Bob Efird volunteered for the Army in 1951 and served in the 172nd Chemical SG (Smoke Generators) in Sculthorpe, England. At first he thought he was going to be going to Iceland. When they were out at sea, they had issued them cold weather gear. A few days out, however, they announced they were actually going to England. The cheers rang out.
Joan says, “He was double lucky. If he hadn’t come to England, he wouldn’t have met me!”
Joan was a Dougal and lived in a town called Great Yarmouth, a summer resort town in Norfolk, England. Towards the end of 1953, he was with the Scottish fleet that came into Great Yarmouth. It was a beach town that had a big sea wall and the Britannia Pier where every Saturday night, they would have a dance in the big hall. Joan remembers how back then you didn’t have to have a date to go to the dance. Oddly enough, one of their sons did research on the family and found that Bob’s family the Ehrenfried’s came over to the United States on the H.M.S. Britannia from the Black Forest area of Germany.
“You would just go to the dance with your friends. If someone asked you to dance and they looked nice, you would say, ‘Yes’. If you didn’t think they looked nice, you would say, ‘I’ll sit this one out’.” As you would guess, this is how the Efird’s met. Bob asked her to dance and she thought he looked nice and was very polite.
“I learned rather quick, he couldn’t dance a lick.” said Joan with a laugh. Bob has a size 14 shoe, so she says she had to do a little dodging of the feet. After the dance they sat and talked. After many years she did teach him the waltz.
After the dance, he asked if he could take her home. They got a taxi and he took her home. He asked if he could see her again and they agreed to meet at one. But, Joan slept until noon and didn’t get to leave until two. When she arrived with her friend, he was still waiting on her. Whenever he would come to town, they would meet at a neighborhood pub and sit and talk. One night after he took her home he couldn’t get a taxi and it was really cold outside, he walked back to his hotel where the doors were locked. He climbed up the flagpole and couldn’t get in a window, so he had to climb back down and he finally found a window open to the dining room where there was a big dog. He did finally make it back to his room, freezing cold.
In February of 1954, Bob was sent back home. He couldn’t stop thinking about Joan. He sent her a telegram that read, “Arrived Home Safely. Miss you and want you here with me.” Unfortunately, he didn’t put a return address on the telegram so Joan didn’t know how to contact him. She knew the town he lived in, but that was all and back then, she says, people didn’t have phones in their homes. It wasn’t long until he wrote her a letter and asked why she didn’t respond to his telegram. She told him, “You didn’t give me your address.” He wrote back saying he asked at the telegram office if he needed to, but they told him no. Joan said, “I guess they figured if you are asking someone to marry you, they have your address.”
Joan still has that telegram, framed hanging on their wall.
Joan was 18 at the time and Bob was 21. It took her until May to get over to the United States. Bob and his parents met her and her friend and baby, she had traveled with. His parents had to get back to Texas to work so they left Bob and Joan with the car and they took the train home. They couldn’t find a place to get married in New York because Joan had to have her parents consent, but they were in England. So they started driving to Texas, stopping along the way to find a place to get married. They stopped in York, South Carolina and ran into a man in the courthouse. They asked him what you had to do to get married, to which the man responded, have you got $5 and a gal who is willing? He told them to come back the next day. The man was Judge Gettys Nunn and he married them in a vault at the Courthouse. Later, she asked Bob if they were really married because the “witnesses” weren’t even in the vault.
Visiting with the Efird’s it becomes obvious that laughter is something that has kept their marriage thriving for 65 years.
Bob worked as a machinist for Dow and Amoco and Joan ran a daycare out of their home, taking care of generations of families. Lake Jackson, Texas was their home and they raised four children, Steve, 64; Deb, 61; Andy, 56; and Lance, 53. Bob enjoys woodworking and Joan decorates some of his wood pieces with paper shapes, and together they make stained glass window decor. The Efird’s moved to Heber Springs in 2014.
Their children held a 65th Anniversary celebration on Sunday, May 26 to honor their parents, complete with a pair of bagpipe players. Their grandchildren and great grandchildren held a banner and walked with the bagpipes to the JFK pavilion where the celebration was held. Family and friends came from all over to celebrate with them.
Their daughter, Deb told the story about how Joan’s birthday is on the 30th and their anniversary is on the 31st. Bob would give her their anniversary present on her birthday and he finally found a way to remember that she had to be born first, before their anniversary.
When asked the secret of their long marriage, Joan says there is that saying that a man leaves his mother and a woman leaves her home and become one. She said that’s true, but they are still individuals and have your own personalities. Yes you’re going to have disagreements. A friend said recently and you will have bumps in the road. To which Joan replied, “Some of ours have been boulders and a couple of landslides. No matter what though we both know we still love each other.” Deb says of her mother, “I call her my little English Bulldog. She is going to be heard.” Joan admits she is very opinionated and she is going to be heard. She is very sure of herself also. She is one fourth Scottish and three fourths British and they are both strong people. Bob says he doesn’t stand a chance. Joan says she is determined and independent and he is the one who is hard headed. Bob says she is determined to be hard headed.