A small-town romance and a runaway bride
Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 25, 2006
In the 1930s, marrying into the Curtis family of Glenwood was comparable to marrying into the Kennedy clan of Massachusetts, on a lesser, local scale.
All the Curtis men were tall and handsome, and most were prominent businessmen who were unscathed by The Great Depression.
“I don't know if that's the reason I was so infatuated with Roy Curtis or not,” Eleanor Curtis began. “I was only 15 at the time, and it nearly killed my mother. I left her a note on the foot of my bed, and Sara and Claude Morgan took us to Crestview, Florida, to be married. When we got back that night, I was scared to death. Every light in the house was on, and people were standing all over the front porch. Mama had to go to bed with, what she told me later was, a broken heart, and we were the talk of the town!”
Curtis remembers their reception being anything but warm that night. She said her mama and daddy finally accepted Roy, but they were never close. Her daddy was a very successful farmer and landowner in Rutledge who had provided her with a life of plenty.
“We were the only people around Rutledge who had a radio,” Curtis said.
“It was an Atwater Kent radio, shaped like a big box, and it sat on a table. All the neighbors would stand around in the yard and listen to “Amos and Andy” with us, and two other shows that were popular back then.
Curtis said that she and Roy began their married life by renting a room that had a private bath from Mrs. Bryan, who had one of the nicer homes in Glenwood at the time.
She said Roy's mother lived two doors down, and they ate all their meals with her. She remembers Glenwood as a bustling town back then, with the railroad coming through, but she can't remember all the businesses that were in the town at that time.
“I remember one night vividly,” Curtis said. “Around midnight, we heard awful screams coming from the one-room jail, behind where C. L. Berry's store is now. A local man who had gotten drunk was locked up for the night, and he had set the jail on fire. A lot of people came running, but it was too late. He was burned alive before anybody could get him out.”
Curtis also related another eerie tale about her husband Roy's cousin, who was also his best friend. She said that she and Roy were asleep one night, when they both bolted upright in the bed, and both of them saw a huge ball of fire. They soon learned that Henry Curtis, Roy's cousin, who was an Army pilot, was killed when his plane crashed into a mountain that night. Curtis said that she was expecting their second child and that she and Roy agreed that if the baby were a boy, they would name him Henry.
“I always dreamed of being an actress,” Curtis said, and then laughed. “I had the looks!”
And she certainly still does at 86.
“But, it was after I had seen “Gone with the Wind” several times and read the book that I realized that's what I was meant to be. I'm very proud of my family though. I had the most wonderful life bringing up my children. Kay, our only daughter, is the oldest. Then we had Henry, Bill, Chris and Joe. Two of my sons, Joe and Bill, were diagnosed with cancer, on the same day, about a year ago. Bill died recently,” she said.
Curtis said she sold Avon when her children were small, and later she worked many years at Rogers Drug Store in downtown Luverne. The drug store, back then, was located between the English Department Store building and Hall's Furniture Store, and it had a soda fountain.
When asked what changes she has seen in her lifetime, Curtis replied, “Air conditioning! It's the most wonderful thing ever invented!”
Her advice to future generations is to stay in church, stay close to the Lord, and be close to your family. Curtis, who was born in 1920, is a member of the Luverne Methodist Church and a resident of the Luverne Health and Rehab.