And We Asked About It Often
By Jeff Salter
Not only are we – Foxes and Hound – celebrating true love stories this week, but I get the honor of presenting mine on Valentine’s Day itself. I couldda gone a few different directions, but decided to follow suit of at least one of the Foxes so far and mention how my parents got together.
I guess it’s natural for kids to wonder how their parents hooked up. I know I remember hearing part or all of this story MANY times as a youngster.
First of all, they were a somewhat unlikely couple. My dad was born (a month after his own father died) to a newly-widowed mom with no income, no property, and no education. His older brother and sisters went to work to help support the family and relocate all of them from central/western Mississippi to the Biloxi coast where more plentiful jobs were available during the Great Depression. Though the youngest, Augie Salter was the first of his siblings to graduate high school. He worked his way through LSU, with a combination of odd jobs and ROTC. For a few semesters he had to sit out, because he didn’t have the tuition.
My mom, on the other hand, was the only child of an influential Bell Telephone Co. executive who kept getting promoted to offices in larger cities throughout the South. Even though her daddy lost a lot during the Stock Market Crash of 1929, he still managed to provide a very comfortable living for his wife and daughter and was able to afford two years of private college in Shreveport before Dottie Robinson transferred to LSU in Baton Rouge.
Not Most Likely
I detail that merely to show that they were not the most likely individuals to get together. Dottie was pursuing a music degree, heavily involved in the marching band – in fact, in the very first year which ALLOWED females in the band – and chorus (I think). Plus, she was in a sorority and had roommates/suitemates to hang out with. Augie lived for at least one semester beneath the back porch of his landlady’s house… on a dirt floor with no running water. Later he got a bed in the football stadium.
Where They Met
As best I can recall, Dottie first encountered Augie at LSU’s Baptist Student Union (BSU) activities. Augie was a pre-ministry student and was at that time the BSU President. He was prematurely balding, stood about five-foot-ten, and weighed some 120 pounds soaking wet. Dottie said she was first attracted to his hairy arms when he rolled up his sleeves. LOL
After they’d been dating for a while, Augie took Dottie across the Mississippi River to a farm where one of his sisters lived and worked. There, Dottie met Augie’s mom and some of his other siblings.
The Big Question
They way they always told us the story, one day on the LSU campus, Dottie and Augie were sitting on a bench and holding hands when he said – apparently quite nervously, while attempting to sound casual – “I wonder what my mom would say if I married a girl from Shreveport.”
Dottie’s reply was, “Oh, Augie.”
[Apparently neither of them had read any romance novels at that point.]
World War II
The Second World War was waging at that point. Many of the male students were graduated early so they could fight. Augie must have not yet completed ROTC, because he went in the U.S. Army as an enlisted man. [Only later did he go to OCS and get his lieutenant bar.]
I don’t recall every place he trained or how long he was at each, but I know he went to Camp Roberts CA and Fort Benning GA. It was (basically) in between those two training assignments that they married in late 1943. By that point, Dottie had also graduated from LSU, though on the standard curriculum progression (not the fast-track for the future soldiers).
The plan was for Dottie to take a train from home – at that time, home may have still been Shreveport, but could have been Atlanta – all the way to Southern California, where they would be married during his weekend pass from training. Dottie and her mom had picked out a lovely white wedding dress, which – with the rest of her trousseau – was on a baggage train. Well, with all the troop movements, it’s only natural that some of the civilian luggage was set aside … and that’s what happened to her steamer trunk.
So Dottie arrived in California with hardly more than the clothes she was wearing. She was married in a dark colored – I’ve heard black, but it may have been dark blue – traveling dress.
My sense of the timetable is skewed, and I don’t recall how many stations Dottie followed her new husband to. [I’m assuming he didn’t leave for OCS until after the wedding.] At any rate, in spring of 1945, newly commissioned Lt. Augie Salter started on his train trip to an EAST coast port… to wait for passage to Europe with the 65th Infantry Division. He had trained to lead a mortar platoon.
Augie arrived in Europe on V-E Day, and therefore was never in actual combat. But he remained in Europe on Occupation Duty – with the 9th Infantry Division – for over a year, returning stateside to Dottie in 1946.
I gather Augie almost immediately enrolled in Southwest Baptist Seminary in the (still smallish) city of Fort Worth, Texas. I’m confused about their accommodations, but at least part of the time, they lived in a boarding house where they shared a bathroom and kitchen with other tenants. At some point they must have had campus housing, but I’m unclear about that. I know for a while they lived with the Huckabee family, who remained life long friends. [That may have been the boarding house.] At one of these accommodations, they lived on the second floor and referred to their room(s) as “Salter Towers.”
They were young, poor, and very much in love.
They remained married for 33 years, though I can’t say their love lasted quite that long. They divorced in 1976 with irreconcilable differences. But the regrettable, somewhat premature ending to their marriage does not – for me – lessen the “true love” aspect of their early years. An unlikely pairing, they struggled through the war years and a lengthy Army separation, and then built a home and raised three children.
[JLS # 422]