Shannon here: Betty Thomason Owens shares how her parents met, along with the inspiration behind her latest Historical Romance, Annabelle’s Ruth, and a short excerpt. Comment or answer the question in this post to enter the drawing for a print copy. Deadline: Aug 13th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Betty:
“What is she doing?” Chris shook her head and sighed. Her best friend Marilu stood behind the candy counter at Capitol Theater, flirting with a sailor. Outrageous. Yes, he was cute, weren’t they all? 1951 Seattle was filled with sailors fresh off the boat from Korea.
But Marilu had a steady boyfriend who was not a sailor and who, by the way, was due to arrive at any moment.
What could she do? She set her jaw, tugged at the sleeve of her usherette uniform, and pushed her shoulders back. She marched right over there and inserted herself between Marilu and the sailor.
Oh, he was good-looking. Tall, dark-haired with broad shoulders, narrow hips and a smile that wouldn’t quit. She sort of accidentally jostled his left arm resting on the candy counter. “Oh, excuse me, sir.”
Green eyes found hers, then took in her entire form. He straightened, a jaunty grin on his face. “Well, who are you?”
Pointing to her badge, Chris turned a wide-eyed innocent look on him. Just in time. That’s who she was.
Marilu’s steady guy sauntered up to the counter, leaned across it and gave his honey a peck on the cheek. “Hey, doll.” Then he leveled his gaze at the cocky sailor who had turned his attention back toward Marilu.
Chris hooked her arm in the sailor’s and tugged. “This way, sir, I’ll show you to the best seat in the house.”
He tilted his head to the side. “Will you be sitting next to me, because that’s the only thing that will make it the best seat.”
Chris laughed. With a backward glance and a thumb’s up at Marilu, she led mister sailor into the theater.
A few days later, the young sailor returned. This time, he was looking for that cute usherette named Chris.
When she walked over to him, he captured her gaze. “Hello, Chris, I’m Tommy. Remember me?”
She swallowed. Her knees went weak. Just like that, she was in love.
When Tommy went on furlough and was headed home to Tennessee, he took Chris with him. They eloped all the way to Biloxi, Mississippi. She was only seventeen. He was nineteen. He promised she’d love West Tennessee with its rolling green hills. From his descriptions, she expected a ranch with horses and cattle.
Turned out, his parents were sharecroppers who lived in a rickety house. The cows weren’t theirs. The horses were workhorses that pulled a plow. And the house—no indoor plumbing, a fireplace for heat, bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling. No rolling, green hills. Flat. Dirty. Muddy. Mosquitoes. Snakes. Yuck.
Chris was no longer in urban Seattle where frying hens came from the supermarket.
Tommy’s momma cooked on a wood stove. They raised cotton and corn and everything they needed to live. Worked hard all day long, every day. If a person lived in their home, even for a short visit, they were expected to pitch in and do their share of the work.
When Tommy’s furlough ended, Chris stayed with his eldest sister and her husband and young daughter, in a slightly better house a little closer to town. With summer came heat and humidity the likes of which she had never experienced. And she was pregnant.
Chris is my mom and Tommy was my Daddy. This is a mostly true story of how their life together began. Over the next couple of years, they were often apart, due to his service in the Navy. Much of their life was not easy, but they stayed together. Their love grew stronger. When Daddy died in 2007, they had been married fifty-five years. After he was gone, Mom told me she had no interest in ever marrying again. She’d had the best man already. Her soulmate.
I used parts of Mom’s history in my novel, Annabelle’s Ruth, a story inspired by the Book of Ruth, set in 1950s West Tennessee.
Excerpt from Annabelle’s Ruth by Betty Thomason Owens:
Connie Cross lagged behind, waiting until everyone else had gotten a drink before she approached the water cooler. The wide brim of her hat hid her face as she leaned forward to fill her cup. The dark braid down the middle of her back was the color of sorghum molasses. When he stepped forward, she glanced up. The guileless eyes that met his took him completely by surprise. Even with a smudge of dirt on her cheek, her beauty was apparent. He pulled the hat off his head and ran his fingers through his damp hair.
“Mrs. Cross, I’m Alton Wade.” Her answering smile sent arrows straight into his heart.
As Connie gazed into the calm gray eyes of the man standing in front of her, something happened. Her breath caught in her throat. Maybe she was just tired. Moving as in a dream, she forced a sip of water down her throat and smiled. “H… hello.”
His eyes lit with good humor when he grinned. Could this really be Jensen’s brother? She allowed her gaze to slide over his face. His demeanor, everything about him, was so vastly different from his older brother. Light brown hair with golden highlights, deeply tanned face, and those gray eyes that seemed to probe her soul…
Question for Readers: Any cute or interesting meetings in your family history?
About Betty: Betty Thomason Owens was born in an Army hospital in the Pacific Northwest but grew up in California, Tennessee, and Kentucky. An avid reader and storyteller from a young age, she didn’t begin a writing career until her late thirties. In 2011, she attended a local writers conference where she was encouraged to continue writing. After self-publishing a couple of fantasy novels, she received a contract for her first historical romance series. Her stories often feature strong women dealing with difficult life situations. Many also contain an element of suspense.
Now a multi-published writer of historical romance, suspense, and fantasy fiction, she and her husband reside in Kentucky. They have three grown sons and seven grandchildren. Learn more & connect:
About the book – Annabelle’s Ruth
After their husbands perish in a fishing boat accident, Connie Cross determines to follow her mother-in-law, Annabelle, from Southern California to Tennessee. Her misgivings begin as they cross the bridge over the muddy Mississippi River. In their new town, where living conditions are far below their previous expectations, they must set up a household and hunt for work to survive. Thanks to the kindness of Annabelle’s handsome, young cousin, life begins to settle down. But Connie has a secret that could uproot them once again. Inspired by the Book of Ruth, Annabelle’s Ruth is a 1950’s era “Ruth” story, set in western Tennessee. How will Connie adapt to her new life amid the cotton farms, racial tension, and culture shock.
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