A Christmastime Proposal

Original Airdates: February 8, 9, 11 (2011)

This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Kim Patterson.

When Dr. Earl R. Martin was fifteen and a student at Anacostia High School in Washington, DC, he laid eyes on a girl who he couldn't get off his mind. He confessed his feelings to a friend one day during an off hour:

"Bob and I were walking the halls. I knew where she was in class, in a drafting class. And the door to the classroom had a window, and she was sitting high on a stool in this drafting course. I pointed to her, and I said, "‘Bob, that's the girl I'm going to marry.'"

Earl and Jane began dating. Later on in 1945, when Jane was a senior in high school and Earl a freshman in college, he spent Christmas evening with Jane at her family's home:

"Her mother had made some—we called them Toll House cookies then, chocolate chip. The cookies were on a table in the kitchen. I'd eaten some, and we were sitting on the couch courting. And she said something about, ‘Do you want some more cookies?' And I said, ‘Sure.' So we moved to go to the kitchen to get the cookies, but the archway to the kitchen had mistletoe. And we stopped there, and I took advantage of the mistletoe. Not that I really needed it, but I took—but I did. (both laugh) And then and there I—I'm not sure that I went there that night intending to propose. I'm not clear about that in my own mind, but doesn't matter. I said it and I meant it, and it stunned her. Really set her back. And she said, ‘Well, I have to think about it. Give me time.' So I ate another cookie (both laugh) and then said goodnight."

Earl was on pins and needles while Jane thought over the proposal:

"And I waited and waited and waited. We called—we talked on the phone. And finally, twelve days later, she said, ‘I'm ready to answer your question,' but she didn't say what it was. I went up to visit her that January the sixth, Shakespeare's twelfth night. And she didn't beat around the bush; she told me yes. And I was so elated because I was fearful. (laughs) I thought, You know, she is such a wonderful person, and I don't deserve her. And I didn't linger long from that occasion. It was a cold winter night in Washington, DC. We kissed goodnight, and I left the house and bounded down the steps from the porch and onto the sidewalk in front of her house, S Street Southeast, and down to the corner of Twenty-second Street.

"Turned the corner—there wasn't hardly anybody out—but I looked up ahead on the sidewalk, and here was this lone sailor coming up with his coat and sailor hat. And I—I stopped him, right in front of him. I looked him in the face, and I said, ‘She said yes!' And he looked at me, and he was startled. (both laugh) I said, ‘She said yes!' He said, ‘Good.' (both laugh) And we went on our way. So that was a glorious evening."

The Martins married two and a half years later on July 30, 1948. They would go on to have four children and spend twenty-five years in Africa as missionaries with the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board.

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