers. Nobody knew, but he and I.”

May 13, 1943, happened to be a Friday the 13th that year, but the couple didn’t let superstitions stand in their way of tying the knot.

“It’s always been a lucky number for us,” Dolly said.

Their families weren’t surprised they got married, and were supportive of the couple’s decision.

Almost immediately after they were married, Hugh left for boot camp after he joined the Navy.

The longest the Smiths went without seeing each other was 13 months.

Dolly lived with Hugh’s parents while he was gone. They wrote to each other every day.

Letters Hugh wrote home were censored by the military before they were sent. If he spoke of locations or dates, it would be blacked out by the time they reached Dolly.

“That’s about all you can do really is worry about where he was,” Dolly said.

In the meantime, Dolly got a job working at Delco as an inspector for bomber radios.

While she was there, she was shocked by a defective switch, which knocked her out. She quit for a few months before coming back in 1947.

“She wanted to work for a few little things we needed,” Hugh said. “Like a Cadillac,” he joked.

Dolly worked at Delco for 30 more years, and eventually the Smith’s got their Cadillac, but not before Hugh came back home.

He was excited to go home and wanted to get out of the military.

After a total 30 months of Hugh being the Navy, they were finally together again.

“It was a nice reunion,” Dolly said.

Hugh got a job at Continental Steel and the couple bought their first house for $5,000. They paid $10 each month to pay it off.

“If there were any decisions on buying something, we’d make it together,” Hugh said.

“If we didn’t have the money to buy something, we didn’t buy it,” Dolly said.

These days, the Smiths are enjoying being married for 70 years and looking out for each other along the way.

“It’s better now than when we got married,” Dolly said. “We’re settled. We have our kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids.”