Love story continues seven decades for Durham couple

Not many couples get to say they?ve been married 70 years, or that they shared their special day in a double-wedding ceremony. But for Irvin and Muriel (West) Christiansen of Durham, those are fond memories.

Each year on May 25, the Christiansens can relive what they call the happiest day of their lives as they reminisce with family and friends about how it all started and the years since.

Irvin, who was born and raised in Durham, was in the truck-hauling business when he would see Muriel at the local restaurant or grade school where she taught.

?I liked the looks of her,? he said, ?but I didn?t have enough nerve to ask her for a date.?

Unbeknown to Irvin, Muriel was also attracted to him.

?I knew he was around,? she said.

Born in western Kansas, Muriel was raised in Norcatur. After graduating from high school, she went to Emporia State Teachers College?now Emporia State University?to become a teacher.

Her first teaching job was in Durham, where she lived with a family and roomed with another teacher.

Although they saw one another occasionally, it wasn?t until April 1939, Muriel said, that they had their first date.

?It was a Sunday afternoon and we went to a show that night in Abilene.?

Then, just before Christmas of that year, Irvin proposed.

Muriel remembers them sitting in his vehicle talking, and she jokingly telling him that if she didn?t go into the house soon, she would be fired.

?It was about 10:30 p.m. or 11 p.m.,? she said, ?which was late (in those days). I told him it was time for me to go in.?

Irvin said he turned to her and said: ?I have a job for you?but it?s gonna last a lifetime.?

Once engaged, Muriel said they began making wedding plans, which included a double ceremony with Irvin?s sister, Geraldine and her fiance, Melvin Frick.

One reason the Christian?sens and Fricks waited until May to marry was because Muriel?s family was so far away.

Another reason was that Muriel wanted her family?s minister to marry them, which meant he would need to schedule a trip from western Kansas.

When the day of their wedding arrived, the two couples were married by pastor Ed Carey at First Baptist Church in Durham.

?We had about 20 people in the wedding party,??Muriel said.

As for the honeymoon, Irvin said, they all went to Colorado Springs, Colo.

?We took separate cars, but we stayed at the same hotel,? he said.

Irvin said he drove a 1938 Ford, and the trip probably took about the same amount of time as it takes today.

During the first year of their marriage, Irvin continued to drive truck to haul cattle, grain, groceries, hay or whatever needed transporting.

He drove from Durham to Kansas City, St. Joseph, Mo., Omaha, Neb., and other routes.

Muriel said she hardly saw him.

After the first year, Irvin decided to quit hauling and began farming with his father. By 1945, he and Muriel purchased the farm that is still their home today.

?We paid $100 an acre back then,? he said, adding that his father thought they paid too much money for the acreage because land would never be worth that much.

Now, 65 years later, the house has been enlarged and serves as a gathering place for their child?ren and grandchildren.

While raising their five child?ren, the Christiansens were involved in many other activities too. They both enjoyed traveling and have visited all 50 states as well as Nova Scotia and Mexico.

Much of the travel was after their children were grown, and Irvin had retired from livestock auctions, sale-barn ownerships, cattle ranching, farming and more.

At almost every turn, Muriel was by his side.

Along with traveling, they both were members of the American Royal Precision Drill Team and the Golden Horse Review, which included 24 Palominos and riders.

As for their secret for having a successful marriage, Muriel said it might sound silly, but it?s not about everything being 50-50 in the relationship.

?Sometimes it?s more like 75-75,? she said.

The Christiansens couldn?t remember having any major ups and downs in their personal relationship.

?We have good memories,? she said.

Laughing, they both recalled how some people perceived their ages prior to their union.

At the age of 23, Muriel said a lot of her family members thought she was going to end up ?an old maid.? Irvin, at age 25, was told he would become an old bachelor.

They have both experienced medical problems in recent years but overall are grateful to be in good health and to remain on their farm.

With their 70th anniversary less than a week away, the couple said they are looking forward to hearing from friends and family.

The Christiansens have five children: son Robert of Washington, D.C.; daughter Mona and Don Herbers of Leoti; son Gordon and Pat of Durham; son Dale and Renee of McPher?son and daughter Jan Skiles of Hillsboro.

The family also includes 13 grandchild?ren, nine great-grandchildren, six step-grandchildren and three step-great-grandchildren.

The five children and their families are requesting a card shower for this milestone. Cards may reach the couple at 3045 Chisholm Trail Road, Durham, KS 67438.

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