There were married a few days before the United States’ rationing of gasoline and fuel oil in World War II ended.
That was Aug. 11, 1945. Gasoline was a mere 21 cents a gallon, a loaf of bread was only 9 cents and milk was 62 cents, according to ask.com. Songs like “If I loved You” by Frank Sinatra and “Till the End of Time” by Perry Como were popular, according to tsort.info.
Now, 68 years later, Isaiah Benjamin Downs and Helen Meray Downs of Walthourville still are together — and very much in love.
Mrs. Downs was born Feb. 1, 1931, in Chatham County, but the family later moved to McRae. Her father died in 1935.
Mr. Downs was born Dec. 12, 1926, in McIntosh County, and the family later moved to Flemington, where he met his future wife.
“I was working in a café/store in Flemington, and he came in and ordered a small cup of ice cream and a Dr. Pepper,” Helen Downs said. “He kept coming back because he got his eyes on me and then his heart, and it has been me ever since. He was always neatly dressed and was just different from the other young men.”
Mrs. Downs said Mr. Downs has character.
“When you have a young man who does not smoke, drink, dip, chew, gamble, go to clubs and run with the women, you have a good thing. He had good character then and still does,” she said. “One day he took me to his cousin’s wedding in McIntosh County. On the way home, he stopped by a saw mill and told me people were saying we were going to get married. I asked him if he wanted to get married and he said, ‘Yes.’ We sealed it with a kiss.”
They were married by the justice of the peace in Ludowici. Initially, they lived in Flemington. He worked at Union Camp in Savannah as a timber cruiser, making $20.17 a week.
“He would leave home on Monday mornings and return home on Friday evenings,” she said. “I had a good relationship with his mother, and she taught me a lot of things. He has always worked and is not trifling in the least. He still goes to work.”
The Downs later moved to Deal Street in Hinesville, then relocated to Greensboro; Wilmington, Del.; and back to Georgia. They currently live on Tibet Road in Walthourville and have lived there for the past 28 years. Mr. Downs has owned Downs Lumber and Supply company on Deal Street since 1959.
And he still introduces her as his bride.
“When our daughter got married, I asked him if he wanted us to renew our vows, and he said no because he meant his vows the first time,” Helen Downs said.
“She will always be my bride,” he stated.
As the years have gone by, their love has only grown stronger. When asked what has kept them together, Mrs. Downs said they put God first.
“God has kept us together and our love for each other,” she said.
Mr. Downs echoed his wife’s words.
“God has kept us together. She is perfect — she is a darling,” he said. “She is my sweetheart, and I find no fault.”
When asked what attracted her to him, Downs said she was pretty and still is a beautiful lady.
“He loves to brag on me. He tells me I am still as pretty as I ever was, and I tell him not to change his glasses,” she said, smiling. “He loves to say, ‘It’s just you and me, honey.’ I call him daddy, grand daddy, honey and sweetheart.”
Mrs. Downs’ advice to young couples is to seek God early. The church has been important to the Downs, who are members of Full Gospel Holiness Church in Allenhurst. Mr. Downs has served as an elder, Sunday-school superintendent and Sunday-school teacher. His favorite song is “Victory in Jesus.” Mrs. Downs taught Sunday school for 40-plus years.
“You must have enough strength to pull against the pull of society,” she said. “People would get along better if they get hold of God and let him work things out for them. The Lord has helped us through many things. We have made mistakes. We didn’t always agree, but we love each other.”
Mr. Downs’ challenge to young couples is to turn their hearts to the Lord and let Him lead and guide.
“Life is not a bowl of cherries,” he said.
They have one son, Kenny, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Their daughter, Lois Helene, died 20 years ago.