RAVENNA — Bob and Alice Cruise grew up three miles apart on farms south of Pleasanton, but the two never met as children.
Bob went to high school in Pleasanton. Alice chose to attend high school with two friends in Kearney.
Bob even drove Alice’s brother, the late Ray Dorothy, and other country kids to Pleasanton High School in his dad’s Buick for $30 a month. He also knew Alice’s father but, yet, he hadn’t met the girl down the road.
“I knew she existed, but I didn’t even know what she even looked like,” Bob said.
So one night in the early 40s he decided to pay a visit to the Dorothy farm where he found Alice milking cows in the barn. From then on, the two young adults hit it off.
Bob took Alice to a movie in Ravenna for their first date. Six to nine months later they “ran off” and married before a judge in Kansas on June 15, 1941. “We didn’t tell our folks, we didn’t tell anybody.”
Bob paid the judge what he had earned working on farms in one summer — $20 — and the judge gave him $12 in silver dollars as change.
The couple still owns those silver dollars today.
On Saturday, Bob, 97, and Alice, 98, celebrated their 78th wedding anniversary. They were honored by the U.S. House of Representatives this year as Nebraska’s longest married couple.
When Alice heard the news, she said she couldn’t believe it.
“Surely there’s people that have been married longer than we have because we were in our 20s when we got married. You figure people were getting married when they were 18 or 19,” she said.
The Cruises, now residents of Seneca Sunrise Assisted Living in Ravenna, also were honored on their anniversary at Ravenna’s annual celebration, Annevar. During the parade, they waved and smiled from a bright yellow convertible with a sign on the back reading, “Just Married. June 15, 1941.”
Before a cake reception Friday at Seneca Sunrise, Alice and Bob said they never had a wedding cake or had their photo taken the day they were married. Their earliest photo as a couple was taken in the fall of 1941 as they walked down a street in Kearney.
Couples had reasons back then to marry quickly and quietly in 1941. World War II was starting and boys at home were beginning to get drafted, Alice said. Though, Bob never went to war because he didn’t pass his physical.
The couple also didn’t have money, a car or a house.
“We didn’t tell anybody for a while until finally Bob’s dad had bought some land and it had house on it, and so then we fixed that house up and that was where we started,” Alice said.
When Bob told his dad about his marriage, Bob said his dad was furious, but his mom didn’t say much. Bob also told Alice’s dad about the marriage.
“He was out in the hog pen and I went out there and talked to him. I told him. He didn’t get too shook up,” Bob said.
Bob and Alice made their lives farming south of Pleasanton. They raised four children — Karen, JoAnne, Ron and Randy — on the farm where the children played and worked.
In the early years, Alice raised chickens and sold eggs in Kearney once a week. She could trade the eggs at the farmer’s market for groceries. Either her parents or Bob’s parents would drive her to town.
To stay married for so many years through the good and the bad times, the Cruises’ son Ron Cruise of rural Pleasanton said, “They’re both pretty stubborn.”
Bob said his response always has been the same, “Yes, dear.”