In the August Fountain: Sowls celebrate lasting commitment
The Fountain is a special sectionBy Valerie Putnam
about and for Liberty Lake seniors
Wally and Winnie Sowl felt an instant connection when they first met.
"It was love at first sight," said the couple's youngest child, Patty Pohle. "And four months later they got married. They've been together ever since."
"Ever since" is 70 years, the milestone wedding anniversary the Sowls celebrated July 1.
The couple met while living in the Allendale, a large, downtown Spokane boarding house. At different times, the more than 70 residents would gather in the parlor and listen to Winnie's roommate, Della, play the piano.
"We just kinda made eyes at each other across the parlor," Winnie, 90, laughingly said. "He was just so handsome. ... Guess it didn't take us too long to realize both of us didn't appreciate Della's music."
"Sure didn't," added Wally, 93.
Purchasing an old windup Victrola phonograph, the couple spent hours listening to their favorite country music.
"We had the same taste in music," Winnie laughed. "And it was not Della's piano."
After only a few months, Wally proposed.
"You can do a lot of courting in a hurry when you live in the same boarding house," Winnie said.
The couple got married July 1, 1943. The wedding, a simple ceremony with just three guests, was in the home of a preacher whose church was located next door to Allendale.
The couple borrowed Wally's parents Plymouth and drove to Elkins Resort at Priest Lake for a short honeymoon over the extended Fourth of July holiday weekend.
"We spent most of the time repairing tires," Winnie recalled of the honeymoon trip. "We had seven flat tires. In those days, you didn't buy a new tire; you fixed it."
After the couple returned to Spokane, they lived in the boarding house until Wally was drafted. While waiting to be deployed, he continued working at his machinist job at Fairchild Air Force Base.
After only three days of basic training under his belt, Wally was sent to California to wait for reassignment.
"He wrote me a letter saying the guys are usually here up to a year or more so I might as well come down," said Winnie, who at the time was pregnant with their first son. "So I quit my job, gave up my room at the boarding house and got on a train."
Winnie's train got as far as Portland, Ore. There, a group of MPs boarded the train.
"They got on the train and said, 'We're looking for Mrs. Wallace Sowl. You have orders to go back to Spokane,'" Winnie said. "I didn't know those MPs and what authority they had to tell me to go back to Spokane but thought I better do it."
Winnie got off the train and boarded a bus back to Spokane, finding out later that Wally had been sent overseas.
"I was looking forward to being a War-time bride," Winnie said. "But that was as far as I got."
She returned to the Allendale, and was able to get her Civil Service job back.
After two years, Wally returned from the war and met his son for the first time. The passing years brought many happy memories, such as watching their three children, Byron, Jerry and Patty, grow.
When their children were young, the couple started square dancing at a Grange Hall in Newman Lake, where they were living at the time. As the children grew, they also got involved at the Grange. The family continued to dance for several years.
"It's really important in a relationship to have the same interests," Winnie said.
Throughout their marriage, the Sowls spent a great deal of time outdoors hunting, fishing, camping and hiking.
"They also did a lot of gardening together," Patty said. "Both vegetable and flower."
Today, the Sowls have eight grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and one great, great granddaughter.
The couple remains active, including participating in activities at the Liberty Lake Athletic Club every other day.
"I take water aerobics, and he works in the gym," Winnie said.
As part of their 70th wedding anniversary celebration, the couple participated in five different events featuring family, friends, square dancers - and even a party at the Liberty Lake Athletic Club.
Celebrating 70 years is no easy feat, and the secret to their longevity is interwoven with a healthy dose of humor.
"We didn't have to quarrel about how to spend money," Winnie laughed, "because we didn't have enough to worry about."
"Sounds right to me," added Wally.
Both agreed another reason their marriage remained strong for 70 years is they shared similar interests, stayed active together and worked out conflicts without fighting.
"I always gave in," Winnie taunted.
"Oh, is that right?" Wally laughed. "Not all the time. We just had to work it out."
When asked what advice they would give other couples, Winnie returned to theme of working out conflicts.
"Don't bail the first time you have a problem," Winnie said. "Everyone is going to have problems. You just don't have to have fights."