JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) - Long before Interstate 40 was built, Philip Dougan walked three or four miles to classes every day at the old Huntersville school in rural western Madison County.
As a teenager Dorothy Copeland walked from Pearl Street to her classes at Jackson High, if she couldn’t get a ride on her father’s milk truck.
Worth mention at this point is Virginia Replogle, Dorothy’s “best, best, best friend,” she recalled last month. Replogle is how Dorothy met Philip in 1940, first at a New Year’s Eve Party in which Dorothy’s errant firecracker burned Philip’s pants - later on better terms on their first date at the fair.
Dorothy didn’t like Philip at first, finding him a “smart aleck” and then deciding after he kissed her maybe he wasn’t such a bad guy after all.
They got married in Corinth, Mississippi, on Oct. 26, 1941 - 75 years ago. Philip and Dorothy had brief stints in Maryland and Texas but raised their kids on Lower Brownsville Road, the same area where Philip grew up.
Most of the neighbors are family, including daughter Barbara.
Asked why he’s stayed there so long, Philip says “Well, this is home. I don’t know what else to say about it, but this is home.”
As much as things have changed in their lives and the life of the community around them, some things remain the same.
Raising a family
A 75th anniversary is an achievement most people have little chance of reaching. It requires a lifelong marriage, not as common as it once was; a wedding at a younger age than most people get married today, and a long life.
Philip, born Dec. 30, 1922, and Dorothy, born June 10, 1923, were 18 when they got married, going to Mississippi because the official process was less complicated than in Tennessee.
Philip bought the property he and his wife own now from his father. They raised their four children there - Mike, Garey, Barbara and Phyllis - born between 1947 and 1958.
Ask them how they’ve made their marriage work for 75 years and the Dougans will oblige, but their answers are short and simple.
On whether marriage was tough at first: “Shoot, no,” Dorothy said last week. “Because I loved him. I didn’t want to be without him.”
On raising four kids: “It was wonderful,” Dorothy said. Added Phillip: “We just took to ‘em.”
On the key to 75 years together: “Behaving ourselves,” Dorothy said. What did she mean? “Well, just not going out and cheating on each other. I loved him, he loved me, and we took it for that.”
“I say yes ma’am a lot,” Philip said.
These things are all surely true, but daughters Barbara and Phyllis have watched that relationship, and they elaborated recently on what family life was like with Philip and Dorothy as parents. They describe parents who worked hard to earn a paycheck and to manage the farm and had similarly high expectations for their kids.
“I know it was hard. Life’s not always wonderful. They always stayed together,” daughter Barbara Acred said. “I mean (Dad) worked long hours. He worked at Conalco and then he’d come home and work the farm. Get home at 9 or 10 o’clock at night, get a few hours of sleep, get up and start again the next day.”
Dorothy worked for South Central Bell as a young woman until she had her two boys. Philip served in the Navy from 1944 to 1946 and held a couple different jobs until starting a 30-year career at Conalco, where he operated an aluminum slitter machine, in 1955.
Phyllis Dougan said her mom was the primary disciplinarian, sending the kids outside to pick out a section of branch for her to use as a switch if they acted up. Barbara said they were expected to be at school unless they were very sick, and were also in church any chance they got, even if there was homework still to be finished.
Dorothy taught classes and Philip was a deacon at Ararat Baptist Church.
But the kids had fun growing up, both with structured events like family trips and Vacation Bible School and with their own spontaneous activities. Mike and Garey were in the Boy Scouts. Phyllis liked exploring the outdoors with her cousin up the road.
“We’d go and explore the ditches and look for broken glass, maybe some treasure hidden somewhere,” she said.
Philip took a week off work every year for a family vacation. They traveled to places like the Florida beaches, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.
“You didn’t have McDonald’s back then,” Phyllis said. “We would make our own sandwiches and picnic along the road along the way.”
Phyllis eventually lived in California for 20 years, working some of that time on road patrol and at a clinic at the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park.
“I think seeing the adventure Mom and Dad took us on, like to the Grand Canyon, that sort of inspired me to work for the National Park Service,” she said.
Mike lives in Germantown and Garey in Madison County, near the Cotton Grove/Browns Church area. Barbara lives off Lower Brownsville near her parents, and Phyllis lives in Atlanta.
As with many people who grew up in the Depression, Philip and Dorothy appreciated what they had.
Barbara said Philip’s family had it a little better than Dorothy’s family because he grew up in the country and they grew their own crops. Philip’s family tried to sell cotton one year but found no buyers, so he took it and put it back in the barn.
“We could never throw away aluminum foil. We might need that again sometime! So they were always very frugal,” Phyllis said. “That was just the era.
“Mom and Dad were both big savers, too.”
All four of the Dougan kids went to college as their parents insisted. They had to pay their own tuition, Barbara explained, but if they needed some help here and there, their parents provided it. They all got involved in the healthcare field, as Mike is a pharmacist, Garey a chemist and Barbara and Phyllis both registered nurses.
They all meet for family gatherings a couple times a year, at holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter.
After Philip Dougan retired in the mid-80s, he and Dorothy traveled extensively until 2002. Barbara said they’ve visited all 50 states and also countries like England, Ireland, Scotland, Greece, Austria, Israel and Jordan.
Asked about her parents’ best characteristics, Phyllis thought of kindness and generosity.
“I think their faith base together was an inspiration and a guidance for my life,” she said. “I never saw them argue or fight. They were always kind to people and kind to me.”
The Dougans posed for a picture after breakfast late one morning last week. The two of them moved their chairs closer together, and an old picture of themselves was placed on the table in front of them. Maybe two feet of space covered decades of change.
“I love you, Papa,” Dorothy told her husband before the camera clicked.
“I love you, too, Mama,” Philip said.
Amid the change, what mattered remains the same.
Information from: The Jackson Sun, https://www.jacksonsun.com
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