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The Secret of Marriage: Going for the Gold

February 12, 1988|DAVID LARSEN | Times Staff Writer

The evening went off without a hitch. Although that, of course, is what started it all.

The occasion was a love fest, a pre-Valentine's Day gathering of more than 300 couples, all of whom are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversaries this year. More than 30,000 years of marriage under one roof!

Lawry's the Prime Rib in Beverly Hills, observing its own golden anniversary this year, located and invited the couples--mostly from Southern California--for a dinner tribute. All were married in 1938, all are near or in their 70s, or older.

Among them were a couple who had exchanged letters for three years before they ever met, and the wife still has her letters; another wife who still remembers the first meal she prepared for her husband--noodles, mostly uncooked; a couple whose marriage ceremony was performed by two rabbis, because the first was late and when the second one arrived, neither would leave.

It was a night for stories, many of them, some as rare as the prime rib. And all had thoughts on what love really is, and what is the secret of a marriage lasting half a century.

"The year was 1934, I was living in Brooklyn, and I had a high school friend I used to go roller skating with," Harriet Korechoff of Studio City recalled. "One day when we were skating through the streets, Allie told me about a neighbor friend of his, Sid, who had just moved out to Los Angeles and who he thought would like to meet me.

"Allie wrote him a letter introducing me by mail, and Sid followed with a letter to me."

Three years later, Harriet and Sid, a postal worker at a Hollywood post office, were still writing back and forth across the country, still never having set eyes on the other.

While on vacation in 1937, the new Californian took a train to Detroit, where he bought a new Chevy for $900, and drove it straight to Harriet's house.

"I was about to be engaged, my boyfriend had even bought a ring," she remembered. "But my father wasn't happy with him. And when Sid showed up, my father invited him to stay at our house."

The boyfriend had been meeting Harriet regularly on the subway train they both took to work in Manhattan. "One day I told him about Sid, and that I was probably going to marry him. My former friend started taking another train, and I didn't see him again."

Half a year later, Harriet took a train to Los Angeles, followed shortly afterward by her family, and on Aug. 13, she and Sid were married in the house of a rabbi.

"I still have all his letters, there were more than a hundred, and sometimes I take them out and reread them," Harriet recalled. "He didn't save mine, but he still remembers what was in them."

For Harriet, now 69, the definition of love: "In addition to the physical part, it is concern and caring for each other."

And the secret of having a marriage last 50 years: "Tolerance of each other, and understanding each one's personality. Each has to accept the other person."

Sid, now 73, defines love as "a total commitment to another individual."

And his formula for a long-lasting union? "Tolerance, plus the ability to communicate. You have to work at that. Different words have different meanings to different people."

Lester and Lorraine White of Beverlywood have laughed their way through the last 50 years.

"We were actually married twice," Lester said. "We were both living in Manhattan, and we eloped to New Jersey. A friend of mine knew the mayor of Newark, who conducted the ceremony for Lorraine and me in the City Hall on March 30.

"Her folks had wanted a big wedding, so after they found out about what we had done, they arranged a big wedding at the Waldorf Astoria on April 24, and we both went through it all again. So this year is really our 100th anniversary."

Lester went on to become a comedy writer for Bob Hope for more than 25 years, doing most of his TV shows and some of his movies.

"I've been a good audience," said Lorraine, 68. "Lester would try out his jokes on me. All comedy writers do that. If you want to have a really laughing party, invite comedy writers over."

Her husband quipped that, in any year, if he happened to forget the March anniversary, he could always alibi: "Honey, you know we always celebrate the second one."

Lester, 77, couldn't give an answer to what he thought love and romance are, but he did disclose his formula for making a marriage work:

"Be sensitive to the secret hopes and aspirations of your loved one. We made a commitment for 50 years, with 10-minute options all along the way."

Lorraine's interpretation of love and romance: "It's a lot of caring . . . you try not to hurt the other person's feeling."

As for the longevity of the couple's relationship, she wisecracked: "My husband can't throw anything away, even a piece of paper, so I never worried about his discarding me."

In the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles, twin sisters are marking their half a century with their spouses.

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