Various studies on the average length of modern marriages point to around eight years. Cecil, 93, and Sallie Lamb, 91, of Paint Lick are definitely not average.
On a rainy December day in 1937, a preacher was called to the courthouse in Lancaster to join 17-year-old Sallie and 19-year-old Cecil on what has been a 74-year journey of marital bliss rooted in their uncanny ability to agree on everything.
“If you want to stay together, you’ve got to agree with one another. That’s all I can tell you. If you disagree, you’ll separate,” Cecil said.
The couple agrees on about 95 percent of “everything that comes along,” he said, “and still do.”
As for the remaining 5 percent? He was probably sleeping, Cecil said.
Sallie attributes their successful marriage to their years of working “side-by-side on the farm,” she said.
“They raised turkeys and dressed them at Thanksgiving. They milked their own cows and they churned their own butter and cream,” said Bonnie Long, the couple’s daughter-in-law.
Cecil was born in Madison County but grew up near Nina Ridge in Garrard County, less than 10 miles down the road from Sallie in Buckeye.
“I was born in 1918. At least that’s what my mother said,” Cecil joked. “I don’t remember that day.”
Having met through family friends, Sallie and Cecil “dated” two years before they wed. It wasn’t until after they were married when the teenagers shared their first kiss.
“Back when they courted in the early 30s, you sit in a parlor at the woman’s house and you stayed in the house — you might have had a chaperone,” Bonnie said.
“He never took her to his house. Back then it was strict, not like today,” she said.
“We never did get out and run around,” Sallie said, “we just enjoyed being together.”
Two years later, the couple welcomed their first (and only) child, Roy Cecil. Sallie gave birth to Roy “right in the house,” she said.
Roy worked alongside his parents on the family’s tobacco farm off Gillespie Pike, just west of Paint Lick. Roy continued farming through his marriage to Bonnie in 1958 and until he eventually succumbed to Parkinson’s disease in 2006.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow,” said Cecil, “to lose the only child you got. Death comes and you have to bear it.”
But during those years of togetherness, before Roy got sick, the small family stuck close to home and took care of the farm. For 32 years, Cecil also worked as a plumber. He left the farm work to his son when Roy was old enough to take over.
The nine years before he retired at age 65, Cecil was a plumber for Eastern Kentucky University. Cecil recalled “the big supper they threw” in 1984 to celebrate his retirement.
“I made a pretty good living,” Cecil said.
Roy and Bonnie went on to have one grandchild for Sallie and Cecil. Their daughter had two great-grandchildren and one of them had two great-great grandchildren – who both live about a mile from them.
Today, Sallie and Cecil live in a historic home just on the outskirts of “downtown” Paint Lick. A section was added to the back of the home in which the couple now resides.
But, the front two-story section of the house is covered in wide-paneled pine wood flooring and is held together by wooden pegs instead of nails.
In three days, Sallie will be 92 years old. At age 92, Sallie’s belief in hard work has driven her to beat all the odds. She continues to manage her household and takes care of Cecil, who suffered a stroke three years ago.
“I do my own house cleaning, cooking and everything – wait on him hand and foot,” Sallie said.
“She’s a pretty good nurse,” said Cecil, who bragged on Sallie’s hamburgers, sausage and eggs, and biscuit and gravy. “I can eat most anything,” he said.
Sallie knows that Cecil really likes “Long John Silver’s fish,” but, she said, “anything he tells me he wants, I can jump up and cook it.”
Up until two years ago, Sallie was still making the holiday meals.
“I make my own cakes. I cook Christmas dinners, Thanksgiving dinners, all for the children,” she said.
Cecil and Sallie never went on any grand vacations or mutli-leveled cruise ships. However, today, a trip to the Berea Walmart has become quite an event, according to Bonnie, who takes Sallie to do her own grocery shopping.
“Sometimes we’ll be in there over two hours, but I don’t mind at all,” said Bonnie, who passes the time by chatting with other store patrons.
One place the couple did frequent was church, often going to every Wednesday service on top of Sunday service. “For 60-something years we’ve been members of that big Baptist church in Kirksville,” said Sallie.
“They are the epitome of love,” said Pastor Ronnie “Butch” Pennington of Kirksville Baptist Church. “Sallie and Cecil love each other and they demonstrate love to others, too.”
Pennington visits the couple every two to three weeks, but said before Cecil got sick, they were the most faithful members he had.
Sallie still has her wedding ring, although her engagement ring is “nearly wore in two” and locked away as a keepsake, she said.
Cecil’s wedding ring “wore in two, it was so thin,” Sallie said. But a material symbol of love is not required when it comes to a couple like Sallie and Cecil – they don’t have plans to divorce anytime soon.
“This day in time, young people get married, they’re divorced the next day,” Cecil said. “There’s no point in it. If you’re going to separate, they’re no use in marrying.”
Besides, he said, they’ve been together too long to separate now.
“Lord no, never thought of it,” Sallie said.
Plus, “too much paperwork,” Cecil said.
Sallie agreed that she will probably keep him.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.