The details of Charles and Molly Tryck's wedding have gone fuzzy, but then the Trycks were married 70 years ago. The guests who attended their small Anchorage ceremony are mostly gone now. The little Episcopal church at Fifth Avenue and F Street disappeared too, as what was then a small town gave way to the city.
What remains is a wedding picture. A young man, age 22, and his bride, a fine-featured girl of 19, in a wedding dress shipped in from Outside. They met in Fairbanks while he was getting his degree in engineering. Maybe they saw each other first in a drugstore. Or maybe it was a bar. Maybe they were drinking Cokes. There could have been a date later on when they knew they'd fallen for each other. There was dancing. That they remember. There wasn't a honeymoon. There couldn't be. He only had the weekend off. He was in the Army Corps of Engineers. And a war was on.
I visited the Trycks Tuesday at the South Addition home where they have lived for 50 years. I wanted to ask them about being married for nearly three-quarters of a century, but the morning I came by, neither of them could see what the fuss was about.
Somehow, Charles said, it didn't really seem like it had been that long. Molly wanted to know if we could talk about something else. She's never been fond of discussing her age.
We talked in their living room where a painting of a ship at night hung on the wall, and the wide windows were full of trees. The Trycks' sons, Keith and Jim, were there too.
Charles is 92 and Molly is 89. Charles, son of a Gold Rush miner, was the first baby born in what is now Wasilla, at least according to family lore. That was before electricity and running water. Molly came up by boat at age 14. The Anchorage they first knew had boardwalks and dusty streets. There was no Outside telephone service, only telegraph. There was no plane service from Outside. Radios only picked up a signal from 6 to 10 at night.
The Trycks still live on their own. They built their house a few years before the earthquake for somewhere between $40,000 and $60,000, he said. It was one of just a few. Now the lots around it have been built and rebuilt. Houses sell for half a million or more. Before the trees grew up, they could see the Inlet, he said. That was when Westchester Lagoon was just tidal flats.
I asked them how they stayed married for so long. They both answered at once.
"It isn't easy," she said.
"She's always right," he said.
The war grew people up, he said. It was a time of extreme uncertainty. You didn't know if one day Japanese soldiers might be walking the streets of Anchorage. They had black-out drills. People carried gas masks. Young people thought differently, Molly said. They didn't live together before they married.
"You have to have patience. There are lots of ups and downs," she said. "I think young people give up too soon."
Couples didn't think about everything so much, he said, they just did.
"I don't think young people rationalized and analyzed their future the way kids do now," he said.
They started out young and grew up together. One phase of life slid into another. The Trycks had five children: Keith, Douglas, James, Kathryn and Suzanne. Those years were a blur. Always, there was a sense of meeting responsibilities, Charles said.
"It just sort of evolved," she said.
"You get trapped," he said. She shot him a look. He chuckled.
I asked Charles what he'd say if he could give a piece of advice to himself as a young man. He couldn't think of what to answer. He wouldn't change how anything turned out. He had a successful career as an engineer, starting the firm Tryck, Nyman & Hayes, which was purchased by URS. He has children, grandchildren, great grandchildren.
Molly would have gone to college, she said. Her mother was a widow and there was no money for school. There were few options for women then, she said, outside of being a secretary, a nurse or a teacher. She became involved with Democratic politics around the time of statehood and helped found the League of Women Voters. Alaskans had an independent spirit back then, she said. That part of the state's personality hasn't changed, even as the political leanings here shifted from left to right.
Charles still drives (though not too often) and checks his iPad with the regularity of a teenager. He likes "to see what Google has to say" about the news, he told me. He fired it up and showed me how he looks at CNN and BBC and his e-mail. Then he played Glenn Miller's "String of Pearls."
Molly's face filled with recognition. "There was a jukebox," she said. "Down on Fourth Avenue, at Richmond's. Do you know Richmond's?"
I shook my head. One of her sons reminded her that it closed a long time ago.
Then Charles got to talking about a friend who is 82.
"He's just a kid," said his son Keith.
"Aren't we all?" asked his son Doug.
It wasn't a serious question, but Charles answered it anyway.
"It's a state of mind," he said.