Cameron and Elena Renfro have been married for three years. They live in Chula Vista near where they both work, at EastLake Christian Fellowship. Cameron, 24, is a technical director, and Elena, 21, is an executive assistant.
“I was visiting a friend in Florida,” says Cameron. “It was supposed to be for ten days but ended up being for ten months. I met her the second day I was there. We started out as friends and became best friends over time, and it progressed to where we just knew we were supposed to get married. About ten months after we met, we came back to San Diego and got married at Ellen Browning Scripps Park in La Jolla.”
“I met him right after I returned from an international trip,” says Elena. “I was actually getting ready to head out for a month to the U.K., and he was supposed to return to San Diego, and I thought I would never see him again. When I got back from the U.K., he was at the airport waiting for me, and a few months after that, we were pretty inseparable. A few months later, things progressed, and we fell in love and got married.”
Bill and Jackie Whittaker always seem to be enjoying themselves, even when everyone around them looks glum. Their relationship started in 1948, when they were two Golden Hill teenagers who lived across the street from each other.
“I knew her as far back as 1946, when I was in high school,” says Bill. “She was just a silly little girl who lived across the street. But she could hit a baseball better than anybody on the block. My sister kept bringing her around, and my mother arranged the first date. My sister and Jackie had a little song-and-dance act, and I was supposed to take them to B’nai B’rith to perform. I said, ‘I don’t want to take that crazy nut!’ My mom gave me $2, so I agreed, and when we got down there, the show was canceled. So it ends up she hooked me into a hayride. It cost me 20 bucks — $5 for her, $5 for me, and I had to pay for my sister and her date. Can you imagine what 20 bucks was in 1948?”
“He wasn’t hooked into anything,” Jackie says. “He enjoyed every minute of it. I think he was kind of tickled about it. That hayride did it!”
“I never said I didn’t enjoy it!” Bill says.
In 1949 they got married. Jackie, now 71, stayed home and raised the kids. Bill, 75, is a coach — the only job he’s ever had (he began coaching at his former grade school, Our Lady of Angels, in 1942). For 55 years, he’s worked both part-time and full-time with the city’s recreation department, where he still works two days a week, and he taught and coached at St. Augustine High School for 35 years.
“I married him at 18,” says Jackie. “Right after I got out of high school.”
“My first real date with her was on New Year’s Eve in 1948,” Bill says. “My mother said, ‘Why don’t you go ask Jackie to go to the movies? I’ll give you the money.’ She gave me four streetcar tokens and $2. Back then, it only cost 70 cents to get into the movies. We went to the Fox Theater [now Copley Symphony Hall] and saw…what was it?”
“The Captain from Castile,” says Jackie.
“That’s right,” says Bill. “But when I went over to her house, I knocked on the door, and Jackie took me into the kitchen so that we wouldn’t interrupt her grandma listening to the radio. So we sat in the kitchen and soon her mother told her that there was someone at the door to see her. Well, I looked out there, and there was this damned sailor. So she stays out there for a few minutes and comes back in; then there’s another knock. I look outside, and it’s a damn Marine! Then there was another knock, and another guy showed up! Three guys came that night, and she left me in the kitchen!”
“But I came right back!” says Jackie.
Seven children, 17 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren later, the Whittakers are still together, living in an apartment in Hillcrest. They attribute the success of their marriage to their deep friendship.
“I think it’s understanding,” Jackie says.
“We ended up being good friends,” says Bill, “and we were good friends before we started getting serious. We’ve never needed a lot of people around. We’ve always had fun, and we’ve always been able to laugh. I told my boys, ‘You know you’ve got the right girl when you’d rather be with her than standin’ down on a street corner, drinking beer and telling lies.’ Very rarely have we ever left the house when we got mad at each other.”
“I think in a lot of marriages, people get into a rut,” Jackie says. “And you don’t have to get in a rut, regardless of how much money you have or anything else. It’s how much you want to give of yourself that makes the difference. I think that’s the whole story. We’re all different. We have different personalities and different interests, and understanding that is important. And it takes you a while to get to that point. It’s a constant source of learning. There’s ups and there’s downs, but we’re able to swim through that. And we don’t like to be mad at each other.”
When electrician Andy Gorman walked into the Navy Federal Credit Union in June 1979, he experienced love at first sight. For Debbie, now his wife, it took a bit longer.
“He would make cat howls at me in the credit union,” Debbie says. “I was pounds lighter then and had longer hair. For the first six months after I met him, I hated him. He didn’t show up for a few months; then he popped in again, and I helped him get a car loan. When we were talking, he asked me out to lunch. By December of ’79, I knew I was in love with him, and we moved in together. I was previously married, and I didn’t tell him that I had a child until about two months after that lunch.”