Update: I started this post on Monday, November 3. I was in the middle of typing the post when my husband came home to tell me his grandfather had died. Papa (Bynum “Bike” Edward Murray) lived a wonderful life for 94 years, and I was blessed to have known him. He had a remarkable marriage to his wife, Colleen Dixon Murray, for 69 years. They celebrated their wedding anniversary on October 28th and threw Papa a 94th birthday party on November 1st.
The Love Story:
Bynum “Bike” Murray had told his close friend (and ex-girlfriend) Mary Brown that he preferred blondes; Mary just happened to be a brunette. Mary quipped back, “Do I know a blonde for you!” and with that she gave Bike an address. Bike wrote to this unknown blonde, not knowing that one letter in a plain envelope would change his life’s course. Colleen Dixon was that blonde. She wrote back because “when one of the boys wrote, you were suppose to write back.”
Bike was 22 and Collen was 16; the year was 1941. For four years, Bike and Collen wrote to each other. When they started writing, Bike was training at Camp Blanding in Florida. He was supposed to be there for a year, but things changed. On December 7, 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and Bike was no longer a solider in training: he was a solider going to war.
Throughout the war, the pair continued to write to one another. Colleen would send him pictures. The soldiers would harass Bike: “You got another one from the blonde!”
Who knows what those letters contained; they are lost to time. Did Colleen write about high school football games? Did she describe the white and red gingham dress she was making in home economics? Did she dream about wearing that dress to meet Bike in? Did Bike tell her the story about the man selling eggs for 10 cents from a satchel on a donkey? Did he tell her about a chance meet up with his best friend Martin in Rome? Did he keep one of her pictures tucked in his helmet? More importantly, when did friendship change to love? One day did “Sincerely” change to “Love”?
The pair finally meet in April 1945; Colleen wore the dress she made in home economics and Bike was dashing in his uniform. (Most likely he was trying to impress the blonde he had been writing to). Colleen recalls, “We knew. The first meeting we knew [we would get married].” On June 12, 1945, Bike was discharged from the army and by end of October the pair were married.
Bike was so nervous about getting married he fell of her parent’s front porch! While that wouldn’t be the only stumble in their marriage, they lived and loved for 69 years. They worked separate shifts for years. After getting off third shift, Bike would make Colleen coffee every morning before he went to bed; when she got off work, Colleen would make Bynum a snack of cornbread and milk. They had a son after years of trying: a son who would grow up and have two sons of his own.