Some romances are made for the theater; some are made in the theater.
Mary Carter’s Friday night plan was to to pick up a friend who worked at the Flick Theater in Jacksonville so they could cruise around Levy and hang out at Sonic.
The first time I saw my future spouse:
She says: “He was so nice-looking. I can honestly say I knew I was going to marry that man.”
He says: “She had long brown hair and she had some jeans on and had a really pretty face and really white teeth and she smelled good. All the check marks were there and everything was right.”
On our wedding day:
She says: “It was just the tender words my dad had said — he has since passed away and I was a big-time daddy’s girl. He was really glad I had chosen someone like Jeff and he knew he was going to take care of me.”
He says: “I was a senior in college and I actually had class that day. I got out of there by noon and hustled home and started getting ready for the wedding. I had a big honeymoon planned and things were looking good.”
My advice for a long happy marriage is:
She says: “Communication is super important. Don’t stay mad at one another. Life’s too short.”
He says: “You have to always communicate — talk to each other on a regular basis. Family values are really important. We were both Christian people and it’s important to be in church. It’s important to maintain family values and friendships.”
“I got there a little bit early, before my friend got off work. When I got there she said there was this guy she wanted me to meet,” says Mary, who was 17 in 1977.Cue the entrance of Jeff Twitty.
“Back in those days, they wore these three-piece leisure suits,” says Mary. “I’m actually a year and a half older than him but he looked much older in his suit. He walked in and I noticed him instantly.”
Jeff had a girlfriend, too, and they went to find seats in the theater.
“I didn’t know my girlfriend knew him but I said, ‘Now, if you want to fix me up with something, fix me up with something that looks like that.’ She just kind of laughed,” Mary says. “I said, ‘He’s got such a cute butt,’ which is so out of character for me. I don’t know why I said that — just girls being silly.”
Jeff circled back to the concession stand, where Mary and her friend were standing, to buy popcorn and drinks.
“As he turned to walk off my girlfriend said, ‘Hey, Jeff, my girlfriend thinks you’ve got a cute butt.’ I was mortified,” she says. “My face turned all red.”
Mary rushed from the theater lobby to her car in the parking lot. Jeff was unruffled.
“I just thought, ‘OK, that’s no big deal …’” he says. “But I liked the way she looked and I thought, ‘I’m going to have to check her out.’”
When Mary’s friend finished her shift she came out to Mary’s car.
“I said, ‘Why in the world would you do that? And why did you want to fix me up with your boss who has a girlfriend when there’s this cute guy that you work with?’ She said, ‘Well, he’s got a girlfriend, too,’ and I was like, ‘Well, he’s cuter than the other guy!’” she says. “Funny thing is, when she went back to work the next week, he had a thousand questions about me as well.”
Jeff, Mary learned, was the theater’s projectionist. He was the reason she saw every movie that ran over the next six months. He was also the reason she sometimes joined her friend at the pizza place next to the theater where theater employees hung out.
When Jeff broke up with his girlfriend, he called Mary. She was going to Greers Ferry Lake with her family, and he and a couple of his friends headed to the lake so he could spend some time with her.
“We just started talking and we’ve been together ever since,” she says.
On the night of their first date, Jeff had to change the movie marquee at 9 p.m. He left Mary with his aunt, a woman she hadn’t met, for 45 minutes before they went to dinner.
Mary was a speed skater so when they weren’t at the pizza place or the movie theater they were at the skating rink together, and they took trips to the lake when they could.
At the end of a date in March 1980, Jeff started talking about places he would like to go. His cousin had gone to the Pocono Mountains, he told Mary, and he wanted to go there on a honeymoon someday.
“I said, ‘Well, you’ll have fun.’ And he said, ‘You’ll have fun if you go with me,’” she says. “That was our proposal, I guess.”
They exchanged their vows on Feb. 27, 1981, in the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officers) Club on the Jacksonville Air Force Base, where Jeff’s mother worked.
“It was my fairy-tale wedding,” Mary says.
The fairy-tale wedding was followed by a fairy-tale honeymoon — in the Pocono Mountains.
Jeff is a Farmers Insurance agent in Jacksonville. Mary is a Jacksonville alderman. They have two sons — Brian of Jonesboro and Travis of Dallas.
The girl Jeff was dating when he met Mary has remained one of their closest friends over the years.
“She is a sweetheart,” Mary says. “She’s known to my kids as the ex-girlfriend, he’s known to her kids as the ex-boyfriend, but we’re all really good friends.”
The ex-girlfriend lives out of state now but she visits when she’s in town to see her family, and she has sent Jeff and Mary a Christmas ornament for each of the last 38 years.
“I have an ex-girlfriend tree,” Mary laughs.
Friends and family threw Jeff and Mary a surprise 25th anniversary party in the building that used to house the Flick Theater, now a venue called Unique Connection Center.
“If we make it to 50 and if this place is still standing,” Mary says, “I guess that’s where we’ll have to have our party.”
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