How we met:  They'll be marking 70 years of marriage - on 2 days


- Anita Houk,  Memphis Commercial Appeal, July 26, 2009


Back in the 1930s, teenager Ernest Moore's field of dreams was planted near his home in Memphis, on Jackson Avenue, where he learned to play for keeps.

"I was playing softball in the field next to where I lived, and the ball ended up across the street, where Mamie lived," Ernest recalls.

Mamie Ennis was 20, a couple of years older than he. She'd graduated from Tech High and had a job.

"She was sitting outside in the swing," Ernest says. "I got one look at her. That was all that day.

"The next day, she was over in the field playing ball with us. She was running toward second base, and I had the ball and put her out."

Ernest and Mamie Ennis Moore mark an Aug. 5-6, 1939, wedding date: The clerk signed their license Aug. 5; the preacher signed their marriage certificate after midnight.


"I thought you liked me!" said Mamie.  "Honey," replied Ernest, "this is a ball game."

Ernest wasted no time, however, turning up where Mamie went. He started attending Highland Heights Presbyterian Church with Mamie, her brother Wheaton Ennis and their friends. He started walking her to the streetcar she took to work at Sears Crosstown. (She worked in the mailroom, zipping around the mammoth floor on roller skates.)

Ernest, meanwhile, worked early mornings as a milkman for Forest Hill Dairy, then he'd catch the bus to Bartlett High. In the evenings, he and Mamie might go to a local drugstore for an ice cream soda. One special morning, her family invited him to a sunrise breakfast at Overton Park. They walked to the park and back together.

He loved that Mamie's family took him in as one of their own.

"He was just my type of guy," Mamie says. "He was kind, a hard worker, attended church with me and treated me well."

Out of high school, Ernest went to work at Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., starting in the department where tubes were made for all types of tires, and staying at the plant for 40 years, except for his time in the Marines -- at Parris Island, S.C., with his brother-in-law, Wheaton Ennis, and in the Pacific islands during World War II.

It was before the war, however, that Ernest and Mamie married. Ernest likes to joke that he and Mamie had visited his aunt in Mineral Wells, Miss., when, on the way back home, Mamie grabbed the steering wheel and turned the car toward Hernando to get married. He claims he didn't know why Hernando.

Could it have been that there was no three-day waiting period in Mississippi? In fact, the court clerk, who signed their marriage license on Aug. 5, 1939, told them where they could find a preacher. It was midnight when they woke him, and by the time the minister signed the marriage certificate, it was Aug. 6. Ever after, they've been able to celebrate a two-day wedding anniversary.

But that year, the newlyweds drove straight back to Memphis and, fearing their families would not be pleased that they had eloped, they went back to their respective homes until they could break the news.

Seventy years later come Aug. 5 -- or Aug. 6 -- they might remember the day that Ernest got word in the Pacific that his son, Don, had been born a few days earlier, on July 1, 1944. (Don was 20 months old before his dad could lay eyes on him.) Or they may recall the day about a year after he arrived home from the war that his daughter, Diane, came into the world.

Mamie was a homemaker and active in her church, serving as the first female elder at Highland Heights Presbyterian and becoming active in Church Women United, say her children. Don Moore and Diane Moore Bonner explain that their mom's memory is pretty shaky nowadays. They remember, however, that she delivered Meals on Wheels and volunteered as a tutor at Lester Elementary during the late 1960s.

Together Mamie, now 91, and Ernest, now 89, worked and saved so their kids and grandkids could achieve educationally what they couldn't: college degrees.

They are best friends, they often have told their kids. Ernest appreciates Mamie's dedication and determination. And he didn't mind the way she could do-si-do with him around the square dance floor, either.


Mamie Ennis, Tech 1936

Ernest - Mamie