BY JE’DON HOLLOWAY-TALLEY
Special to the Birmingham Times
“You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone, please send nominations to Barnett Wright firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
BARBARA AND ROBERT HILL
Live: Ensley Highlands
Married: June 22, 1980
Met: Fall 1971, at the then-Western Jackson Olin High School during their junior year. Barbara approached Robert in the hallway to congratulate him after a poetry reading contest that he had won.
“She was very popular, she was the head majorette and she had approached a guy [me] who was nerdy and had just won a poetry contest, so I was dumbfounded,” Robert laughed. “I was taken off my feet and just mumbled [thanks] and walked off.”
Barbara recalls being snubbed.
“I didn’t mean to snub her,” Robert said.
“… [He] just looked down at me and said, ‘thank you’ and walked off abruptly. I wasn’t making a pass at him or anything, but he went on about his way and I went on with mine, and we didn’t meet again until the following year,” Barbara said.
They met again during their senior year while auditioning for the school play ‘The Fantastics’, where Barbara got the leading lady role, and Robert got the leading male role.
“The story of The Fantastics is sort of a Romeo and Juliette story …. and I tell folks I guess we just continued [our roles] after the play was over,” Robert said.
“Robert was a gentleman, he wasn’t quite like a lot of the other fellas at school; he was very mature. I thought he was very smart, tall, and handsome, and the attraction for me was his being a nerd, I liked that,” Barbara said.
First date: Prom Night, 1972, at L.R. Hall, and then dinner at The Parliament House after the prom.
“… a good friend of mine came and told me that Barbara was considering going to prom with another guy, so I sent her a telegram through Western Union, asking if she would do me the extreme honor of allowing me to escort her to the senior prom of 1972,” Robert said.
“A Western Union telegram man came to my door and said he had a telegram for Ms. Barbara Kincaid, and I opened the telegram and that’s what it said. That was unique… “…I made a little card with the word ‘yes’, decorated real nicely, and that’s what I gave him the next day at school in our first period English class,” Barbara said.
Asked about how prom night went, Barbara’s remembered, “He was late. The other guy we were double dating with couldn’t find the pick to pick out his afro, and Robert had to wait on him. And me and [that guy’s date] we’re at my house waiting.”
When Robert finally arrived to pick up Barbara he was met with her hand as if to say ‘don’t say anything to me.’ I think that was one of the first renditions of ‘talk to the hand’,” Robert laughed. “…at that time I didn’t know how to dance and one dance step carried me the whole night. I was nervous about it because she was a majorette and obviously a very good dancer.”
“Opposites attract,” Barbara laughed. “The corsage he gave me was beautiful, and he took me to a fancy dinner at The Parliament House [after the prom] where we ate steak and lobster, that’s what I was accustomed to…that night was very exquisite.”
The turn: For Robert, it was during their senior trip in the spring of 1972 to Six Flags Over Georgia. “We sat next to each other on the bus and I can still remember the perfume she had on, it’s etched into my memory… I was serious about her then,” Robert said.
For Barbara, it was during their freshmen year of college at Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas in the Spring of 1973.
“We both went out for a play called ‘Between Two Peas’, and we got the leading roles again, and we practiced together… Jarvis [Christian College] was very rural with nothing to do and nowhere to go for miles and miles, and we just hung out every day on campus I really liked him, he was so sweet during that time,” Barbara said. “Till this day I can’t tell you why I chose Jarvis [College], other than the fact that Robert was going, because I had been accepted into a lot of other colleges…”
The two underwent the highs and lows of a young college love during their time together but persevered and came back to Birmingham to attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham [UAB] and dated for about 8 1/2 years before becoming engaged.
The proposal: On Barbara’s birthday, Nov. 22, 1979. She had moved to Atlanta, Georgia, to work as a school teacher and Robert proposed one evening while she was visiting Birmingham.
“He had bought a house and [we] came [to the home they still live in until this day] to celebrate and he didn’t have any furniture, but we were sitting on the dining room floor drinking champagne and he pulled out the ring and asked me to marry him,” Barbara said.
“We went and told our folks that night, and when we went to her mother’s house, I put Barbara out of the room and I told her mother that I loved her daughter very much and that I was going to take care of her,” Robert said.
The wedding: At Barbara’s home church, Metropolitan CME Church in Ensley, officiated by Reverend Early Hicks. Their wedding colors were pink and green.
Most memorable for the bride was a toast Robert gave at their reception. He began by sharing a memory from a weekend during their college years when he spotted Barbara at a parade with a schoolmate.
“I didn’t even know Robert had seen us [her and her classmate at the parade] until the end when he saw us in the car, and he waved and spoke and I spoke back and nothing else was ever said about it,” Barbara said.
Robert shares the same as most memorable, “it was a great evening and I ended the toast saying ‘to my lady, my life, my woman, my wife’,” he said.
They honeymooned on a cruise to Nassau Bahamas.
“I love to cruise,” Barbara said. “And I was determined to get me some good lobster. We got off the boat and found a nice restaurant and I had a good lobster dinner, and when we got back on the boat that’s what they were serving for dinner, so I had lobster twice!”
Words of wisdom: “Communication and patience are very important, try to understand even if you don’t. There’s a respect that you have to have for each other, and you have to love someone to be able to respect them on that level,” Barbara said. “Keep in mind that you are two individuals, you’re going to have differences in opinions and that’s ok, but you work through those difficult times. You have to talk because you can’t read someone’s mind.”
“Realize that a marriage is like making a movie, there’s a final production, but there are also all the messy encounters while creating that production. You can’t bake a cake without breaking an egg, you’re gonna have some broken eggshells, and flour on the floor to get to the pretty cake. There will be difficulties to get to the other side, hang in there, and work through the difficult times,” Robert said.
Happily ever after: The Hill’s one son, Brian.
Barbara, 69, is a Pratt City native, and Western [Jackson] Olin High School grad. She attended Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas before transferring to the University of Alabama at Birmingham [UAB], where she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology. Barbara is a founding member of the Iota Phi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. at UAB and a retired high school biology teacher.
Robert, 69, is a Pratt City native, and Western [Jackson] Olin High School grad. He attended Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas before transferring to the University of Alabama at Birmingham [UAB] where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in political science. Robert works as the Deputy Sheriff Sergeant with Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department where he has served for 40 years.