In the 1930’s, towns had small communities within them, with every necessity within walking distance. East Nashville had Fluty’s Gas Station, Sanderson’s Five and Dime, and a hardware store. Lehning’s Grocery was next to the Post Office and the Woodland Street Bakery, and across from the theater at Five Points. Students went to East High School and to churches like Lockland Baptist Church, on the corner of 16th Avenue and Holly Street. It was here that our story begins.
Rosalie Bond Lankford was singing in the choir at the church. Unbeknownst to her, the son of the woman beside her in the choir loft was in the congregation keeping an eye on this beautiful young lady. At home he asked his mother who the girl sitting next to her was. “I’d like to meet her,” he told his mother. “Will you see if you can arrange that?”
On September 15, 1940, Lawrence Bernice Beck’s mother introduced him to Rosalie on the sidewalk in front of the church after the service. It is fair to say they were both interested in each other, possibly smitten would be a more apt description. Rosie and Larry saw each other for the next twenty-eight days straight. “Dating was more casual back then,” she said. But they found ways to spend time together: sharing a soda, taking a walk, swinging on the porch. They don’t remember why they weren’t together on the day twenty-nine, but by that time they were definitely in love.
Larry had graduated from East High in 1938 and was making deliveries on his bike for Lehning’s Grocery. Rosie was still a student at East High School. In December, 1941, the world changed for everyone when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. It was also during this month, at Christmas, that Rosie and Larry became engaged.
The war was foremost in everyone’s minds. In January Larry changed jobs and became a messenger for the government offices at the Smyrna Airfield. This Civil Service job paid $27 every two weeks, quite an increase from the $7 weekly salary at the grocery store. Rosie was working in Dr. Truelock’s dental office for $5 each week.
Larry’s friend Robert King convinced Larry to join him in electronics school in July 1942, for three months. They would attend Hume Fogg School together from 4-12 PM, five days each week, and be part of the Signal Core Enlisted Reserve. Larry quit his messenger job to devote his time to this schooling.
Meanwhile Rosie and Larry’s romance continued, and almost two years after they met they were married on August 16, 1942. It was a simple ceremony at Lockland Baptist Church, at 3:00 on Sunday afternoon, and the church was filled with family, friends, and church members.
Their honeymoon of one night was spent at the James K. Polk Motel in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. On Monday they returned so Larry could attend school that evening. Their first home together was a bedroom and kitchen in a friend’s house on Lillian Avenue, and this apartment was rented for $20 a month. They lived there while Larry finished the first part of his schooling, and then in October they made their first of many moves to live in Memphis for the next section of training.