By their own admission, Sarah and Floyd Key were “floored” when I asked if I might write about them for Texans United. As is usual when I tell the story of someone, it is because I find myself interested by my subject or in the case of the Keys, my subjects.
They smile…pretty much all of the time…they speak softly, and they enjoy one another’s company. That much is obvious to even the most casual of observers. That life has not always been easy for them is known by those who know them a little better and yet, Sarah and Floyd Key possess something that seems to give them that serene spirit…a softness without being dull…a quick wit without being sharp…and a love for each other, even after 66 years of marriage.
And they have the shirts to prove it, the 66 years, I mean.
Given by daughter, Sally, on Christmas Eve, just five days prior to their sixty-sixth anniversary, “It was a total shock,” Sarah bubbled about the shirts and then moved right into the subject at hand as Sarah is prone to do.
“I don’t want you to put in anything that makes us sound better than we are,” she said as she saw me frantically typing, trying to catch her every word, a complete and total impossibility, I soon learned.
…Not make them sound any better than they are…and I wondered why in the world she would think I would need to do that. Why would anyone feel the need to make Sarah and Floyd Key sound any better than they already are?
So, with no flowery words or introductions, Floyd Key was born in Megargel, Texas.
“Everyone asks where that is,” Floyd laughed.
I could go him one better. I didn’t even know how to spell it!
“Megargle is just about twelve miles outside of Olney, Texas, and I was born there on September 14, 1926,” three years before the crash, I remembered as Floyd talked about his childhood.
“And I was born the year of the crash, in January of 1929,” Sarah added. “Our parents were older when they married…”
“My mom was 33 and my dad 30…”
“Our parents had been to WWI and they had taken a while to recoup…” Sarah said, completing that series of thoughts while I wondered if the couple even realized (that after 66 years) how often they finished each other’s sentences, one for the other, seemingly knowing exactly what each partner was planning to say, a truly beautiful thing to watch as an outsider, and a tremendously hard thing for a typist of my pitiful skills to follow!
Floyd went on to tell me, “My mom came to Texas in a covered wagon from Tennessee in 1888, the year she was born. She was the oldest of seven.”
And then it was Sarah’s turn, “My mother lived in Graham, in Young County (where Olney) is. My father’s family lived there as well. My mother’s mother died when she was eleven. She was an only child and my mother was an only child. Her father brought her to Young County to be reared by his sister.”
So that’s their roots. It’s how Sarah and Floyd ended up in the same place at the same time, a story in itself, which is always gives me a bit of a chill when I stop to think about how events in time shape our lives, how things that happen before we are even born affect who we become, who we marry, what children we have…
BUT that wasn’t the story I had planned for Sarah and Floyd Key. The story I was searching for today was the story of Sarah and Floyd themselves, where did they meet, how did it happen, and why has it worked all of these years?
They met in 1944, or was it 1945? Here, I finally found that even in “perfect” there are a few chinks, and Sarah and Floyd had to stop and discuss the date for about four seconds. Sarah was right.
“We met in 1944. I was a pick up, or a blind date, or whatever you want to call it. I had gone to the teen canteen with some girlfriends. That was a place where you could listen to the jukebox or play games and have refreshments. Floyd came with friends, and he was in the army with a friend of mine, James Matkin, whose date, Margaret, was also a friend.
“Floyd was too shy to ask me himself, but James and Margaret asked if I would like to be Floyd’s date. I called my mother to ask if it was okay, and she gave her permission for us to sit together there at the teen canteen.”
The next night Sarah and Floyd went to a dance at the teen canteen. This was the night before Floyd left for California, his stop before going overseas.
So two dates, and Floyd was gone. He shipped overseas in August of 1944.
“They dropped the Atom Bomb and the war was over. I had been training to invade Japan but thankfully, that did not happen. When they talk about how we should never have dropped the bomb, I know they are wrong. The Japanese would never have given up. That is why I appreciate L.D. Cox and those who were with him so much. They probably saved my life,” Floyd shared.
To give you a reality check as to the age of the “kids” we are discussing, Floyd Key entered A&M University at the age of 15. He studied there for 2/12 years before he was drafted, which made him a whopping 17 years old the night of his and Sarah’s first date and the day he sailed overseas.
While Floyd was gone, Sarah continued her years in high school. Two years later, Floyd completed his stint in the army and went back to A&M, the same year that Sarah entered Baylor University as a freshman. It was the fall of 1946.
“Of course, letters had flown back and forth,” Sarah explained, “but our third date was to the Baylor/A&M game in Waco. I wasn’t sure I wanted to sit with the Aggies because I was loyal Baylor Bear so we met before game, but we did not sit together during game. Then, we met again after game,” she grinned. “I was a very stubborn, obnoxious freshman at Baylor!”
And then they started it again…that sentence thing that challenged every typing skill I could muster!
“We’d written all that time, and he’d sent gifts through his brother so it was really neat, but I had not met his parents…”
“But her parents knew of mine because my aunt taught in Graham…”
“And she boarded at same place my dad did before he married…”
“I graduated, and Sarah quituated…”
“And we married in 1948.”
The young couple lived in Olney for the next seven years.
“We took six of the seven years of drought, and we didn’t make enough money to pay any income tax,” Floyd smiled as he remembered those early, lean years before his eternally optimistic partner spoke up.
“We adopted John in 1954 while we were in Olney, and he was two when Floyd began his career as an Extension Agent.”
The first time the Key family lived in Comanche, they were only here five weeks. Floyd served as an assistant to Ray Hastings, but when the Extension Agent job in Brown County opened they moved there, and it was in that county that Sally was born.
Four and one-half years later the family moved to Meridian, where they lived an equal amount of time and where Spencer was born.
On June 1 of 1965, Angus Dixon left Comanche and the Keys returned to Comanche to stay.
“You have to know that you are an institution in Comanche,” I told them as they both burst into laughter at the thought.
“We were newcomers to Comanche, and we probably still are. A…our parents were not born here. B…we don’t have any relatives here. We do feel accepted and happy here, and we have so many, many friends here. We truly love it here.”
But I wasn’t giving up; Sarah and Floyd Key ARE an institution in Comanche.
“People still ask us how to spell Key. They can’t believe it is so simple,” they evaded my question once again.
“So why ARE you an institution?” I tried once more.
“I told Floyd that we collect people,” Sarah explained.
Now we were getting somewhere. “Why do you think it is that you collect people?”
“We are interested in them for one thing. We went to Europe on an agricultural trip in 1983, and it was great. We met this lady on the plane, and we asked her to visit us in Texas. When she got back to Germany, she wrote to say that she would love to come, and she did!”
Now, I’ve flown quite a bit myself, but I have to tell you that never once have I invited my seatmate home with me. See what I’m talking about here!
Sarah continued. “Our 4-H trips have been great too. We’ve met so many new people.”
When I mentioned that it is easy to see that one reason so many things have worked for the couple is that they obviously like the same things, Floyd proudly nodded his head, beaming at his bride of 66 years.
“Life is good,” he said in his soft voice…
And as I had come to expect, Sarah chimed in, “It’s our good…”
And then once again both stumbled over each other as they shared their God, their faith, and what they call their miracles and the doors those miracles have opened for them as well as the times those miracles have carried them through the dark days.
“We’ve had miracles in our lives that affirm our faith and our joy, and God carried us through the hard times…”
“And that is our secret…”
And I honestly do not believe that I have said one word that makes Sarah and Floyd Key sound one bit better than what they are. Do You?