Oct. 25, 2018 – West Bend, WI – It was Sept. 25, 1948 and Franklin Bales and Margaret Weninger recited their vows to remain faithful and committed for the rest of their lives.
This year the couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.
Franklin, 91, was born on the family farm on Rusco Drive in West Bend. He and Margaret, 90, met at a dance.
“Our farm was just a mile west of Gonring’s Resort. I had broken up with a different guy and me and my girlfriends were standing there and then he (Franklin) came over and asked me to dance. Then he asked to take me home, then he asked me to another dance and from there we kept on going.”
Margaret said she “didn’t think of marriage right away. She just liked being with him.”
“I liked his laugh,” said Margaret. “We had fun.”
Margaret was 18 years old when she met Franklin. She worked at Amity Leather at the time.
Franklin was 19 and a half and he worked on the family farm.
“I like her because she was easy going,” he said. “I could handle that.”
When Margaret turned 20 she and Franklin tied the knot.
“We got married at St. Matthias Church and had dinner at noon in the school basement. Some of the neighbor women cooked the meal and then we went to Gonring’s Resort for a dance,” said Margaret.
During the conversation the black-and-white wedding photos from Kind Studio – Barton, Wisc. are passed around the room. “I bought my dress in Chicago,” said Margaret. “I had aunts and uncles living in Chicago and a couple times I went down on the train and we went shopping for the dress. It was nothing fancy.”
The wedding photos look straight out of ‘June Bride’ featuring an elegant Margaret and a dapper Franklin surrounded by a wedding party of eight set against a backdrop of blue skies, two meaty columns and drapes.
“The photographer didn’t come to the wedding, we had to go to the photographer,” Margaret said.
Franklin recalled a delayed honeymoon as chores on the dairy farm took precedent.
“She had to can pears before we left and I had to fill the silo again,” he said.
A couple days later the pair were off gallivanting. “We drove into Canada and circled around a bit just so we could tell our friends we were in Canada,” said Margaret.
The couple moved in to Franklin’s home. “I’ve always live here,” he said. “Our bedroom is the room I was born in.”
The Bales had seven kids. Daughter Kathy Bales/Stodola shared some memories:
-Mom and Dad showed us by their example the importance of helping others. Sharing Mom’s amazing cinnamon rolls and produce from the garden with those who needed a pick-me-up visit.
– Volunteering at St. Frances Cabrini: ushering, counting lunch tickets, quilting, helping at the annual Rummage Sale
-Driving their older friends to doctor’s appointments
-Volunteering at Samaritan every Wednesday evening for years
-Catholic Family Life Insurance- Mom was secretary. Helped organize annual picnic and Christmas party.
-Mom and Dad also instilled in their children a love of learning. We had few books of our own at home except for a complete set of the World Book encyclopedia and the Childcraft set. We would page through the books endlessly and often look up topics for our school projects. I still recognize poems and artwork from those volumes.
-There were always trips to our WB Public Library. We would eagerly search for books to take home with us. The stack grew to a dozen or 20 but I think we only lost a couple in all those years!
-On Sunday drives, one or the other parent would say “I wonder where that road goes” and we’d turn and see! Even though, being on a farm, travel was limited they managed to take us all to the Milwaukee Museum or Zoo several times and it turned out that all their children are avid travelers looking to see where the road takes them. Fortunately, Dad and Mom retired early enough to enjoy quite a few long trips to places such as Mexico, California, Alaska and many more.
Ever since cresting their 25th wedding anniversary the couple recognize their longevity together every 5 years. There are homemade posters from some of their 16 grandchildren still taped to the door from the last family gathering. “We also have 12 great grandchildren … with one more on the way,” said Franklin.
The Bales celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in the barn. “Our son cleaned it up and it looked just like a ballroom,” said Margaret.
When asked their secret to a happy marriage, Margaret talks about their evening routine. “At 7 p.m. we listen to the Rosary and Mass on Relevant Radio and then we hold hands every night and his hands are always cold. Then we go to bed at 8 o’clock and we talk a few minutes and then I say ‘good night, love you’ and he knows that’s the end of the conversation and he falls asleep very fast.”
Daughter Rosemary Kutz had fond memories growing up.
-Polka dancing with dad at dances with the Julida Boys
-Finding a note on the refrigerator when I got home from school that said we should come down and help pick stones but first we could have the warm potato salad or other good food mom had left for us on the stove.
-Blackberries and cream on soft white bread.
-Watching for Santa upstairs and hearing a loud “Ho Ho Ho” and bells ringing and then mom or dad saying “Come down, Santa was here”
-Learning how to be young volunteers by going with mom and dad to Samaritan
-Mom and dad always taking time to listen to us and seeming interested – no matter the subject
-Always saying just what I needed to hear if I was doubting a decision
-Teaching me to put God as a priority
Blessed with strong faith
Sitting in the living room the Bales overstuffed chairs are nestled next to each other. They’re close enough they reach out and hold hands throughout much of the conversation.
Raising seven children Margaret stressed how important it was for her to be home when the kids got home from school. “I did a lot of baking,” she said. “Sweet rolls, bread and pies and we had 3 eggs, toast and bacon for breakfast each morning. I never thought of it as work, we just did it.”
Margaret talked about when the kids were young and she’d hold one child on her hip and turn the crank on the ringer washer with the other.
Faith, according to the Bales, played a big factor in their lives. “We’d take the seven kids to church at St. Frances Cabrini and we’d pile in the car,” said Margaret. “We prayed the rosary during Lent when they were small and we had a prayer before meals.”
“We always tried to work things out,” said Franklin. “Things are easier if you try to work it out.”
“Patience,” said Margaret. “Patience is the key.”
Son Jim Bales remembered some life’s lessons taught by his parents:
Daughter Geralyn Kobs recalled growing up in a family of seven kids:
-Growing up in a family of 7 kids lends itself to memories of busy times, quiet moments, happy and sad days. Meals always began with a prayer and nearly always included potatoes, vegetables, meat and dessert. Mom is a fantastic cook and baker and could scrounge up a meal in no time. All the boys (left handed) sat on one side of the table and all the girls (right handed) sat on the other to prevent elbow jabbing fights!
-Mom always read books to us and a happy memory was going to the library in WB and checking out a fresh stack of books.
-Christmas memory – the tree would be trimmed for days but the lights would not be turned on and baby Jesus would not be added to the nativity set until Christmas Eve.
-Dad coming in from early morning milking with a metal jug of fresh milk, giving Mom a kiss, and sitting down to his breakfast of eggs.
-Dad telling us – ‘put a sweater on, I’m cold’ or ‘go to bed, I’m tired.’
-Giving up candy for Lent (seemed to be mandatory) and then getting chocolate covered peanuts in our Easter baskets.
-Mom sprinkling holy water around the house and on us during bad thunderstorms.
Daughter Joan Blankenship – Some things I remember:
-Not putting baby Jesus in the Nativity set until Christmas Eve and coming downstairs on Christmas Eve after watching out the window for Santa, and seeing all the presents under the lit Christmas tree. It was so magical. Our tradition was to not turn on the Christmas lights until Christmas Eve.
-Mom not liking to wake us up in the morning so she would throw a sock on our bed to wake us up gently. But every morning in the winter, I could hear Mom down by the wood furnace opening up the door of the furnace, and the noise radiating upstairs.
-Coming home from school and always having delicious snacks to eat – potato salad, homemade bread, coffee cake, peanut squares, Rosettes.
-Going out to the field to tell Dad, who was driving tractor, about some exciting occurrence at school. He would always stop, idle the tractor and listen, no matter how busy he was.
-Going swimming in between loads of hay. That pool was so enjoyable.
-Two plates with huge stacks of sweet corn placed on the window sill to cool off. Mom always gave me the lighter-color ones because they were easier for me to digest.
-I remember Dad always reading the paper every night while drinking a bottle of beer. He was always current with local, and world events.
-We had a set up encyclopedias which were so helpful when doing reports for school. We made many a trip to the library. They paid for all of the kids’ college tuition.
-We always had holy water in the hallway. Mom would sprinkle us with the holy water before we left on trips to help keep us safe and she would sprinkle around the house during thunderstorms to keep us safe. It worked. We always said Grace before meals. After my brother Paul passed away, they added another prayer to say, to always include and remember him and others who passed away.
Thank you for being the best parents ever. I always felt safe and cared for and loved. I always appreciate how you took such an interest in our life and activities. You’ve always been so helpful and generous. I feel so lucky to have you as my parents. I could not ask for more.