In spring 1939, James “Buddy” Thomas, 18, met a pretty young girl named Gertie Squier at church in Cleveland, northeast of Houston. She invited him to a party, and he was delighted.
“When I saw her walking away, I thought, ‘I’m going to marry that girl,’ ” Thomas recalled this week as the couple prepared for their 75th wedding anniversary party, which was Saturday at Dayspring Church.
They were married Nov. 11, 1939, in Buddy’s hometown, Genoa, which is now part of Houston.
“I knew how old you were, but you didn’t know how old I was,” Gertie said to her husband. In truth, she was just 14, but her widowed father let her marry Buddy anyway.
The Thomases struggled the first few years, as did many families as the country pulled out of the Great Depression.
“When we first got married, we lived in Houston,” Buddy said. “I was going to aeronautical school. She worked 10 hours a day, six days a week, for a dollar a day in a laundry.”
Her mother’s death and the added work and responsibility that accompanied it had made Gertie “older than my years,” she said.
Buddy “worked on a tugboat for quite some time, and we lived in a little camping trailer,” she said.
When World War II began, Buddy tried to enlist, but a heart murmur kept him out.
They came to Arlington, and Buddy worked at North American in Grand Prairie. In 1944, with the war winding down, they returned to Houston, and their son, James P. Thomas Jr., was born.
They came back to North Texas in 1949 and Buddy went into business in 1952. Their twin daughters, Kathi Moore and Karlos Clark, were born a year later.
The Thomases moved into their tree-shaded home in east-central Arlington 54 years ago and raised their family there.
“I enjoyed my children, and though they were nine years apart, our son was a lot of help when the girls came along,” Gertie said.
Happiness has often come to the Thomas family in twos. James Jr. had twin boys of his own, and recently Karlos’ son welcomed a twin boy and girl.
All told, the Thomases have nine grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
Buddy and Gertie owned and operated T&T Brake Service on West Division Street for 32 years before their retirement in 1983. Joe Thomas, Buddy’s brother, was a business partner with him for 15 years. Gertie served as office manager and payroll clerk.
“We’ve had wonderful customers,” Gertie said. “People would come in and bring a blank check and say, ‘Fill in what you need.’ ”
That could be due to Buddy’s business ethic.
“I think in anything we do, we need to be honest and upright,” he said.
Gertie had always wanted to complete her education, and she did, graduating from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1980 with a degree in social work and sociology. She served as youth director at Bethel Assembly of God for eight years.
Buddy served in the Gideon ministry for many years and was a member of the Kiwanis Club.
Their son died in 1992, and in 1998 Gertie published a biography of his life and ministry titled, A Unique Pastor, which is in two of Arlington’s public libraries. He was the founding pastor at Dayspring Church in Arlington.
The Thomases say it was their faith in God that guided them through that dark time, as well as all the other trials of their years together.
Their other marital advice?
“Consideration, compassion and kindness,” said Gertie, “and just keeping your mouth shut a lot of times.”