Roland Allen had a quick two-word answer when asked about the key to staying married for 75 years.
“Yes, dear,” he said.
Bobbie (Barbara) Allen didn’t quite catch her husband’s response the first time. After she heard it, she replied right back.
“Liar, liar pants on fire,” Bobbie said.
Roland and Bobbie Allen celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary on Monday, May 31 at Farrington Court Assisted and Senior Living in Kent. They were married in 1946 in Wichita, Kansas. Bobbie is 96. Roland is 95, 11 months younger than his wife.
“We are very blessed,” Bobbie said during a May 27 interview at their apartment.
Bobbie explained why she believes their marriage has lasted so long.
“You have to love them a lot,” she said. “Of course you’re different people and you don’t change each other. That’s the whole secret.”
Not that she hasn’t tried to alter a few things.
“I’m still trying to change him though and it doesn’t work,” she said with a laugh.
Bobbie realizes many people no longer look at marriage the same way as she and her husband of 75 years.
“It seems like young people if things don’t go just as they want, they get a divorce and will just get married again,” she said. “It wasn’t like that in our day. It’s just a different world. If you got married, it was forever. You might disagree a little bit. That’s just the way it is. You are two different people.”
Maybe it’s the banter and laughter between Roland and Bobbie that’s kept them together.
Check out how they responded to a question about Roland’s proposal.
“I didn’t propose,” he said.
Roland hesitated to give further details.
“Well, if you’re not going to tell the story, I will,” Bobbie said with a chuckle.
They had dated for a few years and Roland had the engagement ring at his mother’s house.
“We were at his mother’s home, and she told him to go get it and show it to her and that’s when I got an engagement ring,” Bobbie said.
Roland said his mother asked him during that visit if he had purchased an engagement ring.
“I said certainly, ‘Well when are you going to give it to her,’” his mother asked. “Well, I hadn’t made up my mind yet.”
But after Roland brought out the ring, they started talkinng about plans for a wedding.
They actually met their senior year of high school in Wichita, but didn’t start dating until they each attended Wichita State University. Bobbie asked Roland to a college event called Haul your Man, and the rest is history.
“He had tried to get a date for quite a while,” Bobbie said about Roland’s interest in her. “I always had some other date. But he impressed me.”
She’s continued to be impressed by Roland.
“He’s been very special,” she said. “I lost a leg 54 years ago to cancer. I always wore a prosthetic until the last five years. He never ever let me think I had anything wrong with me. Everything was always just fine.”
Bobbie didn’t let the loss of a leg slow her down.
“I did my housework, I went to the grocery store, I raised our children,” she said. “You kind of have to do what happens, you don’t get a choice.”
Roland served a couple of years in the U.S. Army and then took a job with Boeing at its Wichita plant building the B-47 and B-52 for the U.S. Air Force. In 1968, Boeing wanted Roland to move to Seattle.
“They said we want you here in Seattle,” said Roland. “I said ‘I don’t want to go to Seattle (it was the first year after Bobbie lost her leg).’ She was on her artificial leg.”
But they moved.
“They made an offer you couldn’t refuse,” Roland said.
He ended up in Seattle working on the Boeing SST (Supersonic Transport ) program for a few years. Congress dropped funding to the program in 1971. He was transferred to Renton to work on the 707 and 727 commercial airplanes.
The U.S. Postal Service recruited him in 1971 to Washington, D.C. to help start up what the government hoped would be a profit-making operation.
“The intent was the cost of delivering mail would be less than the income the government could generate,” Roland said.
But when the public subsidy to the Postal Service was eventually cut in 1981, Roland said he had enough of that job.
“The subsidy was zero so why stay there?” he said.
So he resigned and came back to Seattle to work again for Boeing until he retired in 1987.
The couple raised a son and two daughters. They moved to the Kent retirement center from their longtime home in Bellevue about 10 years ago to be closer to their son David Allen, who worked 32 years for Boeing prior to retiring. David Allen died in 2015 at age 63 from pancreatic cancer.
“It was hard to lose our son and we are still here,” Bobbie said.
Daughter Audine (Dee) Holm lives in Glendale, Arizona and daughter (Debbie) Allen lives in Arlington, about 50 miles north of Seattle. They also have three grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
The family had a 75th wedding anniversary party/lunch on May 31 at Farrington Court.
Bobbie uses a scooter to travel the long hallways at the retirement center. Roland can still walk but also will use a scooter to get around. Their dog Sophie typically rides on the front of Bobbie’s scooter and has become sort of the retirement center mascot.
And while Sophie’s mascot status might be in question, there’s no doubt Farrington Court staff says that Roland and Bobbie are the longest married couple at the center, although a couple of others are in the low 70s.
When asked if they ever thought they would be married for 75 years, Bobbie had a simple answer.
“You never know,” she said.