SIDNEY — “Swing your partner and do-si-do; allemand left with your left hand.”
The words of the square dance caller echo down the years in the lives of Alfrieda and Maynard Francis, of Sidney. The couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in April, but they had met 71 years ago at a square dance in West Milton.
“We went every Saturday for a year, and then we got married,” the former Alfrieda Pour said, Tuesday, May 8. “I never thought when we started we’d go this long, but we’re still going.”
Friends had introduced them to each other at the dance hall, where couples randomly joined to form squares.
“Oh, we used to swing,” Alfrieda remembered fondly.
They were married April 3, 1948, in St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Troy. There was no time for a honeymoon. The couple went right into farming.
“We were milking 41 head of cows. We started out as farmers for 12 years,” Maynard, now 92, said. “Then I went to work for her dad for 16 years in construction.”
In 1975, he left Pour’s construction business. He and Alfrieda, now 89, had begun to buy rental properties in Troy. They would buy a house in poor condition, fix it up, and rent it.
“We were never slum landlords. Our houses were nice,” Alfrieda said.
“Nobody took care of houses like we did,” her husband added.
Fixing the houses and managing the rentals became full-time jobs for both of them. They also raised four daughters, Rita Cromes, now of Alabaster, Alabama, and Marcia Niswonger, Mary Giesseman and Susan Barhorst, all of Troy. They have 10 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
“We just took every day as it came. The biggest challenge was making a living. We didn’t have a company behind us to give us Social Security. That’s why (Maynard) decided to do houses. So we’d tear apart a house and put it back together,” Alfrieda said.
They did not have a work crew. The two of them did almost everything; although they called in electricians and plumbers for work that required a license.
“I could do a house from the foundation up,” Maynard said.
They knew how to be thrifty and to wait for what they wanted.
“People start out now with more than we had for five years,” Maynard said. “It was five years before we had a TV. We didn’t spend a whole lot of money for recreation for years.”
“People now with college educations don’t have to work as hard as we did. But we grew up with a lot of common sense,” Alfrieda added.
She graduated from St. Patrick High School in Troy. Maynard attended Concord Township School in Miami County, but didn’t graduate because, after six weeks as a senior, he was drafted into World War II. He received his high school diploma when he returned from the Army two years later.
When the pair were in their 60s, they began to travel. They have visited areas throughout the United States and went on 15 of what they call “major trips” abroad. China, Hawaii, Germany, Switzerland, England, Australia, New Zealand, Alaska, Canada are all places they’ve been.
“We saw the Matterhorn,” Maynard noted. Lots of tourists can’t say that. The famous Swiss/Italian mountain is often covered in fog.
The couple fixed up a house in Florida for themselves and for 15 years, spent five months there annually.
Sidney residents for the last four years, Alfrieda and Maynard continue to keep busy. Maynard spends as much as 10 hours a day creating stained glass artwork. His daughter, Rita, learned the craft in England and taught it to her father. She now draws the patterns for him. He had a solo exhibition in the Gateway Arts Council galleries in Sidney in February.
“It’s the only show we’ve ever had where everything in the show sold out,” said arts council Executive Director Ellen Keyes.
Alfrieda crochets doilies and molds impressions into cement discs to create decorative pieces. She also keeps a flower garden that is the envy of her neighbors.
“In the summer, I’m out in the garden every day,” she said.
Maynard plays in the dirt, too. He has three large vegetable beds laid out.
“The majority of the stuff we raise, we give away. It’s just something we like to do,” he said.
They don’t have a bucket list of things they hope to experience. A party for their 70th anniversary was “great,” Alfrieda said.
She shared a secret of their long love affair: “You can’t hold a grudge very long. We go to church regularly and that’s part of it, too,” she said.