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.
CAROLYN AND JOE L. FOX
Live: West End
Married: July 3, 1959
Met: Summer 1957, at the Smithfield Birmingham Movie Theater, while watching a western. “…me and my friend had some popcorn, and Carolyn and her friend were sitting behind us and Carolyn said ‘we would like some popcorn too’, and I said, ‘alright, I’ll get you some, and me and my friend went [to the concession stand] and bought them some popcorn and went back there and started talking to them. I got to talking with [Carolyn] and my friend was talking to her girlfriend,” Joe remembered.
“I didn’t have any popcorn and [her girlfriend] said ‘Carolyn you’re eating up all my popcorn’, and that’s when Joe turned around and said ‘you don’t have any popcorn?’ And I said ‘no,’ and he said, ‘I’m gonna go and get you some,’ and when they came back [his friend] wanted to sit by me, but Joe said, ‘no, you sit over there next to her friend, I’m gonna sit next to the one I bought the popcorn for,’” Carolyn laughed. “And it wasn’t too much movie watching after that, we were talking, and he asked me where I lived, and I said I live ‘right across the street in the Smithfield projects’ … [after the movie] he walked me home,” Carolyn said.
They did not exchange numbers, “but I would see him walk past my house and I would be peeping at him through the window,” she laughed, “I liked the way he walked, he walked with a swag … and every time one of my sisters would see him walking past, they would call me and say ‘Carolyn, here come that boy you like’,” Carolyn remembered.
A few months later, during the fall, Joe made a surprise visit to Carolyn’s house. “…. I didn’t have a boyfriend, I wasn’t doing no courting, so I didn’t know who in the world was going to be at the door. I was shocked to see Joe, and my mama was too,” Carolyn said. “He stayed until my mama went to work that night, and he walked her to the bus stop. After that we exchanged numbers, and we talked on that phone long into the night.
First date: “We didn’t do too much dating, we did a lot of sofa sitting…,” Carolyn remembered. In the spring of 1958, Carolyn’s mother allowed her to go to a dance with Joe at the Masonic Temple in downtown, Birmingham. Carolyn was now a senior at A.H. Parker High School, and Joe was working.
“…we went dancing. He didn’t have a car so we had to walk everywhere, and I didn’t mind walking with him because I liked him, and that’s what he liked about me because I wasn’t after the boys with the cars, I would go along with him,” Carolyn said.
“I liked her and she liked me, and the only thing I was thinking about was having fun. We were going steady, but I didn’t have no marriage on my mind, I just liked that we were having a nice time,” Joe said.
The turn: “…. every Friday night was date night, and one Friday he didn’t show up, and I asked him what happened? and he said, ‘he went to the Playhouse with [friend] Dave’ and that’s when I knew I was serious about him because [I got upset], I told him that I asked the Lord to send me a good husband and ‘you would rather go to the Playhouse with Dave than come see me?’ So I wrote him a ‘Dear John’ letter and told him that he must not be the one for me because he doesn’t want to get serious and I think we ought to call it quits,” Carolyn said.
“Me and Dave made a plot so that I could get her back. I told him to tell her I was crying, and she believed all that he said to her,” Joe said.
“Joe came back and started acting serious. He came and took me to church with him, and my sister, Gloria Jean [and I], had never been baptized and he took us to his church [Lilly Grove Baptist Church in Smithfield] and got us baptized,” Carolyn said.
The proposal: Spring of 1959, at Carolyn’s mother’s home in Smithfield. “After she told me she was pregnant [with their first child, the late Rita Fox], I didn’t waste time. I told her when we were going to get married, I knew I was going to be off work in July, and I bought her a ring and we set the date. I didn’t have to talk to her mama about it, she knew we were serious…,” Joe said.
“I had been working ever since I was in high school, and I had to tell my job when I was getting married so I could be off too,” Carolyn said.
The wedding: At Carolyn’s mother’s home in the Smithfield projects, officiated by Joe’s pastor, Reverend O.C. Carter, of Lilly Grove Baptist Church, in Smithfield. Carolyn wore “a pretty pink dress”, and Joe wore a black suit.
“It wasn’t a formal wedding, we were dressed up like we were going to church… Her mother wasn’t able to get off of work, but my mother was there and one of my friends, and one of Carolyn’s friends from work,” Joe said.
Most memorable for the bride was being “extremely happy. We were poor and we didn’t have a lot, but we made the best out of what we had,” Carolyn said.
Most memorable for the groom was making plans for their future on their wedding night. “After the wedding, we didn’t have an apartment of our own so I stayed the night at her mother’s house, and that night we made an agreement that we would stay [with our respective parents] until we got approved for our own apartment in the projects. I knew some folks down there in the [leasing office], and not even a month later we got approved for our own and started our journey together,” Joe said.
Words of wisdom: “I had prayed when I was a young man and asked the Lord to give me a good wife, and it seemed that [we were the answer to each other’s prayers]. What I love about my wife is she has always thought of me before she thought of herself, and I, in turn, thought about her before my wants and it balances out,” Joe said. “And you have to let a husband be a role model because he’s the head [of the household] like the Bible said… a man is searching for his rib, and when I found my wife I was satisfied. You have to put God in it, give respect to each other and not be selfish.”
“[I have] 64 years with this man that I got here, and I know God gave him to me. I don’t care what disagreement came up, I’ve never let it come in my mind once that I’m getting a divorce because I know God had given him to me and whatever came up I know that God would take us through it and that’s what I depend on,” Carolyn said. “….God is always working on him like he’s working on me, and you gotta learn how to forgive, forget, and go on.”
Happily ever after: The Fox’s attend Zion Church in West End, and have six adult children: Rita (who passed away in 1999), Melanie, Rhonda, Tracy, Joe Jr., Heather, 13 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren.
Carolyn, 82, is a Titusville native, A.H. Parker High School grad, and obtained a certified nursing assistant [CNA] license through a program offered at A.H. Parker High School post-high school graduation. She retired from Jefferson County Nursing Home in Tarrant City, after 20 years.
Joe, 86, is a Smithfield native, and A.H. Parker High School grad. He retired from Chicago Bridge and Iron, in North Birmingham after 20 years.