Seventy-five years ago, Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, the battle of Iwo Jima was about to happen, Tom Selleck and Mia Farrow had just been born, milk cost 63 cents a gallon, gas cost 15 to 21 cents a gallon, Percy Spencer accidentally discovered that microwaves can heat food, and Marge Naven was waiting for Ed to come home from the war.
She wasn’t officially a Naven yet. Ed didn’t want to take a chance on leaving her a widow or “saddled” with a man who was not whole, he said, so he wouldn’t marry her before he left.
Before the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, which brought the U.S. into World War II, Ed Naven was preparing to marry his girl.
Ed took Marge home after a church party in 1939 when she was 17 and he was 20. Her mother wasn’t keen on Ed, saying, “You’re not going with him long. He’s wild,” according to Ed. It took took two weeks for the second date because Marge was still in high school in Villisca. They’ve been together ever since.
Ed had bought a farm in Taylor County, which he then paid off during his three years in the service, and asked Marge’s dad for permission to marry her in 1941. He even bought a washing machine. Marge’s parents had electricity, but the farm didn’t. So Ed bought a new electric machine for $69 and traded it for their motor driven washer. Later when electricity came to the farm, Marge’s parents returned the favor and bought a new machine for Ed and Marge.
But then Ed went off to war.
Marge and Ed wrote each other every week while he was gone. Marge waited and worked as a telephone operator. Other boys came to call on Marge, but she was set on marrying Ed and said, “No,” to them.
“They came to my door, but I didn’t accept,” she said.
Finally, 38 months after leaving, Ed made a call to Marge from Wisconsin. He was on his way home. He returned to Iowa and they married 10 days later, Oct. 27, 1945. Marge had a blue dress ready for the wedding and Ed bought a new suit.
They had a short hon eymoon in Omaha, staying at the Hotel Fontenelle for two nights at $7 a night. The “fanciest” hotel in Omaha, where John and Jackie Kennedy stayed during his presidential campaign in 1960.
Then they came back to settle on their farm, raising four children through the years: Delores (Batchelder), Elden, Ron and Sandy (Johnson). Ed had not been able to go to high school because of the Depression, so he vowed that his children would all graduate from high school and college. They all did. Later, after retiring from farming, Ed went on to get his GED.
Ed said his favorite thing about Marge is her cooking, especially her fried chicken.
“And cookies,” Marge added.
Ed talked about a time when Marge had to cook for the thrashers (workers who came to help harvest on the farm) for three days and a birthday dinner for her father on Sunday. They had mashed potatoes and fried chicken.
“You made pies and cakes, and you cooked,” Marge said.
Ed’s work ethic is Marge’s favorite thing about Ed.
“He just worked, worked, worked,” she said.
“We both did,” Ed said.
They farmed, raising children, a big garden, chickens, milked cows — Marge said she did all kinds of chores, but she didn’t want to milk so Ed did that.
At one point, Ed decided that Marge should learn to drive since they had four children and were 12 miles from the school. Marge couldn’t get the hang of shifting, accidentally going into reverse instead of second gear. Ed said he couldn’t stand the grinding of the gears so he traded in his older Studebaker for a ‘51 with an automatic transmission and taught her to drive.
At 100 and 97 years old respectively, Ed and Marge are still active. He still drives with no restrictions on his license, taking them to church each Sunday when the weather allows. She still beats him in cards every day, he said.
When asked how they stayed together all these years, Ed said, “Someone higher than you and I had a say in that.”
Marge said the secret was to love and obey each other and that they still kiss good morning and goodnight every day.