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All this for just half a nickel

The following article about my parents is a testament to the power of love and commitment and how two people can influence so many.  It’s also a good story.

 ‘All this for just half a nickel’

Valentine’s vase commemorates 63 years of love

By: Joan Hershberger – El Dorado News-Times (Posted here with permission)

Mother and Daddy 1

The heart vase still in use today.

One date and Jim Warnock wanted to do something special for Elsie. With Valentine’s Day nearing, the red heart-shaped planter with a live plant caught his eye. 

He bought the planter and took it the next time he went to date Elsie.

As students at Ouachita Baptist University, Jim, a senior, and Elsie, a freshman, had first noticed each other in the fall of 1949.  They smiled and greeted each other, but nothing happened until early February 1950. “My roommate and I wanted to double date with her. It cost a nickel to make a phone call, so we called up and made two dates to church with that one nickel,” Jim Warnock said.

“I was infatuated and needed to do something. ‘It’s Valentine’s Day,’ I said. I needed to get her a Valentine. That vase caught my eye. It was red.” Jim said he bought the vase and presented it to Elsie with a live, growing plant inside.  “The plant probably did not last to the next week – well maybe into the summer,” Elsie laughed.

But she did take the vase home from college and left it at her mother’s house.  The red paint quickly began to come off. They tried painting it before they realized the red could be scrubbed off to show white glaze underneath.

Elsie and Jim had talked about marriage, then the Korean War began and Jim, who had been in the ROTC at OBU, was called to serve.  “We were going to wait to marry, but then on Tuesday night we decided to marry and on Saturday we were married. I had a lot of friends who helped us put it on. They went to the ravine and got greenery for the arch and, I hope, asked the neighbors for their daffodils. It was a very pretty church wedding,” Elsie recalled.

“We had our honeymoon at Camp Polk in the bachelor’s quarters. It sounds elegant, but it wasn’t,” Elsie said. “He shipped out two weeks later. I stayed, went on to school and finished college. While he was gone, there was one professor who kept saying that the life expectancy of a second lieutenant was 28 seconds,” she recalled.

“We tell folks that we are the only couple we know that never had an argument their first two years of marriage,” Jim said. 
They couldn’t argue – he was serving in Korea.  Instead they wrote letters back and forth to each other. Because of the inconsistencies of the mail, sometimes Jim’s letters from Elsie would pile up at the post office. “I would get upset because she was not writing to me and then a bunch would come,” he recalled with a rueful grin.  “I saved all his letters and wrote a book about his time in Korea,” Elsie said. 
“I can’t believe I didn’t save any of your letters,” Jim shook his head. 
“You were in the infantry and moving around,” she shrugged it off.

Jim returned from Korea and Elsie graduated. The two found jobs as teachers in south Texas where they made their first home.  Jim taught and was the school’s assistant coach.  Elsie, who had trained to teach high school, taught in the elementary school.

Elsie brought the vase to their first home. And in February, Jim took it out each year to fill for Valentine’s Day.  
“Some years it had daffodils, other years arrangements or yard flowers. It was not a big deal that we had to have it. It just was always there and it had lasted another year. Jimmy has surprised me at times by getting it and doing a new arrangement. It is always on display through the month of February. But, we do not have to have a new decoration every year,” Elsie said.

“The kids knew about it. After a while we wrote the year on the bottom and that it was the first gift Jim gave me as my first Valentine from him. We displayed it at our 50th wedding anniversary celebration,” she said.  “I may have taken it to a Valentine Banquet once,” she said. “But it was too risky. It is not so much that it is valuable as it is of sentimental value to us.”

 This low-key couple agreed that they do not make a big event out of Valentine’s Day. Sometimes they go out to eat on Valentine’s Day, but, “We do not HAVE to do something,” Elsie said.

Although the vase remains special to them, they have not made a big production about it other than to pull it out every Valentine’s Day for the past six decades to fill again with flowers. 

Last year she posted a picture of the vase on Facebook as a way to wish her Facebook friends a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Someone has commented that they never seem to be angry. “What good does it do? I really did get angry once, but he did not notice,” Elsie said. 
“When things are going especially well one of us will say, ‘All this for only a nickel,’ and the other will say, ‘for just half a nickel,’ Elsie laughed. “And when things are bad, we will turn and say, ‘All this for only a nickel’ and the other will say, ‘for just half a nickel.’”

In more recent years, Elsie wrote a book for family members about their life together. They started to write it together, but when Elsie asked him to write about his experiences, he would give her an inadequate half a page. She took his letters from Korea and re-wrote them for the book.  “We have to go back and check on the book every so often to remember things,” she said.

After a couple years of teaching in Texas, Jim, originally from the Smackover-Norphlet area, began using his scientific training at American Oil. Over the years he also worked at Lion Oil, Tosco and El Dorado Chemical as an environmental control analyst.

Elsie stayed home when their son and daughter were young and then began teaching at the El Dorado High School (now the old EHS building). She also taught at Barton Junior High and Rogers Junior High and was one of the first three employees at the developmental center where she served as the coordinator for 11 years under Rita Taunton.

Jim Warnock has served on the board of the South Arkansas Developmental Center for Children and Families for many years.

Their son, Jim Warnock, is a principal at Alma, and their daughter, Martha Kyzer, is the office manager with BuyRite Foods in Benton.

The couple has lived in El Dorado in four different houses. They moved to one house to accommodate Jim’s side job of working with ornamental iron. 

Now in their 80s, the couple have few health issues and continue to be active in the community.


Mother and Daddy 3

Jimmy & Elsie

Jimmy & Elsie, my father and mother.




1 Comment

  1. A beautiful and moving story which goes a long way in explaining how this unassuming but remarkable couple produced a son who also exhibits the same admirable gifts of character.

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I'm a retired educator. I enjoy learning and sharing with others. If you like the outdoors, check out my other blog: ozarkmountainhiker.com

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